Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – Popping Moles

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (for Windows 10) is a remaster of the original Gears of War that came out in 2006 for Xbox 360. It was made by Epic Games, and it was a big financial success, popularizing the third-person shooter with cover mechanics. The remaster is made by The Coalition, which has also made the modern 4th, and 5th games in the series. I’m not sure what came over me, but I was in the mood for popping some moles, and what game is better than that than the OG pop-a-mole title! I played it with an Xbox 360 controller to maintain the feel of the 360-days.

I remember thinking it was pretty good back in the day, even if fairly simple, but then third-person shooters with cover mechanics were new and fresh, so the general fatigue hadn’t set in yet. And a big plus for the game is that it allowed for split-screen co-op, which I think is the way the game is supposed to be played. Going back to it now – the gameplay isn’t exactly riveting, but for what it does, it does well, and I assume that some improvements to the format have been added as well. What I remember, though, is that it did feel pretty similar to the olden days, even the muscle memory got some exercise since the controls still match up.

I think I can see the intro for Fallout back there

Gears of War isn’t much more than sliding into cover and shooting ugly subterranean aliens in the face. It’s a linear experience with the occasional split path, but those only last for a few minutes at most. The game is interrupted with cut scenes of mostly gruff men doing and talking military stuff – nothing of current-year politics here to break up the flow and immersion. The whole thing is rather straightforward, the fictional world of Sera has gone to shit thanks to underground-dwelling weirdos, and we are thrown in right in the middle. The war has been ongoing for a while, and while the game’s ending has serious consequences for the world and story, it does feel like you are just taking part in minor skirmishes in a war much larger than you, and I really liked this feeling.

You play the manliest of men, Marcus Phoenix, and you start out in prison, getting released moments before becoming grub food. You are a military man, thrown in prison for refusing orders, but with the world looking as it does, commands need every man they got to throw at the alien menace. From here on, you go from one fantastical area to the next, killing hundreds of locusts on the way, with it eventually ending with you setting the aliens back – but with a clear setup for a sequel (which there were several off).


While the gameplay, nor the narrative is the most impressive thing (except the world-building), I did find it very enjoyable still, and that’s mostly because of the apocalyptic scenery. I think the remaster did a good job here, toning down the grayscale and introducing some color to the concrete wasteland. What I also found entertaining – playing as a disaster tourist with a gun – was the general architecture of the buildings in the world. It has this harsh, goth-like look to it, very industrial, but still looking recognizable to our world. In general, the visuals are fantastic, though, the Warhammer 40k -Esque soldiers look a bit silly now, I think. They are ridiculously big and bulky compared to normal humans (which you get to meet in the game), and from what I know, there isn’t anything special with these dudes, like being gene-modified or something like that. I could be wrong about this. While I think it looks silly, it’s still charming in a way, because of the typical design from that era of gaming, something that has been rejected in current times.

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your AI teammates at all when playing this solo. They do fire back, but more often than not they do zero damage or are incredibly suicidal – rushing into enemy blobs just to get knocked out for the remainder of the engagement. What I found funny, which I didn’t remember being part of the game, is that you can give simply order to your men, who to attack, when to fall back, etc. I noticed no improvements to the AI when trying out these commands, but it made me think how much more awesome Gears of War could have been with genuine tactical combat, à la Mass Effect or The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.

Hadley’s hope anyone?

One thing I did find unique with the Gears of War, in contrast to other similar games, is that the downtime between fights is fairly long for you to soak up the atmosphere and listen to the awesome and bombastic music. And add, the game also has some cool and creepy moments, which is another thing I had forgotten about – the horror tone of some areas. Sound effects for weapons felt a bit hit or miss. While the sound is adequate, I do remember it getting a lot better in the sequels, but for some reason, the developers decided to use the original sounds instead of the improved weapon sounds. They also have this awkward tinny effect to them, like they were recorded in mono. This could of course be something with my system, but everything else sounded fine, like dialogue, and ambiance.

Overall, it was an enjoyable throwback that didn’t overstay its welcome. Gears of War is a pop-a-mole game through and through, and there isn’t much else to it, gameplay-wise at least. But as mentioned, the visual style and general apocalyptic atmosphere made it worth a trip down the nostalgia road. So, is it worth playing? I think so, but I highly recommend getting a co-op partner for the experience, but I wouldn’t pay full price for it, though. Thankfully, Microsoft Game pass has it available if curious, just make sure to wait for that 1 euro deal for a subscription!

Thanks for reading.


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