Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Review

  • First Released Nov 7, 2006
  • PC
Mike Mahardy on Google+

Going home again.

Editor's Note: Six months after its Xbox One release, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has come to PC for Windows 10. And although the game's core is intact, complete with controls and level design that raised the bar for third-person shooters in 2006, the technical issues are far more pervasive on PC: we played on two different rigs, and both exhibited their own disparate problems.

Playing on an Nvidia GTX 980 Ti made Gears of War look gorgeous, with textured debris and iridescent lighting piercing the dust of Marcus Fenix's crumbling world. But the framerate is liable to dip extremely low, especially when enemies are more numerous. Playing on a GTX 970, on the other hand, runs much more smoothly, for whatever reason--but pop-in textures disrupt Gears of War's visual flow, while screen tearing disrupts your aiming during crucial firefights.

Microsoft informed us it's aware of some performance issues and is working on improved driver support--we'll reevaluate the game when the updates are instituted. When Gears of War: Ultimate Edition runs smoothly, it's worth playing--it set a precedent, 10 years ago, for third-person action games in its wake. But in the remaster's current technical state on PC, it's harder to recommend the trip home.

Late in the story of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Marcus Fenix kicks down the front door of his childhood home. He finds the wallpaper peeling, the furniture in disarray, and a fine layer of dust blanketing every surface.

This return to a dilapidated family home is an echo of the task at hand. Many members of developer The Coalition worked on the original 2006 Gears of War, and this remaster is the studio's first release before it launches Gears of War 4. And although it's created a faithful homage to the game that started it all, some of the furniture is still out of place, and the corners continue to gather dust.

Ultimate Edition removes the haze of the past.
Ultimate Edition removes the haze of the past.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition lets us cheat time, and travel back to 2006, when we first saw Fenix emerge from that shadowy prison cell. Because of the updated visuals, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition fills in cracks and polishes edges to preserve our ever-so-fragile nostalgia.

I played Gears of War on Xbox 360 recently, and the differences here are apparent: Ultimate Edition removes the muddy textures, shiny faces, and bleak environments of the original, replacing them with detailed landscapes and brighter hues. The Coalition remade every cutscene, and even though I've seen them before, the new 1080p skin makes it feel like the first time. The developer has reversed the game's aging process, making Benjamin Buttons out of every musclebound character.

And Ultimate Edition doesn't just change things on a visual level--it includes a variety of content and design changes. For one, cooperative play is now drop-in, drop-out, and you can join in the middle of a chapter. Ultimate Edition also borrows from the trilogy's sequels, allowing separate difficulty settings for individual players.

Presenting: Marcus' soul patch, nine years later.
Presenting: Marcus' soul patch, nine years later.

There are also five late-game campaign chapters that only ever made it to PC, following Marcus and Dom in their trek toward a train station through abandoned factories, all the while evading a gigantic Brumak. This towering, bipedal monster creates a sense of tension throughout, culminating with a boss battle that out-scales any situation prior.

These chapters fit well in this modern recreation: Ultimate Edition is a reminder of how horror-driven the series was at the beginning, with haunting corridors and dim basements giving way to shrieking monsters inside every air duct. This is a story about a ragtag group of heroes, long before we saw them amidst the chaos of an all-out war. They don't have much depth to them here, and mainly serve as vehicles for masculine jokes and Gears' ubiquitous macho sense of humor. Nonetheless, this more personal campaign serves as a reminder of when we first met them.

But despite how great Ultimate Edition's campaign looks and feels, it hasn't completely erased the original version's blemishes. Throughout my time on the streets, and in the locust tunnels of Sera, my AI partner often made things difficult for me. Dom Santiago deliberately wandered into the shadows when the objective was to stay in the light; he, walked into the path of my gun, obscuring my view numerous times; and often, when my progress relied on the AI pressing a button or turning a switch, nothing happened, and I had to reload my checkpoint.

Ultimate Edition returns to the series' horror roots.
Ultimate Edition returns to the series' horror roots.

The latter was a frequent problem throughout my campaign. The first Gears isn't always obvious about where to go next, and the remaster has kept that aspect intact. I reloaded checkpoints a total of five times before I reached Act Five, all because cutscenes wouldn't trigger, or a wall wouldn't crumble on cue. It's one thing to lose progress because of death; it's another to lose it because of the AI.

