Gears of War Ultimate Edition is still a stuttering headache

When I started playing Gears of War Ultimate Edition—the fancy DirectX 12 remastering of the 2006 Xbox 360 game—I hoped I'd be safe from the stuttering issues I was hearing about. AMD cards were called out specifically (issues with ambient occlusion have since been patched), and I'm running a GTX Titan. I heard it stuttered in 4K, but I was happy to play at 1080p if it means the gears smoothly churn out war. But none of that has mattered.

On my PC with the texture quality on high or medium, Gears of War Ultimate Edition hesitates and stumbles over frames for up to 10 seconds at a time—often when transitioning between areas—with both audio and video hitching. (There are also some irritating audio problems on top of the stuttering: headshots scored from 400 yards away sound like they're right next to me.)

This isn't on a PC that's going to win best in show—Core i5-3570, 8GB RAM, GTX Titan—but it's no slouch, and while turning the texture quality to low helps keep it playable, I still get light hitching. To be sure it wasn't just me, though, the crew in the office spun up Gears on a PC with 32GB RAM and a GTX 980 Ti and encountered the same stuttering problem. Feedback on the Windows 10 Store confirms that others are having the issue. (I've seen the 980 Ti specifically called out in a few user reviews, so if you own one, be warned.)

AMD did release an update which it says resolves "random freezes," and a spokesperson at Microsoft tells PC Gamer that an update next week will improve performance.

"We have been working diligently with our partners to improve the game experience for ‘Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10’ and several fixes/updates are in the works or have already been made," reads Microsoft's statement. "For example, NVIDIA G-Sync related issues have already been resolved in NVIDIA’s latest driver update. AMD has released a driver update which solves some corruption and hitching issues. We have a game update coming next week to improve performance. Additional issues during level transitions are being addressed for an upcoming game patch. We’ll continue to share more information as updates and patches become available."

So it sounds like the publisher is aware of the hitching and is working on it. It would be nice if modders could take a stab at it too, but that isn't possible. Ultimate Edition is one of those Universal Windows Apps we keep talking about, which means players aren't able to poke around an executable, among other limitations. One limitation that's especially annoying to me: I have to use Microsoft's built-in Xbox overlay to take screenshots, and it's pretty awful. It won't let me bind the capture button to a single key, and captures the "screenshot captured" overlay if I grab screens too fast. FRAPs, MSI Afterburner, and Nvidia ShadowPlay are all superior, but aren't allowed to touch UWAs. (To reiterate, FRAPs is better.) I also can't get it to take on the 2560x1080 resolution of my brand-new ultrawide monitor, and there's no chance of forcing it by editing an ini file or using an external program.

By comparison, The Division runs at 2560x1080 (ultrawide support is built-in) at 60 fps on Medium settings and 35-45 fps on Ultra. Whatever the framerate, it's smooth, without any stuttering. Graphics settings don't have the same meaning from one game to another, but I think it's fair to expect more stability from Gears of War on a machine that can handle a brand new Ubisoft game smoothly.

Maybe Ultimate Edition is a harrowing expedition into DirectX 12 that will lay down nicely paved roads for future games. Right now, it's a poor look for a store and programming interface that Ars Technica argues will bring console-like stability to the PC. That just isn't true right now: Gears of War Ultimate Edition has all the problems we're used to dealing with, only there's no opportunity for fans to mod in fixes. We'll have a review up soon, and will update you on the promised patches when they come.

Correction 3/10/2016: We originally linked to a site claiming HBAO+ and PhysX caused the performance issues on AMD graphics cards, but upon further investigation this appears to be incorrect. AMD cards did have issues with ambient occlusion. Other performance issues could be due to drivers, DX12, or other sources.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.