Developer: Epic Games, The Coalition
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox One
Price: $29.99 Windows Store

Disclaimer: The following game was reviewed on PC via Windows Store. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Sometimes, playing and reviewing video games is just that: You receive the game, you insert the disc or redeem the download code, you play, and then try and encapsulate all of your thoughts and feelings on your experience, coming up with the most fitting score possible to describe it. Then, it comes time to write and publish a review for all to read.

Other games and their stories are a complete journey filled with bumps, bruises and difficult paths. And better yet, most are well suited with stunning vistas and feelings of complete joy. I would say that my journey with Gears of War would definitely be one of the longest journeys of this nature as I’ve had the joy, and sometimes pain, delving into the culminating experience which is Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. All of this in sparkling 4K.

I must say and that I’d forgotten how good the game really is.

Starting clear back in 2005, I won a pair of tickets to the Xbox 360 launch in Palmdale, Calif. I’ll never forget my road trip and accompanying physical journey down to an old SR-71 hangar that had been converted into geek paradise, bathed in the warm glow of the Xbox 360 green. One of the featured titles on the huge screen, of course with thumping PR music, was Cliff Bleszinski promoting pimping his upcoming game, Gears of War. We couldn’t believe our eyes and honestly, our ears. Could this seeming masterpiece actually be running on an Xbox 360?! The future was upon us.

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“CliffyB” presenting Gears of War at the Xbox 360 launch in Palmdale, Calif., 2005.

A year later, I had the opportunity to attend the official ‘Gears launch in Hollywood, Calif. in 2006. It was nerdgasmic to chill with the man, the myth, the legend–not to mention this graphically impressive game in action. Finally, I had my copy. Sure enough, the game deliveredand then some. Some of my favorite co-op gaming memories came from CliffyB and Team’s invention. I can’t believe that it’s been almost 10-years since its initial launch.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tactics behind Gears of War, its roots lie in the cover-based, third-person shooter realm. The most distinguishing aspect of the game was, and still is, the satisfying ability to chainsaw your opponents and enemies. I mean, for goodness sake, there was no other game at the time that fitted your main weapon with a chainsaw, greased, gassed, and ready to use at a moment’s notice. This not only paved the way for my initial intrigue into the game, but it also continued to drive interest from the games inception and through the sequels to follow. This was the game’s most notable “wow” factor, aside from its graphical prowess.

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Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Fast forward to 2016 and behold, us PC gamers can now experience the Gears of War franchise the way it was meant to played: All the DLC and content from previous versions, running at 60-FPS, and in glorious 4K! Not so fast peeps, there are a few let looming caveats.

Firstly, you should be fair-warned that the game does in fact require Windows 10. Period. Nope, you can’t even play it on Windows 8.1 and definitely not Windows 7. Secondly, you have to buy, download, and play the game via the Windows Store App. And thirdly, if that is a thing, the game absolutely requires Xbox Live and it has to be up and running. More on that later but, this list of requirements honestly is a huge disservice to the PC gaming community as a whole. I won’t go into much detail because honestly, it’s not worth harping on. But, let’s just say, during my play time I experienced many crashes and issues due to Windows 10 drivers, the clunky interface of the Windows Store, Xbox Live being down, and simply not even being able to play single player during the downtime.

As someone who captures often, specifically in 4K (3840 × 2160), not being able to use my normal screen and video capture tools and many other small yet distracting issues. As an open note to the community/industry: Developers and publishers, please stop pigeonholing gamers into platforms and Operating Systems that do nothing but distract from and contend with the true gaming experience. Now, with that out of the way, on with the show.

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My spoils of ‘War. Yes, Cliffy signed it. No, you can’t have it.

Enough ’bout me, let’s talk ’bout you girl!

So when the game is up and running, it’s absolutely fantastic. A masterpiece, a marvel even. I must say and that I’d forgotten how good the game really is. In regards to the single player campaign, the experience is fulfilling whether played solo or with a buddy. I had a blast going through the campaign again and that powerful feeling of nostalgia, mixed with 4K/60FPS goodness filled my eyes, ears, and mind. The extra content was welcomed, particularly being that some of the DLC was exclusive. And,the high-res comics, although tertiary inclusions, look divine.

With the multiplayer, it too was solid despite the aforementioned hiccups of Xbox Live. However, when the matches worked, they worked flawlessly with little to no lag. I found that matchmaking, as soon as momentum was surging ahead, was extremely quick. It fanned the flames of old feelings, and brought me back to the days of just having a fun and challenging riot online.

Well, sir, graphically speaking…

It was only fitting that playing the game the way it was meant to be played. I currently run an overclocked (1560mhz) GTX 980 Ti. Having the card does allow me to play most games in 4K resolution. With that being said, it is often hard to find games that run smoothly with the settings cranked up to the max. As for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, I can say with confidence that there were no performance issues. The only quarrels came in the connectivity department online. The game ran beautifully with its sweeping landscapes that often left me peering off into the ruins of the city.


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Gears + 4K = DROOL!

The Bottom Line

Overall, this is a very tough game to score. You might ask: Why? Or, “Isn’t that your job as a reviewer?” Well, yes. But, with the lockdown of its given platform and delivery–it’s just bonkers.

Even with that said, it still strikes the PC market as an amazing game and a fair price of $29.99. There are multiple avenues of satisfaction and challenge that lay waiting beneath the barriers for veterans and newcomers alike. Therefore, if the game was available on Steam, GOG, or any other real gaming platform, without the Windows 10/Windows Store lockdown, it could easily make a vast leap in scoring. This, however, hinders its ability to wholly enjoy all that the Ultimate Edition offers, ultimately hurting the full trip down Nostalgia Lane.

With all the issues I suffered, and not even being able to record 4K video with any of my tools due to the lack of Windows 10 integration, it was a major letdown. So, if you are the world’s biggest Gears fan and want the Definitive/Ultimate Edition, this is it–if you can get past the hurdles.

Check out some of my personal capture and gameplay below:

Written by Dustin Orgill


Pros:

  • The incredible game you know and love, even better
  • Graphics looks stellar at 4K/60FPS
  • Multiplayer is smooth and intense
  • Fair price and a good value

Cons:

  • Windows 10 as requirement is unnecessary
  • Windows Store blows
  • Xbox Live Issues at Launch

Final Score:  7.5 / 10