'Gears Tactics' explodes into new genre with rave reviews

Xbox has form for turning action games into strategic affairs, first with "Halo Wars" and now through "Gears Tactics."

For the second time, Xbox Game Studios has succeeded in turning one of its core sci-fi action franchises into a strong strategy title.

A decade after "Halo Wars" and three years on from "Halo Wars 2," "Gears Tactics" takes the broad-shouldered, cover-based shooting of "Gears of War" and transforms it into a series of turn-based squad command missions.

Debuting for PC on April 28 and due on Xbox One at a later date, review embargos lifted on April 27 show that this novel twist on "Gears of War" is a worthwhile one.

Strong reviews earned it an 81/100 review average on aggregators OpenCritic and Metacritic.

At its best, it plays out like an entry to the modern, standard-setting "XCOM" franchise, with one especially notable new feature.

Crippling an enemy allows a squad member to execute them in particularly brutal style -- much as in the action games -- and doing so grants allies some crucial extra momentum.

Execution moves from different squad members can even be lined up and linked together, the opposition falling like dominoes and the flow of a match undergoing spectacular and visceral reversal.

"All my quibbles are on the periphery," wrote Destructoid in its review. "The core -- getting onto the battlefield and agonizing over every move -- is excellent."

The resultant mix is "a solid turn-based strategy game that has something for genre veterans and newcomers alike" per Worth Playing, a "deep, fast-paced strategy game" according to PC Gamer, and "a fantastic start" for the genre debutant in USgamer's view.

However, some "Gears Tactics" strengths also function as weaknesses: "It throws tons of enemies at you, which forces you to move and keeps you on your toes, but can also become annoying and tedious in some missions," the same USgamer review notes.

Other common criticisms included repetitive missions and storyline issues.

"Gears Tactics" enters the turn-based tactics genre not even a week after the venerated "XCOM" franchise added "XCOM: Chimera Squad" to its critically acclaimed ranks.

"Chimera Squad" puts a spin on usual series proceedings through earth-defending squads that now include alien species.

Encouragingly for "Gears Tactics," "Chimera Squad" didn't hit the heights of its excellent predecessors, notching a 79 through OpenCritic and a 78 on Metacritic.

Still, it's a good week for fans and newcomers to the genre, with "Gears of War" bringing a more violent, dystopian veneer to the form, and "XCOM: Chimera Squad" a brighter and more accessible approach.

Movie crossover "John Wick Hex," which debuted on PC in late 2019, is due on PlayStation 4 from May 5, while the "XCOM 2 Collection" is due on Nintendo Switch from May 29.