Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is in no way a new proposition, despite the fact it has just been launched for Microsoft’s newest console, the Xbox One.
Yet as we look at the charts for the week we see that it has beaten all the new titles to the top spot.
Is it because of a longstanding dedication to the series? Is it because it was a superb game and people are hoping to re-play it at in full-HD? Or is it simply because Gears of War was the game that you and a friend grew up playing together?
All three are relevant, but in my case it was the third.
The ultimate buddy movie is actually a video game.
Launched in 2006 to major acclaim, Epic Games’ new title was a visually-stunning demonstration of just what the Xbox 360 could really do.
While Halo might have brought people over from the original Xbox, Gears of War became the 360’s equivalent of The Order: 1886, minus almost all of 1886’s negatives.
Gears was technically and visually superb, right down to the game’s innovative reload mechanic that would have you screaming in frustration as you hit the bumper button at just the wrong time.
This guy looked terrifying in 720p, turns out he’s a lot scarier in Full-HD.
Everything about it just worked, and worked so smoothly that you could focus on just playing through the plot that quite literally steamrolled you from the start to the end.
Set on a planet called Sera, Gears of War placed you into a brutal, broken world of ruins. After a devastating attack from an alien race called the Locust, the humans decided the only way to stop them was to demolish their own cities using weapons of mass destruction. As a result there are no civilians in Gears of War, just the remains of civilisation.
Dumped rather unceremoniously into this polygonal hell hole are you and a friend.
That’s because Gears of War is best played with friends. The AI is good, but when you can split-screen it with a friend over the course of an hour it quickly reminds you that this was one of the best games of the previous generation.
Thanks to Epic’s superb cover system which lets you hug almost any surface the game strikes the perfect balance between asking you to surge forward and hang back. It’s the ultimate see saw for a fledging player and allows you to enter any situation having just picked it up and not totally fail.
You won’t want to take on this chap alone, he looks pretty unhappy.
As you progress through the fight Gears throws more at you, stopping just short of being overwhelming but still tempting you to jump out from behind cover and go on some mad suicidal run.
It’s an addictive tide of gameplay that, combined with the fact you have to time every reload with a button press perfectly, makes for truly addictive play.
All of this combined results in an enormous quantity of evenings being spent with your friend Liam, either shouting at each other for foolishly rushing into certain death or shouting at the screen when some grave injustice takes place regarding a certain reload mechanic.
Because this is a predominantly visual overhaul the AI is still going to frustrate you in places, and having spent nearly 10 years playing video games since, there are mechanics which simply just feel dated.
It’s no different from a vinyl though, you still listen to it despite its imperfections.
We’re pretty sure he doesn’t want a hug.
Would I say it’s better than our other nostalgic classic remake, Halo? Certainly in terms of content Gears wins hands-down because you’ll get every Gears previous in the form of Xbox’s backwards compatibility program.
That means that if you buy Ultimate Edition between now and the 31 December you’ll be able to then download Gears 2, 3 and Judgement Day for free.
Thanks to the Xbox One overhaul it looks stunning. It’s sometimes hard to work out how badly a game has aged and while it won’t be as bad as Halo was, the differences are immediately noticeable.
There’s more content (thanks to the addition of PC levels which never made it onto the console) and it even acknowledges that much like the consoles, friends also have to move on.
We’re no longer just down the road from each other, so split screen won’t cut it. Xbox Live is on hand though to make sure that when I do still want to have a catchup with him, I can just put on a headset and forgo the fact I’ll look like a bit of an idiot in the name of catching up with a mate.
Some friends we meet for coffee, others we FaceTime, but for us, it’s a couple of hours of Gears of War.
I would recommend it for the nostalgia alone but thankfully I don’t need to, because the rest is just as good.