Take command of XCOM headquarters, recruit and train your soldiers, and research alien technology to advance the capabilities of your squad. The battle against the enemy will be tough, and success will depend on your ability to keep your recruits alive and evolve them from rookies to more skilled and powerful soldiers.... Read More »
Genres: Turn-based tactics, strategy, role-playing
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: 12/10/12
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review
XCOM was a grand old game of strategy and sci-fi – this new one has 3D and everything! Look at all this advanced technology… I’m playing it on an ‘X-box’? Things certainly get crazy in the future; this thing doesn’t even have a mouse.
Speaking of the future, you are the commander of a military group called XCOM against an ‘enemy unknown’, except the enemy is known – it’s aliens. There are lots of clichés being thrown around that you’ve probably heard a million times before. “It’s not of this Earth!” – it’s aliens, so you’re right there. “This metal is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen!” – aliens made it, so it probably will be. “AAAAARGH!” – makes sense ‘cause you got shot by an alien plasma rifle. The story is generic trappings for a sci-fi themed gun-fest – the gung-ho militarism of surly ladies shouting “Hoo-rah!” certainly waters down the end-of-all-things style narrative, but blasting little grey men with lasers makes up for it.
The chunky soldiers look like softer versions of the Gears of War guys – I eventually warmed up to the art style but in the often poorly-lit maps it can be difficult to tell one tiny-headed guy from the next. There is an almost ridiculous degree of character customisation though; unexpectedly you can customise the person inside the suit, as well as, to a degree, the suit itself (i.e. skin colour, hair, headshape, voice, race etc). The voice selection is a bit disappointing however, because they’re all American. Apart from that there is an array of preset armour colours; an in-box DLC code gives you access to even more colours and an extra style of armour. While I’m on the subject though, this is the right way to do day-1 DLC – there’s no need to remove features from your game to get people to buy it new but if you must, taking out cosmetic things is the best way. It isn’t something vital that the second-hand buyer will miss out on, but it’s interesting enough to consider getting it new for.
Connecting with your soldiers was always a big part of the game for me. Their deaths were hard to take and much save-reloading was done. It’s a little disappointing that in the midst of painting your soldier’s armour and hair fluorescent pink, there was only room for four gear slots on the guy. What happened to left hand, right hand, belt, head, body, backpack, pockets, nose etc to hang stuff on. I get to know my guys by customising them for what I need, with gear I have available, while watching those pretty stat numbers grow (before he catches a plasma bolt with his head). There are a couple of stats available, but they are in the background for those that want to see them. In the foreground is a rank system that gives interesting abilities and bonuses depending on class.
In the end I did get attached to the only two people who made it from start to finish: “Red”, a sniper who could one-shot huge aliens from across the map and “Moomin”, a support who had so many powers to heal and protect that he came on every mission to keep people alive for another turn. Speaking of the maps, there is a huge number and they’re all really well designed with different choke points and hiding places. If you do end up playing the same one twice you will only be glad, as this time things might go better because you know the best spots.
The addition of a rogue-like Ironman mode really ramps up the difficulty – it means that you have to live with every single decisions and death whether you like it or not. It really tightens up the flow of the game because you can’t save and go back if you mess up. One save… and one chance to get it right!
The experience is simplified from the XCOM you may already know. There are still plenty of research and building options so you will spend a while wondering what new toys to get with your limited funds. On the other hand, the Geoscape map view that used to be the main view of the game has taken a back seat for the “Ant Farm” perspective of your base. This means that the time management part of dispatching troops and interceptors from bases has been removed entirely for multiple choice encounters. You can only choose one for a reward and a reduction of the panic rating in that area (if you succeed that is). In the control area I was very satisfied with the way tactical controls were with the joypad – it’s very easy to use and feels that they specifically catered to the console. I just hope the PC guys are as happy.
I’m not quite sure why they added a physics system, but when you shotgun an alien in the face and he spirals into the wall behind him it is quite satisfying. This death ballet can be accompanied by a kill camera, which is fun at first but eventually I had to turn it off because it always had the same angle and slowed down the action.
Ultimately the game lacks the depth of the original or any of the modern imitators, but that’s OK. The whole experience is really well constructed and easy to play for people who aren’t super into the management side of it. Despite trying to poke holes in it my main complaints are technical and depth-based. Another area of concern is that the replayability is seriously reduced because of a lacklustre story and stunted strategy possibilities. Other than that it is its own beast and good fun.
(Psst! If all you want is an updated version of XCOM then try out Xenonauts!)
