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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

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Developer(s):  Firaxis Games
Publisher(s):    2K Games 
Platforms:         PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC
Release Date:  US – October 9th 2012, EU – October 12th 2012


You may feel right at home if you have ever played a previous X-COM game with Enemy Unknown as you are put in charge of the X-COM project – our last stand against complete annihilation.

Not only do you need to be in full control of your soldiers and air support, but you have to fully manage a base where you can train new troops, upgrade weapons, research a huge number of different things and simply track the panic levels of all the major countries in the world. If you do all of these jobs well you will recieve more support from other countries which includes funding, scientists and engineers, if you fail to help the countries in need they will withdraw from the X-COM project and with it all the funding and resources that country provides.

Just like always X-COM shows no remorse to players and you are thrown right into the thick of things from the off. This is probably the thing I enjoy about X-COM more than anything else, the challenge is so exciting and you have to constantly learn and adapt your tactics to different species of aliens and different map types. This is an unforgiving game and you can find yourself in a world of hurt if you rush and don’t pay attention to your surroundings.

The overall story behind X-COM is fairly simple but this doesn’t take away from how exhilarating this game is, there are some great cutscenes of completing certain research projects and progressing through the game. All you need to know is aliens are invading and we have to stop them and rest assured that X-COM: Enemy Unknown has a great ending and really makes everything you do worth while.

You have a couple of different options at the start of the game, you can choose your starting base which will give you a specific buff based on which continent your base is in. Now if you are a X-COM veteran you might want to try and tackle classic or impossible mode on Ironman mode, you wont be allowed to save the game so if you lose one of your best soldiers that is it, no going back and every move you make is final.

As you are dispatched around the world you will have a number of different missions to embark on, from the simple UFO crashes where you have to take out all hostiles, bomb disposal missions, hostage missions and escort missions. You will be constantly introduced to new aliens as you progress which can also help your overall research. All of the missions are really fun and inventive and even though you end up going back to some of the same maps, it is always a different challenge.

X-COM has really stuck to its roots in how its game is presented, there have obviously been a lot of visual upgrades in the last 18 years and it really shows. The maps are all so well detailed but they still have the spooky aura that they used to have, you still get that feeling when you aren’t sure if you should enter a specific building because there could be an oncoming ambush.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown has some great variety when it comes to the aliens you fight against. There is a steady increase in difficulty as you progress through the game and with this comes stronger aliens with more unique abilities. You have your aliens who have strong mental powers and some can even mind control other units. There are also the big boys who just charge in without a care in the world, with the variety that X-COM provides you never find yourself getting board killing these aliens over and over, or capturing them alive if that is your thing.

People might think that the world can be lost on the battlefield in X-COM, well if you think that just winning the battles on the ground will be enough then you are mistaken. The X-COM base plays one of the most fundamental parts of the game, not only do you manage your squad here in terms of what equipment they have, but you have to control your fighter planes, research labs, engineering labs, satellite up-links and so much more. The problem is if you fail to control one aspect of this game you could find yourself very quickly in a world of hurt. The base is fantastically designed, not only is it a pleasure to look at as you expand and grow but it is very easy to navigate and clearly shows all information that is needed.

Now X-COM does suffer slightly when it comes to the maps and squad sizes, I personally didn’t find them a problem at all but I know that the X-COM veterans may disagree. You are limited to a squad size of 6 people if you upgrade the right stuff opposed to the 20 or so men you could have in the original X-COM. I find it makes me more cautious and it makes my characters more real, it might quite have the epicness that 20 man squads may have brought but X-COM does so well in capturing your attention when it comes to your squad. There are a good variety of maps also, some are slightly smaller than other but each one is slightly unique in its own way, there are plenty of buildings to hide in and there is also places to find cover, just be careful it doesn’t get blown up. I really enjoyed how destructible these maps are and with the different game types you find yourself revisiting a map you have already played, but you end up with a totally different experience.

Single-player isn’t all X-COM has to offer as there’s an extensive multiplayer that allows people to go head to head in an all out war. The best part about the multiplayer is you can play as the aliens!

You can take control of the aliens that made your campaign such a nightmare at times and unleash their powers on your opponents. In a ranked match you will have a score limit of 10,000 to spend when building with your squad, you have no restrictions with your squad other than the points limit so you can pick and choose as you please. You could even take 3 ultimate soldiers into the battlefield if that’s what floats you boat. You can even mix aliens and humans to make some really cool squads, there is a set timer for each players turn which is very fair and adds to some very intense games when you can’t see what you enemy is doing.

X-COM does not come without its faults though, whilst providing a great experience overall you could find yourself encountering a bug or two. The problem came a few times with the PC version with just a random crash or a screen bug out, I didn’t have any problems with the game play it was purely a couple of crashes. I would have really liked to see bigger squads too, even if it was just 10 because it would give you so much more to worry about, I mean its hard enough keeping 6 alive but it would have just been a great addition.

In short you should go buy this game. Seriously, this is easily one of the best games I have played all year and as a X-COM player in the past I am so glad that they nailed this game, doing the series proud.  It is so challenging and you might find yourself enraged at times but the rewards for your efforts are simply brilliant.

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