If you're a fan of Gears of War and XCOM then Gears Tactics is here to blow your socks off with its intense strategic turn-based battles.
Yes, Gears Tactics is yet another shameless XCOM clone no matter how you slice it but with so many of them flooding the market, Gears Tactics actually incorporates some cool mechanics which make its gameplay feel fresh and exciting. For the unfamiliar, Gears Tactics is a prequel as it takes place a dozen years before the first Gears of War game which is quite interesting. You play as Gabe Diaz who attempts to thin out the Locust Horde with the help of recruited soldiers who are either procedurally-generated teammates or predefined hero characters. This Xbox version of Gears Tactics also includes the hovering robot Jack who should be familiar to series veterans and he can lend a hand in battle which is great. Overall, the blend of familiar characters and the new style of gameplay is impressively cohesive.
Back to the gameplay; Gears Tactics is a typical XCOM-style game at its core as you take cover behind objects, fire weaponry that must be reloaded, utilize unique abilities with cooldown periods, and enter overwatch mode which actually plays a larger role than expected in Gears Tactics. All of this is handled excellently yet I still couldn't shake the feeling that I hope Xbox Game Studios had issued a substantial royalty cheque to Firaxis for borrowing so heavily from their SRPG formula. With that being said, Gears Tactics still manages to offer its own distinct mechanics that help make it feel rather unique. For example, being able to execute enemies results in other teammates gaining an action point which is pretty funny because it's as if watching a gory fatality amps up everyone's spirits instead of grossing them out. Speaking of which, the amount of violence, dismemberment, and gore in Gears Tactics is absurd and frankly, I loved it!
There are plenty of other unique scenarios, enemy types, and gimmicks throughout Gears Tactics' campaign such as Emergence Holes that will keep spawning Locust soldiers until you throw a grenade down them and loot boxes that you can find scattered around each battle map. Plus, the overall aggressiveness of the combat is probably the most intense that I've seen in any similar game. Sometimes, you'll face off against a dozen or more enemies at once and being able to overcome their relentless onslaught can be downright brutal. The boss fights are quite epic, too, and will likely make your jaw drop. There's also a wealth of side-missions to complete which offer additional rewards. Now that I mention it, you can customize your squad between missions by equipping mods and armour pieces as well as assigning points to skill trees which can be a rewarding feat on its own. It all adds up to a satisfying story-driven campaign.
On the downside, there really isn't any substantial content aside from the battles and decking out your squad in the latest gear. More specifically, there is no multiplayer mode, no base management, no exploration; just set up your team, go to battle, and hope to emerge victorious. Not to keep bringing it up but XCOM's management element was a huge part of its gameplay and it acted as the perfect supplement to its battles as you could wind down as you expand your capabilities but here, you just keep forging ahead. Another disappointing aspect is that I played Gears Tactics on Xbox One X yet its initial load time is absolutely ridiculous. Once, I booted it up, went to the bathroom, checked my email, and it was still loading. I'd hate to see how long it takes on a regular Xbox One.
If all you want is XCOM-style combat set in the Gears universe then Gears Tactics will be sure to satisfy but just don't expect it to offer a fully-featured immersive campaign that's anything beyond simply beating mission after mission.
- + Familiar XCOM-style gameplay with plenty of cool new mechanics
- + Aggressive and challenging enemies
- + Satisfying graphic violence and gore
- - Doesn't quite do enough to differentiate itself from Firaxis' franchise
- - Needs more between-battle content
- - Ridiculous initial load times