Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is far more than just a reskinned version of an old game. It might just be the best game currently available on the Xbox One.
When Gears of War first launched on the Xbox 360, it was hailed as a masterpiece. Grandiose story options, gritty character design, and a completely usable cover mechanic that redefined the shooting genre are just small pieces of what made this game so great. It was one of the biggest reasons to buy an Xbox 360.
Thanks to smart decisions in its remastering process, developer Coalition managed to pull the same trick off again, using the exact same game, as you can see below:
The first thing that makes GoW: Ultimate better than most remasters is the attention to detail and the amount of effort that went into is creation. Rather than just adding some effects and trying to make things look a bit prettier, Coalition completely remade every single visual asset in the game. Rather than trying to make old things look nicer, they just built new things. This allowed them to add more detail, new effects, better facial animation and more. It also means that there is no chance of finding old gross textures hiding in corners that other game makers would be too lazy to clean up.
The final result is a game that doesn’t look like a remaster, but rather it looks like a new and modern game. It also looks incredibly beautiful in a way that the old Gears never did. A revised and brighter color palette adds more life to the world, makes it feel a little more worth saving.
Of course, nobody ever thought Gears was an ugly game, and to be honest it’s aged better than expected on the graphical front. But the look was not what made Gears a success, but rather it was the feel. Nothing in the history of video games felt quite like Gears of War did. It was a whole new level of violent, raw and brutal combat that felt visceral in a very special way. The addition of the cover mechanic and the quick pace at which you could be killed when standing in the open added a special tactical consideration that was also completely new to the genre.
Thankfully, that same great feel is still around today for GoW: Ultimate. You see, while Coalition completely rebuilt the visuals, they laid that new skin directly over the original programming. In short, it looks like an all-new game, but it plays and feels exactly like the original. Even the animations are the same. That means the same crazy camera shake during a roadie run, the same powerful feeling when you cut an enemy with the Lancer bayonet, and the same physical thump you feel when filling an enemy with bullets has remained completely untouched and untainted.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some improvements made to the underlying code. There’ve been some bug fixes made, and the few lingering issues from the original game have been removed to make the overall experience even nicer, but the heart and feel of the game remain.
Coalition also took the opportunity when making this remaster to add in some content that Xbox 360 players never got to experience. When the game was originally released on PC several months after the Xbox 360 version launched, it game with an extra level. This PC exclusive level has also made the cut in the move to the Xbox One, so that means that old fans of the franchise get to experience something new and interesting on their play through.
And finally, we get to my favorite part about Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – Couch-based co-op gameplay has manage to make it through to the Xbox One. In a world where it is becoming harder and harder to find a split-screen multiplayer game, Gear of War: Ultimate arrives and brings glorious two-player fun to the couch again. As soon as I got GoW: Ultimate, I called up my old buddy Kevin. Back in the heyday of college, both he and I would team up on his couch to tear through the Locust hordes in Gears of War 1-3. Now that I had the chance to relive the original game all over again, I couldn’t imagine doing it without him by my side.
There’s just something a bit more magical about having a friend sitting next to you, rather than talking to them through the distant and vacant sound of a headset over the internet. Even the mighty Halo 5 shipped to the Xbox One without local multiplayer or co-operative play, so having it in Gears of War feels all the sweeter.
All of this is really missing the big key thing that makes Gears of War: Ultimate the best remastered game on sale today. Most game remasters help to remind us just what was good and what was bad about old games. They shatter the view through our rose-colored glasses, by introducing us to faults that we might not have noticed al those years in the past.
Gears of War: Ultimate is different though. The game has seen some very dramatic changes, but it sticks close enough to its source material that you never notice. In short, GoW: Ultimate manages to be a game that matches up exactly to what you think it should be. It somehow matches your memories and feels and looks like you always thought it did. Ultimate is everything Gears was, everything it wasn’t, and everything you remember it being all wrapped up into one neat package.