XCOM: Enemy Unknown review
The inhabitants of earth are about to fight off an alien invasion, and you just happen to lead a division of skilled professionals, ready to kick E.T’s scrawny little ass.
Back in 1994 I had a blast playing through UFO: Enemy Unknown and a year later the sequel X-COM: Terror from the Deep. Those two titles established themselves as some of the finest examples of a tactical turn-based strategy game. Since then, a plethora of additional sequels saw the light of day, but in my opinion, none of them could capture the same great atmosphere.
Fans of the original X-COM games have for many years begged for a new title. But when 2K Games at E3 in 2010 revealed an updated reboot of the series, many fans of the original collectively shook their heads. What rolled over the screens was a first person shooter, set in the X-COM universe, instead of a much needed tactical game, true to the series. Luckily Firaxis came to the rescue and convinced 2K Games back in 2008 (via this concept video), that they should be allowed to do their take on a reboot of the series. The Civilization V developer got the job, as one should know by know. If you ask me, they did a hell of a great job.
Some big shoes to fill
XCOM: Enemy Unknown takes place in a near future, where an alien invasion threatens the inhabitants of earth. You have to create a task force, capable of fighting back and eliminating the extraterrestrial threat. You command a base with a multinational team of military units, scientists and engineers. You have to research and develop more advanced weapons and armor, learned through salvaged alien technology, for your crew to get better gear.
You can choose to start out with the tutorial missions and while they do feel like the game holds your hand a bit too much in the beginning, this game isn’t really the run-of-the-mill shooter or your standard action adventure. XCOM: Enemy Unknown implements a set of new gameplay elements, which hasn’t been seen since the original X-Com-series 18 years ago and so it’s a necessity for you to be introduced to all the new things gradually in a slow learning curve. Experienced gamers can however choose to ignore the tutorial introduction, and instead start out in classic mode or on impossible difficulty, if you’re confident enough in your own abilities.
Embarking on a dangerous adventure
Anyone having played any of the two first X-Com titles will acknowledge that those two were incredibly merciless. Luck was a factor as to not have your whole team wiped on certain missions and that could be very frustrating. The reboot does a good job of not throwing you into too crazy scenarios right at the beginning. The mission descriptions also let you know, just how dangerous they are and in abduction missions, you have a choice of a few different missions, often with different difficulty settings.
You also get a sense of real progression, with your military personnel evolving into real bad ass soldiers through their experience and subsequent promotions. While the developer wants you to see your personnel as disposable, I’ve had a difficult time accepting the loss of a high ranking officer. You need to keep a good balance of rookies and experienced soldiers in your squad. That way some of your low-ranking soldiers get a chance to level up, while resting some of your high-ranking personnel. That way you don’t risk losing all your best qualified soldiers, and you’ll at least have a couple of high-ranking crew members well rested, if a situation occurs that you need to take care of.
Sure, the game has a couple of bugs and the camera angles are sometimes downright horrible. Especially when you move your team through a multi-level UFO. But all that can be forgiven, to some degree. Because the game is such a refreshing take on the strategy genre, I can easily forgive some of its shortcomings. However, I do hope Firaxis will churn out a decent bugfixing update soon.
Fans of the original XCOM games will perhaps find the reboot too simplistic. But I like that the developer have eliminated some of the micro management elements, focusing on some of the more enjoyable aspects of the game.
If you’ve watched some gameplay from XCOM: Enemy Unknown (if you haven’t, go ahead and do a search right now), and the footage intrigues you, by all means, go out and buy it immediately. It really is enjoyable, but if you don’t find anything interesting in what you see, you should probably give it a pass.
Miss; The camera is really jumpy at times and sometimes you’re not even able to move to the position you want, because there’s a wall in the way.
Need; A bugfixing update. Urgently. Underwater missions would be nice, and base defense as well. I just need more hours in a day, so I can dedicate more time to play it.