When I was playing, and delivering my Verdict on Gears Tactics earlier this year, I mentioned that I was planning to go and finish the game off in quick fashion. That didn’t happen at the time, but with this turn-based tactics take on the Gears franchise landing on the Xbox One and Series machines last week, I returned to find a new Jacked up experience on offer, along with a range of quality of life improvements.
The headline features of the update are the addition of a new squad member known as Jack, a drone that will always be at your side. Alongside Jack are a new range of enemies known as Deviants and a new tier of Supreme equipment. Rather than hamfistedly jacking these new additions in your existing campaigns for those playing on the PC, there is a new Jacked campaign which features these new gameplay additions. As someone who first played Gears Tactics when first released on the PC, it’s nice to see the game getting some love and attention from the devs at Splash Damage and The Coalition. While I haven’t started a Jacked campaign, I do appreciate that it stands as its own distinct option on the main menu with its own range of save slots to sit alongside the save slots for a normal campaign.
The addition of Jack as a new squad member who, once found through the campaign is always available will certainly offer a new dynamic to how you approach missions. One range of Jack’s skills are Aura’s of which some are linked to the classes of your more human based squad members. Something like the Sniper Aura will give any snipers in range a +40% critical hit chance, something which combined with sensible equipment and skill choices will make your sniper a critical hit killing machine. Towards the end of my normal campaign I found myself in situations where, thanks to skills and bonus action points from executing enemies, my snipers would have ten or more actions per turn. Making these shots all land as critical hits is a dream, but with the new range of highly dangerous Deviant enemies, using Jack to your best ability will make or break your campaign.
While I am certainly pleased to see Gears Tactics receive this hefty update, having recently completed the main campaign and starting the Veteran missions, I don’t see a need to start a new war against the Locust. The promise of more loot, skills and cruel mission modifiers in the Veteran missions will be more than enough to keep me busy, but for those after a new twist on their experience, the Jack campaign will definitely be worth checking out.
Away from the action, the quality of life improvements are welcomed with open arms. I complained in my review that the UI when managing your troops was clearly designed with a console and gamepad users in mind, but with this update to coincide with the Xbox Series release this part of UI has been heavily revamped. It is still so very clearly designed for use with a gamepad, but the layout is much more user friendly even for those of us playing with a keyboard and mouse. Other accessibility tweaks come with adjustable UI and subtitle font sizes and a screen reader, but most important to me are the improved colour blind mode options which make identifying enemy overwatch zones much easier to identify.
Steam tells me that I’ve not put over 30 hours into Gears Tactics, and I can certainly see myself dipping in and out to knock off the odd Veteran mission here and there. This is a very good game, and while critics have argued that there aren’t many launch titles for the Series S|X release, I think Gears Tactics must be considered a must buy.