Each time we hear more about Disintegration, the debut title from V1 Interactive, it's always centered on the multiplayer component. Despite this fact, Disintegration started as a single-player title. After months of wondering about how the single-player campaign plays out, I finally had a chance to see it in action and learn all about the campaign.
As the debut title by a studio founded and fronted by Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto, Disintegration has lofty expectations. Originally starting as a real-time strategy game in the prototyping phase, Lehto wasn't happy with how similar the gameplay was to other RTS titles, so he and his small team began experimenting with ways to turn the typical RTS camera into an active participant in combat. The result is a unique game that combines the formulas of the first-person shooter genre Lehto helped revolutionize while at Bungie with the real-time strategy genre he was initially interested in pursuing.
The world of Disintegration takes place approximately 150 years in the future. Overpopulation, climate change, food shortages, and, yes, a global pandemic have ravaged humankind to the brink of extinction. As a means of survival, scientists develop a way for the human brain to be removed and surgically implanted into a robotic body in a process known as Integration. While this was meant to be a temporary solution while the problems are solved, a faction called the Rayonne like the new versions of themselves and don't want to go back, sparking a war with the remaining humans and the rebel Integrateds. The Rayonne began hunting down humans and essentially lobotomizing them and forcing their Integration.
You step into the role of Romer Shoal, a former pilot of Gravcycles, hovering crafts with mounted weapons, and the former host of a popular show similar to a futuristic Top Gear. At one point, Romer worked for Black Shuck, a commander of the Rayonne, repossessing Gravcycles. However, Black Shuck finds that Romer is selling these Gravcycles to the human resistance, and Romer is branded an enemy of the Rayonne. However, for Black Shuck, the betrayal is personal, and he steps into the role of primary antagonist for Disintegration.
"[Black Shuck] is one of the few in command of the Rayonne army that we call 'free thinkers,'" Lehto says. "So Romer and all his crew's original Integration was either by choice, or in the very early stages when it was highly recommended. They were left to be free thinkers to be as human as they could possibly remain. Shuck himself is that as well, even though he, along with the others in command of the Rayonne army are on this post-humanistic trajectory. So there's a juxtaposition there with him and an internal battle of holding on to who he used to be as a human because he can think for himself, but not wanting to be human anymore."
Embracing his new status as an outlaw from the Rayonne army, Romer joins up with a group of Integrated resistance fighters. He comes in possession of a Gravcycle and puts it to good use, commanding his squad from the skies above the battlefield while providing aerial support. While blasting enemies from above is essential, grasping how to command your squad is just as important. You can mark targets and objects of interest, as well as locations to converge on. You can even activate each member's special ability, ranging from mortars and concussion grenades to slow fields. Unlike multiplayer, when you use your unit abilities, time slows, giving you the strategic upper hand over your enemies.
As Romer, you can also scan objects and the environment to highlight enemies and objects of interest. While highlighting enemies to reveal information and their locations is useful, marking certain objects enables ground troops to interact with them. For example, you can scan for salvage, which serves as a currency to level up your ground units and Gravcycle, as well as upgrade chips, which can be used to progress your various characters' skill trees, as well as that of your Gravcycle. You can also mark health regen points to replenish the squad's HP.
As you go through the single-player campaign, you venture throughout various locales. Some of the locations Lehto mentions are the Rocky Mountains, deserted human towns, industrial complexes, dense city zones, exotic locales, and arid deserts where Rayonne forces are setting up construction sites to build ships. My gameplay footage I'm shown showcases a dense city zone. The Rayonne comb through the area, but thanks to a new marksman rifle upgrade, as well as masterful commanding of the ground units and their abilities, the person running the demo glides through the mission with relative ease.
While I got my hands on the multiplayer-centric closed technical beta in January, seeing the single-player campaign in action showcases the curated moments of the campaign, as well as the exclusive slow-motion tactical speed that occurs when you select a ground unit ability. While the basic concept of flying around in your Gravcycle, providing air support and relaying commands remains the same, these seemingly small changes appear to alter the action in meaningful ways, effectively differentiating single-player from multiplayer. I can't wait to get my hands on the campaign and see if it feels as good as it looks.