Replaying the first Gears campaign has also highlighted some of its bigger design flaws. Almost all of your progress relies on simply killing every enemy, and considering it's the first entry in the franchise, there isn't a whole lot of variety in opponents. You enter a room; you clear it; you proceed.

There are rare brilliant moments--luring the berserker outside so as to pummel it with a satellite blast, for instance--but by and large, most of the campaign is a matter of killing a very specific number of Locusts. Couple this with the fact that certain opponents didn't attack until I searched extensively for them, only to find them stuck behind cover, and the later chapters became a slog.

But playing with a friend has always been my favorite way to play Gears, and in this modern version, that sentiment remains the same. My friend was more reliable than Dom's default AI, and the branching paths of the trilogy's early missions still create emergent situations where flanking is just as important as accuracy and timing--and killing waves of enemies. The Gears franchise has always catered to a cooperative experience, and the remaster is no exception.

Ultimate Edition is a reminder of how far the series has come.

These tenets ring true in Ultimate Edition's multiplayer as well, and this is where the remaster truly shines. The Coalition made the upgrade to 60fps, resulting in a much smoother, more fluid experience than I had on Xbox 360. There are also new game modes and a brand new map to play on, but these additions paled in comparison to the nostalgia trip I experienced on my favorite maps: Gridlock, Tyro Station, and Depot, to name a few.

All of my muscle memory came back in a matter of minutes. I hip-fired the gnasher shotgun, perfected active reload times, and dodged between cover as if it was nine years ago. The multiplayer still transitions between measured approaches and frantic firefights on a whim, displaying a dynamism that has aged well. Gears of War Ultimate Edition doesn't just look like my nostalgia remembers--it also feels like it, too.

In returning to the game that sparked one of Microsoft's more prevalent franchises, members of the Coalition kicked down their own proverbial childhood door. The return trip might have revealed a few more cracks than we remembered, but it also serves as a shield for our nostalgia. And as remakes go, that's worth the journey home.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
Back To Top
The Good
Dark and personal campaign
Tight controls and cover mechanics
The Bad
Frustrating AI
Late-game campaign is a slog
Numerous technical issues on PC
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Gears of War

About the Author

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition made Mike want to play the next two games in the Gears of War trilogy.
154 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Kiigora_LoP

Original PC release has lots of screen tearing.

Remastered release has lots of screen tearing.

The more things change the more they stay the same :3.

Avatar image for RoadStar1602

I kind of want to buy it in order to encourage MS to keep selling Xbox exclusives in the Windows store, even though this game happens to be pretty dull.

Avatar image for choramora420

Where can I find this game? I went to the Windows Store, however it wasn't listed. So what now?

Avatar image for RoadStar1602

@choramora420: It's there. It's been there for a while now. Do you have Windows 10?

Avatar image for santinegrete

@choramora420: maybe it was removed until they can correct the lot of problems it has. But honestly, I suspected we'll have this kind of problems with the release, and also the store.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

The game runs great now on my PC with latest Nvidia Beta driver 364.51 . Finally able to use Gsync all the time and no issues with cutscenes at all now. Very smooth game in 1440p.

Avatar image for TERMINATOR-SSD

the game was broken on PC before and is again, because its THE SAME DAMN CODE from 10years ago, with forced DX12 features pushed into a game engine that was not made for DX12, hell it wasn't even made for DX11. Microsoft say they are supporting PC Gaming strongly, well clearly there not as this game is broken...oh and horrid win store apps.

Avatar image for darksouls

I/m really tired of developers releasing poor-PC ports. It seems like half of the major games that come to PC are either released unfinished or broken! We deserve just as good of a game as the console players!

Avatar image for shalashaska88

Funny people are saying you need better specs for a game that has just been remastered, instead of remade from ground up. I'd believe it if its a current gen release like quantum break, but a last gen game that came within a year of its console release? That's terrible optimization there.

Avatar image for ptown58

been waiting for a full dx.12 game, is this worth dealing with win10's crazy "auto-everything"?

Avatar image for Onallion

Err, screen tearing is not the game's fault. It's what happens in any game when you play with Vsync off.

Avatar image for Dark_sageX

Why is anyone surprised? the moment MS decided to make this game a windows store exclusive is the moment the game was set to fail.

Avatar image for hippeusomega

I've tried benchmarking it with my rig that has a i5-4690k and GTX 970. Unless I keep the settings at low/medium I can't maintain 1080p 60fps. Unlike games that I dunno say are brand new and look better and demand more for what they do.

