Game Reviews - Reviews

Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Microsoft, Xbox One)


Grunting. Shooting. Explosions. Fist pumps. The simple formula at the core of the Gears Of War franchise is by no means original but there is no denying its world dominating success. Upon its original release in 2006, GOW was for many the reason to invest in an Xbox 360, thanks to its finely honed shoot and cover mechanics, inventive world and a single player campaign that dared to tell an engaging narrative instead of functioning as a taster for the multiplayer mode. GOW has often been held aloft as the epitome of dumb but fun gaming yet now, nearly a decade after its creation, it is clear to see that there is very little in its construction that is dumb. Yes, the backslapping bromance between tough-nut rudly-buds Marcus, Dom, Baird and shooter with a heart of gold Cole Train feels a little passé (soldiers of fortune, men on the edge, a crack squad of commandos etc.), and the goodies vs. baddies storyline has been done to death elsewhere. However, that does not mean that it is not engaging. In this instance, the threat comes from the Locust, socially adverse troglodytes who appeared on “Emergence Day” and have been terrorising the planet of Sera ever since. These creatures are uniformly viler than a vial of the distilled essence of Jeremy Kyle. They hiss and spit and try to bite off your limbs, and therefore it is incredibly gratifying to give them a double dose of boomstick or to perform “executions” – gory finishers that are clearly indebted to Mortal Kombat.

GOW is split into acts and chapters, some of which are more inventive than the levels that are found in a run of the mill title. The section where you alternately sneak past and fight a gnarly blind monster in a decrepit temple is one of the highlights, and it is no surprise that the whole episode has since been cribbed wholesale in several mainstream releases. The pacing throughout is great throughout as the whole shebang licks along from one set-piece to another with a real sense of momentum. The finale, such as it is, is disappointing, a failing that has plagued all of the GOW games to date but it certainly does not prevent replay on the higher difficulty levels.

To be fair, the campaign is not the real draw for most gamers. It is the starter to the multiplayer that provides the main course, the dessert and the cheeseboard. There are many modes and maps on offer here, each of which offer as much visceral action as they did a decade ago. Players will continue to lose hours upon hours mastering the techniques necessary to advance to the top rankings, and it can be a fairly brutalising experience competing against seasoned experts, but the engine is not too bad at pairing you with others of a similar class. Also, those accustomed to the traditional first person perspective might take a while to catch on to the over the shoulder viewpoint but it works incredibly well. It brings you close to the action and makes it satisfyingly aggressive.

This being a redo, there are some graphical tweaks, nips and tucks here and there, none of which alter the gameplay tremendously, and all of the DLC has been included. That aside, we have the same unrelentingly loud shenanigans that fans have come to expect from Gears of War. The real surprise, however, is how well the game holds its own ten years later. It may not be an essential purchase for those who have sunk great chunks of their life into the original but for novices it is a high quality shooter that will serve as a gold standard for Xbox One owners. Ross Thompson