Gear Of War: Ultimate Edition is exactly the game you expect it to be. For those that still don't know what that is, it's the original in the series completely remastered so it looks pretty enough to justify running on an Xbox One. The real joy, however, comes in remembering just how good the first Gears Of War is.
Time is not kind to most games, and the same can be said for Epic's Xbox 360 masterpiece. While in your head you may think it has held up, a quick revisiting proves that the industry has come an exceptionally long way since 2006. On top of this, without even realising it, you've been spoiled by Gears Of War 3. Most sequels are always met with a smattering of buffoons saying 'They've ruined it! It's not as good!', and in many cases that may be true. Here, however, the third instalment righted many of the franchise's wrongs, putting an extra exclamation point over how old Marcus Fenix's first adventure now feels.
This is why Ultimate Edition is such a treat, though.
Gears Of War isn't held back in 2015 because of exposed flaws we didn't see almost a decade ago. The major issues are technical. Bring those into the modern day, and you're swiftly reminded of a shooter that's incredibly entertaining to play, and ridiculously satisfying. Anyone who played through the trilogy (I refuse to mention Judgement) probably has stronger memories of the last two games than the first, so getting to revisit how it all began is a fine digital walk down memory lane.
Set-pieces that have all but vanished from your brain will come rushing back, and the moment-to-moment, cover-based mechanics have barely aged at all. Gears may be thrown away as some 'bro-simulator' by some today, but in reality it's an exceptionally well put together third-person shooter that still stands up against its peers.
It's not like there isn't anything new here either. If you - like myself - never had the resources to play the exclusive content released for the PC version, The Coalition has you covered. Worked into the campaign as it was way back when, there's something very compelling about experiencing 'fresh' Gears Of War levels, even though in reality it's very old. It's novelty shouldn't be underestimated, though.
As for the remastered side of things, Ultimate Edition does a solid job in dragging Gears Of War into a new-gen world. It's still fairly obvious this is a game that came to life during a different era, but the re-texturing and upgraded visuals means it's more than worthy of running on your Xbox One. Cutscenes in particular look sharp, showcasing the work the developer has done.
Which brings us to the multiplayer. Where you'll expect to get the most mileage out of Gears, Ultimate Edition's setup is, in many ways, the best to date. The 4vs4 gameplay remains unlike anything else out there, and returning to the familiar 'Warzone' mode - where there are no respawns - is terrifying. It's the complete opposite of Call of Duty's 'spawn, run, shoot, die, respawn' go-around and requires you to be exceptionally cautious and meticulous every step of the way. It's excellent.
The online offering has been updated as well with the influence of Gears Of War 2 and 3 wisely being inserted into the mix. Team Deathmatch dedicates a certain amount of respawns per team, King Of The Hill is as frenetic as it ever was, and the many customisation options only serve to mould a match in any way you want. It does feel as if all three games were thrown into a pot and the end result was then served to your face, but it works.
Ultimate Edition is also a stark reminder of how good the original's multiplayer maps were. Epic always proved how talented it was at such things, but revisiting them here is more evidence still. They suit the playstyle near perfectly, never too big that you feel exposed and small enough that you know one mistake could cost you dearly. Given that you have every map that was ever made for the first Gears (including PC exclusive and DLC), and there's plenty to lose yourself in.
The real question comes in the form of how stable the multiplayer will actually be. Plagued with issues each and every damned time, The Coalition is confident dedicated servers will ensure staring at a spinning cog in a lobby as your life passes you by are a thing of the past. Currently, that is the case, with waiting times being at a minimum. This could easily change, of course, once they're opened up to the public, so be sure that any tidal waves of destruction will be acknowledged by VideoGamer and the score updated to suit.
While it's seemingly cool to rip on remasters, Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition is an absolute beast and a game I'm genuinely happy to see return. If you've never played any of the series it's the perfect stepping on point, and fans will revel in getting to go back through what is a classic. One of the best third-person shooters in history? It was and still is. The proof is right here.
Version Tested: Xbox One