XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review by Ryan “The Unevenflow”
“Ok, ok, I’ll write up the review after just one more mission.” Fast-forward to 20 minutes later: “Ok, I have to go to work now, but I’ll go as soon as the foundry is finished building. What ? Another mission ? Well, I may as well do it and then when I get back the foundry will be done.”
Welcome to the highly addictive world of Xcom: Enemy Unknown. I grew up with the original and how does the new game stack up ? Read on friends…
Graphics: The graphics while in missions are reasonably solid, with no particular strengths. There are some odd graphical glitches here or there, and occasionally the game will give you a nice look at a wall you weren’t too interested in but overall they work for the game. The missions also features brief cutscenes that I felt like did well to add to the drama. These snippets are only a few seconds, but briefly give a closer view to the turn based action.
Out side the missions the graphics are rather static in your base. This means you won’t see much in the way of animations or anything during the base building or research segments. It would have been nice to have had some more visual feedback here, such as seeing wounded soldiers and being able to watch research being done. While the originasl also had a static base, it feels like a missed opportunity to do something different with the players’ base here.
Sound: Not much to speak of overall. The music is serviceable, but really the only thing that shines are the sound effects for aliens offscreen. I liked being able to hear them somewhere off in the distance and it does a good job of heightening the tension. It all sort of adds to the whole “one wrong turn and your whole squad can die” feel of the game on higher difficulty.
The voice acting is… not good. Everyone speaks English and the accents are a bit wonky. I suppose if everyone speaks English its good that they can all talk to each other.
Control: The game works well on all three platforms. Controllers can move around the battlefield quite well overall and the fact the game is turn-based makes it work that much better. Aiming Grenades or other explosives can be a bit trying because of the way the view shifts, particularly with a mouse, but all that really meant was that I had to take my time a bit more when aiming them. As a sidenote, when aiming explosives in real life, it is good idea to take your time.
Gameplay: Hang on, I’ll type this up when I’m done one more turn…
If you are simply not a fan of any type of turn based game, this one will likely not change your mind. If you are a fan, you need to buy this right now.
The game takes things like flanking, suppression fire and other ideas into account. Sometimes in ways the original game did not. Your soldiers earn promotions which give them more abilities on the battlefield that can completely change how you use them as a group. Add to this the fact that your research while you are back at base can provide them with new armour, upgrades, and weapons and there is a good amount of depth to Xcom. I do miss certain things like the ability to free aim, but the only thing I really wanted to be in the game were the missions where the aliens would invade your base. I understand them not including it as you’re limited to one base in this game.
You can name your soldiers and alter their appearances, giving them a more personal feel. as they continue on you’ll get attached to some of them and even start creating your own stories about them. I do wish the appearance editor had more options, but it works well enough to let me create some of my favorite comic characters or real-life freinds and walk them into a horrible death.
And die they will – XCOM retains the original titles punishing difficulty at the higher levels. Not using cover correctly or moving someone where you should not have can mean the difference between success and failure on any given mission. The aliens begin the game with a major advantage in both numbers and technology as well.
Which brings me to the final point: the sense of progression in this game is brilliantly done. The earlier missions made me feel liek my soldiers where fumbling around in the dark, but by the later ones they were cutting down entire groups of aliens. The game builds everything in a way I found to be exceptionally satisfying.
Overall: I absolutely loved every moment of this game and have now played through it multiple times. If you’re a fan of strategy games you should be grabbing this as I type.
This is a contender for my own personal favourite game this year, but it is not for everyone.