In total, Lehto expects experienced players to get through the campaign in anywhere from 8 to 10 hours on the regular difficulty. However, Lehto says that higher difficulties like Maverick, or the hardest difficulty, Outlaw, will likely take more than 15 hours. "It's not overwhelmingly huge by any means, but it's within a 30-person team to build something within scope," Lehto says. "It's fairly reasonable but substantial enough. It's really satisfying, and it's got a nice beginning, middle, and end to it. It's a nice rollercoaster ride that it takes you through. We feel like we hit a nice spot for length."
We don't know when exactly Disintegration is coming, but Lehto says the team is, "wrapping up the game as we speak." For now, we just know that Disintegration is hitting PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime in 2020.
Gamers looking for an irreverent and fun open-world experience can look forward to Saints Row: The Third Remastered on May 22 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC) – nine years after the original came out on last-gen consoles.
The Remaster naturally upgrades the look of the entire title to current-gen standards, but it also goes a step further to deliver that same touch (courtesy of developer Sperasoft) to all of the game's extra content. This means Remastered contains all of the title's expansion packs as well as other pieces of DLC.
In the opening of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud Strife, a mercenary and former member of an elite private military group called SOLDIER, takes on a job with an eco-terrorist cell named Avalanche. Their mission is to blow up a reactor that siphons Mako, the lifeblood of the planet, and uses it to power the sprawling industrial metropolis Midgar. The group infiltrates, braves resistance from Shinra Electric Company's forces, and sets off an explosion that renders the reactor inoperable.
In the 1997 original, what followed was a hop, skip, and jump through a few sections of the city back to Sector 7, and the safety of Avalanche's hideout. In Final Fantasy VII Remake, having carried out the mission, you're asked to walk the streets in the aftermath and witness the harrowing consequences of your actions. The sector lies in ruin, fires rage, buildings are crumbling, and the heartbreaking human cost is laid bare.
A somber violin plays as you walk Midgar's streets, with each pull of the bow across strings tugging at your conscience and stirring the heart, asking you to question whether you're doing the right thing. The cries of confused children echo, people fall to their knees attempting to grapple with the magnitude of what has happened, and citizens decry this so-called group of freedom fighters you've joined just to make a quick buck.
In the three years since Persona 5's original release, I've thought about it almost every day. Its lavish style gracefully captures its spirit of rebellion and breathes life into its dynamic combat system. The evocative, banging soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the emotion of each moment. The downtime spent in Tokyo with your friends brings you closer to each of them, invigorating your fight for what's right. All those qualities feed into a bold story that unapologetically puts its foot down against the injustices that reflect our own society.
The extended version, Persona 5 Royal, brings the heat all over again. But beyond a plethora of superb gameplay refinements and features that improve an already-rich RPG comes a momentous new story arc seeded within the original narrative and paid off in full by the end. It delivers something genuinely surprising, leading to awe-inspiring moments and emotional conclusions that recontextualize what I thought the game was. Through its lengthy 120-hour runtime, Persona 5 Royal proves itself as the definitive version of a modern classic.
The minute you start P5R, you're given the fantastic in media res introduction that brilliantly showcases the ride you're in for--and provides a glimpse at the Royal-exclusive character Kasumi. After this teaser, you're brought to the chronological start of the story that then walks you through the events that lit the fire inside our protagonist (aka Joker) and kicked off his journey as a virtuous trickster. The opening hours may take some time to pick the pace back up, but by easing you into the game's systems, you're set up for the rest of its flow.
Everything in Good Job is designed to keep you from achieving what its title implies. Even simple tasks like delivering parcels or mopping up the floor are made comically complicated with unpredictable physics and ridiculous office tools at your disposal. Good Job isn't so much about finding a way to achieve your objectives in the cleanest manner possible, but is instead a fun playground for you and some friends to muck about in. It's at its best when it gives you the freedom to create solutions to puzzles using the chaos you orchestrate, only faltering in a handful of scenarios.
