Sometime last year during E3 2015, Microsoft went on record stating that they wanted to get back to its roots and get behind the PC as a viable gaming platform while continuing support for the Xbox One. As one part of their initial push, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the very same game that was released on the Xbox One, would also make its way over to the PC. This is not just a simple port and includes several enhancements to set it apart from the Xbox One version.
Game Name: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
Platform(s): Windows 10 / PC Publisher(s): Microsoft Developer(s): Epic Games
The re-release of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is perhaps the kind of push that the PC needs from Microsoft, as it shows that they are willing to put some of their AAA titles on the platform. And while it’s great to see this happen, there’s also a bit of a negative as this is only available if you’re running Windows 10 and even then the title is exclusive to the Windows 10 store, which may push some gamers aware from even making the purchase. And sure while this is can be seen as a step for Microsoft to get a foothold into the PC publishing arena, many simply wish that they made it so that the game would also be available for other digital distribution stores, such as Valve’s Steam. Though this may never happen and that’s shame as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a really decent port and any 3rd person shooter fan on the PC should give it a shot, if they’re on Windows 10 that is.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for the PC is the massive bump in graphical fidelity. I’m not saying the Xbox One version was bad-looking because it was simply amazing. A complete re-imaging of classic and original Gears of War, with enhanced visuals, including split screen was a huge deal for the Xbox One. Likewise, the same can be said here as the PC version trumps the Xbox One version in every way when it comes to the graphics.
Instead of the locked down 30 frames per second on the Xbox One, the PC versions runs at a locked 60 frames per second and supports resolutions from 1080p and all the way up to 4K / 2160p. The textures were also treated to some high-quality updates, as they’ve all been up-rezzed to take advantage of the addition power of the PC platform. While the game still looks like Gears of Wars – the dark color scheme that we all know and love, it looks a lot prettier. Per Microsoft and Coalition, the addition of DirectX 12 is the reason why the game runs and looks as good as it does, though that does come at a price as this means that Windows 7 and 8/8.1 owners are either forced to upgrade to Windows 10 or miss out on the game.
If you’ve ever played either Gears of Wars on Xbox 360 or Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox One, then you know what to expect when it comes to gameplay. Thankfully nothing has been changed on that front and veterans of the series can easily jump and feel at home while newcomers will find that they’ll find their legs after a short time with the game. The online game play also works well, though I did experience issues with disconnecting early on, those issues seem to have been corrected. Sadly, there was a missed point here by not allowing Xbox One and PC gamers to play together online with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. With the big push of cross-play titles such as Street Fighter V, Rocket League, it’s clear to see that gamers are no longer interested by having a barrier that stops them from playing with others despite their choice of gaming platforms.
Performance wise, I tested this game on two different PC builds and they ran decently. However, since I wasn’t able to get a reliable hint of the framerate (see below for more details) I could only go off what my eyes thought they saw. Microsoft recommends a PC with a GTX 970 or Radeon R9 290x, 16 GB RAM or more, and a Core i5 or 8 core AMD CPU, for an optimal 1080p experience. All of which both machines I tested it on had and during the in-game benchmarking, they both ran like a champ. The actual game play ran solid at maximum settings for 1080p, as I didn’t have a 4K monitor to test it with and since I wasn’t able to down-sample it. The game does run very well at 1080p if you have the hardware to support it. That said, I did experience some stuttering every so often, despite having all my drivers updated.
Sadly, there’s a slew of technical issues that plague this title. Since this is a Windows 10 Store game, there is a lack of customization and support for the game. Owners of SLI and Crossfire setups are simply not able to take advantage of their added power as the game simply does not support SLI currently and there isn’t any word on if and when this will happen. You aren’t also able to take advantage of overlays such as Rivatuner / MSI Afterburner or FRAPS, which means you can’t track the framerate. This is a huge issue, especially for those who aren’t using the top of the line video cards and instead are using to medium class cards in a dual card configuration for double the power. If you’re one of those gamers stuck between the war of AMD and Nvidia in regards to G-Sync and FreeSync enable monitors, you’re also going to take a hit as G-Sync is not supported in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition at all. I also would have preferred an unlocked framerate, for those who have the power to take it beyond 60 frames per second.
Update: Rod Fergusson has stated that SLI/Crossfire support, as well as widescreen support, is being worked on.
In addition, since this handled via the Windows 10 store, this means you don’t have direct access to the game’s executable file, meaning that you aren’t able to use any sort of graphical injectors such as SweetFX Shader. Sadly this also means that modding the game, a feature that the PC is known for in countless games, is off the table as well.
And while I haven’t encountered this as I run Nvidia cards in all my PCs, it seems that there is an issue with AMD powered graphic cards and getting this game to run at an acceptable framerate. It does seem to look like Coalition, the team behind the port, are addressing this issue and has made multiple statements about this issue and others in a forum post that can be found here.
Lastly and this is perhaps a deal breaker for a many co-op couch gamers, is the fact that the local split-screen option that was present in the Xbox One version has been removed. I don’t know if it was a technical reason or if it was seen as Microsoft is holding on to an old and outdated stigma that PC gamers only play at their desks when it comes to PC games. In fact, one of the main draws for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on the Xbox One was the split-screen ability. There’s a huge number of PC games that are strictly local co-op and I’ve played a large amount of them with friends and family, in the comfort of my mancave while chilling on my couch, playing them on a 55 inch HDTV. And those are easily some of the best gaming I’ve ever had, so it’s pretty sad to see that this option didn’t make it to the PC version.
This review was conducted on two different gaming PC’s equipped with a GTX 980 Ti, i7-5820k and 16GB DDR4 RAM, and a Xeon E3-1231 v3, GTX 970,and 16GB DDR3 RAM. Your game performance may vary from what described in our review.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition PC
All in all, I’m happy that the port came out as well as it did, as to be honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect. It also worried me that there wasn’t any advertising for this game at all, and while that seems to be the norm for strictly PC games with minor exceptions, I feel that’s a missed mark for Microsoft. PC gamers are still gamers and we like to see the full support of the company is pushing this game, so seeing a TV commercial or two, or even on YouTube would have been nice to see. Hopefully, this all has been a test run for the main course, which would be a port of Gears of War 4 for the PC platform as well. At least one can hope that this is exactly what it is.
Easily the best looking Gears of War title today
60 FPS is a thing of beauty to behold
1080p & 4K support
No split-screen or cross-play support
Locked 60 fps and no widescreen or SLI/Crossfire support (yet)
Technical issues that introduce stuttering
AMD card owners are still expecting a huge drop in performance
It's the same Gears of War you all know and love, with a few issues