It's only six months since I reviewed Gears Tactics, which was released for PC in late April. Back then, there were many who wondered where the Xbox edition was, and now it's finally time to play this version, as it launches on the same date as the Xbox Series X, and we've checked out if if can live up to the PC.
The most obvious difference between these two editions, of course, is that this is played with a controller, while PC was played with the combination of mouse and keyboard (although it also offered controller options). The latter is normally a completely superior tool when it comes to strategy games, especially when played in real time, but as you of course know, development has progressed in this area and today there are many very advanced titles in the genre even for consoles.
And it is precisely in this category that we find Gears Tactics. If you're missed this one completely, it's an Xcom-inspired game, but the small difference is that you not only move your fighters along a grid, but get the entire battlefield at your disposal. You have three actions for each character to distribute in the best way, where walking a certain distance requires an action and going a little further requires two actions while three takes you very far - only that you can not shoot or do anything else as you won't have any actions left. You can also choose not to walk at all and shoot three times, and so on. It's entirely up to you.
In Gears Tactics for Xbox Series X, both 4K resolution and 60 frames per second had been promised in advance. And since it is still a relatively zoomed out strategy game, the hardware is not really pressured, and thus The Coalition and Splash Damage has kept their promise. However, the default settings for cut scenes is 30 frames per second - simply because it looks more cinematic. You can however opt for 60 frames per second, which works great. However, I understand what the developers mean by it, as it looks more like a game and less like a movie, so I actually reduced it again just because it looked better that way.
The levels are long and designed as a kind of mini-adventure with clear goals. You can only see a small part of the level at once, which often contains several secrets placed in the outskirts. Enemies often appear where I least expect it and, unfortunately, also arrive by air transport in a way reminiscent of Halo. I understand that it is a flexible way to make the stages more unpredictable, but unfortunately, it's also a little more random, when suddenly a group of Locust arrives and sabotages your ingenious plans. As another downside, I still find that all the micromanagement and tweaking of your warriors between the levels isn't really rewarding. I would have liked to have seen less micromanagement with greater significance of the things I actually do.
Playing with a controller works smoothly and you use the shoulder buttons to scroll between your chosen fighters and the D-pad to decide what to do. However, the most likely choice, such as shooting an enemy, has shortcuts to speed up the procedure somewhat. If I get to choose, I probably think that mouse and keyboard are still smoother, but on the other hand it is true for the whole genre - and it is not something I think affects the gaming experience in any defining way. The rather HUD-packed game has also had the interface adapted to work better on a TV, which I appreciate.
In addition to the fact that you get to move your fighters around the entire battlefield in Gears Tactics, it is also largely based on a combo system. I already praised this when I played it through on the PC, and now that I'm on the Xbox Series X at a higher difficulty level, I almost appreciate even more how ingenious it is. By playing Gears Tactics in a way that brings to mind "real" Gears of War (that is, with a lot of melee combat and bloody finishers), you can give your characters extra actions that make it possible to accomplish a great deal each round. Now the robot assistant Jack has also been added as a playable character, which gives a little more strategic opportunities such as taking over opponents and getting them to temporarily play for you.
All in all, it was quick for me to once again get addicted to Gears Tactics and help Gabe Diaz (with the accompanying Eurovision hairstyle) and the utterly rock-solid Sid Redburn (who I think eats scrap metal instead of cornflakes) fight their way towards the unusually nasty boss Ukkon - is just as fun now on my TV with a controller as it was on PC six months ago. It has some of the strategy world's meanest boss fights and lots of love to offer Gears of War fans, and if you have not played it before, it's about time you do now.
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