Review | Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S

Gears of War 4 is arguably Microsoft’s biggest game of the year, with the company hoping that it will kick start a brand new chapter for their second most popular first-party franchise, following the arrival of new developers The Coalition. To mark its release a brand new limited edition, 2TB version of the Xbox One S has been created, bearing the familiar Gears of War logo, a crimson red console and a matching controller. But if you’re interested in owning a 4K-ready console, then should you spend the extra cash to get your hands on one of these?

 

Design

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The bundle includes the limited edition Xbox One S console, a controller, a vertical stand and a digital copy of Gears of War 4.

Limited edition consoles are notoriously hit-and-miss when it comes to their designs. A prime example of this would be the Gears of War 3 Limited Edition Xbox 360, which was a grotesque abomination. Splattered in red and black, the console looked as though a toddler had accidentally knocked a paint bucket on top of it, somehow making the already flimsy appearance of the Xbox 360 look even more cheap in the process. Fortunately, the Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S boasts a much more subtle design, with it still featuring relatively the same color scheme albeit with much more subdued tones.

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The Gears of War 3 Xbox 360 in all of its horrifically ugly glory.

The “battle-weathered” red of the console is far less eye-watering that the luminous red of the Xbox 360 design, with a faded Gears logo featured on its grill. Claw marks line the left-hand side of the console, which is intended to represent Gears of War 4’s new enemies, The Swarm. The mysterious Phoenix Omen is also located on the underside of the console, meaning it is only visible if you have your console standing vertically. A stand is included in the bundle if you wish to do so. Unique to this limited edition version of the console are custom sounds that play when you turn it on and off. Unlike the Xbox One, the Xbox One S requires you to press a button in order to power it up, with two ominous, short music clips playing when you do so.

In terms of its shape, the limited edition Xbox One S is exactly the same as the standard version of the console, with it being lighter and smaller than the vanilla Xbox One. Its controller is also less bulky, making it more comfortable to hold and slightly less heavy as a result.

The controller has received a visual makeover, too, with it boasting a lovely, shiny red D-Pad, and the same red and black aesthetic as the console. A limited edition Gears of War 4 Elite controller is also available to purchase, though it’s the standard controller that is bundled with the GoW4 console.

Though I’m of the opinion that the bar hasn’t been set overwhelmingly high for limited edition console designs (the latest custom Forza Horizon 3 is testament to this, which actually takes the shape of the front of an Audi R8), this Gears of War 4 design is one of the best I’ve seen, and certainly the best-looking Xbox One limited edition console thus far.

 

4K-Ready

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While the Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S is a handsome machine, there are still question marks lingering over whether or not the Xbox One S is worth investing in as a 4K-ready console. While the Xbox One S isn’t capable of native 4K gameplay it can upscale to the resolution from 1080p, though its predominant advantage is in its utilization of high-dynamic-range.

 

To put it simply, HDR makes images appear brighter and more vivid along with increasing their contrast, making for a richer visual experience. The Xbox One S supports a specific type of HDR called HDR10, meaning that although it will still look better than the standard Xbox One on your TV if it isn’t capable of HDR10, you won’t be experiencing the console’s maximum capabilities. HDR10-capable TVs don’t necessarily support 4K, though owning a 4K TV is preferable given that the Xbox One S also boasts a UHD Blu-ray player, which makes it the most affordable 4K-ready Blu-ray player currently available. The console is also capable of streaming in 4K, meaning that if you have a subscription to services such as Netflix that are capable of doing so, you’ll be able to watch streaming video in the resolution.

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While the 4K Blu-ray player will make the Xbox One S an appealing purchase in and of itself, the lack of current Xbox One games that support HDR makes it a less inveigling product. At the time of this writing, only seven Xbox One games support HDR: Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Battlefield 1, NBA 2K17, Resident Evil 7, Scalebound and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Of these games, two aren’t set release until next year, with RE7 landing in January and Scalebound lacking a confirmed launch date. This means that there won’t be many titles to experience in HDR, even if you own the TV necessary to do so. For games released earlier in the Xbox One’s life cycle, Microsoft has confirmed that they have granted developers access to the processing power necessary for them to do so, with the company leaving it up to them to decide whether or not they wish to introduce retroactive HDR support.

But when playing the games that currently support it, the visual upgrade makes an impact. Though it’s not exactly a huge leap forwards, the advantage the Xbox One S gives to its games could most accurately be compared with applying a nice filter on top of a photograph – it doesn’t change the initial image, but rather it enhances all of its best bits in order to make it look a lot easier on the eye. Colors are less washed out than they appear on the standard Xbox One, while visual effects such as lighting are much more vibrant and impressive. It might not be capable of running games in a native 4K resolution, but it makes them look good nonetheless.

 

Should You Buy It?

If you’re a sucker for limited edition consoles, then the Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S is one of the best-looking systems you’ll find. Bundled with a digital copy of the game and selling for only $50 more than the standard 2TB edition of the console, this would therefore seem like a no-brainer for Gears of War fans who were already in the market for both an Xbox One S and the game.

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For those still on the fence about purchasing an Xbox One S in general, then two factors need to be taken into account; firstly, whether or not you have a TV capable of a 4K resolution and HDR10, and secondly if you’re more interested in waiting a year to plump down the cash for the Xbox One Scorpio, which Microsoft is billing as the world’s first truly 4K-ready console. If you don’t own a 4K/HDR10 TV, then it’s unlikely that the Xbox One S will do anything for you. Though it may make some of your games look slightly better, you won’t be taking advantage of the console’s capabilities in any meaningful capacity, and as such it likely won’t be worth its asking price. However, if you do then it’s a worthy upgrade for the native 4K Blu-ray player and video streaming alone, with its HDR gaming a nice extra bonus that is sure to have a more robust line-up  of titles that support it in the coming months.

If you fall into the latter camp, then it may be worth holding off until the Xbox One Scorpio if you’ve got your heart set on 4K console gaming. Though details are very light on the ground, the Xbox One S doesn’t offer a true 4K experience and, while it’s very reasonably priced, could therefore prove to be quite off-putting for some. Personally, I’m a big fan of the design of the Gears of War 4 Xbox One S, and its function as both an inexpensive UHD Blu-ray player and a HDR gaming system makes it a very attractive purchase. If you have the TV necessary to make the most of it and are partial to a bit of Gears of War, then you should strongly consider purchasing this limited edition console.