Review by peter_888

"Xcom: Enemy Unknown Review- a perspective from a newcomer"

When I bought Xcom: enemy unknown on steam, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have personally never really heard of the xcom series before (what with me being mostly a console gamer for most of my gaming life) and really only got interested in this game because someone mentioned it at the valkyria chronicles gamefaqs board. But I decided to preorder this game since I heard it was a reimagining of the first xcom game so that would mean I wouldn't need to play the other games in the series. That and the footage I saw made the game look pretty fun. Now having done a playthrough of Xcom: enemy unknown. I have to say I'm pretty impressed with it and would like to give my overall opinion of the game. Xcom: Enemy unknown is a turn based strategy game that was developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K games. It is available on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Note that I will be reviewing the PC version of the game.

Presentation

Graphically, Xcom: Enemy unknown looks good. The character model, different type of armor you can develop further into the game, different weapons, etc. each looks pretty unique from each other and have a pretty cool design to them. And there is also a good amount of customization to your character appearance which is a plus. The enemy units also got great design from the nostalgic martian look that the sectoid has to the intimidating Muton. All and all, the game has a pretty cool art style and the graphics themselves look nice. Not the best I've seen, but still nice.

Environments are another thing. It's not that they look bad. The maps you traverse to look pretty good by themselves. It's that there is not as much variety in the environments that I expected from Xcom: enemy unknown. The game overall scope takes place all over the world but the maps that you are fighting in will mostly look like American cities. There are some variety with forest environments when you do UFO missions but for the cities, it's mostly american cities. While this isn't a problem when the aliens invade North Amercia, it's a bit of a problem when they invade other nations and the map you go to look like an American city. It just feels odd that you are taking a mission in Asia and you go to what looks like an American city. Especially for me personally since I have travel to Europe and Asia.

Now I get the overall story of Xcom: Enemy unknown which is…… ok. The overall story of Xcom: Enemy unknown starts in the near future where aliens suddenly attack the earth. As a response to the alien invasion, a council was formed was formed which consist of various nations , such as US, Canada, China, Russia, etc., and created the Xcom Initiative which is a program to design to defend against the alien. In the Xcom program lies a collaborative of soldiers, scientists, and engineer whose goal is to defeat the aliens and save earth. You play as the “commander” who is basically the head honcho of the initiative and your decisions will determine earth's fate. Overall, I found the story to just be ok. It's just really your typical aliens invade earth and you have to defeat the aliens. The story does get somewhat interesting at the end when you figure out why they are invading but that's really only at the last mission. So overall, the story is simply ok. It's not too interesting but is not really all that bad. It's just really there to give you an objective of the game.

The characters are also not that interesting. I mean you'll connect with the soldiers you command (well the veterans at least) but that's mostly because you're playing as them. The other characters, like Shen and Vahlen, they're simply there just to explain stuff and to move the plot forward. They really don't have much personality to speak of.

The voice acting is also pretty good for the most part. Soundtrack is decent, it fits the overall mood that xcom has but isn't all that memorable. Overall, Xcom: Enemy Unknown got pretty good presentation with the overall visuals but is a held back a bit by story.

Gameplay

Now the gameplay of xcom: enemy unknown really impressed me when I was playing through it. The main gameplay mechanics is basically split into the battle system itself and the base system.

I'll first explain the base system first. The base is basically where you are deciding where to spend the resources you get from missions and from the council in order to advance your equipment, hire more men, build facilities that will help you in the long run (such as getting satellite uplinks to be able to launch more satellites), etc. It'll also be the area where you decided what kind of missions you are going to take. Do note that resource management is very important since you don't have enough resources to get everything from the get go and as more time goes by, the more the aliens will attack which might mean trouble for you as panic level across various nations will rise. The base can be basically divided into research, engineering, barrack, hangar, situation room, and mission control.

Research is basically the area where you basically get the blueprints for all your equipment at the cost of alien's artifacts you get from missions and a set amount of days. Engineering is basically the area where you're able to use the blueprints you got from research and be able to create them by using the credit you get from both missions and the council. Though note that building stuff like ships and satellites will cost days as well as credit. And later on when you got have the foundry built, you'll be able to improve your equipment even further Also engineering is where you build various facilities that will be instrumental in completing the game. Building certain facilities next to each other will also give you various bonuses which will give you incentive to be smart with where you want to build your facilities. Barrack is basically where you are able to customize each solider so they meet with your particular playstyle with you managing their loadouts or even their outward appearances. There is also a good progression system for each individual soldiers as they learn new skills as they get more experience from fighting the aliens.The hangar is basically where you manage your ships so they are able to take down any alien UFOs that appear in countries where you put satellites in. Situation room is where you are able to monitor the panic level of the various nations that the council consist of. Note that if any country panic level reaches 5 at the end of the month, that country will withdraw from the xcom initiative and you will lose any benefit that country gave to you. You also be able to launch satellites in the situation room which will give various bonuses such as that country gives you a stipend at the start of every month or giving you a heads up of UFO sightings that will give you a chance to avoid abduction missions. (Which can spell trouble for you)

Mission control is basically the area where you wait till something happens. Whether that be someone in research finishing a project that will give us the ability to wield and create plasma guns, someone in engineering finish building the latest ship, or a mission to stop the aliens. And there is strategy in determining what mission's takes priority since each mission has different rewards and risks. Like for example, the abduction missions. These are missions where 3 countries ask for help against the aliens, but you really only able to rescue one. You'll have to think of which country can you risk for their panic level to rise and which one is worth the risk which adds a good amount of strategy. Overall, the base system is implemented pretty well. There is a nice feeling of progression with researching and building new equipment but also retains that feeling of urgency which will keep you engage when you are micromanaging your resources and time through the base system and choosing which country to help from the alien invasion. And there is a great feeling of accomplishment when you see the weapon and armor you are researching is paying off in battle and when you see that you're management of the nation panic level is going well.

