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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Gears Tactics is a bloody and gruesome turn-based strategy game for Xbox One and Windows PCs. The game's set in the urban ruins of a sci-fi city ravaged by war. While the slower-paced tactical nature of this game is different than the faster pace of other Gears games, the action's no less bloody. Enemies are frequently ripped apart and dismembered by the player's guns, explosives, and melee weapons, splashing huge amounts of dark red blood in the process. (Note that the blood and gore can be switched off in the game's settings menu.) The soldiers are a loyal and duty-bound bunch, dedicated to saving people and assisting each other, but show a clear enjoyment of what they do that borders on bloodlust. They're also prone to strong language, uttering occasional profanity that includes the F-word.
Screw up video game; too much gore and violence
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What’s It About?
GEARS TACTICS is a change of pace for the action packed Gears of War series, which until now has focused primarily on gritty, gory, frenetic third-person combat. Tactics keeps the grit and gore, but it slows things down by making the action turn-based and encourages players think a little more by providing them control over a full squadron of characters. The main protagonist is Gabe Diaz, one of the franchise's conventional grizzled war heroes disillusioned with his government's approach to taking on the threat of the monsters emerging from the planet's crust. He's content working in the motor pool and avoiding the attention of his superiors -- until, that is, he's called back into a combat role to face a new threat: Ukkon, the seemingly immortal lead scientist within the Locust Horde. To accomplish his objective, he must recruit an army composed of scattered Gears and civilian militia, then take on Ukkon's minions one mission at a time as he works out a strategy to kill their seemingly unkillable leader. Players view the battlefield from a raised perspective, moving each character in their squad to positions of cover. You command your soldiers to attack and aid each other using a limited supply of action points before waiting for the enemy to take its turn. Missions have a variety of objectives, ranging from rescuing soldiers to holding supply points to taking town huge boss monsters. Between missions, players can recruit new soldiers to active duty, change and upgrade each soldier's equipment, and even customize each recruit's name and armor.
Is It Any Good?
Clearly owing a debt of inspiration to XCOM, another popular turn-based franchise, this game's done such a fine job of improving what it's borrowed that it's earned its own place within the genre. Gears Tactics' formula will be familiar to many: move units into defensive positions, set them to overwatch in case any enemies come into view, and use flanking and teamwork tactics to pick off enemies while taking minimal damage. If a soldier dies, they're gone forever, so caution's key. Half the fun is forming an attachment to your recruits as you customize them, unlock new skills and better weapon modifications, and watch them grow into fearsome fighting machines. Losing them can be painful. But Gears Tactics isn't quite as brutal and unforgiving as you might expect, or at least not on lower difficulty settings. Incapacitated recruits can be revived more easily mid-mission than in other games (they can even revive themselves the first time), and they don't need time to recover from their wounds between missions.
And while Gears Tactics is much slower paced than other Gears games, it plays faster than many other turn-based strategy games. Enemies' turns typically take just a few seconds to complete, which keeps players engaged. The tactics at your disposal are impressive, too. For example, the series' signature executions have been turned into opportunities to give other squad members additional action points. Risking an execution when things seem dire can turn around a losing battle by bringing the rest of the squad back into the fight to each do one more thing. Gears' set piece boss battles, meanwhile, are appropriately desperate, with enemies like the towering Brumak and Corpser keeping allies on the brink of defeat over multiple turns as they run from cover to cover, avoiding smaller minions while trying to keep damaging the hulking beasts. A minor complaint might be lodged at the between-mission interface, which is a bit clunky and can make managing recruits wearisome, but the effort usually feels worth it the next time you take your newly upgraded squad into battle. Gears Tactics is an exemplary addition to the turn-based strategy genre, and a refreshing change for a series the primary entries of which haven't evolved all that much over the years.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Gears Tactics affected by the fact that you have the option to switch blood and gore on and off? Which option did you choose? Why?
In most missions, the characters under the player's control must cooperate in order to succeed, but why do you think more can often be accomplished when people work together?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: April 28, 2020
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Intense Violence
- Last updated: April 24, 2020
Our Editors Recommend
Deep turn-based strategy game with lots of bloody violence.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Tough strategy game forces players to make hard choices.
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Great strategy game builds alien worlds; some safety issues.
For kids who love strategy
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