Developer Firaxis Games
Publisher 2K Games
Platform PC, Xbox, PS3
Release Date Out Now
I have been watching this game for a long time ever since it was first announced, the XCOM series holds a special place in my gaming history. It was one of the first PC games that I got lost in, many I played for hours but with XCOM I was infatuated. Everything was brilliant the squads the researching and even though I’m not a huge fan of turn based games I was still glued to every game they brought out.
So I was a little nervous starting XCOM Enemy Unknown we seem to be stuck with a lot of remakes at the moment and not all of them are very good but thankfully XCOM still retains that magic while also appearing contemporary. Even the CGI cut scenes have a retro feel while still looking pretty to a modern gamer.
For those new to the series it is set in the not so distant future XCOM is a multinational private military organization. The Earth has started to see some extra-terrestrial visitors so the world’s leaders come together to form the Council of Nations. The council uses its vast resources to start XCOM a highly sophisticated operation that is backed by the world’s best scientists, engineers and soldiers all with one mission to protect the world from the alien invasion.
In terms of gameplay you take the role as director of XCOM between missions your job is to make use of the brilliant scientists and engineers to research and manufacture new technologies and weapons. This micro management is handled quite well, you earn money from doing missions and from having countries fund you through the council. You incur costs for building, for maintenance and repairs, weapons, new research and further training etc. It is nicely balanced to never be too overbearing or complicated yet never simplistic.
You also have to manage the panic levels in each of the member countries. Carrying out missions or stopping alien attacks reduces panic, ignoring their cries for help increases panic. If panic levels get too high they will leave the Council of Nations and you lose funding. Very often missions will give you three options so you need to balance panic levels with your own skill level. Sometimes a mission may be too difficult and you have to go for the easier option. This is all part of the fun.
You have an option to use the drop down menu system on the top of the screen or the elevation view of your underground base to physically click on each department. You will need extra satellites to help track alien activity, extra jets to intercept UFO’s, a foundry to build weapons etc. Each section takes time and money to research, build and maintain.
On the ground (which is the majority of the gameplay) it is instantly recognizable with its classic 3D isometric view and buildings that are open plan. You can scroll up a level with the mouse wheel should any building have more than one floor and that floor will be displayed.
When you start you have two moves for each soldier, the distances are mapped out in zones rather than squares or time limits. Moving within the blue zone costs one move moving again to the orange zone uses both your moves. Shooting also uses a move so keep this in mind when you are moving it is best to move to cover within the blue zone with your first move and then save a turn for a shot if an enemy appears rather than try to cover too much ground and ending up exposed. There are a number of boosts you can apply to your moves such as Run and Gun which gives you the chance to still take a shot after your final move, Overwatch which is have your soldiers return fire once movement is detected even during the aliens turn.
Gameplay is quite unforgiving and the enemy AI is very tough, as it is so hard to get a squad leveled up without getting them killed you really do start to become protective of them after a few missions. If you have been through 8 missions with one member you don’t want to see them get killed and you have to recruit a new grunt to take over and work on building them up all over again. This al adds to the tension while under taking missions.
Researching new armor and weapons is crucial for keeping them alive as you advance in levels you start to encounter more deadly aliens and you need to pull resources found from crash sites and use the alien technology to craft new more powerful means of attack.
This is what gives the game its replay-ability, despite quickly loosing hours in the game you will still find yourself restarting for a second or even third play-through just to try taking the game in new directions.
Overall: Firaxis have done a great job or re-imagining the game. It captures so much of what made the series so great back in the 90’s and while it looks bang up to date it capture that retro gameplay that fans of the original will grasp onto. They have stripped out a number of features such as the inventory and a few other small omissions but they have also made huge advances in the game, this is very much classic gaming at its best.
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