Reviews for XCOM: Enemy Unknown (NA) -


Brilliant Tactical Combat, Decent Strategic Game

Brumbek | June 14, 2013 | See all Brumbek's reviews »

XCOM is a very playable tactical combat game that rises to greatness because of its attention to detail. It perfectly nails the 1950’s mysterious alien invasion vibe while still being taken seriously. Very strong voice acting for the several key NPCs along with stellar music and ambient sound effects create a nearly palpable mood, both during missions and back at base. Graphical details also contribute to the believability of it all, with expertly crafted combat zones ranging from sunny forests to urban jungles. Then there’s the ant farm style headquarters that lets you build deep into the ground and zoom in to observe the fine details of your labs, workshops, and other facilities. You can even see your specific soldiers resting, training, or healing in the barracks. Gameplay wise, there’s two separate parts: strategic global management and tactical combat. First, on the management side, you have to build your base, launch satellites, and prepare yourself for attacks. This is all done through menus although the game wisely spruces things up with cutscenes and the graphical ant farm base, which both greatly reduce that “spreadsheet game” feel other games suffer from. The actual strategic game almost entirely revolves around knowing what to prioritize (satellites!), and unfortunately the early game can be quite brutal for new players because most strategic decisions lack context. Another problem is there is a clear ideal prioritization for the first half of the game (engineers!), which is a big strategic failing since it means nearly every game plays out roughly the same way. The good news is the tactical combat is quite brilliant, providing simple commands but countless tactical approaches to every battle. Your squad has specific roles, which when used properly allow for some very incredible combat moments. Add in perma-death along with the great tense audio/visual mood, and you have a recipe for amazing things, both good and bad. They say combat is a drug, and XCOM is a lot like that, ensuring great highs and lows, and ensuring you come back for more. Apart from the stellar combat mechanics themselves, the fantastic over-the-shoulder camera that occurs occasionally when units move makes you feel part of the actual fight. Add to that the tremendously brilliant kill-cam showing your soldier take aim and fire and the alien explode with a loud cry and spurt of alien goo. It never gets old. Did I mention the aliens also get kill-cams when they are about to horribly murder one of your units? The story is mostly emergent, meaning you create your own stories as you play, but there is a central plot with a beginning, middle, and end. The game does a good job of slowly revealing more and more of the aliens’ plans, building mystery and tension. Sadly, the game ends abruptly with an anti-climatic last mission. XCOM has other downsides as well. Firstly, much of the game is randomized: what missions are offered, their rewards, what countries get attacked and when, combat zones, enemies, and so on. This is great for variety and replayability, but there’s no denying you can get quite unlucky especially in the early game. Part of the problem stems from the unbalanced prioritization spoken about above. Being offered 4 engineers as opposed to 4 scientists can make a massive difference in the early game. XCOM wants you to play it with minimal save scumming (constant saving and loading to ensure ideal outcomes). I do recommend you make a rule that you will only save at the start of each battle and only reload if things go terribly wrong as defined by you. Speaking of difficulty, it does seem like much of it tends to stem from arbitrary constraints, which can lead to frustration. Why do soldiers begin as incompetent rookies when XCOM is supposed to be an elite fighting force? Why can’t my units go prone? Why do aliens have a chance to hit me when I’m fully covered behind a concrete wall? Why can I only carry one item? Where are the airstrikes? The enemy discovery system is a bit illogical as well, forcing you to take turns even when no enemies have been spotted. This can lead to an unfortunate situation where your very last unit to move can stumble upon aliens, thereby giving the aliens an entire first turn to attack. This system results in much time spent on turn management rather than natural exploration. Even worse is the solution to the problem is obvious and easy to implement: make all movement free until enemies are discovered. Then there’s the questionable logic of player and enemy phases. More sophisticated games opt for individual turns based on unit speed, a la Final Fantasy Tactics. It makes little sense that all combatants have agreed to take turns like respectable chaps, a la old-school armies who lined up and took turns shooting. Lastly, it’s almost like XCOM wants the player to fail the first time they try to play. It is so rare that we see a game that even allows total failure requiring restarting the game or loading a very early save. Given XCOM’s unique status, an introductory video just taking 5 minutes to educate the player would have been wise. As it is, many gamers will try the game, fail miserably, and go away hating XCOM. Others will go online and read a new player’s guide, which is far from ideal. In conclusion, XCOM is an atmospheric alien invasion simulator with decent strategic elements and very addictive combat. It truly is a great game partly because of the attention to detail and partly because of its uniqueness. It does get dragged down by its unexplained and unbalanced strategic side, arbitrary difficulty, and turn-based quirks. Still, if you are willing to put up with the frustration, XCOM may turn you into a mastermind of massive alien murder.