Avatar image for KBFloYd

i have a 980ti....bought the game yesterday with no issues at 1080p at all.

4k i have to lower some settings....1440p is just fine also...didnt try this mode much.

Avatar image for glyphics

This is disappointing. I'd really love to see the full Gears series come to PC. Unfortunately, there's no point if it's just going to be riddled with bugs.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@glyphics: I am going to risk it tonight seeing it's only $30 here in Aus as well , usually we have to pay a premium over the USA. I'll let you know as i have 12GB i7 930@3.75 plus 980ti Asus Strix oc at 1480 mhz boost. (anymore and i just can't get it stable in windows 10 on my machine).

It should be strong enough to get a reasonable result i hope.

Avatar image for off3nc3

They deserved it for keeping this title an xbox exclusive , these pathetic devs will never learn.

Avatar image for hermitkiller


PC version is crap....what a surprise xDD

No money to be made from pc.

That's what you get when games are torrented all the time.

PC elitists are still in denial and say that Steam killed piracy xDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Avatar image for Dark_sageX

@hermitkiller: This game isn't on fool.....

Avatar image for mdinger

@hermitkiller: Actually you are so wrong on so many levels. If what you say is remotely true, I need you to explain this: and also this:

You can't of course, 'cos it doesn't fit with your biased bullshit narrative.

Avatar image for Dark_sageX

@mdinger: HAHAHA You schooled the idiot big time but your words fell on deaf ears I'm afraid, this guy is known for trolling PC related subjects (and claimed he had a high end PC himself, dimwit thinks people believe whatever shit he posts on the internet) hermitkiller is lucky to have gone around for that long without getting banned XD

Avatar image for jimmkd84

@mdinger: hehehe got him!

Avatar image for off3nc3

@hermitkiller: console games are getting pirated just as easy , just shows how dumb you posters are around here :)

Avatar image for milk

@off3nc3: Except that nobody can actually play pirated console games until the console is cracked or an emulator is created.

Avatar image for Dark_sageX

@milk: Why are you acting as though thats not a case? games can be pirated on consoles as well, end of story.

Avatar image for xwinson

@Dark_sageX: @milk was highlighting the fact that consoles need to be hacked to be able to play pirated games, whereas everyone with a PC can instantly start pirating.

The amount of hacked current gen consoles are pretty low/insignificant.

Avatar image for deactivated-5d10628188787

I bought this on whim because I thought it was the trilogy. Another $29.99 down the drain due to sheer knee-jerk stupidity :(

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@criticofcritics:I have gone to the store page. (Do add a link next time.)

Not all of the complaints are about downloading. There are people who have downloaded the package successfully and have problems running it. Also, some are aware of the need for a particular version of Windows 10, and they still have problems.

Of course, there are also people not having issues (including people who said that they have AMD cards and are not having problems), but the reviews are not unanimous on the stability of the package.

Also, the "Unlock Frame Rate" option should have been turned on (or "Frame Rate Limiting" option turned off, whichever it is) by default, since it appears that this option was the cause of the frame rate issues in the first place.

In fact, I believe that this option should not have been there in the first place. The solution should have already been implemented before the game was released, if the developers were already aware of this problem. If the solution was not possible, then it seemed to me like the developers did not catch the problem until after the game went golden.

Other than these, I will agree with you in the case of people not noticing the specs for the game.

Avatar image for criticofcritics

The big issue is that this uses DX12. Which uses all cores of the CPU evenly to play. Until now, games used up to the first 2 cores to run. This seems to be confusing to those with 4 core systems that are overclocked and run other games just fine. Well, those "other games" are NOT on DX12. For those staying on Windows 7 or 8; DirectX12 is exclusive to Windows 10 and will never be on Win 7 or 8 according to Microsoft. So we are seeing gamers who usually run AAA titles at 60fps start running GoW at a much lower frame rate.

The launch was mauled by people NOT reading. Read the reviews on the store page, most are about downloading it (without the required Win 1151 update).

Some Info: You NEED Windows 10 (version 1151) This is required; most are complaining about glitches do not have this free update installed! You need 6 CPU cores MINIMUM, this is NOT counting your Mhz rating for those cores. You need 16 Gigs memory and 4 Gigs video memory. Most complaining (on forums, etc) about frame rate drop with the required system specs have not even looked into the games menu's and turned on the option "UNLOCK FRAME RATE." Nvidia has had new drivers designed especially for this game from day 1, I read a lot of Nvidia owners didn't even check this before complaining. Some have their Nvidia (or AMD) control panels set wrong with global vsync on, etc.

