In terms of games Microsoft hasn’t exactly had a great year. While Sony pushed out multiple exclusive games that have garnered incredible critic scores and huge sales numbers, Microsoft have had very little to get excited about. Of course, their planned acquisition of Zenimax could change all of that in the future, but for now Microsoft haven’t had much to offer their players. It’s also a little tricky to pick a game for this category because so many of Microsoft’s games aren’t actually exclusive to their console, typically appearing on PC as well. In fact, the game that I would have selected actually popped up on Nintendo Switch, too, disqualifying it. Don’t worry, though, that game will be appearing later on. So, for this award, I’m including Xbox games that are available on PC, too.
So, what game did I pick out? Gears Tactics. Trust me, I’m as surprised as you are. A turn-based tactical game set in the Gears universe? Pff. But it turns out to be a winning combination filled with all the chunky armour, chainsaws and blood that you’d expect. The stop-and-pop shooting of Gears translates incredibly well into a polished, entertaining turn-based experience, and the developers do as great job of translating what makes Gear fun into a completely different genre. Take chainsawing enemies in half: in Tactics chainsawing provides bonus actions to the rest of your squad, meaning you can chain together a whole bunch of deliciously violent assaults.
“The production values for a game within this genre are nothing short of lavish, with cutscenes being up to Gears 5 standards and actual gameplay being able to pass itself off as one of the main games when it zooms into an over-the-shoulder viewpoint. From the stellar sound design to the way special abilities mirror the main series, Gears Tactics feels like a lot more than just some cheap XCOM clone wearing bulky armour and running around with a chainsaw strapped to a gun.”
Gears: Tactics review
It has flaws, such as lacking the depth of some other games in the genre and repetition in its game design. But I think these are easily forgiven issues in the face of the pure enjoyment Gears Tactics provides. It’s just challenging enough to keep you engaged while still being relaxing. It’s quick, beautiful and even has pretty good loot and progression systems that let you build up different types of characters. As much as I love the likes of XCOM, it’s the kind of game where you have to really put 100% into it or else you’ll likely end up frustrated. It’s not the kind of game I can kick back with, whereas Gears Tactics is while also still feeling like I’m giving my brain a little workout. A very violent workout. The best kind of workout.
“I didn’t go into Gears Tactics expecting very much. Why would I? And yet really it makes so much sense. Those giant walking meat-slabs have jumped perfectly from their cover-based shooting to turn-based cover shooting. Splash Damage have done an outstanding job taking the foundations laid by XCOM and building on top of that before loading it all in a heavy, sweaty layer of Gears armour before strapping a Lancer to it. The lack of a more meaningful metagame between the action hurts it a little, but Gears Tactics more than makes up for it with it’s fantastically fun tactical plotting and in the way it lets you chainsaw Grubs in half. Which XCOM doesn’t. And really, isn’t that what we all want in life?”
Gears Tactics Review
I believe Gears Tactics is one of the most overlooked games of the year, too. It topped the Steam charts for a while, then faded away, and on the Xbox it doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention. That’s a shame because Gears Tactics is an excellent game, and perfect for people that don’t normally touch the strategy genre. The blend of Gears and turn-based murder might be enough to tempt players who don’t usually venture into the realms of XCOM. Plus, it’s on Game Pass, so there’s very few excuses not to play.