When I bought my Xbox One X, it came with the entire Gears of War series in the box, including the remastered Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Since then, I've completed nearly 140 games... And not one of those titles has been any of the Gears of War games I got with my console. I know, it's basically heresy, but I've rectified my mistake and will pay penance for my crimes (by playing more games, of course).
Not long ago, I finally sat down and completed the first Gears of War game and... I loved it! Why didn't anyone tell me this game was good??? Oh yeah, a lot of people did. Anywho, I've rolled the credits on my first Gears of War game, and my first third-person cover shooter, and I can already tell I'm going to have a blast playing through the rest of the franchise over the next couple of years. Hopefully, by the time I'm finished, Gears 6 will be out in the wild (fingers crossed).
Baby's first third-person cover shooter
I have a long list of completed games on my phone, but there's a distinct lack of third-person shooters on it. Gears of War is my first proper foray into this oft-forgotten genre (which has somewhat fallen out of popularity in recent years), and it took me a couple of hours before my brain acclimated to the controls. I kept pressing the buttons I was used to in other shooters, only to find they did very different things in Gears of War. I admit, there were more than a few deaths at the very beginning while I adapted.
Once it clicked for me, though, I really began appreciating this style of gameplay. Coordinating with a squad, taking advantage of every available spot of cover you can to advance, retreat, and hold your ground, and cycling through the weapons available to you to best suit your current situation, itched my brain in the best possible way after the intro passed. By the end of the game, I had fallen in love with the Boltok revolver, Longshot rifle, and Gnasher shotgun.
In Gears of War, you cannot take thirty shots to the face and keep going like you can in many first-person shooter campaigns; guns are brutally effective in this universe, and you'll need to rely both on your skills and the cover available to you to survive. I witnessed Marcus Fenix, the infamous protagonist of the Gears of War franchise, get blown in half by a Gnasher a few too many times (but I got my revenge ten times over with my own Gnasher, which shredded Locusts like they were made of paper).
That's truly what made this combat click for me — the visceral reaction enemies have to explosions and gunfire. In many ways, it reminded me of DOOM, but slightly more toned down; Marcus Fenix is hardly ripping Locusts apart with his bare hands, but he can certainly use a chainsaw to get the job done.
When the final boss fell, I was rolling, bobbing and weaving, and running like the elite and highly-trained soldier Fenix really is. I'm interested to see how this gameplay evolves over the course of the next four games (although I understand The Coalition actually did introduce some modern amenities when remastering the original Gears of War) since series like this tend to continually go bigger and bigger. Even more than that, though, I want to witness how events unfold in this nightmare world.
A brutal world that has already won me over
The first Gears of War is set 14 years after "Emergence Day" on the planet Sera, where a mysterious race known as the Locusts have declared war on humanity and have devastated the planet's population. The Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG, has united the remnants of humanity on Sera and taken the lead in this brutal war, deploying its soldiers, known as Gears, to fight back against the Locusts.
You play as Marcus Fenix, an imprisoned ex-Gear who had fought against the Locusts in the past. You're freed from prison to embark on a new mission: to recover valuable tech that could help turn the tide in this never-ending conflict. Fenix is rough and no-nonsense, a pretty standard personality for these kinds of games, but I nonetheless really enjoyed Fenix's character for his ability to remain calm under pressure and to complete the job despite how COG has burned him in the past.
You'll slowly learn more about Fenix and the rest of his squad, new and old, as the game progresses. The entire premise of humanity warring against a seemingly unstoppable force caught my attention early on, but wandering through the remnants of half-destroyed cities and witnessing the unbelievable carnage this war has already caused further solidified my interest in the Gears of War franchise.
The writing isn't anything terribly special, at least in the first entry, but it still paints a believable picture of humanity brought to its knees and the brave individuals doing all they can to stand it back up. For 14 years, the war has felt hopeless, but you start your journey just as humanity receives a glimmer of hope that this war may one day have an end. The existence of four more mainline games after this one strongly suggests the war is not over, so there's not necessarily a happy ending... It's just something that may be a step toward that happy ending.
With the crisp visuals of the remastered game and the incredibly impressive art design that makes the Gears of War franchise instantly recognizable, I was dragged into this world, making the stakes feel higher as I blasted my way through crumbling ruins and decrepit facilities. An endless stream of violence, uncovered secrets, new friends and lost companions, and the fight for a better tomorrow all make Gears of War Ultimate Edition a fantastic way to spend the roughly ~9 hours it takes to finish the game.
More to play, but I'm already sold on Gears 6
I admit it'll be a while before I hit the next Gears of War game. It'll be even longer before I finish the entire series. After all, my backlog is more intimidating than the entire Locust army, and I need to keep things interesting and continually switch genres and franchises. I absolutely am going to finish every Gears of War game, though — I can tell you that much. I enjoyed my time with Gears of War Ultimate Edition more than I honestly expected.
Before playing this game, I frankly didn't care about the possibility of Gears 6 at all. Why would I? I had no attachment to the series, and it's difficult to get into a new game that's part of a very old franchise. Now, though, I know I'll be waiting with bated breath for Xbox Game Studios and The Coalition to reveal the first trailers for Gears 6. In the meantime, I guess I'll need to slowly play through the rest of the Gears of War games, including Gears of War 2, 3, and 4, Gears 5, and Gears Tactics. Erm, do I also need to go play Gears of War: Judgement?
If you've been holding off on entering the Gears of War universe, I strongly recommend it. It's simple, too — Gears of War Ultimate Edition is just $19.99 at Microsoft on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. It's also available through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming, making it even easier to experience. As the game that introduced me to a brand-new universe and video game genre, I think Gears of War still counts among the best Xbox games you can play.
Now I'm off to play Brütal Legend.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.