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Remastered 'Gears' the ultimate guilty pleasure

Sept 11, 2015

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Gears of War: Ultimate EditionRarely have games lived up to their hype the way Gears of War did back in 2006. It was an Xbox 360 exclusive that was under intense pressure to keep at least some of the focus off of the newly-released Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii. By all accounts it exceeded those expectations, and introduced an important new IP for Microsoft.

Now, nearly 10 years later, a remastered version of the game comes in the form of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. It hasn't aged as gracefully as some may have expected or hoped - video games rarely do - but it's still a heck of a lot of fun sawing and gunning your way through hordes of baddies.

For the uninitiated, Gears of War takes place on the fictional planet known as Sera, and follows the exploits of Marcus Fenix and a group of fellow "Gears" - members of the planet's military. The ridiculously bulked-up Gears in the game are tasked with destroying the enemy race known as the Locust.

Gears of War: Ultimate EditionThird-person shooters are nothing new, but the original Gears of War helped popularize many video game elements that would go on to be borrowed or outright copied by numerous games in the following years.

Arguably the most prominent of these features was Gears' cover system. It felt so new, and for the most part, so good back in 2006. It's a staple of the series, and it helped make an otherwise fairly straightforward shooter feel fresh and exciting.

As with many remasters, Vancouver-based developer The Coalition didn't want to mess too much with a good thing. Although subsequent Gears games have changed and evolved - albeit slightly - over the years, Ultimate Edition is for the most part the same Gears of War that was released in 2006.

Gears of War: Ultimate EditionPlayers will play through what amounts to a shooting gallery of sorts, taking on wave after wave of Locust swarms. There are a few sections thrown in that mix things up, such as a level that involves driving a vehicle that uses a UV light as a weapon against nocturnal flying creatures.

With the endless explosions, over-the-top heroics, massive enemies, and piles of blood and guts, this is the gaming equivalent of eating a Big Mac and fries. There's nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's done in moderation, right?

As close as Ultimate Edition stays to its predecessor, there are still plenty of changes to make this more than just a cash-grab for Microsoft.

The game appears in 1080p, and character models and environments have been redone. The game admittedly looks fantastic, and doesn't just give the impression of being a barely-improved version of a last-gen game.

It also includes all of the original game's multiplayer DLC, as well as five additional campaign levels that previously only appeared on the PC version of Gears of War.

Gears of War: Ultimate EditionMany of the controls have been tweaked to make for a smoother experience, such as having the ability to revive players from cover, and improved sensitivity customization. Players also get new "Tac Com" features and enemy marking that was introduced in Gears of War 3. That latter feature helps immensely in some of the more tense multiplayer games.

Speaking of which, Gears of War is still a blast to play online, although it features just as high a learning curve as it did back in 2006. The shotgun still rules many of the game modes, and matches in the new (for the original Gears) Team Deathmatch are nothing more than an endless back-and-forth of "gibbing."

Still, there are other modes that offer a lot more strategy and white-knuckle suspense. The no-respawn Warzone is always a standout, and the King of the Hill variants are also a lot of fun, and in my experience, produced quite a few matches that went down to the wire.

Matchmaking doesn't seem to be balancing things out too well, but it is admittedly early, and this may be ironed out in the coming weeks and months. I rarely had to wait more than a few seconds to join a match, and with the use of dedicated servers (something the original Gears didn't have), I never had to encounter a dropped match.

Gears of War: Ultimate EditionGears of War is far from the most intellectually-charged or emotionally resonant gaming experience you can have in 2015, but the Ultimate Edition is an entertaining and well thought out package all the same.

It stays true to its roots, despite numerous small changes that make for noticeable improvements. If you've never played a game in the series, this is a fantastic place to start. And if you were one of the original players on "E-Day" back in 2006, there are still plenty of reasons to grab your lancer once again.

 

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: https://gearsofwar.com/en-us

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.