Now I'll go to the battle system of Xcom: Enemy Unknown. The battle system revolves around a grid based turn based combat system where you control 4 soldiers(you can control 6 later on when you get the officer school) in battle and move them across the field to basically destroy all the aliens on the field. The turn system is basically phased based where you're able to move all your units on your turn and the enemy are able to move all their units on their turn. In battle, you be moving from cover to cover in order to avoid getting shot by aliens and at the same time trying to flank them so you be able to shoot them. Note the shield icon for cover since these indicates how much defense you get.(well the defense stat is basically a dodge indicator) A full shield icon will provide you with more defense while a half shield will provide you with lesser defense. And lesser shield cover normally means they can be blown up by plasma fire or explosives. Now pay attention to the color of the shield icon since if it's yellow, that means you're flanked and your enemy will be able to attack you which can result in your unit being killed since it really only takes one or two shot to kill your units. Also note that there is explodable terrain you can take advantage of and height differences to give you an edge in battle. So there is great emphasis on positioning in xcom enemy unknown in terms of trying to flank your opponent and getting cover so you don't get killed by the aliens.

Now I'll get to the action system that xcom enemy unknown uses for controlling individual units since it is kind of different. Basically, your units have basically 2 move units and an action unit they can do.(doing an action like attacking will end your unit turn) Also note that there are some weapons that can only be fired if you don't move like the rocket launcher or sniper rifle. They can also use skills but those skills are usually tied to movement and attacking (oh yeah, and also reloading basically cost one action). Overall the actions system that xcom: enemy unknown uses is pretty good as there is a good amount of strategy to how your unit actions which will determine if you be able to pull off victory or suffer defeat. Such as if you want to use the 2 action points on moving solely which will get you to see more of the terrain but might get you in trouble as you have no means to get to cover to defend against the aliens or using it to move and attack, or using all the action points to be able to use a special skill(like rocket launchers) but be unable to move till the next turn. Overall the battle system that Xcom: Enemy Unknown uses is great. There is a good amount of strategy with the action system and the great emphasis on positioning and the flow the battle is pretty quick as well. The controls are also pretty good with both mouse and keyboard and controller. (which is kind of surprising)

Next I get into the class system. There are basically 4 classes you can use in battle. The classes are assault, support, heavy, and sniper. The classes are what they appear to be with assault being your main attackers, support with healing, heavy dealing with explosive damage, and sniper dealing long range damage. Each of the classes got their own unique skills they can learn as each solider gain more experience in battle which will help them considerably. Such as learning lighting reflexes for the assault class will make them enemy overwatch ability miss them everytime or the sniper snapshot ability which enable to move and shoot their sniper rifle(which is usually not the case since you can't shoot the sniper rifle if you waste one movement cost). There are also unique enemy classes which will get you to figure out different strategies against them, such as the berserker class.

Overall, the gameplay is great but there are a few problems with it. Firstly is the camera. There are a few camera issues when you play through the game, most notably when you're in the alien UFO. Mostly because when you change to a different character, the camera resets itself to the ceiling. That can get annoying very fast. Another thing is panic in battle. Now, when your units get's damaged to a certain degree or see an ally die or in critical condition. They will automatically do random actions by themselves such as them going to new cover and hunker down. What annoys me is that they took it a bit too far and they give ally units the ability to damage their allies when they're in panic mode. This just made me go like “what the heck”.

Xcom: Enemy Unknown also has a multiplayer which I will explain. It's pretty basic as you choose what kind of units you put in party for the game in the preparation screen though there is a limit to what kind of units you can put in your squad due to the point system which gives you a bit of strategy with what kind of units to put such as if you want to put an uber powerful unit in but at the cost of having lesser units. After the preparation screen, the multiplayer is basically 1 on 1 deathmatches which plays like the single player battles. Lengthwise, it took me about 32 hours to complete the game on the classic difficulty.

Difficulty wise, there is various difficulty modes to accommodate people. But the game is probably the most difficult at the start and gets progressively easier as you get more advanced weapons/armor. Though there are certain enemy unit that can be particularly tough in the latter half of the game, like the Sectopod. All and all, Xcom: Enemy unknown got great gameplay with the grid based combat system and micromanaging with the base system but there are flaws to it like the camera.

Summary
Overall, Xcom: Enemy Unknown is a great game. The game got nice visuals and got great designs for the humans, aliens, various airships, armor, and weapons. The gameplay is great with both the micromanaging via the base system and the turn based combat system being very engaging and having a good amount of depth to it. The class system is great as there is incentive to using each of the classes in battle and the enemy classes give you a good amount of strategy. Overall it's a game that I really enjoyed because of the gameplay. But there are a couple of issues such as the lack of variety in the environments given by the premise of the game, the camera issues, etc.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/12

Game Release: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (US, 10/08/12)


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