Bigger. Faster. Stronger. The video game industry’s answer to The Expendables just got more Ultimate. At $40, the question is apparent: Is two-third’s the cost of a retail copy worth paying for a title we already played nearly 10-years ago?
Well, that all depends how much Gears of War truly means to you.
Right behind Mass Effect, Gears is my favorite video game trilogy of all-time. There’s very few games in the past (Bioshock, Fallout) that are worth pouring hours of your bloody palm-sweat all over again. The 2006 original, horror-tinged Gears of War is, for sure, one of those titles…
As one of the pioneers of the 3rd-person shooter along with Max Payne, Gears, at the time, was also one of the best — if not the best — looking shooter on the market. So, if you were to look at photos that showcase the graphical comparisons between the near-decade old Xbox 360 and little over-a-year-a-half old Xbox One for GOW, you may not see much of a difference. That’s because you need to play it. There’s far more to former-Black Tusk-turned-The Coaltion’s upgrade than a 1080p skin to what was an already amazing looking game.
No–the 60fps does it wonders, too. Everything in this Ultimate version of Gears is now fully realized thanks to its Unreal Engine 3, especially when it comes to atmosphere; from dripping candlewax-lit corridors, to the fire-blazing skylights of Raven Down, to eye-pleasing puddles of reflection in the museum gardens… hell, even the most decrepit post-apocalyptic caverns have more life in X1’s GOW. Smoke, wind, pollen. It all looks fantastic, and would do well enough to stand alongside other next-gen titles releasing today…
Surely, the story itself, the way the characters move (albeit the more fluid controls prevent Marcus Fenix and Co. from trucking around like offensive linemen relegated to the practice squad), talk (lovely voice acting, but they’re all more or less Jesse “The Body” from Predator), and simply perform duties (spinning those factory wheels and kicking down several hundred doors sure is fun!) is a bit dated, especially if you’re used to the modern day shooters (Metal Gear Solid 19, Call of Duty: Black Ops XXVII) that allow you to do so much more–than press the same button for nearly every action.
Also in addition to a few hiccups witnessed during loading screens, there isn’t much to do in GOW in the way of variety — there really never was — and, if your buddies decide that they don’t want to shell out doe for a game they already played, you’re stuck with some pretty shitty A.I. pals. Fucking Dom!
Forget the hordes of underworld locust asshats whom you must gun down; your teammates are as hit-and-miss as they were in ’06. During one of the many telecom sequences that supposed to freeze all action, “Chicks Dig the” Baird was attacked and killed. Yes, there was nothing I could do about it. Likely not his fault, but Dom.. DOM would turn his back to enemies, shoot blindly and mindlessly into close quarter walls; even the LB (left bumper) command controls would leave the majority of my squad immobilized and helpless on more than one occasion. It’s a damn good thing Mr. Fenix is voiced by the great John DiMaggio, who was nice enough to redo the entire script for the new-gen.
If you played the original, then you know this Band of Funk Bros are no less than a blast (ahem) to command. Their personality, attitude and aggression make last night’s SummerSlam PPV jealous, and make the simple bomb-delivery story one of the most entertaining “stupid” plots in gaming history. And when those bodies hit the floor, they hit hard. The new sounds of the Ultimate Edition are a vast improvement, too, just in time to listen to yourself die over and over to newly added, previously only-on-PC exclusive missions.
Frankly, playing Gears of War all over again for the first time actually felt like a different experience. I previously finished the game (much like I did with the other 2, sans Judgment) playing local co-op with a pal, which, by the way, you can now effortlessly drop in and out of. This was the first time I got to experience the 3-day long campaign solo, complete with the fresh graphical overhaul and downright daunting cutscenes. Sure, some of the tasks in campaign felt like old hand (i.e. the Corpser was far easier than I remember it; and it only took me mere seconds to beat the Hulking Solomon Grundyesque Berzerker, who can only be defeated by dodging), but then you enter those 5 bonus PC levels, including the strangely confusing “Comedy of Errors” and Brumak.
I nearly threw my controller in rage fighting this beast that I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing my grill kicked in repeatedly. Let’s just say I was pretty damned “Moody” facing him and the Kryll-shielding final boss on Hardcore. Thank God I finally realized that weapons laying on the ground are no longer just there for cosmetic reasons. If there’s a Gnasher shotty or rapidfire Hammerburst for the taking, it’s because you’re going to find these damn things pretty useful. Longshot or Torque Bow? There’s likely some sniperfucks you must take out, and so forth. Hammer of Dawn? Say no more.
At press time, I was only able to play a handful of the 20 multiplayer stages with some Coalition testers and other wacky game journalists for about an hour. But my new favorite mode for Gears of War 1 had to be King of the Hill, selfishly, because I nearly survived most of my time with this mode; but, seriously, because stealth in a cover-based shooter like Gears is cool. Destiny and Titanfall vets will adore the frantic madness that is Team Deathmatch, and the better news is there’s lots of characters, levels, and blood-sporty ways to die in this edition.
Bottom line: For $40, you’re getting an absolutely gorgeous version of one of the best games of all time (both multiplayer and campaign). If you’re a diehard GOW fan of yesteryear like me, get it. If you’re an Xbox junkie and need something to play that isn’t the complicated chore that’s Metal Gear Solid, get it. If you trade in a game or two, this Ultimate Edition will only cost you a 20-spot–and your locust behind will have the pleasure of being sawed down by yours truly’s trusty Lancer (XBL@TravMoody12).
Microsoft’s Gears of War: Ultimate Edition releases tomorrow.