Good Not for everyone

ray21 | June 11, 2013 | See all ray21's reviews »

This is a great Game it is not for everyone though. If your into RTS games this might be right up your ally. Not multiplayer though. Great Concept game mechanics are flawless but it is brutal you can get to a point were you cannot continue and must restart from the begining


Great strategy

eatsyourbrain | June 9, 2013 | See all eatsyourbrain's reviews »

Strategy game that requires some tactics and forethought. Rushing forward blindly can get you in big trouble in this game. You must consider cover, elevation, and having the right combination of squad members. Each battle will net experience for your team to level up, you have military based ranks and each rank unlocks a new ability. If you are looking for a good turn based strategy that rewards a tactical approach then this is a great choice.


A story machine.

Ruzinus | June 9, 2013 | See all Ruzinus's reviews »

The beauty of this game is that it generates stories which are unique to each player. The soldiers you command, the victories they pull off, their battlefield stories... those are all unique to you. And those moments when your awesome soldiers die... it hurts, but its kind of beautiful too. Because its not some pre-decided piece of plot, its not some scene that everyone that plays the game will witness. It's a bit of story that will only ever happen in YOUR file. Also its just nice to see a strategy game where the graphics seem to belong in this millenium.


Accessibility and depth all-in-one

Pr1mus | June 7, 2013 | See all Pr1mus's reviews »

Coming from one of the greats of turn based strategy games development, Firaxis, XCOM: Enemy Unknown offers a fantastic experience to newcomers and veterans alike. The game eases the process of building your base, developing new weaponry for your troops and directing them on the battlefield like few games in this genre does while providing an unforgiving challenge for more experienced players on the harder difficulties. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the perfect way to start your career in turn based strategy games and complex enough to keep you occupied long after you've mastered the basics.


Fun turn based Strategy

darko87 | June 6, 2013 | See all darko87's reviews »

There haven't been many TBS games the past decade that weren't exclusive to portable consoles, so it's nice to play one on the pc. It's also very nice to have a TBS game that isn't the generic fantasy theme. Base building and other rpg elements mean that you can't just think about your current mission but also have to consider future stages of the game as well. This brings another level of complexity to the game that I very much enjoyed.



Supraballs | May 27, 2013 | See all Supraballs's reviews »

It's hard to find new games that I would call games of the generation, but this one takes it for those of us still under 30. Firaxis is pretty amazing when it comes to turn-based games, and this one is no exception. If you know their formula, you will love this game. I love it and love the scope of the game, the atmosphere and the challenge it presents. If you want to really experience this game, play it at a normal or higher difficulty and really get ready to use your brain. Highly recommended and matter of fact, just buy it. It'll be worth it.


My best game of 2012

NightFox45 | May 24, 2013 | See all NightFox45's reviews »

As the first turn based strategy game I have played I was truly hooked. The game has a great story and your actions feel like they are the weight of the world. I have yet to lose a soldier and I fear that day may come. The Alien invasion must be stopped at all costs. Join the XCOM project. Sometimes you can get shot through walls by some enemies which is upsetting. Sometimes the percentage chance is a total lie / pre-rolled chance. Overall: AWESOME.


Terrific turn-based strategy that pulls no punches

Novaova | May 24, 2013 | See all Novaova's reviews »

XCom: Enemy Unknown pulls no punches. The AI is unrelenting and brutal. Any time you find yourself in a situation where you are praying the AI will not do a particular action because it will wreck you, the AI will absolutely do that. And then while you are reeling, the AI will continue to batter you with everything it has. This is brilliant. XCom: Enemy Unknown is for the strategy gamer who can handle pressure, can deal with losses, and wants to test their mettle when their back is against the wall. That said, the maps are a bit samey, and after a few playthroughs, one wishes for a bit more variety. You'll play the hell out of it for hours and hours and hours, but once you've reached the peak, there's not much to bring you back for more.


