Most Played: May 2021

Here’s what the team has been playing during the merry month of May.

Gears Tactics – Matt

When Gears Tactics was announced as an Xbox Series X/S launch day title, I expected a far bigger buzz. Sure, it was never going to fill the Halo Infinite shaped hole, but as a late addition – one with brand recognition, having already proven itself on PC – you’d think gamers would have celebrated its arrival. But no – it came and went without any buzz whatsoever, even failing to make the Xbox top twenty chart.

I’m guilty myself here. I downloaded it on launch day in preparation for a full review but ended being side-tracked by Yakuza 7, Fuser and Planet Coaster. A break in my review schedule has allowed me to finally give it a go, and with close to 25 hours notched up, I wish I had played it sooner.

Gears Tactics works the way you’d imagine, more or less. Each squad member has three Action Points, with moving, shooting, reloading, and using an ability requiring a single point. However, if one of the series’ trademark executions is performed, the squad gets an extra point. If used proficiently, this extra turn can change the course of battle, or help you dominate further.

A few other ideas are well implemented. Firstly, it isn’t grid-based. This allows for greater freedom and more natural movement. Secondly, troops can be placed in ‘overwatch’ mode. If an enemy enters their perimeter during their turn, they’ll automatically open fire. This can mess up their turn entirely, and it’s usually accompanied by loud gunfire, shouting, and an explosion of gore.

The only real downer is the presence of ‘filler missions’ between main story segments. They soon become tedious – recycled level layouts start to become apparent, and the ebb and flow of battle becomes predictable. Modifiers aren’t enough to keep them interesting.

I’m not hugely into strategy games, but Gears Tactics’ smooth difficulty curve prompted me to re-downloaded 2015’s Toy Soldiers War Chest…only to find that it has been unplayable since 2018. Thanks a bunch, Ubisoft.  

Subnautica – Rich

The Switch is the only console I own, so it’s wonderful to see ports of well-known and acclaimed titles. Subnautica’s open world is great to explore, and the lore goes way deeper than I thought it would. I’m utterly hooked.

I love the way it doesn’t give you a map, so you have to explore, yet it often feels dangerous to do so. Like when you’ve explored too far on too little air, or when a huge creature comes roaring out of the dark. You really feel like your survival is hanging by a thread.

Unfortunately, the Switch port has a few issues. I don’t mind graphical cutbacks or low resolutions, but we’ve had the game crash on me a lot. It doesn’t autosave, either, which means I’ve ended up losing lots of progress. That base that I spent an hour building? Gone in one random crash. It’s a shame because I’m prepared to sink my spare time into it. I’ve never had a console game crash on me this frequently.

Good Job! – Jake

There’s a very narrow profile of game that I can play with my wife: co-operative games that are still fun if you can’t be bothered to be very good at them. And it’s perfectly reasonable to want to meaningfully enjoy and contribute to success in a game without hours of investment or a childhood spent absorbing gaming’s norms.

Good Job! more that fits the bill. It’s often more entertaining to not be very good at it, thoroughly destroying the place with out of control forklifts, careering floor cleaners and flying printers, on the way to gathering colleagues, connecting the internet or whatever other workplace task you’ve been set.

But to the game’s credit, it’s also possible to calmly and methodically carry out the task at hand, which can be just as satisfying. The mundanity of the setting and the tasks works in the game’s favour – there’s nothing to explain, so there’s little barrier to entry.

Inevitably with such capacity for chaos and destruction, there are occasional bugs and glitches. But the game mostly successfully caters for those eventualities, and they just add to the unpredictable charm.

And it ends before it all gets stale. Good job indeed. (Sorry.)