Beta Tested – ‘Gears of War: Ultimate Edition’

After a week with the latest Xbox game to get the remaster treatment, here’s a look at the good and bad of the Gears beta

As a bit of a disclaimer, I consider myself to be a huge Gears of War fan. I’ve played the franchise since its debut in 2006, and my attachment to the game’s lore and characters is part of what makes the series so special to me. I played the games’ multiplayer extensively while they were active, so I used to be quite good with my trusty Gnasher. Although it took a bit of time to get the rust off, boy did it feel great to be back.

The Good

The newly redesigned and reimagined levels are stunning. In particular, the lighting in on the ‘Canals’ map is a mixture of warm and cool colors with bright party lights that add even more diversity to the generally bleak look the franchise is known for. Additionally, map textures are quite nice. Walls look like they would have a rough, weathered feel to them instead of looking like stained grey walls this time around. In addition to the fantastic map reworking, the character models look excellent in 1080p. While I don’t know if these are original models that are simply bumped up to 1080p or if they’re entirely new models, the look is still impressive. While the hair on the COG soldiers does look a bit outdated, the back of the locust heads also feel like they have a sense of depth that is undeniably impressive. Lastly, one of my favorite additions to Gears: UE is the blood effect on the COG armor after you successfully land a chainsaw kill. I don’t remember this detail from the original, but regardless, it is a welcome addition to the already horrendously violent game.

While I didn’t need an incentive to keep playing, I loved that Coalition included exclusive weapon skins to beta testers each day they played. Ultimately, glitches on Xbox Live caused people issues accessing the beta, so the developer did note that anyone who played Gears on two separate days would have access to all weapon skins. Still, it was fun each day to log in and see what kind of skin was up. In my opinion, the actual variation and creativity involved in the various weapon skins was pretty low, but still, a free weapon skin is a free weapon skin.

The Bad

This part of the beta critique is more about what things in the beta I think need to be fixed before launching on Xbox One and PC in late August.

First off, the Gnasher shotgun needs to be reworked quite a bit. If I were to use one word to describe the weapon in its current state, I would choose ‘inconsistent.’ Point blank shots on unsuspecting enemies sometimes blast through them without causing damage, other times the place where you think you’re aiming and where the pellets actually hit are entirely different almost making hipfire worthless. I also find that the TTK (or time-to-kill) seems a little off as well with the Gnasher. Sometimes three shots at close range (two to down, one to kill) does the trick, other times I will find myself getting hit at midrange and getting downed from a single shot. To keep it brief, the hit detection needs significant work to be at its best for launch.

While it isn’t crucial to my enjoyment of the series, I do think some gore is missing from the original Gears. While people still erupt into piles of meat, the blood that once covered large portions of maps is no longer there. Only occasionally will blood pool around you when you’re down, and headshots from the longshot rifle no longer cause a Tropic Thunder-esque spray of gore – something I found to be signature with the game franchise. The gib we’ve all come to expect is present here in the beta, but blood definitely feels toned down.

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I suppose it is worth noting that this is just a beta weighing in at 6 gigs. Inside the download, there are a dozen characters, weapon skins and at least five gorgeous maps. Perhaps in order to keep the download small so more people would play, they cut nonessentials like excessive blood. I suppose we’ll have to wait until August to find out.

Verdict

The Gears of War: Ultimate Edition beta was a great sample of what’s to come in two months. While the graphics update wasn’t quite as impressive as Halo 2‘s, it still felt great to be back in the boots of the COG on Xbox One. That being said, some weapon issues will need to be addressed if Coalition wants to have a successful launch in August, and I would also like to see more blood effects in the final build as well. For the first time since Gears of War 3, I feel a lot of hype for the franchise and I look forward to seeing what else Microsoft has in store for Gears fans before the launch of Gears 4.

What do you make of the beta? Did you like what you played? What needs to be fixed before you’ll buy the game? Feel free to let me know on Twitter!

Bonus Round

Last week, after Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson announced the remaster, Marcus Fenix voice actor John Dimaggio tweeted this congratulation Rod’s reveal. What do you make of it?

Gears of War Ultimate Edition is slated for Xbox One and PC August 25th and is rumored to feature cross-play functionality. For all things Gears, Xbox and gaming, you’re already in the right place!

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