Good Job puts you in the working boots of the ill-equipped and woefully unqualified child of a mega-corporation's CEO, and you're given any and every job possible as you climb the corporate ladder. The first floors are simple--you mop up brightly colored goop off the floor, deliver packages to color-coded desks, and courier projectors to meeting rooms in need. As trivial as it sounds, the chaotic layout of the offices combined with the loose, QWOP-like control scheme makes moving objects feel like you're spring cleaning after a rough night out at a bar. Dragging a projector, for example, is humorously tricky. It easily slides around while you drag it, knocking over decorative art pieces and smashing the glass walls of meeting rooms. Good Job isn't worried about how well you complete a job, but rather if you're able to get it done period. Leaving a mess of memos, fire extinguisher foam, and distressed co-workers in your wake just makes it more fun.
Every object in Good Job is physically reactive, giving every little bump the potential to set off a chain reaction of destruction. Each level is designed with this in mind, forcing you to navigate through doors just too small to pull objects through, around twisting hallways filled with precariously placed vases and paintings, and over electrical cables that will catch anything you might be dragging with you. These are presented not only as obstacles, but as fun opportunities to create chaos that makes your job a little easier.
Chucklefish has made a name for itself with some high-quality releases, including Starbound and Wargroove, and is also known for having stepped in to complete publishing duties on the wildly popular Stardew Valley. The UK game studio had more recently made waves with its announcement of Witchbrook, which many observers have described as looking like a cross between Stardew Valley and the Harry Potter stories. After a good deal of enthusiasm around the initial announcement, Chucklefish has remained very quiet on the project for some months. The reason for that now seems clearer, as the game has seen a dramatic facelift, and is sporting a new isometric artstyle.
To get a sense of what’s changed, look at this previously released screen, which shows off the old art style.
Witchbrook, old artstyle
And now, take a look at these new screenshots, just releasing today.
Chucklefish describes its game as a “magical school and town life simulator.” Players control a witch-in-training as they seek to hone their abilities, go to classes, and eventually aim to graduate. At the same time, your magical avatar may also fish, grow crops (with the aid of magic!) and track down reagents like mushrooms. In short, it seems as if the game will focus on spellcasting with an equal focus to figuring out a date to the prom.
Chucklefish is both developing and publishing Witchbrook, and today launched a new website for the game. No platforms have yet been announced. We also don’t have a release date yet; Chucklefish highlights that its studio is a no-crunch studio, under the belief that it results in better games and healthier developers, so we may have a wait before we can launch into our own magical school careers.
Marvel Strike Force launched on iOS and Android two years ago, and while it has evolved in myriad ways since launch, every mode features similar gameplay where you take on A.I.-controlled teams.
For the third year of FoxNext's licensed RPG, the studio is implementing player-versus-player combat through VS. Battle mode. I spoke with creative director Jason Bender and game director Jonathan Durr to learn more about this new feature, as well as what to expect in the coming year of Marvel Strike Force.
No Man Can Win Every Battle
Up to this point in the lifecycle of Marvel Strike Force, players have only had the option to take on A.I.-controlled opponents. While this has been a serviceable option so far, the A.I. in Marvel Strike Force always operates in patterned ways, simply choosing the most powerful attack available to the character at that time (with few exceptions), and often not focusing or coordinating on a single target.
This A.I. predictability is by design. "There's a little bit of RNG going on in there, but the A.I. is intentionally simplistic because we don't want it to be frustrating," Bender says. "We wanted you to test your skills against the enemy team's composition. Also, when you play something repeatedly, you can master it, so we like a lot of our things to be static. Several of our modes you can play again and again and again, so you can crack that puzzle."
As the third year of Marvel Strike Force kicks off, the team is adding VS. Battle, a new mode that allows you to challenge other players to real-time, synced PvP battles. Each player brings his or her own roster and engages in a draft to determine which five characters are making the walk to the battlefield.
However, the draft is far from a straightforward pick-who-you-want experience. "We experimented with a lot of different drafting techniques, and we will likely develop a bunch of different kinds of drafting in the future because we found a bunch of fun ways to do it," Bender says. "We'll launch with a good, steady way to do it, and then we'll get into more interesting ones over time."
