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Everything you need to know about Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

During last week's press conference, Microsoft announced a double dose of Gears of War awesomeness. Most excitingly, Gears of War 4 (now simply titled Gears 4) will launch exclusively on Xbox One in 2016. Current-gen gamers won't have to wait a year for a taste of the Gears series though, as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition comes out on Xbox One and Windows PC on August 25. So soon!

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a full remaster of the original Gears of War, courtesy of Microsoft's Vancouver-based Coalition studio. Whereas many current-gen versions of old games get only minor facelifts, this Ultimate Edition sports completely revamped graphics, new campaign and multiplayer levels, and many more improvements. You couldn't ask for a better introduction to (or reason to revisit) the Gears series.

We learned all about Gears of War: Ultimate Edition during a behind-closed doors presentation at E3 2015. Read on for the full intel.

Gears of War primer

Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera, where humanity has endured a 14-year war with an inhuman race known as the Locusts. There musclebound COG soldiers Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago must fight alongside their fellow Delta Squad members as they attempt to map out the Locusts' subterranean lair and detonate a bomb that could defeat them once and for all.

Gears of War introduced several gameplay mechanics that other games would go on to borrow. First: the "Roadie Run." By pressing and holding the A button, players can crouch low and sprint forward at high speed. Second, the intuitive cover system allows combatants to "stick" to pieces of cover like walls and rubble. From cover they can peek out to fire or simply fire blindly.

Finally, Gears created the active reload system. Whenever gamers need to reload a weapon, they can simply press the Right Bumper and wait a few seconds to reload. However, they also have the option to press RB again at precisely the right moment (indicated by a meter at the top of the screen) to perform an active reload. Not only does this complete the reload faster, it also makes the reloaded bullets deal extra damage.

Mess up your timing and you'll fail the active reload, incurring a slight penalty on your reload time. The active reload system makes little moments that would be mundane in other games actually be fun and engaging.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

An armada of enhancements

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a complete remaster of the original game. Sort of like Halo 2: Anniversary Edition, but without the toggling between new and old visuals. And unlike the Master Chief Collection, this one has enjoyed several rounds of beta testing before release. It should work great right out of the gate.

The most obvious upgrade in Ultimate Edition is its graphics. The game now runs in 1080p, and multiplayer mode has been bumped up to 60 frames per second. Not only that, but character models and environments have all received major upgrades. Everything now looks like a game from this generation instead of one from nine years ago.

Microsoft paid special attention to the character's faces as well. Although the original game's cutscenes looked fantastic back in the day, the character mouths moved more robotically than realistically. The new faces show far more expression and emotion. Camera angles and other elements have received slight tweaks too.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

Although the Xbox 360 release of Gears told a fairly intriguing story that hinted at a rich universe, the plot skipped around a bit towards the end. The Delta team arrived at a new location at the beginning of an act with no narrative explanation for how they got there. As it turns out, this jumpiness (which also plagued Halo 3) happened in part because Epic simply ran out of time and had to cut some content from the game.

Five chapters from the game's fifth and final act got the axe, including a fight against the gigantic Brumak monster. These chapters later appeared in the Windows PC version of Gears of War, but never made it to the Xbox 360 version. Developer The Coalition has reinstated them into Ultimate Edition. If you've never played the PC game, that's five new chapters you'll get to experience on Xbox One.

The new developers have also added a fourth difficulty level, Casual, that should help ease new players into the series. The old Casual mode now goes by 'Normal.'

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition E3 2015

Multiplayer

Although the first Gears of War doesn't include the series' popular cooperative Horde mode, it does boast full campaign co-op for two local or online players and a robust competitive multiplayer mode. The Ultimate Edition beefs up the competitive gameplay even more. It runs smoother for starters, thanks to the 60 fps frame rate. Of course all the maps look much nicer as well, but that's just the tip of the ice berg…

Ultimate Edition includes all of the original multiplayer maps (six of which came as DLC) plus three new ones, for a total of 19 maps. The extra maps originated in the PC version: Sanctuary, Courtyard, and Gold Rush. All three originally made it to Gears of War 2 on Xbox 360 as DLC. Think of them as a little taste of Gears 2 to complement your upgrades first Gears.

The original Gears brought four multiplayer game types to the table: Warzone, Assassination, Execution and Annex. Ultimate Edition adds Team Death Match, King of the Hill (Gears 3 style), and Gnashers 2v2 to the roster. The developers told us the game has six game types though. Four classics and three new ones doesn't add up to six; perhaps they're counting the very similar Warzone and Assassination game types as one mode.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

More welcome additions include dedicated servers, LAN support, and Spectator mode. The latter two are geared towards tournament play. You won't hear about any Gears Ultimate tournaments getting cancelled over server issues! As for spectator mode, multiplayer games reserve two dedicated slots for spectating. That way, tournament organizers can easily broadcast tournaments via Twitch or other services.

Last but definitely not least, Gears of War Ultimate Edition adds a progression system! Gamers will now gain experience and level up as they complete multiplayer games. Leveling up unlocks characters, including 17 characters from Gears of War 3. Those characters will be spruced up visually, just like the campaign characters. The new leveling system should help keep Gears fans playing until Gears 4 comes out – maybe even beyond.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

And more!