The specs are high for PC! YES, you need a strong system to run a strong (4k) DX12 game. That's just life. If you don't have a system like this or can't afford one owes you anything; the specifications to run the game were there (posted) immediately upon release. Your 4 core overclocked AMD or Intel CPU is not the solution anymore to smooth gaming, sorry. An SSD will absolutely help loading times and help smooth stutter older CPUs can't compensate for, but not entirely smooth it out. DX12 is new and here to stay, it does cross platform VERY well. As developers figure out all its capabilities, we will see better and better optimized games for DX12.

Now, I have a beast of a machine and my copy runs awesome and looks great too! At a $30 pricing point, I had no issues with it hurting my wallet. If you can afford the system type that could truly take advantage of this titles DX12 and graphical capabilities then the $30 is not far fetched to ask for this title. The Microsoft store was a VERY small headache and having this on or off Steam makes little difference after the download is completed. The download is a hefty 53 Gigs, but unlike Steam you'll average faster than Steam's 37-ish Mbps download cap. I have 300/300 (Fios) and downloaded from the MS store at about 100 Mbps on average at peak times.

Like GoW or hate it, it is a look at PC gaming's future and where the required specifications are going if you would like to enjoy real 4K gaming in detail. These are not consoles folks, and the separation from that is starting to take place now. Prices will fall for the "expensive components" in the near future and the complaints about the cost of being on the leading edge of PC gaming will diminish over time, just as it did with consoles, DVD, Blu Ray, 4k TVs, etc. You can't be on the leading edge of PC gaming and be shocked when the price tag to do so is shown. There are just some places in PC builds that we cannot cut corners on any longer; the game is changing..for better or worse. I personally like the re-make, it is welcomed and I felt satisfied with the cost and value versus other AAA titles that have been far worse off on day 1 and with far less content and modes. But then again, this is the Internet and that's my personal opinion, I'm sure I'll be told why my opinion is wrong. LOL

Avatar image for Gaming-Planet

@criticofcritics: Doesn't make something sense that an something like an i5 4690k overclocked couldn't handle this, even if the cores are evenly distributed. The IPC is still much greater than that of an AMD 6-core or 8-core Piledriver CPU. The 8 core CPU on consoles are beaten by a Dual Core Core Duo CPU from Intel.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@criticofcritics: If you are going to run in 4k then 16GB system memory is understandable , under this though there is no way it will be needed.

There is no way you need 6 cores either , 8 virtual cores will be more than enough to run this. Microsoft is already addressing some of the issues. The weirdest one to me is that it doesn't work with gsync i am going to try something tonight and see if it works. It's a trick i worked out that has worked with other non gsync supported titles to get it to work with them.

I won't say anything at the moment until i try it.

Avatar image for deactivated-57d164ef1c809

@criticofcritics: I'm running the game using a 6700k, SLI 980TI, 32GB Ram (rarely 16GB gets used by this game, but it scales nicely), and a NVMe SSD with *zero* problems. Both my GPUs are running, so I don't know what this review and others are talking about. I can screen cap with FRAPS assuming it's a MSI AFTERBURNER option click away from being turned on.

I have zero stuttering & etc; I don't have GSYNC though (a mess-up on my part, but refuse to buy a GSYNC monitor that's not the Swift 2, its 4K counterpart, or a 144MHZ w/ Displayport 3 & USB Type-C).

That said, I'm ultimately an edge case; it's a shame if Microsoft didn't widely test their game before release with Nvidia's & AMD's flagships and ran tests on the most popular middle-tier cards being used by gamers from either company.

I do think at the same time some gamers are being slightly entitled about the RAM & GPU requirements. We literally have a *whole* new generation of GPUs coming out from AMD & Nvidia *on top of* VR. The latter expects *90FPS* and the PC market has no qualms anymore of pushing the graphic envelope and expecting 60FPS at *least* for the quality experience.

With software and hardware to finally make more use of multi-core GPUs and the 16GB RAM an overwhelming amount of *computers ship with today, of course the specs are going to ask more for modern games. There's so many older games to play, that it's ridiculous to hate on games for having high requirements and the same gamers usually are complaining that PC hardware isn't being used enough for higher fidelity.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@lozandier: VR is only rated at 1080p anyway isn't it ? so 90 fps is easy for 980ti .

