When XCOM Enemy Unknown came out in 2012, a huge chunk of my friends in gaming community fell in love with the game, my twitter feed would always be talking about how well their squads were doing and mourning the loss of important team mates. Here we are just into 2014 and I finally get round to playing the game. XCOM Enemy Unknown ‘Commander Edition’ includes the expansion, the original game, and all its downloadable content, which means added maps, customization options, enemy types, and missions.
For those that have never played an XCOM game it’s basically two games in one. First, you need to manage XCOM’s research & development, engineering, and barracks in order to stave off an alien invasion and the other side to the game is turn based strategy from the front line. New players will find that the amount of options that are available to you can be quite daunting but the game does a great job of holding your hand at the beginning of the game to get you into the swing of things, whereas veteran’s will settle in quickly, but will still need to take time to learn about the new features that have brought to the table by the developers, Firaxis. Digi has already penned an awesome review for Enemy Unknown so it’s worth checking that out, as it will compliment this review nicely.
Managing XCOM from a strategic point of you is much more enjoyable than I expected it to be, from controlling what you want to research to improve your chances against the enemy, building new facilities down to customizing your squads and their loadouts. In the situation room you’ll need to make sure that the various countries that are part of the program aren’t completely panicked or they will pull out ending your game. To make things more difficult there is a brand new enemy, known as EXALT, you’ll face them on the front line but they will also cause problems within XCOM, by hacking your mainframe and raising hell across the world in the form of enhanced panic. There is always something going on so there is never a dull moment.
I was really impressed with the amount of customisation options for your squad, want to name your squad after the Spice Girls? Go ahead, I didn’t (I did). You can edit their appearance, nationality as well their accent, style and colour of their amour. High performing soldiers can be awarded medals, which will give them a boost in performance which you can decide as medals are unlocked. To earn medals they need to perform well for me and to do that they would have to take one some fierce new enemies.
The new alien enemies are a force to be reckoned with, my favourite being the seekers. They are able to cloak themselves and fly around the map, before appearing right behind members of your squad and strangling them. You’ll have to work quick to save your team when you take them on. There are also alien mechs to take on, yet another powerful enemy. It’s a hard enough game without these guys making your life hell but at the same time the challenge is a nice change.
Missions range from saving hostages, inspecting alien abductions sites to defusing bombs. I really enjoyed the bomb defusal missions, after each turn the bombs would be one step closer to being armed but you could intercept power sources to give you more time, you had to plan well if you were going to get to the bomb in time and there were plenty of enemies in the way just to make things more of a challenge. The missions range in difficulty but the higher the difficulty the better the rewards. As well as cash that can be used at the HQ you may receive a high ranking squad member or a team of scientists so it’s worth challenging yourself every now and then. I love the fear of losing an important team member in battle, I was so sad when I lost Posh Spice but losing Sporty was the real blow.
When the going does get tough you can always rely on science to help you out. Early on in the game you discover a substance called “Meld” which gives you the ability to upgrade your soldiers in two ways; If you construct a Genetics Lab you can physically enhance your operatives’ abilities including augmentations to the chest, brain, eyes, skin, and legs. Building a Cybernetics Lab will enable the construction of the new Mechanized Exoskeletal Cybersuit, or MEC. The new MEC Trooper class has specialized abilities and each suit can be upgraded with new weapons including the flamethrower and grenade launcher. You can obtain Meld on most levels but they need to be collected within a certain number of turns before they become useless.
If you fancy take on your friends in matches you can through the multiplayer section of the game, you can play ranked or quick matches across 13 different maps. You can customise games too, changing the amount of time for a turn or what they point limit should be. It’s a shame that I couldn’t get Into games against anyone as I imagine it would be quite good fun to play against other people.
Despite the quiet multiplayer side to XCOM Enemy Within it’s been a real treat to play, I’ve not played strategy games for a long time but I loved the fact that here is no hand holding (unless you ask it to) and it always keeps you on your toes. The levels of customisation sometimes feels like a game on its own, the new upgrades compliments the game really well. New players will have a great time playing this game and discovering what it’s all about and veterans will be pleased with the updated to an already good game. It also a bargain too for the amount of content you are getting.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Format: Xbox 360/PS3 Release Date: 15/11/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of XCOM enemy Within for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 8 days on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.