XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Review
Follow Genre: Strategy
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC, PS3, 360

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Review

Site Score
8.3
Good: Will provide you with hours of strategy - action
Bad: A lot harder than you'd expect
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10.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

2K’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the old XCOM game with the same name. (In Europe the old version was known as UFO: Enemy Unknown) The game would be an attempt to give second wind to a genre that lost it’s edge over the last few years. XCOM is available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The big questions however are – were we waiting for a newly improved alien invasion or not? And are you up for the task of running the last line of defense?

1

Story:

The story of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is probably a wet dream scenario for all the sci-fi fans out there. Basically earth is being attacked by an visitors from outer space. The only defense line is the XCOM project which falls in your hands and you only have to answer directly to the ‘council’ which is pretty much a collection of the few major countries/continents of earth. During your story you will see different breeds of aliens and these you will have to study to try and adapt your fighting force to theirs.

During your playthrough of XCOM: Enemy Unknown you will get treated to short cinematic clips that show you ‘key moments’ of your story. When you start doing autopsies on different breeds of aliens, capture special devices and turning points etc. These are kept quite simple but add a little more to the gameplay than just keeping it a bare tactic game.

Overall the story is pretty basic with a little twist at the end. Then again an alien invasion, with yourself as the commander of the last defense of earth is still a pretty cool idea on itself

3

Graphics:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn’t the most beautiful game you’ve seen over the last few years but it certainly has its charms. Your soldiers will look very decent and these are even customisable when it comes to their overal appearance and name etc. This means if you want to run around with a bunch of badass soldiers with pink hair (like me) you won’t be dissapointed. The set of maps the game drops you in is quite ‘limited’. You will encounter that same car to take cover again more than once or the site where UFO’s crash as strangely identic and so on. Then again the environments themselves are done very nicely and are detailed that you will actually be able to imagine how it is to take cover in a hostile zone.

Your base and management screens are done nicely and very manageable which is a plus in this genre of games. Again it’s done quite simple yet very appealing.

During your playthrough you will notice a lack of polish however. It’s not an unfamiliar sight to see limbs or weapons sticking through walls or the occassional awkward camera angle when having a few of your soldiers on overwatch. And it might be fun when shooting an enemy close to the border of the map with something explosive – you’ll probably be treated to scene where the alien falls through the floor for about a minute.

Sound:

Having played the old XCOM games it was a pleasure to hear that some sfx didn’t change that much or not at all. Each of your enemies has it’s own soundset, all the weapons will sound authentic to what they represent and so on.

As mentioned above you are able to customise your soldiers in appearance but you are also able to change their voices. Each gender has 5 voices from which to choose from which won’t sound too different from each other but still it’s a nice gimmick if you want all your team members to sound differently.

The backgroundmusic will sound appealing and will get intense when needed and calm down when there’s a moment to relax. Don’t get that used to the relaxing part though, because you won’t be able to!

2

Gameplay:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown actually has 2 sides when it comes to gameplay. The part you will spend to most time in is the strategy part on how to direct your soldiers through the battlefield and getting them home alive after clearing the areas of it’s alien invaders. The second part is managing your base, researching, developing new items and making sure you don’t lose your funding from the council. This being said you will have main objectives you need to achieve during your playthrough to actually make progress storywise. Meaning something you will have to research or build specific items to discover new threats or create new ways to fight the invaders. You will be able to ignore these for quite some time if you’re just interested in building everything or just playing random missions.

The missions in XCOM are directed from up above. Meaning the game has it’s own top down perspective like nearly all strategy/tactical games. At the beginning of the game you will start out with a squad of 4 soldiers and you can unlock your way to up to 6 soldiers in total. The control of your soldiers works with a turnbased system in which each soldiers gets it’s share of movement points which can be used to move and attack. When moving your units you will see 2 colored areas appear on your playground. The blue one takes only one move point and you are able to perform the overwatch action or attack if an enemy is in sight. Overwatch simply means that if an enemy steps in range of the soldier on overwatch your soldier will fire at it, hoping he will actually hit it. The yellow zone will make sure you are able to run further but will immediatly end that units turn when doing so. So moving far might be good sometimes but can also get you in tricky situations is you appear in the line of sight of an enemy unit when doing so.

Your soldiers aren’t limited to simply walking and shooting they can perform other skills aswell or even have to reload after having fought for several turns. Other skills your soldiers earn depend on what class they get assigned to them when leveling up. (after getting kills or joining a lot of missions) Keep in mind the game decided randomly which class your soldier will end up in. These classes are: Heavy, Support, Sniper and Assault. Each of these speak for themselves. Each of the classes pretty much have 6 skill points to distribute which will mean you will sometimes have to make a choice on which skill or passive ability your grunts will receive. Later during your playthrough you are able to build a structure called the psi labs which can unlock psychic abilities for those soldier that have that special gift. Don’t be dissapointed if most of your soldiers end up being just simple soldiers.

XCOM sadly has a decent amount of bugs. Most are simple graphical ones but there is a major one during the actual gameplay. It’s quite dissapointing that when your attack screen mentions you have a 100% chance to hit your enemy and you miss 2 times in a row with your sniper that has the ability to attack twice in a row. The amusing part however in this scenario was that my sniper claimed the following: ‘This is bullshit’. Probably one of the first times a videogame expressed how I felt at that moment. This jolly moment was interrupted quite abruptly when my miss kept the enemy unit alive and he decided to pretty much tear me limb from limb. Having to restart a 40 minute mission because of flaws in the accuracy system sure makes your day. This will probably happen more than once during your playthrough.

Before getting to the management part of the game I would like to say that it’s best not to underestimate the difficulty of this game because this game is mean as hell and very unforgiving. When playing through the game on normal mode (on the difficulty that you choose – however everthing above classic difficulty will simply make you cry) you are able to save as much as you like and this might help you to keep your soldiers alive by saving after every succesful action or reloading after each failed one. For those that are very strict to themselves can choose to play the iron man mode. In this mode will save for you, even after losing precious soldiers on the battlefield. Pretty much how things would go in real life. As I said the game is quite unforgiving if you think it will be a simple stroll through the park.

Managing your base, research, items and so on is done a quite simple and straight forward way. Each section will be clearly seperated and sometimes the game will even mention on where you have to go if it’s important. Then again do not underestimate the management part of the game because you will have to make plenty of choices in which you want to invest your hard earned materials. Most of the projects will cost materials you find from crash sites and these won’t be found in that big of amounts. Choose wisely if you want to keep progressing. Your money income is determined on how many satellites you have in orbit. Countries will pay you when you launch satellites above their countries because you will be able to detect and prevent more alien activity. Sometimes an extra few credits come rolling in when the council offers you some extra missions.

Your campaign mode revolves around completing missions but also keeping the panic levels low of all the continents. If panic levels get too high they might leave the council that funds you and when 8 of those members leave it’s game over. This means that it’s best when confronted with several choices you tend to pick different continents from time to time to keep their panic levels low(er). Keeping panic levels low will prove to be a lot harder than you’d expect.

Conclusion:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of those tactical gems we’ve been waiting for. The game still has it’s fair amount of bugs but with some polish this might be one of those games that got an old franchise going again. As mentioned during the review do not underestimate the game and it might just be that challenge you were looking for because let’s face it – most games nowadays tend to offer a lot less difficulty to play through than they used to.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

  1. […] XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a remake of the nineties game with the same name, had a decent moment of glory and is now trying to (once again) expand its franchise. Feel like taking a stroll down memory lane? Especially when it’s filled with conspiracies and a stereotypical sixties environment? The Bureau – XCOM Declassified might satisfy those needs a little. […]

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