Avatar image for deactivated-57d164ef1c809

@deviltaz35: You're correct that 90FPS is easy for the 980ti for many games today at 1080p resolution.

Avatar image for criticofcritics

@lozandier: True and agreed. +1 Well Put!

Avatar image for starjet905

@criticofcritics: I don't really know about your opinion, but this, that you present as fact: "Until now, games used up to the first 2 cores to run." is wrong completely.

However, DX 12 does indeed make more use of the CPU, and the weak AMD performance is thanks to the AMD driver not exactly being efficient at handling draw calls. Some info on that here, for anyone interested.

Avatar image for criticofcritics

@starjet905: Ok. I believe the first 2 cores comment is correct (FOR MOST GAMES!!) as no other version of DirectX is capable to handle above this amount in affinity. Thanks for the info, I'll definitely look at it! Cheers!

Here's a quote from AMD on cores and gaming I think you'll find that you are incorrect: "According to AMD, DirectX 12 will finally unlock the true potential of multi-core CPUs. The semiconductor giant cited Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock who pointed out that with DirectX 11 and older, no matter how many processing cores your CPU has, only one of them can talk to the GPU at a time. In a recent interview, Wardell reportedly claimed that neither Microsoft, AMD, or Intel are ready to acknowledge that DirectX 11 was extremely inept at utilizing multi-core CPUs, and that is finally changing with DirectX 12."


Quote from:

Avatar image for starjet905

@criticofcritics: It's true that DirectX 12 will utilize multicore processors properly in making draw calls from the CPU to the GPU. But that's not all that games use the CPU for. The statement "Until now, games used up to the first 2 cores to run" implies games did not use more than two cores, which is incorrect. There were games that were completely unplayable on processors without four processor threads, like Witcher 3 post 1.07 update for example, and many games that performed very poorly on dual core processors like the recent Assassin Creed games.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@starjet905: It will get fixed with patches , it is odd they let it go in such a state though when they are trying to promote something.

Avatar image for criticofcritics

@starjet905: Optimization issue, not a core issue. I don't really visit GameSpot often. So do not take my future non-responsiveness as a truth or in lesser minds, a victory! LOL, I just can't argue with someone about hardware on a game comments forum. Hardware which I have worked on and programmed for for over 20+ years. <== That building authority in the discussion. LOL

Bottom-Line: Believe what you want; it's not up to me to play semantics about it or teach an annexed course. Enjoy the game or's your dollar. Either way, it really makes no difference to you or me. There is no ego to gain or bruise here on GameSpot. Enjoy.

Avatar image for kyrencrossx

People Can't even play Multiplayer or even reach the Main menu until they turn off their internet and run the game in Offline mode. People getting stuck on "Contacting Gears of War Services" and "Downloading latest multiplayer data" andPlaguing a lot of users in their forum.

Not a single acknowledgement from the devs or microsoft in their own forum. Game is really broken and people are tired of trying to fix the problem and wanting a refund.

Does anyone know how to get a refund on the WIndows Store? This game is really a waste of time and hard drive space.

Avatar image for Dark_sageX

@kyrencrossx: You can't get a refund on windows store.

Avatar image for Silverline62

Better play on the 360.

Avatar image for lostn

I knew it was going to be bad the moment I saw the system requirements. That reeks of laziness.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson

“Given that we're Microsoft and we have over a billion people using our products on PC we super-duper promise to finally give a s*** about any of you and not continue to charge money for the shameful b*****s we ejaculate onto your hard drive, and stop lying about the crap that we do and have produced, and all the frankly illegal garbage we've made you wade through in the past with our last attempt at tightly controlling your gaming experience for monetary gain.”

I'm still angry that I never got to play the BulletStorm I paid for and which still hangs out in my Steam Library, among other things. It's been over 20 years and they're still lying about producing functioning products on the PC, and still producing broken products that divide and cripple PC gaming.

Gears of War More Info

  • First Released Nov 7, 2006
    • PC
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Gears of War is a tactical sci-fi shooter from Epic Games. As war hero Marcus Fenix, you'll fight your way through an army of enemy creatures known as the Locust Horde.
    Average Rating56581 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Gears of War
    Developed by:
    Splash Damage, The Coalition, Epic Games
    Published by:
    Microsoft Game Studios
    Third-Person, 3D, Action, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language