X-Com is pretty great

Fanaticmoron | May 14, 2013 | See all Fanaticmoron's reviews »

If you feel intimidated at all by this game don't worry. First off let me just say I have't had much experience with games of this genre and I have never played the venerated original X-Com game. However, the game did a great job easing me into the game and allowing me to learn my own tactics and squad compositions without holding my hand. That being said, the gentle learning curve of this game doesn't mean it isn't challenging; in fact it can be pretty unforgiving later in the game. There's a great sense of accomplishment beating challenging levels though and especially if you can save all your men or most of the civilians in an area.


Decent Game but Overrated

rslancer | May 13, 2013 | See all rslancer's reviews »

I'm new to the franchise so I'm not going to compare it to its predecessors but this game really isn't as great as other people make it out to be. Its a decent squad based turn based strategy game but it really is oversimplified like many other reviewers out there have mentioned. You have different classes of soldiers (healers, assaults, sniper) which is cool. I thought they implemented this pretty well. All of them serve a fairly unique role other than the heavy which I ended up pretty much never really fully utilizing because the game penalizes you for using heavy weaponry to kill which blows things up. The real problem is that the missions are all too similar. I think they are patching it up to introduce more varieties of missions because on my second play through I encountered a mission that I didn't my entire playthrough first time around. The problem still persists though in that the enemies are not very dynamic, the mission is nearly always you go out and find the enemies but they never come to get you. Another problem is like I said while there are a variety of missions most of it boils down to simply you exterminating aliens. I really think they could have implemented other kinds ( for example get from point A to B, recover artifact, defend this point, blow up this area). They could have done so much more if they really put in the effort which unfortunately they didn't. The graphics are great and the gameplay is pretty smooth though.


The true game of the year!

BazookaSamurai | May 10, 2013 | See all BazookaSamurai's reviews »

Challenging, rewarding, beautiful, addictive. These are a few words that come to mind when I look back at my playthroughs of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This game is truly a work of art, each play-though is unique and makes sure that everytime you boot up the game, something unexpected happens. The combat is fluid, thought provoking and brutal. This is a near perfect game that deserves to be on everyone's Hard Drives. Purchase XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Save the World, Save Yourself.


Get It Right Now

ronburgundy | May 5, 2013 | See all ronburgundy's reviews »

This game has extreme depth. It has a super strategic combat mode, with an amazing sim overlay to the entire game. Each choice will drastically influence your gameplay, which of course would lead to much replay value. Most missions are based on your choice, your army based on your choice, your experience is completely in your hands. This game deserves every penny you can pay for it and lives up to its years of hype. Do yourself a favor and get this game because it will provide you with hours of entertainment, and a great attachment to your characters. The critic reviews were bang on for the most part with this game, and it is deserves its' praise.


Quite swag

Moisturization | May 2, 2013 | See all Moisturization's reviews »

This game will have you having fun and whatnot. With terrific gameplay, blue graphics, and the love/hate relationship that this game gives you, it is super-duper YOLO. The easy to get into TBS gameplay makes the game fun and intense. The base building elements are also quite good, making you have to make decisions about what you should do with your money and resources; MY opinion is that you should spend your money on this game! Another part of the game that is good is that guy who wears the turtleneck, he is really cool, and the German lady too, the bald guy's 'aight.


Addicting Game.

HWatch06 | April 27, 2013 | See all HWatch06's reviews »

I love this game. I never played the other XCOM or anything but took a chance on this one. I was very pleased. The game is so much all in one. Combat is turned based and strategy is a must in this game. It is an amazing experience all around. The story is interesting but lacks a bit. The game really shines in its big picture setup. You are responsible for the world. That alone gets interesting throughout the game. Some decisions you make will be hard and make you have to sacrifice, but that's a little part of the entire experience of XCOM. The only issue I had was a few bugs that we're preventing me from completing certain objectives or having to restart the entire mission. I also wished there was more content. Once the game ended, I just wanted to continue playing more missions and challenging my skills. If they had added a challenge mode or something that would have made this an easy 9+. Overall the game is very good and you won't be disappointed. It is a must for strategy lovers of all kinds. I recommend this to anyone.