- Ironman mode really makes you work for victory.
- Ridiculous degree of character customisation.
- Lots of cool toys to kit out soldiers with.
- The soldier’s sayings can get repetitive
- Story is mediocre at best
- Less depth than the original
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an above average game, and I had a really good time playing through the whole thing. I’m just not sure if it will last as well as the original, but it certainly captures the most important aspects in a refined core experience. It’s less than thrilling storyline and lack of depth (compared to the original) unfortunately drag the score down slightly.
Re-hashing a cult classic is something of an oddity these days. Sure, games like Tomb Raider are being given a rather necessary re-boot but these are not historic franchises that have been laying dormant for over a decade. The art of creating something fresh and unique whilst simultaneously appeasing an older-aged fan base set in their ways is a challenging task, which can potentially murder a studio’s creditably… *cough*Duke Nukem*cough*.
When the first screens of 2K’s first-person adaptation of XCOM showed up on the interwebs it was met with a collective gasp and sigh from some of the franchises’ core fanbase. It was understandable, due to the lack of traditional enemies, core gameplay and removed setting. While I was more than willing to give the game a fair crack of the whip some mastermind, locked away somewhere in 2K towers, thought of the genius idea of appeasing the older fans by letting their mates Firaxis create an up to date downloadable re-imaging, based on the original games.
For those of you who have never played the first iteration of XCOM, the premise for this isometricly viewed turn-based strategy game revolves around an alien invasion of earth. You are placed in charge of the XCOM unit; the planet’s last line of defence who must defeat the enemy by managing resources, building up your base and researching advanced alien technologies. Each mission starts with your team of mercenaries being dropped into a combat area, shrouded by “fog of war”: a black out of the surrounding area akin to a Command and Conquer map. The player must then navigate the location, clearing the zone of enemies or completing objectives. You and your enemies progress around the map, utilising two action points per turn; these allow a singular zonal movement and smaller weapon fire or one large movement, and this includes moving your character large distances or firing a heavy weapon. The game actively encourages the use of cover (most items have a health bar) and you can also climb buildings, giving you a better vantage point and tactical positioning.
Your headquarters essentially double as the hub of the in-game menu; from here you can customise your soldiers, apply research goals and select your next mission. You are also given a chance to help various countries across the globe by adhering to their requests and accepting missions. Ignore certain countries too much and their population will begin to panic and thus refuse to fund you – ultimately you must spread yourselves as evenly as possible to gain the most benefits.
One unfortunate nugget of information I managed to prise away from developers is that this version of the game will not have random base attacks on your many satellite bases; in fact it doesn’t even have multiple bases, just one. This may be sad news for fans of the series but after a bit of thought the older battles took place on a very Space Invader-esq battle screen. To appealingly pull this forward to today’s generation would be incredibly taxing, especially for a downloadable game.
Still, with greater technology comes improved functionality and Firaxis have exploited this by incorporating an online multiplayer mode. You are given a set amount of points to spend on weapons, powers and armour across your split team of alien and humans. This can equate to having a large team of close combat, weak skilled swam characters or two to three double hard bastards doled up to the nines with mind control abilities, sniper rifles and jet packs. Choosing a well balanced team is a must and strategy is the name of the game. The only problem I had with this great addition is timing; on each turn you are given 120 seconds to make all of your moves. This can be boring for the quick-fix console generation and it probably is just me being an impatient git but still, this could put some people off. Regardless, be it creating traps or out-flanking the enemy, Firaxis have shaped something which utilises a bucket of cunning and skill, whilst being entertaining and utterly addictive. The best way I can describe it is chess… chess with explosions.
I am genuinely excited about getting my grubby little mits on this game when it comes out later this year. I’m sure fans of old will be pleasantly surprised – hopefully other people who may normally be put off by the game’s style and genre will also want to give it a go.XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review,
Sit back and watch as Firaxis lead designer Jake Solomon walks you through some a gameplay demonstration of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This is the same presentation that was shown behind closed doors at E3 and PAX, now available online in its entirety for the first time. Facebook Comments comments Read More »
As the commander of XCOM, the lives of the world’s best operatives are in your hands. Soldiers will fall but it’s up to you to recruit, train, and advance their skills and capabilities to counter the alien attack and minimize your casualties of war. Facebook Comments comments Read More »
Go behind-the-scenes with the Firaxis team as they discuss XCOM: Enemy Unknown in the first of their developer diary series. Facebook Comments comments Read More »