Last week, The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson took to the stage at Microsoft’s E3 press conference to announce that not only is a new Gears game on the way, but the original Gears of War is getting the remastered treatment (as we’d all known previously). Gears of War Ultimate Edition is coming to Xbox One and PC in August, and to get players excited for the release an open beta trialling the game’s multiplayer component was let loose for those with an Xbox One. I spent around five to six hours in the beta trying out everything and adjusting to the Gears style of play once again, and now that the beta has concluded – I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I liked about it and what I wasn’t so keen on.
The most evident thing I noticed right from the get-go is that the Ultimate Edition of Gears of War looks fantastic. Running at a smooth 60FPS throughout and boasting the now normal resolution of 1080p, Gears 1 has never looked better. The maps look excellent, the character details are great and most of all – the gore we all know the series for returns in graceful style. I played Team Deathmatch on all of the maps available in the beta–those being Canals, Courtyard, Gridlock, Gold Rush, and War Machine–and it was astounding to see how different they look compared to the original which launched nearly ten years ago. You can check out the change right here if you’d like to see how they stack up with the originals.
While the maps have undergone a slight bit of change–which is to be expected in the remastering of a game–the gameplay Gears 1 is known for is still very apparent in the Ultimate Edition. This is classic Gears of War without the improvements of 2 & 3, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. The sequels made a vast amount of improvements to the way the game feels and plays, with the most notable improvement being how much faster and smoother the game felt. In the Ultimate Edition, none of those improvements are here, so you’re very much relegated to a rather clunky, wall-sticking rendition of Gears of War. It takes a bit of time to get used to the old way of playing Gears again, but when you get back into its groove the game emanates a serious feeling of nostalgia and joy.
The leveling system worked perfectly well in the beta as well, and I personally loved the extra amount of XP you’re handed by sticking to a server and playing through matches back to back. I didn’t play a lot of Gears 1’s multiplayer, so being rewarded for sticking by my team and playing with the same players really appealed to me and kept me hooked for a good while at a time. The problem, however, was that while I enjoyed sticking around with my teammates and engaging in the fight, more times than I can recount I found myself amongst the ranks of the losing team. And while it’s a feature of most (if not all) of the games that have multiplayer now to shift teams before and after the next match starts, Gears Ultimate Edition did not do that. At the end of each match we’d sit in the lobby, awaiting our next game with the same team we’d just played with. While it was great to be on the winning team with players that were already at levels 40 and above, if you were stuck on a team that didn’t co-operate well and/or were fairly new to the game you’d end up on a continuing circle of slaughter after slaughter, making the game much less enjoyable. I hope this was only a caveat in the beta, because this would be a major problem in the game’s full release come August.
Furthermore, when I went to jump on and play a couple of matches with one of my friends we were unable to join each others game as a notification popped up saying that friend invites were disabled for the beta. While this will be enabled in the full game, it’s a bit unusual to have a multiplayer beta that just sets you against the world without your friends to help you out or to just engage in an enjoyable night of Locust/COG warfare. Multiplayer is, for better or for worse, all about interactivity with friends, right?
Faults aside, the beta was still a lot of fun to participate in and I’m really quite excited to tackle the full game when it comes out in August. It’s a combination of both nostalgia and the craving for a Gears game that has me much more excited than I thought I would be. While the gameplay feels somewhat dated and players who know classic Gears will resort to utilizing the Bolt Shot and Long Shot to continually win games (that is, if it isn’t nerfed prior to release), this is still classic Gears and I’ve been largely looking forward to the return of the series since the Xbox One hit the shelves. Gears of War is such an important part of Xbox’s history, and while I’m keen to see how Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of The Tomb Raider turn out, it’s the Ultimate Edition of Gears of War that has me convinced that this year’s lineup of Xbox exclusives is as strong as ever, even when there’s so much to look forward to within the next year and beyond.
Gears of War Ultimate Edition hits Xbox One and PC on August 25.