Gears of War Ultimate Edition review

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What is it? A remastering of the third-person shooter that popularized cover systems.
Developer: Epic Games (original), The Coalition (remaster)

Publisher: Microsoft

Expect to pay: $30
Reviewed on: Windows 10, 8GB RAM, i5-3570k, GeForce GTX Titan
Multiplayer: Co-op and competitive

Link: Official site

My criticisms of Gears of War haven’t changed much, which is exceptional for an Xbox 360 game from 2006. Well after it first redesigned third-person shooting into a chunky, cover-to-cover alien meatgrinder, Gears is still fun as hell. It’s aged wonderfully, tasting just a bit better, even, because it sticks out among modern shooters as thicker, stronger, and simpler.

But Gears of War has grown some pretty gross mold, too. This new ‘Ultimate Edition’ is one of those fancy DirectX 12 games built as a
Universal Windows App, which is supposed to make it more efficient and simpler on us, but in this case has only introduced limitations. It looks great—the stones are grimier, the meatheads are gruffer—but do you want to play at an ultrawide resolution? There’s no ini to edit. Want to record gameplay with ShadowPlay? You can’t, so get used to Xbox DVR (which sucks). And you’d better hope Gears likes your video card, because it doesn’t like my GTX Titan or the GTX 980 Ti we tried it on in the office, and that grudge comes as nasty audio and video stuttering if I have the texture quality above ‘low.’ Microsoft is working on it, but it’s still a pain a week after launch.

That’s all crappy, but Gears softens the frustration of its limitations by being so much fun. The campaign can be a little self-serious—it’s Doom as an ensemble action flick like The Expendables, with a cast of ultimate tough guys flexing their neck-trunks at every problem—but there’s no drawn-out character development or weak attempts at high-concept sci-fi. Yeah, the cast of melancholy soldier archetypes can get boring, and the grimdark stonework becomes a grey paste in places, but I only have to care about that stuff for a minute at a time. Just a little walk and talk exposition, and then I get to spend 20 minutes with Gears’ wonderful shooting in a shower of alien gore.