Stressful, Thrilling; This Strategy Newb is in Love

JetBlack49 | April 26, 2013 | See all JetBlack49's reviews »

I did play the original X-COM but I was never a strategy nut so didn't play it as much as I should have. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has proves to me how great the genre can be, even to a newb who struggles constantly. I've read a lot of threads about statistical issues, or cover system problems, or things that purists find frustrating, but for a person who really just enjoys the system Firaxis has created for this game, and watching the combat unfold, I think everything is close to perfect. From the point my drop ship leaves my party on the ground to the point of extraction, I'm enthralled. Every move causes my heart to pound wildly and I am passionate about the survival of my crew (although frequently I lose at least one per battle - I am not the highest quality of player). A friend convinced me to play Ironman mode (you cannot go back and reload a save) which adds to the thrill, although might be a slight too unforgiving for me. Losing a highly skilled combatant is hard on the crew, but it forces me to be cautious. I do find the base-building game a bit overwhelming and I'm probably sucking unnecessarily at that, and would love to have had some advisors similar to Civ 5 to help me make decisions, but overall I think I'm managing well enough. Definitely a game worth checking out if you haven't, whether you're new to the genre or a practiced veteran.


Very rewarding, challenging strategy game.

sittinghawk10 | April 23, 2013 | See all sittinghawk10's reviews »

This game might not be for everyone. If you like strategy games though, I highly recommend it. It punishes reckless play and rewards those that use terrain and cover well. It can be frustrating sometimes when you have a very high percentage to hit but still do. Despite some issues with probability, the game is amazing. From the makers of civ.


Great Strategy Game

Damuel | April 13, 2013 | See all Damuel's reviews »

Xcom Enemy Unknown is a fantastic addition to the series, it's added new elements and kept many of the fun ones from the originals. New players can join in and appreciate all the cool features and old fans can join in and appreciate a fresh addition to a good franchise. The gameplay is fun and turn based with challenging AI, interesting soldier class/customization, and some thought provoking multiplayer. It's really neat being able to grow attached to marines you have and play through the game with them improving them worrying about losing them forever making a tough decision. The graphics are pretty good. As a strategy game you can pretty much expect it to look a little dated up close, which it does. But top down it looks fine, and it's really cool getting a third person perspective when a npc/player is shooting from cover or sprinting to new cover. The animations are pretty solid and the UI looks sleek though a little tough to navigate. If you're a fan of turn based games, Xcom is a great game that can suck a good amount of hours of your time away.


Great Game for anyone who loves turn based strategy!

murgo23 | March 4, 2013 | See all murgo23's reviews »

This game is a remake of the original xcom enemy unknown. While a remake it isn't the exact same game with new graphics. What it is is a great strategy rpg where you control a squad of military units to take out the invading aliens. Overall great game with good progression in both difficulty and unlocking of units/abilities. Fans of the original series should love it, and people looking for a good strategy rpg should as well. While an rpg if your looking for a intricate interpersonal story this might not be the game for you. It does have a good storyline but it's fairly light and there is almost no character development. The strategy side of the game is where this game shines.


Mixed feelings, but mostly a good game

ChiefatWar | Feb. 25, 2013 | See all ChiefatWar's reviews »

The good: They've brought back the xcom series. A fresh look at the turn based combat genre, and I enjoyed it very much. IT definitely brought back memories of the old xcom games I installed via floppy disk lol. If you're a fan, consider this a must-have. The nostalgia alone is worth it plus the game itself is pretty enjoyable. The bad: Too short - the game was very, very short if you go straight through the research tree. If you stall, you can fight crashed ships endlessly, but that gets boring... leading me to my next point: Repetition. Seriously now, updating this series was a chance to lose the "play the same 4 maps no matter what country you're fighting in" thing. Don't get me wrong - i loved the old games, but bringing the series into a modern gamer's market - you HAVE to step it up a little. Also - no base defense, no kneeling, nearly every weapon "explodes into fragments" unless you stun the alien (which is ridiculously hard in the early part of the games, and salvaging weapons are completely unnecessary in the latter parts. The weapons tree is less useful than in the original games, and the list goes on and on with *small* things that could have, and should have been done better to expect this series to compete in the market (and all of these things would still let the game stay true to the spirit of the original ones) My biggest gripe: only 1 base/ 1 squad response. Come on - no more establishing bases around the planet for multiple ops, faster response, and more/better ways to up the variability of the game? No more multiple squads running multiple planes, to get multiple targets/ crash sites? There are also some bugs to be fixed, and i'm confident they will be (there was already 1 big update to address glitches) - small things like graphics errors, SHIV behavior after upgrades, and sound glitches.


