Gears Tactics finds itself in an interesting position: In the absence created by Halo Infinite’s delay, Gears Tactics has become one of the major first-party games seeing an Xbox release this month. It’s a neat game that’s well worth your time. It’s also not exactly a system-seller.
The short version is this: Gears Tactics on Xbox is… Gears Tactics on Xbox: a superb, competent tactical shooter that forces you to rely on brains as much as brawn. If you love XCOM games, you’ll like this one. Is that worth picking up a new console? Not on its own, not for just this game. (Gears Tactics is also out on Xbox One.)
Alongside its console debut, Gears Tactics received cross-save capability (at least between Windows and Xbox, but not for Steam). I don’t have a gaming PC, but one of my roommates was gracious enough to let me play the game on his. I made it up to what I believe is one of the final levels, then tapped the breaks. “This is coming out for consoles,” I thought, “so I’ll just finish it in the fall.” I won’t spoil my exact placement, but some Googling tells me that I was steps away from the final boss.
When I booted up Gears Tactics on my Xbox Series X, I panicked. My save file wasn’t there! The “Continue” option was grayed out. “New Game” sat there, taunting me with the digitally evaporated bones of my hard-earned, well-trained troops. I asked my roommate what was up. Get this: He deleted the game from his computer! While I was near the end! Of the game! FINAL! BOSS! AHHH
Microsoft says save data syncs automatically between PC and Xbox, but neither of us could find mine anywhere, even after redownloading the game to his computer. Now, I’m no PC gaming expert. Maybe we screwed something up. Maybe we just encountered a garden variety quirk that comes with things of this nature. Maybe he’s mad at me for that one time, back in May, when I forgot to put away the dishes and, as vengeance, decided to condemn my poor, innocent Gears to the dustbin of history. It’s anyone’s guess.
Whatever the case, it was high time to move on. I played through the first level again on PC. Then I hopped over to Xbox. Sure enough, that latest save file was immediately accessible — no hoops to jump through or settings to mess with or anything. I’m happy to report that cross-save functionality works seamlessly between PC and Xbox Series X.
I’m sad to report that all of my troops are dead. For good. And they’re never coming back.
Yeah, yeah, how’s it play on consoles?
Simple: exactly how it plays on PC! The main difference comes down to what tools you use to play. Personally, I’m more comfortable with my hands on a controller than a keyboard. Rotating the view feels more natural, to me, with a thumbstick than with the arrow keys. Clicking “A” and “X” to perform actions is second-nature, way more than tapping away at a mouse is. Same goes for using the right and left triggers to flick through menu tabs. You might find that such games play better with a mouse-and-keyboard. It’s all a matter of preference, I suppose. (It’s true that you can use a controller to play the game on PC. I didn’t play that way, opting instead to play as I assumed many PC players would. Conversely, you can play on console with a mouse and keyboard. It surely won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve chosen to play with a controller.)
Gears Tactics has also received an ostensible graphical boost. On Xbox Series X, it can hit 60 frames per second at 4K resolution. I’m told that my roommate’s PC is top-of-the-line — he’ll often shout out phrases like “144 frames per second” or “V-sync” — so, maybe it’s just my eyes, but I didn’t pick up any notable visual differences. Cutscenes look the same as they did on PC. As does gameplay. And even if the framerate is better on a purely calculable scale, I’m not sold on the importance. In a shooter, sure. In a methodical strategy game? Take it or leave it. I don’t need a sky-high framerate to know whether or not Hot Dog, my erstwhile sniper, may he rest in peace, will nail a 64.01 m headshot. Gears Tactics looks fantastic and runs with consistent smoothness no matter the platform. That’s what matters most to my (extremely vision-corrected) eyes.
The game’s console release comes alongside an update, for all platforms, that throws new enemies, new weapons, and a new playable character into the mix. Deviant enemies are, apparently, super-powerful versions of rank-and-file enemies. To deal with them, there’s a new “supreme” gear tier of class-specific items that are more powerful than anything else. Meanwhile, Jack, the flying, health-dispensing multitool from Gears 5, joins the fight with a level-up tree of more than 20 skills. These additions are available in a new game mode that boasts the most Gears name possible: “Jacked.”
You have to choose Jacked at the start of a playthrough; you can’t just hop into your old save file and tweak things. Your Jacked save files and your normal save files will show up together under the “load” menu, but each file is indicated as either a “Jacked” or “Classic” game. You can play Jacked games on any of the difficulty settings, from Beginner up through Insane. On top of that, you can also turn on Ironman, a brutally difficult setting that forbids you from restarting missions. In other words, Jacked isn’t a difficulty setting. It’s a new game mode.
Blinking through my sadness about Hot Dog’s unfair and untimely demise, I decided to get swole and start a new Jacked campaign — not for nothing, my third Gears Tactics save to date. So far, I haven’t seen Jack or these Deviant enemies. In a pre-menu popup window, the developer said Jack will show up after the first few missions. I haven’t made it that far yet (Gears Tactics missions are long!), but, if and when I stomach the heartache to replay this gem, it’ll be nice to have something fresh to look forward to.
This is a long-winded way of affirming that our review of the PC version from April largely describes the gameplay experience you’ll have if you get it for Xbox One or the Xbox Series machines.