Friday, December 18, 2015

Video Game Review: Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Xbox One)

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (Xbox One – PC coming soon)
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Genre: SciFi Third-Person Shooter
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One

"...it's hard to find a more exciting and engrossing shooter than Gears of War."

Fourteen years after Emergence Day, the Locust have overwhelmed the COG forces in a war against mankind. Marcus Fenix is freed from prison by his best friend and comrade Dom, then led to meet Delta Squad for a daring mission...

For the sake of this review, I'll try to keep the plot details short and efficient. So, it should be noted: although I'll skimp on some details, there is a rich world to be found here. So, you play as Marcus and eventually lead Delta Squad, which, at its core, consists of Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird. Your objective is to find the resonator, a device that will map the Locust's caves and tunnels, to deploy a ruinous bomb at the source. The trip feels grand as you travel through the grungy, hopeless world on foot and vehicle. Of course, everything doesn't goes as planned, which causes a few detours. Fortunately, the plot never felt thin or poorly-paced. All of the pieces fit well to create a very smooth and enjoyable ride. For those who only played on Xbox 360, the extra PC act is seamlessly added into this plot – and it was great! It all leads to a great final sequence and a decent boss. (I swear, there must have been a little spike in the difficulty for that final boss.)

The entire game has received an impressive graphical overhaul.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. It may sound silly, but it kind of reminded me of Lord of the Rings. You know, you have this dedicated squad with one objective – take one thing to another. It's a rather simple comparison, but it really did feel like a wonderful trek, it really felt like an adventure. Although not a deep, 'artistic' plot, the story kept me hooked from beginning to end. That's entertainment. The characters are also great. Many call them 'dudebros,' but I prefer this set over the more generic 'yapping' characters that always try to say something funny. This cast is iconic for a reason. Couple the strong story and characters with the (mostly) splendid shooting mechanics and you've got yourself a great shooter.
All of the best and merely decent moments return to deliver a splendid adventure.
As you've probably already noticed, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a remake/remaster of the original 2006 release. Now, I prefer to call this a 'remake,' instead of a remaster, because of the graphical overhaul. For the most part, the story elements and the gameplay have not changed, but the visuals have been completely revamped for the current generation. This is how you re-release a game. You add in all of the content from the original release, spruce up the graphics, then release it at an affordable price. I must say, some of these 1080p/60fps (they occasionally fell to reach that, too) remasters really pale in comparison. The visuals don't match up to Ryse or Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it is certainly a great looking game. It's not as dark as the original, but it still has that grungy tone – it still feels like Gears of War. The music was also great, helping create the epic tone. As far as I can tell, the voice acting, which is led by John DiMaggio as Marcus Fenix, has remained the same — and it's still great.
Ultimate Edition also features an originally PC-exclusive act — and it's great!
Okay, okay, enough praise. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is not a perfect game. It is an entertaining shooter and a step above most remasters, but it still has its fair share of flaws. First and foremost, the gameplay is not as refined as the later installments in the series. Particularly, I thought the cover system was a bit clunky. This is especially evident when you roadie-run (sprint) and find yourself getting glued to every single wall. Secondly, I played the campaign in single-player and found myself with a dumb AI-partner. I can't tell you how many times Dom rushed into battle only to die almost immediately. Or, how many times I lost track of Dom only to find him running in circles in another room. (Just check out the video below!) There are times when the AI works just fine, but these sour moments stuck out the most.

Overall, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a great video game. If you love traditional shooters, it's hard to find a more exciting and engrossing shooter than Gears of War. If you've never played the series before, here's your opportunity to jump into a fine remaster – better than 90% of the remasters released nowadays. The game isn't perfect, especially the cover system and ally-AI, but it is an incredibly entertaining experience. I beat the campaign in approximately 9 hours. From my dreadfully-disastrous tests, the online worked perfectly fine – I just suck. (This is in terms of connection and finding games, there may be some persistent lag issues.)

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore

[Screenshots captured on Xbox One and used for review purposes only. I do not claim ownership to the IP.]

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