The Coalition has added a few subtle modernizations to Gears Ultimate Edition as well:

  • Players can revive teammates will in cover
  • Weapons can be toggled while Roadie Running (the actual switch happens after the run ends)
  • Controls now offer 30 levels of analog stick sensitivity, just like in Gears 3
  • Players can switch between Alternate controls and the new Tournament controls
  • You can now "spot" enemies to help track their whereabouts
  • Straight from Gears 3, the Multiplayer Tac-Com shows the locations of teammates, weapons, etc.
  • Additional multiplayer options include Active reload toggling, Respawn time, Self-revive and Weapon respawn
  • 1,250 Gamerscore worth of Achievements

None of these enhancements change Gears dramatically. They just tighten it up a bit and give players better control over the experience.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

Coming soon to Xbox One and Windows

Everything I saw and learned about Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has me excited for it. In fact, Ultimate has become my most anticipated Xbox One game of the fall! So many of us remember the original gears fondly; it will be wonderful to revisit a new and improved version of it before Gears 4 comes out.

Windows gamers can look forward to several PC-specific optimizations like 4K monitor support, DirectX 12 graphics support, an unlimited refresh rate (so beefy systems can go higher than 60 fps), and mouse + keyboard, Xbox, and Xbox One Elite controls.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition arrives on Xbox One (and presumably Windows) on August 25 in the US and August 28 in Europe. It comes with exclusive access to the Gears 4 multiplayer beta scheduled for Spring 2016.

Who plans to get Gears Ultimate, and which platform will you buy it on?

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

29 Comments
  • I absolutely love the Gears series.  I am definitely getting this on the PC.  I have never been very good at competitive shooters with a controller, so I am very excited to play Gears multiplayer with a mouse and keyboard.
  • This game is better played on a controller. This isn't a FPS where it's easier to aim with a mouse.
  • I actually played Gears 3 exclusively with a xim3, which is a mouse emulation device.  It was the only time in Gears multiplayer where I was competitive.  I agree that the benefits of using a mouse are not as significant in Gears as in FPS games, but it still helped me considerably.
  • So how are they achieving 1080/60 when most others have failed?
  • It's less graphically complex than newer games and doesn't have to match up with a version on a more powerful system. Also, they get the best support since they're part of Microsoft.
  • This and Gears 4, made me buy the Xbox One again.
  • I have been playing the beta on the xbox one for a week now. Very smooth and faster than it was on the 360.
  • Gears 1 is probably the greatest multiplayer experience on any console. I really love Halo, but the cover system and tactics involved are unmatched. I love the slower pace of 1 vs Gears 3
  • Seriously achievement again. I think I'm ready, Xbox One. I was apart of the beta and it brought back many good memories and many frustrations as well.
  • This will be the sole reason why I will be buying an Xbox One.
  • It's a 9-year-old game getting a re-release for $40. That's all I need to know. HARD PASS. When it's on-sale for $20, I might bite. Otherwise, I might just pass on the whoel franchise. I would want to refresh my memory on the story of the franchise before the new one comes out, but playung just e first one (especially at that price) is pointless.
  • Not the same game that was released 9 years ago
  • If this was 1,2 and 3 then I would buy it, but it's ONE old game in 1080 60fps... Not really great
  • Honestly, I was surprised at the price point. I figured given all the upgrades including the additional chapters for the campaign they would have tried to charge more. I'll definitely be buying!
  • Too bad this doesnt include the 2nd and 3rd, they really should!!!!
  • I'm looking forward to playing the previously PC only chapters
  • The PC version is later in the fall iirc.
  • And, if you haven't been watching games with gold on 360, they gave away judgment last month and 2 this month. They're giving away 3 next month.
  • I guess I'll break down and buy it, I really love Gears Of War, I still display my Marcus statue proudly on my table
  • Never played gears as I had a ps3 but I can't wait to get hold of this. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I love gears but..... seriously achievement is a real pain lol :P
  • All I need to know about Gears Ultimate is Microsoft shunning from registering the game at the FSK (bureau of youth protection in media) over here in Germany, effectively dumping the German gamers with this one.
  • I'm surprised they don't just look it in censored mode with the extreme content turned off. Surely you can import the game somehow?
  • The publisher (Microsoft) could even sell it with full content in Germany, if they would go without advertising. Microsoft's stance however is not to publish games that do not get a youth protection approval in a certain country. PS It's the USK (u=unabhängig/independent) that deals with software, while the FSK is responsible for film.
  • luckily in Canada It is not so strickt. odd you can walk around on the streat and drink but not play a game....
  • When I heard about this initially I thought gears 1 to 3 were gonna be on the disc.
  • I played a beta over the weekend. It is fun. adds a different aspect into play with the 3rd person peaking around corners and objects without getting shot at. I had fun when I played I will be thinking about picking this up just to play the story lines from the previous games. I had Gow1 on my 360 cant remember it nor do I remember if I finnished it. I would like to this time.
  • Nice article. Deserves more comments.
  • This was one of my first 360 games will be getting this one and the fourth when it comes out. Liked the series glad its still going.