Tactical Team-Based Slaughter.
The latest entry in the well known Gears of War franchise is a big departure from the traditional third-person cover shooters its predeccessors have always been, instead opting to be an XCOM style tactical turn-based shooter; a change that serves not only this game well, but also the series as a whole.
Gears Tactics takes place 12 years before the events of the original Gears of War, and follows the story of gears soldier Gabe Diaz who is reluctantly brought back into action to bring down a powerful enemy that threatens the survival of the human race. Throughout the relatively short story of Gears Tactics, Gabe Diaz alongside his newfound allies learn that to win they have to learn to work together and trust each other if they are to defeat the monstrous Locust horde. While the story isn't anything special it still delivers that traditional Gears feel and atmosphere that harkens back to the classics it's founded upon. I play Gears of War for the same reason I go to see the next Fast and Furious movie; dumb fun and high octane action, and Gears Tactics delivers on both fronts. That's why while the story is mediocre, Gears tactics does all it needs to keep you engaged, providing you with a big bad to bring down and an entourage of badass and cool characters to do it.
The gameplay of Gears Tactics on the other hand is where it thrives. As I said before if you are expecting the typical third-person shooter the franchise is associated with, you've come to the wrong place. That doesn't mean this isn't a Gears game though; it very much is. Despite it being a turn based strategy game, it excels at making you feel like a living god, to the point where you may begin to pity the aggressive hordes of enemies throwing themselves at you. The sheer destructive capability you have at your disposal is truly spectacular and disgustingly overpowered if used correctly. That doesn't mean the game gives you an easy ride, it will punish you and try to break you at every opportunity, giving you missions that will test the limits of not only your squad but you too. In that sense the game knows how powerful you are and that can be quite comforting. The game doesn't send you to hell and back because it hates you, it fears you. Remember that. Your troops can also dish out punishment in a variety of ways, whether it be turning a squad of enemies into bitesize chunks with a single grenade throw, or leisurely sawing them in half one-by-one, your options are near endless. The game remains packed to the brim with action and choice, and the freedom to approach each mission anyway you want can lead to epic final stands and tense firefights, and is guaranteed to leave you on the edge of your seat.
Gears Tactics is created in the same vein as the well known XCOM series (which if you haven't played, go and play right now) and as such many of the game mechanics and systems are identical to that of its muse. However, and it pains me to say it, I'd go as far as to say the gameplay of Gears Tactics surpasses that of XCOM, not by an inch but a mile. This is ultimately down to something the developers kept in mind when creating the game; its Gears of War. While Gears tactics is a strategy game in practice it is still a gears game at heart, delivering the action packed, fast paced bloodbath combat the series is known for. The game execution mechanic for me is what embodies what separates this game from its turn based counter parts. executing an enemy kills them in a single move, allowing you to saw, cleave, stab and beat your enemies and satisfying, gory fashion while also providing you with added gameplay benefits. Executions grant everyone in your squad an extra move during that turn, which opens up opportunities for you to turn the tide of the battle, get to that enemy that's just out of reach, or even save a downed squad member. It helps keep the game in constant motion and gives you little to no downtime, making the game feel alive and keeping you engaged.
The game excels graphically as well, providing some of the best graphics I've seen on PC this year. The graphic quality is on par with that of Gears 5, though this does mean it can be quite taxing on lower end systems. Fortunately, Gears Tactics provides one of the most in depth and easy to use graphics settings menus on PC. Nearly every graphics setting gives the player a simple description of what each graphics setting does and provides a small screen showing how the game will look with the quality you've chosen. It also informs you on how much pressure each setting puts on your PC and even recommends what setting would be best for your system. So even if you have a relatively outdated PC, you can still get a decent graphical experience out of the game.
The game also provides you with a plethora of ways to customise your squad and create your own gears character. It allows you to change almost anything; forename, nickname, surname, hairstyle, facial hair style you name it. I'm always a sucker for customisation in games, as I feel it helps garner a connection between the player and the game, and it can really shape your experience into something truly unique. After all you may not mind the odd soldier dying to save the mission, but seeing your custom character, whom you've started the game with, played every mission with and now reached the end of the game with die in combat; it can be devastating to say the least.
Where the game lacks however is in replayability. Now don't get me wrong everyone is different and one game can be played over and over for one person and thrown in the bin upon completion by another, and I suppose Gears Tactics can be one of those games. The game remains a story driven game, and as such theres an end to that story. In sterotypical gears fashion the story is divided into acts and chapters. However, where in the classic Gears games there was always five acts with five chapters, Gears Tactics only has three acts, the final mission taking place in act three, chapter eight. in almost every chapter the game gives you side missions to do before you continue with the story and if it wasn't for this, the story could probably be completed in 10 hours. Upon finishing the game you are allowed to endlessly do these side missions till your hearts content, but yet it doesn't feel the same. After finishing Gears Tactics I was yearning for more, yet technically I had plenty more to play. Thus while the endgame does still give you more of the game for me it lacked purpose or direction and I feel that this si a trait of story driven games. You cross the final hurdle, finish the race, and yes if you want to keep running you can, but soon you'll end up burning yourself out.
Despite this I couldn't recommend playing this game enough. Not only does it deliver as an enjoyable action packed game, it delivers as a spectacular addition to the Gears of War franchise and guaranteed to impress newcomers and veteran fans of the series.
You can buy Gears Tactics now on PC, either on Steam, or through Xbox Game Pass for PC.