I remember it like it was just yesterday. I was only a kid but I will never forget the day I bought my first copy of Gears of War. The excitement I felt as I cracked open the case and read the instruction manual front to back ten times over on the way home is etched into my brain, to say the least.
What stood out to me the most was the paragraph at the front of the little booklet. It was a letter from the game’s creator talking about how a round of paintball inspired the gameplay that made this franchise so famous and I couldn’t wait to dive into the action and see for myself what exactly he was talking about.
While they weren’t the inventors of the cover system, they were the first to get it right and present it in a way that was easy to understand and use in-game, making sure that this game stood out from the pack. But that was almost 15 years ago and there has been an overwhelming number of games that use this same formula, including the several sequels that followed on from this.
Now that this absolute classic has been revamped and given that sweet sweet HD remaster, is it still the unsung hero of the Xbox 360? Is Marcus Fenix still as iconic as the Master Chief? I mean, I have some fond memories playing this game back in the day so, without further ado, let’s see if Gears of War Ultimate Edition is still good in 2021.
GEARS OF WAR
So, What’s It All About?
The world of Gears of War centers around the war between humanity and The Locust Horde. A group of subterranean monsters hell-bent on the destruction of Earth…or so it seems. Needless to say, we’re losing the fight but the humans have one more trick up their sleeves that could end this fight once and for all.
Our main character for the original story is none other than big, bad Marcus Fenix. I mean, this guy’s so tough, we first get introduced to him when he’s being broken out of prison. I will admit, I never really got a clue why, maybe I missed it, but everything has gone to hell on the outside world and his best friend Dom has arrived to get him back into the fight.
Together with the rest of Delta Squad, it’s up to Marcus and Dom to plant the resonator, deploy the light mass bomb and eliminate the Locust Horde with an explosion of epic proportions, all while killing as many of the Locust minions that make the mistake of standing in your way.
Also helping you along the way is an assortment of unique weaponry. From revolvers to shotguns, this game has it all, but nothing compares to the iconic Lancer Assault Rifle and its legendary chainsaw bayonet. Throw in the most fluid cover system you can imagine and you’ve got an action-packed extravaganza on your hands.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) December 29, 2020
So, What’s Good About It?
Okay, I may just be the fact that I last played this game on an Xbox 360 (and on a TV without High Definition…I know right) but wow, these graphics look so much better than I remember. I mean, the color is still a bit of a mess (we’ll get into that later) but the HD makeover looks amazing to me.
They honestly did a fantastic job bringing this game back for the current generation and, as a long time fan, and I’m glad to see this game get the polish it deserves as a reminder of where this impressive franchise first got its start. Seriously, I can’t get over how much better this looks compared to the original.
When it comes to good old fashioned blood and guts and gory action, Gears of War ranks right up there with Doom Eternal for the level of carnage you get to inflict. I mean, there may not be as much variety when it comes to ripping and tearing demonic creatures but I definitely saw enough carnage to satisfy my tastes.
The chainsaw bayonet was the greatest invention in video game weaponry for its time and it still feels just as good grinding up Locust body parts as it did back then. Everything, from the visual feedback as you see all the blood splatter across the screen to the vibration of the controller as the chainsaw rumbles, it’s just extremely fun to use this thing.
The cover system was designed to leave you feeling vulnerable if you stay out in the open and they nailed the intensity of this mechanic very well, especially on the harder difficulties. I was running and gunning on Normal mode but, once I bumped up the level, I was hugging every piece of cover as if my life depended on it and it slowed down the gameplay immensely which created a more intense atmosphere with each fight.
Undoubtedly, my absolute favorite feature of Gears of War has to be the co-op mode for the single-player campaign. I hosted an open lobby so that I could test out this feature for my review and I was surprised how easy it was for me to find a partner to play with, even though this game was released back in 2006.
Not to mention the fact that there are 4 other sequels to play, plus several other spinoffs, plus the fact that this remaster is already almost 5 years old. I’m amazed that there are still people playing this game and I’m glad I took advantage of this feature during my playthrough.
Aside from the fact that it’s fun to play with another human payer, Gears of War was designed for the co-op experience and there are often times where the path will split into 2 and each player has their own section of the level to get through with its own set of enemies. Just don’t die when you’re separated. One death is Game Over for both players.
So, What’s Bad About It?
Right, so like, I know that remasters aren’t meant to change much about the original game, just give it a new coat of paint and don’t mess with the formula too much, but man I wish they added a bit more color to this game. The graphics may be looking crispier than the original buts still a bland and boring mess overall.
Even the parts where you encounter vegetation. I mean, I get that the whole world is pretty much destroyed and we’re in an apocalypse type of situation but I swear it feels like every level was exactly the same. You do see a variety of colors if you look closely because there are some solid transitions from night to day as you progress through the story but it did nothing to stop it all from feeling like one big, bland and grey world.
Wait…There’s A Story?!
Yes! And don’t even get me started on the story that we get in this campaign. You can clearly see that the focus for this title was all on the introduction of the unique cover system and the overall gameplay on offer because it is excellent but the story feels like an afterthought that gives the player a cheap excuse to beat the game.
Like seriously, if the gunplay doesn’t get you hooked then you’re probably not going to play this game more than once if you manage to finish it at all. The entire plot boils down to “We need to do this. Okay, we did it. Oh no, it didn’t work. Right, now we gotta do this other thing because the first thing didn’t work.”
Repeat that about ten times and boom, you’ve got the plot for the original Gears of War. I mean, I still don’t even know why Marcus was in prison ffs. I guess I can’t judge it too harshly since they did expand a lot more on the lore and the characters in the sequels but, if this game stood on its own, I would throw it away for this weak a$$ plot.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) December 30, 2020
So, Should I Play It?
Okay, now this may be a bit controversial to say but, if you’ve never played Gears of War before and you’re looking for a good place to jump right in and get a good introduction to the franchise then, honestly, I’d say start with Gears of War 2. It’s nothing against this game but in the grand scheme of things, you won’t miss out on much if you skip this title.
I played it mostly for nostalgia’s sake and if you’re a die-hard fan of the series, and you just have to see where it all started, then you’re in for a treat. It’s fun to see where it all began and relive the glory days of the Xbox 360 but I don’t see this game turning anybody into a longtime fan if they’re completely new.
It was the gunplay and unique snap cover system that made this game the icon that it is today and the sequels improved on that game-winning formula a thousand percent. Even the chainsaw bayonet is better since the sequels feature chainsaw duels and a much more engaging story that will hook you in if you let it.
So, if you’re a long-time fan of the Gears of War franchise then you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane as you revisit this absolute classic and get to see where it all began for Marcus, Dom, and the rest of Delta Squad. But, if you’re looking for a good starting point as a newcomer, then I highly recommend you start your journey with the sequel, Gears of War 2.
Have you played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition? What are your thoughts on the original game? Let me know in the comments section below.