Teamwork: The Bane of Alienkind

CrimsonWizard | Dec. 13, 2012 | See all CrimsonWizard's reviews »

I would like to start by stating I speak as a new fan to the X-Com series with no real knowledge of the earlier titles. Despite that however, I found myself absolutely loving Enemy Unknown. X-Com is a turn based strategy game where you're tasked with whipping a team of new recruits into a fierce fighting force against an alien invasion. You start out with relatively conventional equipment and soldiers, but by taking back the spoils of each victory, they'll all develop into one of the four classes the game offers. Heavies carry rocket launchers for explosive punches to the enemy line, Assault soldiers can run and gun with a shotgun for quick critical, Snipers have the longest range and are excellent on open maps and rooms, and Support has the most speed and can carry extra items to help your teammates. In order to make the most out of your troops however, you need to equip them properly. That's where research and engineering come into play. After every successful mission, you're sent back to base along with all the alien scrap and materials you scavenged from the enemy. Your science team can take a few days researching and understanding your foes, letting your engineering team concoct several new weapons, armor, and even aircraft to turn the alien technology against the invaders. Speaking of invasions, though your base only covers one continent, the invasion is worldwide, and you'll need to quickly construct aircraft and a satellite network to defend against occasional attacks from UFOs. Though some missions will have the aliens already on the ground, the game will spawn an UFO occasionally over the world as well. Failure to respond to these attacks will spread panic in the nations funding the X-Com project, and if enough pull out from fear, the plug will be pulled on your team. Victory does not come easy, the game expects you to use good strategy and good blend of classes in order to win missions. Using cover is a key to staying alive, because early on, even the weakest enemy can kill you in one hit with a uncovered critical hit. Your enemies will slowly change as well, swapping out weaker varieties for their stronger counterparts along with brand new units that will happily rip your well trained soldiers apart. Death is permanent, so don't be surprised if you find yourself restarting a mission or reloading a save just to save a key unit on your team. I feel I've barely scratched the surface of the title, but it is a definitely recommendation to everyone, especially fans of turn based strategy games. The look of the aliens and ships is interesting, the game randomly generates missions and threats to keep you on your toes, and it will quickly eat up your time as the simple mechanics at the beginning quickly grow complicated. X-Com sheer value in hours of fun gameplay will make this worth it to anyone willing to try, I guarantee it.


An immersive, addicting and exciting experience

Scorpy | Dec. 11, 2012 | See all Scorpy's reviews »

I'd never played any of the other XCOM games beforehand, and I'm not a huge fan of turn-based strategy games. XCOM manages, however, to appeal to just about anybody, whether you're a strategy fan, shooter fan or just like micro-managing things. The graphics are alright, the game possesses a unique style that makes it easy to take the game more lightly, albeit the UI and menus are gorgeous and the high-tech displays are very well produced. They look like something out of a movie. The gameplay is fantastic. You have the option to play with a keyboard & mouse or gamepad. I've played both and they both work seamlessly. I might even lean slightly towards the gamepad, because the game was produced with consoles in mind. The keyboard and mouse, however, are refined as ever. They did a great job at not alienating anybody. The music is ok at times, but there are other times that the music is outstanding, almost like a film score. XCOM has a lot of variety. You can micro-manage just about everything and it never seems overwhelming. One great addition was the customization and variety of squads. Unlike games such as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, where you micro-manage pre-determined characters, you can customize every soldier and asset you have, adding a great deal of personal attachment to the characters. It's hard to find anything XCOM: Enemy Unknown does wrong. If I had to nitpick, it would be the lackluster story and the occasional physics glitch. Those really don't matter, however, as the game thoroughly satisfies all criteria for a great game. Pick this up as soon as you can.


