DJ Arruda, ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When Gears of War was first released in November 2006, it took the gaming world by storm. Incorporating the third person over-the-shoulder camera revolutionized by Resident Evil 4 almost two years prior, the gritty shooter sought to deliver a gory narrative about humanity’s last stand against the Locust Horde on the plant Sera. The lead designer on the game, Cliff Bleszinski, revealed in a series of Tweets leading up to the release of the Ultimate Edition that he and his team were quite nervous in pitching the new IP to Microsoft, which brought a breath of fresh air and a side of carnage to the Xbox 360 and industry as whole. But it did not start out with that success, and had to cross many hurdles in order to get released. Fast forward almost a decade later, however, and the game that started it all comes back, fully remastered, and proving that despite the years since its launch, there is still something so pervasive about this first game in the multimillion-dollar series. Despite two sequels and a prequel, the first game is worth a revisit, with thousands of assets remade to make the game look the best it ever has, on the Xbox One.
The story itself does a good job starting things in medias res with Dominic taking Marcus out of prison in order to help finish the fight. The tutorial is well integrated and helps players both new and old get acquainted or reacquainted with the controls before delving into the rest of the campaign. As a whole, the story captures the desperation and darkness of a last ditch effort to end the war, whether it be the sheer unadulterated bloodshed which permeates the combat, or the loss of squad members and seeing the lives of the civilian Stranded against such a relentless foe. The military jargon makes the player feel like they are in charge of Delta squad, and the varied environments and reveals of new enemies helps to build the story and heighten the difficulty as time goes on. It is hard to think of the game standing alone, now, however, and the expectation of the answers to the many questions raised throughout it is lessened knowing the sequels address them. If this had been the only game in the series, it may be seen in a different light, as some necessary exposition is sacrificed to keep a layer of mystery in the story. What truly carries the game, however, is how it introduces many new gameplay features, from the camera and roll-based movement, to the chainsaw Lancers and explosive Torque bow as implements of destruction.
The addition of the bonus chapters originally only on the PC version allow for a more fleshed out arc, and adds to the well-sized campaign with some new missions. The variety and pacing of the story makes sure that the player is always moving, and that it feels the pressure from the war effort, while also having a difficulty scale which balances the game to the player’s choice. Though the story does show its age, the nostalgia of playing through it once more for longtime fans cannot be downplayed, especially when it looks so gorgeous on the Xbox One. And for new fans, there is enough to see what the fuss has been about. With the implementation of Backwards Compatibility to the console in the fall, and the promise of the rest of the games in the series being available via that function to those who play the game before the end of the year, that incentive only sweetens the deal. Delta Squad has never looked this good, and await the players’ return, with or without a friend in co-op to boot.
The other half of the game, arguably even more popular than the campaign, is the multiplayer. Many players are wary of buying another remastered game due to the disaster with The Master Chief Collection’s launch, but so far the servers seem much more stable than in Halo’s case. Though matchmaking seems unbalanced, pitting new players with veterans, and game load times seem off, overall the experience is much the same as the classic one, with a patch coming to fix many of the most major issues. Using cover, active reloads, and map control, players roll and dodge before coming face to face in shotgun battles and chainsaw duels, exciting and unique compared to most other shooters. Indeed, overall the multiplayer experience is as intact as one would expect, while still benefitting from the upgrades the new console provides. The learning curve may be steep, especially for those who have never played before, but the fun cannot be denied. Give it a chance, and it will take off. Also, access to the Gear of War 4 beta is included, bringing the entire series together for the low price tag of $40. As nice as it would have been to have the other games remastered, giving access to them for free is the next best thing. There has never been a better time to return to or jump into the Gears of War series, especially with the sequel on the horizon. The Coalition, the new studio behind the fourth game, has proven with their first outing that they can be trusted with the series, passing the test of bringing the old thing back.