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GEARS TACTICS REVIEW - A fantastic tactical combat system translates Gears of War int - Printable Version

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GEARS TACTICS REVIEW - A fantastic tactical combat system translates Gears of War int - clarkkenallstar - 05-16-2020

Gears Tactics and I share the belief that a sniper rifle should practically be an extension of the hand of god, so powerful that it feels like you're being unfair to the poor AI grunts who wander into range. Twenty hours into my campaign my sniper's hotbar was overflowing with abilities. I could fire off something like 7 rounds in a single turn, chaining together shots that gave me free reloads and shots that restocked my pool of action points. And because I'd completed some hard side missions in search of "legendary" loot, my sniper rifle was tuned up with parts that guaranteed—to use the technical term—a sick-nasty critical hit rate.

NEED TO KNOW
What is it? Turn-based strategy, with chainsaw guns
Expect to pay $60 / £50
Developer The Coalition / Spash Damage
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Reviewed on GTX 1080, Intel i7-6700K, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer None
Link Official site


Taking aim at the final boss with 85 percent crit chance almost felt like cheating. This is the power fantasy version of a tactics game, and pure, pitch-perfect Gears of War, right down to the cranial pop of a Longshot sniper rifle's bullet landing a critical headshot.

Like the third-person shooters of the proper Gears series, Tactics has a linear campaign, told with very pretty Unreal Engine-powered cutscenes between missions. It's easily the best-looking tactics game I've played, thanks to those cutscenes and fastidiously detailed environments. The series is mostly known for its macho, impossibly barrel-chested soldiers, but it has had some great art direction here and there—grand classical architecture ravaged by years of war. It's hard to oversell how precisely this game translates the look and combat feel of the other Gears games into this overhead turn-based perspective, down to the magnetizing slide into cover that characters make.

Gears Tactics is an aggressive strategy game that throws piles of enemies at you, because it knows just how powerful the tools at your disposal are. It knows you've got frag grenades that can turn a pack of five scurrying wretches into chicken nuggets, or a chainsaw gun that has a 100-percent chance to slice even a full-health Locust soldier in half. (I like to imagine that the chainsaw's lengthy cooldown isn't because it's overpowered, but because my hero, Gabe Diaz, has to spend the next few turns scraping bone chunks and viscera out of the blades).

While it first looks an awful lot like XCOM, which has inspired a wave of strategy games this decade, Gears Tactics plays differently. Every turn in XCOM is about the tension of how few moves you can make, the dramatic risk of missing a single shot and scrambling for a backup plan. Gears is more freeform, giving each of the four soldiers you take into a mission three actions per turn; any combination of moving, shooting, and special abilities you want. Every time one of your soldiers performs an execution move on a near-death enemy, the rest of the squad gets an extra action point for the turn, the game design equivalent of a platoon shouting Hooah!



These two things give Gears Tactics a remarkably different flavor: You're not trying to make the best of your meager options each turn. You're trying to extend your turn as long as possible, every kill offering up the opportunity to earn three more actions, and another kill, and three more actions, until everything lies dead at your feet. I love how it makes every turn an exciting chance to clear the whole screen of enemies in one go, and it pushes me to experiment with how I combine my squad's many abilities.

Gears Tactics does lose the sharp edge of danger XCOM has, where dealing with units dying through the campaign is arguably a feature. Unless you play on the highest difficulty setting in Gears, you can revive soldiers multiple times, and on the recommended intermediate setting there was only one time in my entire campaign where I came close to permanently losing someone. That was a thrill. If you're not playing on Insane, you probably won't care much about the stream of recruits that join your squad, though the option does exist to give them custom names and makeovers, if you want to.

Quote:You're trying to extend your turn as long as possible, every kill offering up the opportunity to earn three more actions, until everything lies dead at your feet.


I think the developers could've made revives stricter to get back some of that risk, but for the most part I enjoyed being challenged by a tactics game without constantly feeling stressed. Gears trades away a bit of tension and gains some welcome speed and flexibility in its place.