In the first iteration of the drafting mechanics, each player gets two character bans. Once a character is banned by either player, they are off the board for both sides. After that, a serpentine draft takes place until both teams of five are full; if a character is chosen by one player, that character is off the board for the other. Then both players get a reject to exercise, meaning they can choose a character the other player picked to boot off the opposing team. Finally, each player gets one final draft pick to fill the hole left by the rejected character.
FoxNext hopes this encourages players to experiment with their rosters and get creative with their team compositions. "You can't always build the same team, and you can't rely on having access to all of these characters," Bender says. "So sure, you might want Captain Marvel, but if I ban Captain Marvel, you're going to have to find an alternative for the structure you're building. And that introduces a whole bunch of new hybrid teams you haven't had to worry about before. What happens if you get two-thirds of the way through building Asgardians and then I knock out Hela? What kind of drafting strategies are resilient when it comes to the other person trying to spoil it for you? These are really fun things to learn, and it always changes."
Once you're in a VS. Battle, combat works much in the way it does against A.I. opponents. However, this time, you have to account for a human player reacting to your moves and devising strategies to counter not only your team compositions, but your strategies as well. Combat operates on a 15-second timer for each move, with the A.I. taking over if a player drops until they're able to rejoin.
When it launches, players will only be able to challenge their friends for low-stakes, fun matches with no direct rewards doled out, but FoxNext has grand ambitions for VS. Battle down the road. "We're toying with launching with some achievements, just to encourage people to try the feature out," Durr says. "We've got ideas on our side: doing rewards, doing leagues and tiers, and stuff like that; you could move through the ranks, battling people out. But you know, one of the things I'm also excited about doing, maybe much further down the road, would be events within the Alliance, where the Alliance has a tournament feature."
While those ambitions for VS. Battle are aimed at further down the line, FoxNext has several near-term updates, additions, and tweaks it has been eyeing.
Destiny Arrives All The Same
While the player-versus-player feature is one users can look forward to with the next update, the most recent one begins a rollout nearly two years in the making. Thanos is finally becoming the supercharged villain he has been in the comics and movies. The Black Order, Thanos' disciples shown in Avengers: Infinity War, are joining the playable roster.
When Thanos is teamed up with Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian, and Ebony Maw, the Mad Titan becomes Infinity Gauntlet Thanos. This version of Thanos has all of the Infinity Stones in his possession and can blast enemies, flip ally debuffs and enemy buffs, and even rain a shattered planet onto his adversaries. FoxNext anticipates this new squad of villains will be the next strongest team in Marvel Strike Force.
"I'm really excited that Thanos is going to finally get his Black Order," Bender says. "We've had the Black Order built for so long, but we haven't tuned them or tightened up their strategies. It's so great to finally see them come together, because while Thanos has been a rockstar in our game since the beginning, he's been overshadowed by newer characters. He's about to step up in a way that players asked for right from the beginning."
It may seem strange to add characters that were so prominently featured in one of the biggest movies ever nearly two years after that movie hit theaters, but FoxNext says the design process for the Black Order is a special case and is not indicative of how long the character design and implementation process normally takes. "We did the concept art for these characters when Infinity War came out," Bender says. "They're getting a little more balance time and attention because this team is so cutting-edge powerful. We want to make sure we minimize power creep; this is a big concern for the balance team. We don't like it when there's too much power creep because it invalidates things we've invested in. If I've invested in a team, we don't want to see that investment become worthless, ideally ever – definitely as slowly as possible. So it was very, very difficult to make this team worth getting and dominant without blowing up power creep."
While Bender and his team at FoxNext have made efforts to reduce power creep, it has happened and it has affected different characters in different ways.
Two characters that proved to be among the most coveted in the early days of the game were Black Widow and Night Nurse. Black Widow delivered massive bumps in speed to her allies, while Night Nurse was viewed as all but essential to raid effectively. While Black Widow has remained relevant, she is far from the best character in the game as she was considered two years ago, while Night Nurse has dropped off from relevancy substantially.
