Published on November 30th, 2020 | by John Werner
Gears Tactics Xbox Series X Review #XSX
Summary: Taking place 12 years before the events of the first Gears of War game, “Gears Tactics” brings a unique change of pace to the franchise.
Taking place 12 years before the events of the first Gears of War game, “Gears Tactics” brings a unique change of pace to the franchise. Rather than sticking with the typical cover-based shooter genre that made Gears of War iconic, “Gears Tactics” is a turn-based strategy game with RPG at its core. Despite the dramatic change in genre, “Tactics” still stays true to the franchise, incorporating everything that fans already love, from challenging boss fights to dismembering your foes with a chainsaw.
“Gears Tactics” follows the story of Sgt. Gabe Diaz, father of Kait Diaz (Gears 4 protagonist), as he is forced back on to the front lines and ordered to hunt down the Locust scientist, Ukkan. Acting as second in command is Maj. Sid Redburn, a COG veteran and all-round hard ass. Together, they must recruit and build up their squad from whichever soldiers they can find along the way. As players make their way through the campaign, they will get to personally select new recruits to join their team, further adding to the roster of units that can be deployed on missions. Each unit falls into one of five categories: Vanguard, support, heavy, sniper, and scout. Depending on what category your unit is classed as will determine its primary weapon, skill tree, and weapon upgrades.
Missions begin with the player picking up to four units to deploy as part of a squad, just as you would have a four-man team in other Gears of War games. Some missions will impose restrictions on what units can be deployed due to plot reasons or if those units are already away on another side mission. On the successful completion of the mission, each surviving unit will be award XP, allowing them to level up, get stronger, access higher level gear, and gain skill points that can be used to unlock special abilities. Units of the same class all have the same primary weapon, sidearm, and unlockable skills but each unit is treated individually. This means that even though two heavy units are equipped with the same heavy machine gun, the player can equip skills and upgrades that give them completely different roles on the battlefield. Completing missions also rewards the player with better supply crates that can contain either better weapon upgrades like scopes and magazines, but also better armor for their squad. All upgrades and armor provide different stat bonuses and often come with special passive abilities that play an important role in combat. Some abilities might reduce damage whilst in cover, whereas others might provide a chance of shooting twice. Rarer equipment of higher tiers will offer improved stat increases as well as passive abilities. It’s in these moments that the player will need to start thinking about how they wish to shape their squad and the roles that everyone plays.
Combat in “Gears Tactics” isn’t that different from the other Gears of War games even though the genre is completely different. Like all Gears games, hiding behind cover is paramount to survival and offers great strategic benefits during gameplay. On the players turn, each unit will start off with three action points that can be used to move, shoot, or activate an ability. Unlike other turn-based strategy games that I’ve played, units in “Gear Tactics” can attack and move multiple times, and in any order they wish, providing they’ve got enough points to do so. Some abilities will allow your squad to gain additional action points after doing significant damage, downing foes, or killing enemies. Depending on how you structure your squad, some units will be able to go on complete killing sprees if used correctly.
The one thing I love about this game is that both the primary and side arm weapons require reloading after X amount of shots. If you’ve ever played any of the other Gears titles, you’ll know just how important a simple game mechanic like this plays within the series. For me, it’s little things like this that help further cement a game of a different genre into a series that predominately sets the foundations and expectations for all future cover-based shooters. Speaking of which, moving from cover to cover once again takes center stage as a fundamental gameplay mechanic. For all of you gamers who feel indifferent about “Gears Tactics” being a strategy game, there isn’t anything about this game that wouldn’t already be part of the series in one way or another.
Combat in “Gears Tactics” is very simple and would come very naturally to anyone who has previously played a Gears game before. From the moment you start a mission, players will need to quickly move their units into cover, taking up vantage points to create ambushes or defensive positions before leapfrogging your units deeper into the map from cover to cover. Each unit is equipped with a primary weapon, snub pistol, and either explosive or stim (healing) grenades. But much like other Gears games, some enemies, such as Boomers, will drop their unique weapons which can then be picked up and used during that mission. The variety of enemy units that players will face is quite vast, covering nearly every Locust unit type from the previous games, including the larger creatures as fearsome and challenging boss fights. Strategy is quite important and players will need to adapt quickly as the mission unfolds. This is especially true given that not all missions are your typical “defeat all foes”, with more difficult missions include running from missile bombardments to rescuing allies within a set number of turns.
“Gears Tactics” makes an odd choice turning away from the main genre that the Gears of War series is well known for but still captures that vital essence that fans have come to love. Playing this game on the Xbox Series X in 4k resolution is an amazing experience for any Gears fans or lovers of strategy games. The gameplay feels incredibly natural running on console and offers a really immersive experience for anyone. I’m especially fond of how much of the lore and content from the Gears series has been used in this game, especially the cinematic aspects that occur when executing a downed enemy. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who has ever played a Gears of War game or is looking for a challenging strategy game.