Review by Saberwolfe579
"More fun than flying a UFO and 59% less deadly!"
The sound of boots rushing across the ground, shots being fired into the air, and the agonized scream of a soldier being hailed upon with plasma fire are just your average day in the world of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a turn based strategy reboot of UFO: Enemy Unknown.
It mostly goes without saying the story is one we've all heard before in movies, comics, and T.V. shows. Weird occurrences are happening around the world, strange sightings, people going missing etc. A team is dispatched to the field of one of the instances of a recon team going missing in an urban area. As they locate the survivor of the recon team all but one member of your team is vaporized by aliens thus proving their existence on Earth and being granted full support and funding by The Council which is the nations of Earth being represented by a single faceless man. The objective of Project XCOM is clear. Fight back the aliens and save humanity from being exterminated.
While the graphics for XCOM aren't on par with games like Crysis or Skyrim they're still rather nice. It's a more classic and older style not really seen in many modern day games and while somewhat odd at first they grow on you. XCOM only gets a 9 however because while the graphics are nice they don't always render properly or do so a bit slow which for this genre of game on a modern console shouldn't be an issue.
This game has a relatively good music score during missions that give an air of tension, not knowing if this turns going to be the one your best soldier gets blasted to oblivion by that squad of Sectoids you overlooked minutes ago or if all your trips will win the day in a glorious display of teamwork. All the weapons have their own distinct firing sounds, as do each species of aliens from the weak gurgles and shrieks of a Sectoid to the dreadful sound of a Sectopods mechanized legs stomping into the Earth. All these sounds are portrayed great but the games sound department suffers from the soldiers themselves. By the end of your first playthrough you'll probably be sick of hearing Yes, Commander and Overwatch ay ay as there really isn't much variety in the soldier's speech or accents which oddly enough are all American despite having several different voice choices.
Ah the gameplay, this is where XCOM truly shines. As I said at the start of my review XCOM is a turn based strategy game but it's broken up into two parts. The first part being the base management screen, uniquely viewed like an ant farm of sorts. The second portion is the actual missions and combat where you'll be fending off the invaders. The base management is very easy to learn but takes a bit of planning to really be effective. You have your basic facilities like the satellite uplinks, used for launching satellites to monitor countries for alien activity, barracks, power generators and laboratories. All your facilities are underground and are displayed in a 4 block length grid like system where you excavate an area for a small fee to build better and more necessary areas of your base such as a containment cell for those pesky aliens you manage to capture alive. All the facilities you build aside from the story required ones grant an adjacency bonus for example putting two power generators side by side gives you a bonus to your electricity output which means more power for more facilities.
While in base management you can also perform autopsies and interrogations on aliens you've killed and captured as well as research new armor, weapons, and equipment and then have it produced and ready to use in a matter of a few in-game days. The base management screen also acts as your hub for missions. When you're done doing everything you'd like you can scan for alien activity until something comes up like an alien scout ship which you can deploy your interceptors to shoot down and then deploy your chosen team to assault.
The combat portion is where all your efforts and research come into play. When your Skyranger ship lands your troops run out into a random tile set (or map) for the mission to begin. There's numerous tile sets so it's very rare you'll run into the same one multiple times in one playthrough. Based on what mission you chose you could be saving civilians before the aliens kill them all, disarming a bomb, escorting a VIP back to the Skyranger, or hunting down all the aliens on the map. The game moves in turns with your squad of 4-6 soldiers moving first on a tile based movement system. Each soldier can move a certain number of tiles and may perform two actions per turn so long as the first action is not firing. You move your troops to parts of the map like buildings, vehicles, partial walls and such for cover which how good of cover it is for them is conveniently displayed as either a full or half shield before you move there but all cover with the exception of destroyed vehicles and some structures are destroyable so no cover is truly permanent.
If you were lucky (or in most cases unfortunate) enough to locate an alien they awaken and get to move to cover before your soldiers move is over as they do not truly move when they haven't been discovered. Once all your troops have moved the aliens turn comes and they move to cover or fire at you and if given the opportunity, will flank you for big damage on your soldiers. Getting flanked or flanking gives the attacker a increased chance to hit as well as a higher critical hit chance. All your shots are measured in a percentage conveniently before you fire so you'll know if it's a shot that's worth taking a chance with or if it would be better to just reposition your troops for a better chance. The aliens will almost always outnumber you and your troops only have one life. If they die in mission they're gone for good so losing a high rank soldier you've spent a lot of time leveling up to teach new class based abilities to in late game can be detrimental if you haven't got a replacement ready for him. But this unforgiving difficulty and you only live once style is what makes XCOM so tense and addictive. You're going to lose soldiers at some point and being able to overcome the loss of a veteran soldier and still win the day is hugely rewarding.
There are a few bugs here and there but the only bug that would make a mission undoable has been patched and the few left while unfortunate and can happen to you mid-mission, such as enemies suddenly spawning on you, can be overcome and are very rare to begin with.
XCOM also comes with a multiplayer which works mostly the same as the combat portions of the single player but its player's choice of a handful of maps and the team you bring isn't fully customizable like in single player. The multiplayer is pretty bare bones but it gives you the chance to actually play as any of the alien species you will encounter during the main game or go toe to toe with a team of XCOM soldiers or even play as team with both soldiers and aliens!
A typical game of XCOM can easily eat up over 20 hours of your life before you know it and with 5 different starting nations and 4 different difficulties plus an Ironman mode that saves every action you make so you have to live with every mistake you make this is a game you'll be playing months after you send the aliens packing.
Final Score (9/10)
Rent or Buy?
Buy it. Get a friend a copy. Get your dog and goldfish a copy. XCOM: Enemy Unknown gives you plenty of game for your buck and then some! Now if you'll excuse me, there's a scout ship eyeing my satellite network that needs a thorough thrashing.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/14/13
Game Release: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (US, 10/09/12)
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