“Warning, playing TACTICAL may result in abnormal sweating, high blood-pressure, self-loathing and short episodes of euphoria. Keep game out of reach of children, (they may embarrass you by how easy they find it). Before playing always consult your doctor.”
TACTICAL, Gameface Games’s first official Steam release, is a top down “stealth puzzle shooter” with a surprising amount of depth. Set in a tangle of 40 Tron-esque black and neon mazes, the player has one job: eliminate security robots without being caught. Sounds easy right? Yeah. That’s what I thought.
Learning the Ropes
Initially TACTICAL holds your hand as it introduces you to the gameplay, how to best avoid detection and move around the map. Once this short tutorial ends be prepared for frustration. The early levels appear simple enough, but in some cases as specific set of movements and perfect timing are required in order to find success. The simplicity of these first scenarios make failed attempts infuriating, but not without the sweet, sweet reward of a shot of endorphins from finally figuring out the solution to the puzzle. By the time you have mastered one style of gameplay, TACTICAL shatters your confidence with new mechanics, from wall penetration to a bot disabling EMP, which forces players to re-learn how to approach subsequent situations.
No Room for Error
The level design itself is maddeningly tight. In moments of frustration you may be tempted to yell “screw it” and Rambo your way through the level but you will never get far: the merciless Sauron-like gaze of the security drone will stop you dead. To succeed, you must stay calm and have a plan. Or, like me, you can just hit your head against the levels until you accidentally discover the correct path through trial and error. I would highly recommend the former approach as my death counter is astronomical. During one particularly lazy afternoon I actually took the time to do some calculations. In an hour of gameplay, I completed three levels and died 294 times. That’s an average of one death every 12 seconds, and 20 minutes per level.
Some may find the difficulty too much to handle, one level had me wipe over 100 times before I found the solution, and a further 36 before I was able to get the timing down in order to succeed. Others may relish the challenge. With the inclusion of in-game leader boards and trophies for beating target times it’s easy to see how a completionist could get their teeth into TACTICAL. As of yet, nobody has completed the game with every achievement, a testament to just how tricky this game is.
TACTICAL, What is my Purpose
Perhaps my only major gripe with TACTICAL is that the lack of a meaningful storyline. This is not to say games need a clear-cut story in order to be successful: The dark and mysterious Risk of Rain for example does very well with minimal storytelling and still manages to create an intriguing world. My issue with TACTICAL is that the player is teased with a slither of context in the first level where an unnamed narrator gives a short briefing. “Welcome to basic training Agent 337…” And that’s where it fizzles out. Without ruining the ending, I can say that the conclusion was a little underwhelming and didn’t meet my expectations considering how the game started. Ultimately the lack of coherent storytelling makes progress less exciting as finally beating that last level in the chapter has little meaning beyond making the game slightly harder.
All things considered I really enjoyed TACTICAL. The game looks good, plays well without bugs or glitches and is a rewarding experience for players looking for a challenge. It’s possible from story clues that developers at Gameface Games have plans for a second installment so if you like it, there could be more TACTICAL action on the horizon.
- Crisp art style
- Good replayability
- Mechanically and tactically challenging
- Close to being too difficult
- A little too expensive for only 40 levels
- Story elements lacking
Stick it TACTICAL on your wishlist and grab it on sale, if you can handle it…