"Black Widow has an ability that scales and that is always in fashion; you always want speed," Bender says. "Night Nurse's abilities are more numerical and have a certain amount of power built in, so she has not scaled over time to keep up. We don't want the top of the game to be static; you don't want Black Widow to be the best character forever. For a long time, in year one, we were worried that Black Widow would just never go away. So to some extent, power creep is good because it keeps the top of the game more interesting."
Bender's acknowledgement that power creep can shuffle the deck a little spells out a silver lining of adding new characters that knock the existing ones down a notch, but he doesn't want those characters to possess lower value forever. "Black Widow is going to get more love because she's got a movie coming out, she's a badass, and we want to make sure that she becomes relevant again," he says. "Now that we have more of a rock-paper-scissors kind of action, and we have more specialized abilities in the game, it's not as difficult for us to bring her back up to strategic relevance because we're not risking stagnating the endgame. Night Nurse, we're going to need to find another opportunity to bring her back up. We always want characters who are at the bottom of the stack of power to be shuffled back up to the top over time. Night Nurse will have her day again. That was the joke about Ronan, right? 'Ronan will have his day!' Ronan was at the bottom of the stack for a long time, Ronan was up top, now he's kind of floating down again. We'll see that with Night Nurse too."
As Bender mentioned, Black Widow is the eponymous star of the next theatrical release of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the team wants to capitalize on that. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing most theatrical releases back, FoxNext finds itself in the situation of having to adjust its plans on the fly. While its team is working remote like most studios across the globe, it has also shuffled its plans in favor of experimenting with characters that might have come out in the more distant future.
"A lot of the Marvel movies, as we know from what's going on in the world right now, have moved back a little bit," Bender says. "A lot of times we try to come out with a movie so that when you walk out of the theater or you're thinking about these characters, you get to play them. We like to be there for that. This year is a little funky that way, which is giving us the opportunity to consider some characters that we haven't gotten around to. I don't think I have any characters I can actually announce as a scoop for you, but I will say it's giving us a chance to pick up one-offs here and there, and add them to the schedule – characters that we couldn't build as part of a five-person squad. We can now do some solos, and that's going to be neat. We'll see some characters that we weren't planning on at the beginning of the year show up."
While the entire globe faces uncertainty, FoxNext recently emerged from its own period of being unsure about the future, as Disney recently sold the studio to Scopely, effectively transitioning the team from an in-house Disney studio to a third-party partner. "We're really good at uncertainty now," Bender says. "If you've been with us from the beginning, you've seen us go from Kabam to Fox to Disney to Scopely. We are always in a state of transition practically. We try not to let that affect the game, and I think we're pretty good at that. What we really care about is what the players want, and we've been lucky that our partners have always understood that. So while it can be a bit thrilling internally, it doesn't affect how we run the game."
While we don't know when exactly VS. Battle will be added to Marvel Strike Force, FoxNext says it will be a part of the next big update for the title. Marvel Strike Force is currently available for iOS and Android.
To learn why I've spent a significant chunk of my time playing the title over the last to years, head here for an opinion piece from shortly after the game's launch. To see an updated list of all the playable heroes and villains in the game's massive roster, head here.
Editor's note: This review in progress covers the single-player content of Resident Evil 3. We will be playing the multiplayer part of the Resident Evil 3 package, Resistance, over the next few days and finalizing this review once we've fully tested the mode.
The opening hours of Resident Evil 3 are incredibly effective at putting you on edge. A remake of the original 1999 game, Resident Evil 3 puts the volatile and intense conflict between protagonist Jill Valentine and the unrelenting force of nature, Nemesis, front and center--giving way to some strong survival horror moments that show off the best of what the series can offer. But after that solid start, this revisit to a bygone era not only loses track of the type of horror game that Resident Evil once was, but also loses sight of what made the original so memorable.
Much like 2019's Resident Evil 2, the remake of Resident Evil 3 interprets the classic survival horror game through a modern lens, redesigning locations and altering key events to fit a significantly revised story. Resident Evil 3 doesn't deviate too much from the formula set by the RE2 remake, but it does lean harder into the action-focused slant the original version of RE3 had, giving you some greater defensive skills to survive. RE3's introduction is a strong one, conveying a creeping sense of paranoia and dread that's synonymous with the series, and Jill Valentine once again proves herself to be a confident protagonist to take everything head-on.
