Developed by: The Coalition
Published by: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
The story of Gears of War Ultimate is exactly the same as the first Gears of War. You play as Marcus Fenix, drafted back into the war against the Locusts after being stuck in prison. The main objective is to gather and take the data needed to help win the war before General Raam mounts an attack that could wipe out the remaining human forces left on the planet.
There are a few differences between the original and the Ultimate version of this game. The most obvious to note is of course the graphical upgrade. The game runs smoother and looks great. Many of the scenes are redone in not only higher quality, but some show off the updated graphics by using closer angles than before. There are extra story scenes added to the game as well as a few new chapters to play through towards the end of the game that were originally exclusive to the PC version.
I may have been either spoiled by the latter games or just completely forgot this about the first game, but you can’t actually go into the “Down But Not Out” state in single player mode. In Gears of War 2 and beyond, I was used to either Dom or the other squad mates to pick me back up whenever I fell and was about to bleed out. However in the original and Gears of War Ultimate, once you’re down, you’re out. DBNO is still in the multiplayer mode, but not in the single player campaign. So relearning how to play more conservatively, making use of cover and using blind firing are essential to avoid getting turned into a smoldering pile of meat cubes under a hail of gunfire.
One thing I loved about the first game that I managed to forget about after playing the later games in the series was that it was heavier in the survival horror elements. From the jump scares to the dark and dreary tone to even the looming fear of the Berserker ready to crush you to bits, or to sneak out and pray it doesn’t literally smell the fear from your body. The later games seem to fall short in recapturing the sense of fear that I felt while playing Gears of War, but the Ultimate edition managed to redo it well with the only exception being a couple of the newer segments such as the fight with the Brumack.
Multiplayer has plenty of modes, roughly eight or so. For fans of the game play, this is where it truly shines. It runs excellent 8v8 matches. Team matchmaking works based on current levels of players, so there’s no games where a group of level 70 players go up against a group of level 8s. King of the Hill is a good get away from the usual Team Deathmatch, but my personal favorite mode is 2×2 Gnasher Execution, a shotguns only mode inside a tiny arena for two teams of two. Matches go by really quickly.
The extra chapters added to the game were pretty fun, but every time they cut to a shot of Baird and Cole I thought that I’d get to have a chance to play a little something with either the two of them. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. For the entire game you play as only Marcus Fenix or Dom (only during the co-op missions) which felt like nothing but a tease, especially since I stated before in the Gears of War retrospective that Cole was my favorite character and that I wished that more of the games in the series allowed you to switch character perspectives since the cast is big enough. Character switching was actually one of the things that I really like about Gears of War Judgement. Sadly the only way you can pay as the other characters in the game are through the multiplayer modes.
Gears of War Ultimate is a good buy if you love the series and you want to be able to play on a console where more people are going to play online. The big bundle version includes every Gears of War game via backward compatibility, so it’s great if you want to get into the series. The standard edition is also a pretty good deal for only $35 bucks. It’s totally worth a buy and allows you beta access to the upcoming Gears of War 4.