Gears of War Ultimate Edition: Moving Forward With Gears of War 4
The Coalition has successfully remastered a classic but can it create its own from scratch?
The Coalition has more or less arrived with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, its remaster/remake of Epic’s first game in the franchise. It’s been an interesting journey thus far, seeing as how the studio started as Black Tusk before Microsoft purchased the Gears of War IP, hired former Epic Games director of production Rod Fergusson and effectively devoted resources to the next big sequel, Gears of War 4. Now that Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is out and about, it’s worth looking at what the future holds for the franchise.
In many ways, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was essentially a trial for The Coalition. Is it capable of staying true to the spirit of the franchise while still pushing the Xbox One’s hardware for all its worth? In such instances, it proves easier to stick to the gameplay aspects that fans love the most and focus on “improving” the overall presentation. Kudos to The Coalition for going above and beyond in that department and truly making the Ultimate Edition stand out as a 2015 title rather than a 2006 game with a higher resolution, frame rate and some extra bells and whistles.
"When observing Gears of War 4’s initial reveal at E3 2015, I couldn’t help but think about Halo 4. 343 Industries had done its best to keep the original feel of Halo while introducing changes in its own way."
This isn’t to say the multiplayer aspect is perfect. Hit up threads on Reddit like this and you’ll find plenty of people annoyed about the online competitive play. It’s actually interesting that Horde mode is absent in the Ultimate Edition because honestly, how many people cared about the PvP in Gears of War versus the Horde Mode in Gears of War 2 onwards? Even if PvP is a component of Gears of War 4, we wouldn’t bank on it being the main focus.
Because the selling point of Gears of War has never really been the PvP. It’s always come down to experiencing the gameplay with your friends and Horde mode exploited this wonderfully. If you were tired of campaign co-op, then just hop in for a few rounds of Horde mode and try to survive against increasingly overwhelming odds. Gears of War 3 further upped the ante by offering various different traps, turrents and equipment to upgrade and unlock. The point is – there was a reason for those who were a fan of the gameplay to go back and have fun.
When observing Gears of War 4’s initial reveal at E3 2015, I couldn’t help but think about Halo 4. 343 Industries had done its best to keep the original feel of Halo while introducing changes in its own way. These changes manifested themselves much more strongly in multiplayer, especially with regards to Spartan abilities, but for the campaign, the pacing and overall mission structure didn’t feel too revolutionary. Of course, this isn’t to say they were dull either – they simply felt safe and well within requirements. With Halo 5: Guardians, we now see 343 Industries touting about the increased verticality of maps, adding new squad-based features and commands, two separate stories within one campaign and much more. It’s begun the process of finding its groove in Halo – time will tell if it actually works out or not.
"Honestly, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was a fun little diversion in this year full of AAA releases. But is it an accurate road-map for Gears of War 4?"
Now that The Coalition has familiarized itself with the Gears franchise, will it go significantly outside of the box with Gears of War 4? Will it try to keep things safe, relying on the tried and true gunplay and co-op elements to carry it through? It’s fairly early to tell at this point, though the promise of a more personal story between its characters does at least indicate some change in the overall writing. Regardless of which audience the developer wants to cater to, there’s no denying that it has to make an impact with Gears of War 4. It has to have some kind of hook that will keep people playing, just like with the old games. It may also need something to attract new players. How do you go about balancing the new and the old in a way that satisfies everyone? You honestly don’t, at the end of the day, and if you’re not catering to one or the other segment, then you’re introducing something that will keep everyone playing regardless.
Honestly, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was a fun little diversion in this year full of AAA releases. It was a blast from the past which looked very good visually and offered a meaty campaign with some decent multiplayer (depending on what you define as “decent”, that is). It’s selling relatively well, as indicated by its UK sales in the past few weeks, and has obtained some manner of critical acclaim. But is it an accurate road-map for Gears of War 4? Was Halo: The Master Chief Collection an accurate representation of what 343 Industries would be capable of in Halo 5: Guardians? Does the Ultimate Edition prove The Coalition’s competency and visual prowess in remastering a decidedly old design or is it simply the prologue to changes that could debut in Gears of War 4? Perhaps one last hurrah before the new age is ushered in?
Whatever the case may be, Gears of War 4 has an uphill battle to face en route to its Holiday 2016 release and around that time, it will have to choose between Epic’s design and mechanics versus truly forwarding the franchise’s future.