Gears of War was a game changer for a lot of people, myself included. I was pretty amazed back when it first came out at the sheer cinematic nature of the game, the gritty world and the brutal confrontation of Cog vs. Locust as humanity struggled to survive against an enemy which quite frankly wanted them dead. Their fight became my fight and I really enjoyed the first game, despite several of its flaws, mainly in AI and some control issues.
The Remaster Game
What with the Last of Us, Dishonored Collection, GTA V, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider and the Master Chief Collection it seems like the game industry is really fond of remasters. In the case of Gears, it's a good thing for people who never got the chance to play the original - they not only get Gears itself, but when the Backwards Compatibility update comes out they'll get the other Gears games as part of the purchase of Gears Ultimate (as long as they bother to play it that is.)
For my money, Gears Ultimate is a good solid buy, plagued by the issues which dogged the original. It's still a great game though and now it's got a smooth framerate (30fps in campaign and 60fps in multiplayer.) to play with. I've had a blast co-op and played some multiplayer, which is always fun. Yet it's hard to talk about in any depth, it's Gears of War One with a shiny new coat of very sweet paint on the surface, but the AI is still as dumb as bricks and the sticky-cover system is present, which was largely fixed in Gears 2 and 3.
Cooperate or Perish!
It's a blast for a fan of the game like me, playing co-op with a buddy (Gary Roddie) and eviscerating the Locust in style. The screens here are posted directly from our co-op games on Gears Ultimate and used with Gary's permission. It keeps all that sweet cooperative play without remastering the controls or the systems used, which is a plus and a minus all at once. When stacked up to many of the new titles in today's game development it falls short, but still manages to be as entertaining as hell.
With the improved framerates, and the connection to Live offering stable gameplay we were able to test out co-op for a quite a while. I was definitely pleased at the remaster and both Splash Damage and The Coalition have done a great job on Gears of War: Ultimate Edition in terms of bringing it up to date for the modern servers.
Bricks and Mortar
Whilst the gameplay hasn't seen any sweeping changes, the modes remain the same and even the old LAN play option is intact, where Gears Ultimate truly shines is in the massive alteration to the game's graphics and animations. There's a lot of new animations, reworked to work with higher quality assets and every cut-scene has been altered in some way, redone and whilst they're now pre-rendered rather than in real-time they look excellent and are packed with detail.
The game's level geometry and textures have been redone, polished and given a much needed buff to bring them up to spec with modern hardware. This is where the developers have spent their time and money, and it shows. The opening sequence is stunning, re-shot and re-imagined to be bigger, bolder and sharper than Epic's original. It's great to be able to watch these scenes afresh and see all the changes compared to the old version. The dialogue and music remains unchanged, with perhaps a little audio cleanup here and there.
Shooting Friends and Strangers
Multiplayer remains intact, just as fun and has the same mix of game modes. It benefits from the new assets in every single way, and of course having the full 60fps - it's smooth and gloriously brutal when you get into a match. I found several matches and was able to have a great time playing again. Though for me cooperative play is more fun than any kind of adversarial mode, give me PvE rather than PvP and I'm happy.
I'd say yes, the game's definitely worth owning if you're a fan of the original and you want to take a Lancer and sever a Locust in two with a a friend. Single player is just as frustrating at times since the AI still manages to go down frequently and forces you to break cover to rescue them, before its Game Over. Cooperatively it shines with a friend and with all the new bells and whistles, graphically, it's a definite good looking title, just not one I'd say is a Must Buy.
If you're not a fan of Gears though, keep away. If you're someone who's always been interested, well, getting the rest of the games as part of the BC update should be worth the price of a remaster!
Plus I could listen to John DiMaggio's growly Marcus Fenix any day, along with the Cole Train BABY!
It gets my thumbsup!