Resident Evil has traditionally been a survival-horror franchise with a focus on moody isolation, which runs counter to the idea of online multiplayer modes. However, Resident Evil 3 includes an online asymmetrical 4v1 mode called Resistance that actually does a stellar job capturing the horror inherent in the series. In Resistance, a group of four survivors works together to escape the sadistic tests set up by the Machiavellian Umbrella corporation. Meanwhile, a single player-controlled mastermind works from the shadows to keep you in line and destroy your morale. It's more fun than I suspected and might be worth your time.
Each match is split into three stages where survivors work to complete various goals. In the first stage, you scour the environments for keys to unlock the next area. In the next stage, you hack a series of computers while avoiding monsters. And in the final stage, you race across the map and work to destroy a number of experimental equipment. As players take down roaming zombies and other enemies they earn Umbrella cash that can be used to buy new weapons, herbs, and other tools at the beginning of each round.
For my first match, I play as the absurdly named Martin Sandwich. All of Resistance’s survivors have their own unique skills, and Martin is an engineering genius who can disable traps around the battlefield and use his flash baton to stun enemies. Using one of Martin’s skills, I ping the environment, which highlights objects on the map for the rest of my team. However, when I wander too far from the group I become an easy meal. It’s hard to play Resistance as a lone wolf, and teams of survivors need to stick together to survive.
Martin is a good example of a support character, but if you want to be on the front lines, you can play as someone like Samuel Jordan. This young bruiser used to train as a boxer, which makes him an ideal shield for the rest of the team. I love Sam’s dash punch, which allows him to quickly close in on zombies. Sam is also skilled in the use of melee weapons, such as bats and sledgehammers, which easily tear through groups of undead monsters.
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Playing as a survivor is only half of the Resistance experience, and I probably had the most fun when I jumped into the shoes of a mastermind. The mastermind works behind the scenes laying traps and working to prevent the survivors from escaping before time runs out. Masterminds start with a complete view of the map and can see the location of all the survivors' goals. They are also dealt a hand of random cards, which can be used to summon various monsters or lay trip mines. Masterminds can also get their hands dirty by directly controlling anything they spawn, but I felt that I was just as effective when I let my spawn run wild.
Iconic villains such as Annette Birkin and Ozwell Spencer return for the role of mastermind. During my turn at the controls, I play as Alex Wesker and I laughed with demented glee as I unleashed a small army of zombie dogs on a group of unwitting survivors. Each mastermind has their own ultimate attack, which allows them to do things like unleash Tyrants onto the battlefield or set up deadly laser fields that kill anyone they touch. Alex’s ultimate is a monstrous plant, which looks a bit like Plant 42 from the original Resident Evil. This plant’s vines whip out in all directions and it devours two survivors before they finally subdue my creature.
Over the years, Capcom has experimented with a lot of different multiplayer modes within the Resident Evil universe, but they have rarely left a lasting impact. However, I started having fun with Residence the moment I picked up the controller. Coordinating with a group of survivors is a lot of fun and manages to remain tense and scary. Meanwhile, the mastermind offers a more strategic level of play that we haven’t seen in a Resident Evil game before, but one that I’m actually interested in exploring more when Resident Evil 3 launches. We’ll have to wait for the final release to see if Resistance has staying power, but this is the most promising new mode we’ve seen from the series in a long time. Stay tuned for our upcoming review.
Gears Tactics was announced at E3 2018 alongside Gears 5 and the Funko-branded Gears Pop! It almost seemed like a joke to pull the Gears franchise in so many disparate directions, but the more we’ve seen of Gears Tactics, the less we’re laughing. Not only is Microsoft taking this entry into tactical strategy very seriously, Gears Tactics looks like it could be something special.
Gears Tactics draws the obvious comparisons to other turn-based strategy games, such as XCOM. Co-developed by The Coalition and Splash Damage, this fast-paced, turn-based strategy game lets players plan coordinated strikes for a whole team of warriors as they try to find the best line of attack without sacrificing too much cover.
