After finishing Until Dawn last night, great game by the way, I decided to spend a little bit of time with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. I have a lot of fond memories playing the original Gears and its subsequent sequels, so I was expecting some nostalgia feels coming back after all this time. Much to my chagrin, Gears Ultimate isn’t quite what I was expecting. Take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, I’m still fairly early in this remaster, but so far there is much more to be disappointed about than there is to be excited.
After launching the campaign, one thing stood immediately apparent, the game didn’t actually look improved. Back in 2006 when I first got my Xbox 360 and Gears, I was blown away by how amazing the game looked. Its visual fidelity was burned into memory because, wow, it looked damn good. My first thought went back to that time back on 360, but only because it looked so similar. There are improvements, and much like other high profile remasters, such as God of War III, they are minor. Credit where credit is due to the previous generation, but with the hype surrounding this particular remaster and the work put in, I expected more. Lighting is the only noteworthy improvement and it does look a lot better, but the rest of the game is still the flat, muddy textures I remember from the early days of Unreal 3.
Curiously, the campaign is still locked at 30 FPS…let me say that again…the remaster of a nine year old game is locked at 30 FPS, almost in spite of the relatively minor improvements. I know the multiplayer runs at 60, but I want to get my Gears legs back before I start going Gnasher crazy on Gridlock. Even still, it’s embarrassing when, despite its server issues, 343 can remaster four Halo games in a more impressive fashion than The Coalition can for a single nine year old game.
Even if you were to forgive the visuals, Gears has not aged particularly well. The act of playing the game is still enjoyable, if a bit slower than later games in the series. The big issue is just that it’s boring. There are few things duller than fighting six guys at a time, one room at a time. It’s an indication of how much the series grew, both in quality and design, over five years. I haven’t played the previously PC exclusive missions yet, but I doubt they’ll do much to reinvigorate a game that clearly isn’t up to snuff by today’s standards.
I’ll have a full review for you once I complete the campaign and get in some multiplayer, but it is pretty clear that remastering the oldest game in the series, and only that game, was an oversight for the team. While a game like God of War III is also old and showing just modest improvements, it was already an even better looking game and its gameplay has aged well. Gears of War is stuck in a time where new hardware restricted scope and where macho bro love was a suitable substitute for quality storytelling. This is still a technical marvel in 2006, but in 2015 it serves only as a reminder of how far we’ve come.