“When we were thinking about how to expand the Gears of War universe, we locked in on this idea of a tactics game, because we have some common areas in the fact that Gears has squads and cover is important," says design director Tyler Bielman. “But it was important that we do our version of a tactics game, so we made a lot of effort to pace up the game. You have as much time as you want on your turn to figure out your strategies and where you want to go, but everything else is faster. We wanted it to feel a lot more intense than traditional tactics games.”
During an extended demo, we got a taste for Gear Tactics’ faster pace and watched a handful of soldiers face off against a squad of Locust grunts. Unlike many strategy games, the heroes in Gears Tactics don’t move along a grid. Instead, players are free to move around the battlefield however they like. This opens up new strategies as players now have a greater level of flexibility to create flanking routes around their enemies. At the same time, it’s still very important to grab cover and find lines of sight that give your heroes a higher percent chance to hit their targets.
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Another big change to combat is how Gears Tactics approaches its action system. Traditionally, strategy games allow players to move each hero once per turn before attacking. Gears Tactics, on the other hand, gives each hero three action points to use each turn, and players can choose to mix and match their movements or attacks however they like. Meaning, a hero left on the outskirts of a combat zone can use all three action points to make a mad dash across the battlefield. Alternatively, a character who is well positioned could use all three actions to attack. The heavy gunner class actually has an ability that makes each successive attack more deadly, as long as they don’t move between shots. Another neat trick is placing a character with three actions into overwatch, so when enemies move into their field of view, your soldier attacks up to three times.
The final piece to Gears Tactics strategy puzzle is the execution system. After dishing out a set amount of damage to an enemy, it might fall into an execution state. Enemies in an execution state crawl slowly along the ground and pose little threat, but they can be revived by their companions. On the other hand, if your heroes get within melee range of these downed foes, they can perform an execution. These brutal melee attacks not only remove those enemies from the board completely, but they also give the rest of your companions an additional action point to use during that turn. Players who find good ways to push deeper into the battlefield may be able to chain executions together to keep their turn rolling for a long time.
“To counter all that freedom, we serve up a lot of enemies,” Bielman explains. “Our average enemy per encounter count is pretty high. You are facing a lot of different types of enemies, some that create fronts and are defensive, some that will snipe you from afar, and some that will actually rush you and try to push you out of cover. The whole combination makes the game feel like Gears of War, just kind of boiled down to its essence. It's about flanking and it's about cover and it's about combinations of tactical moves.”
Players have five different classes to choose from and each class has over 30 different skills to learn as they level up over the course of the game. Gears Tactics doesn’t feature any top-level base building mechanics similar to XCOM, but you are rewarded with better equipment after each level, and additional gear is scattered throughout the levels. All of these weapons can be modded, and players can also visually customize each piece of gear with a variety of paints and visual patterns.
The story for Gears Tactics is set 12 years before the first Gears of War and follows defiant COG soldier Gabe Diaz, who just happens to be the father of Kait Diaz, featured in Gears 4 and 5. Gabe's squad is ultimately tasked with assassinating a Locus scientist named Ukkon. However, Ukkon isn’t some pencil pusher, he’s an elite member of the Locust Council and one of the geneticists responsible for breeding some of the nastiest monsters in the entire Horde.
“He's the monster that makes monsters,” Bielman says. “In Gears games, we have these big bosses. We've got Brumaks and we’ve got Corpsers. If you’ve never seen a Brumak, it's basically a big dinosaur with rocket launchers strapped to it. You'd think, 'Wow, who would actually do that? Who would put rocket launchers on a dinosaur?’ That's Ukkon. So Gabe’s team needs to find him and shut him down before he improves the Locust army any further.”
Based on everything we’ve seen, Gears Tactics looks like it should be a fun ride for Gears of War diehards. However, strategy fans who have never played a Gears game before might also want to give this a try. Despite the recent coronavirus outbreak, Gears Tactics is still set to launch on April 28 for PCs and will be available from day one for Xbox Game Pass owners (you still have to play on PC). An Xbox version is in the works and will release at a later date.