Challenging, Depressing, and I can't get enough

MikeK47 | Dec. 10, 2012 | See all MikeK47's reviews »

I will say right away I never played the original X-Com games, but does that matter? NO. I have loved this game ever since I first saw it. I played it the moment it came out and have had trouble stopping, even when the game wants me to. Yes this game can be difficult and is unforgiving. There are difficulty settings and Easy and Normal are a breeze. If you have heard Jake Solomon or any of the other devs talk about this then you have hears, "That;s what makes it rewarding and makes you care for your troops." And they are completely right. This game makes me feel horrible when I do something wrong and I love it for that. The game play is very fun and no two battles play out the same. There may be similarities but there is no one tactic that will always work. Aside from a couple visual bugs this game is flawless. If you want to play a fun strategy game then PLEASE GET THIS GAME.


Best game of the kind since X-COM: UFO Defense and JA2

frothdv | Dec. 8, 2012 | See all frothdv's reviews »

I'll make this short and sweet because others have detailed a lot of the features. If you like turn based tactical games like the original X-COM, or Jagged Alliance, this is a must buy. Is it perfect? No. Is it close? Yes. Biggest complaint would be that they are releasing DLC for the game. Thus far the DLC seems overpriced for the content. (But I have not bought it.)


A classic brought back

Bseefeldt37 | Dec. 8, 2012 | See all Bseefeldt37's reviews »

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a remake of UFO defense. They brought back the great turn based strategy combat system and fairly complex base management system, all with some great 1960 style visuals. The early enemies are of the small grey men with large black bug eyes variety. The controls are fine but you can run into some issues when ordering your soldiers from an elevated position. It can flicker between levels when trying to move them. The soldier customizability is great after you get the first DLC.


Excellent Turn Based Strategy Game!

ProgenitorX | Dec. 8, 2012 | See all ProgenitorX's reviews »

I usually jump from game to game, often without finishing them. With XCOM, though, it was a different story. I got sucked into the amazing gameplay. The missions are also very interesting, but can get a little stale later in the game as you repeat similar ones and become a powerhouse (I played on Normal difficulty. Classic or higher should be more challenging, keeping things more interesting.) The story starts off great but leaves something to be desired as it goes on. The settings, characters, and aliens are very well designed though. The character customization keeps things interesting and helps you become more attached to your soldiers. Losing a soldier that's been with you since the beginning hurts a lot. I would not think twice about getting this game. This is an excellent purchase!


Very good remake.

dark2025 | Oct. 17, 2012 | See all dark2025's reviews »

It's much of a simplification of the original game. It's by no means bad though. - No more ammo management and no more buying from the market or hiring/firing scientists and engineers (although you can still sell and manufacture stuff). - Soldiers are more valuable now due to the limited squad size and powerful ranking perks. - Battles also seem a little more tactical again due to the squad size, cover system, and limited moves (default soldiers have 2 moves per turn, and shooting uses all your moves). I guess the main differences are the smaller squad sizes and the removal of time units. To be honest though I kind of like the new combat system. I didn't use full ship-load of guys anyway in the original game, and I like how now individual soldiers matter so much more so each move should be carefully evaluated. The strategic elements have taken a hit though since there are fewer things you can spend your money on now and fewer things to manage back in base. I'm playing normal difficulty now and I don't like how the aliens get a free movement every time after you stumble onto a group of them. Sure they can't shoot when this happens, but they can still surround you, often leaving you with no way to defend yourself after you end your turn - so now instead of getting the surprise attack on the aliens, they're the ones who have you surrounded. I lost a battle on my very first turn because I discovered 2 groups of aliens (including 3 Chryssalids) who immediately flanked all my guys leaving me with no way to re-position my men. Now I'm super careful with every movement I make. I'm not sure how this is on the other difficulties. There are also some bugs right now, like how sometimes the game would get stuck on the alien turn, or camera glitches like the roof not being peeled back so moving around inside can get tricky when that happens. I'm enjoying it overall so far though, the action can be pretty intense and quite fun. Hopefully they patch some of the bugs soon though.


Out of This World

das_regal | Oct. 9, 2012 | See all das_regal's reviews »

I've played quite a few isometric tactical squad shooters in my day, but it's been at least 10 years since I touched the last one. In X-Com, I expected a call back to the games of old, complete with a dated feeling. To my surprise, the game doesn't feel dated at all. The way the camera shifts to show you your trajectory when you aim at an enemy feels perfectly modern. The graphics, the visuals, and the overall presentation are a perfect blend of nostalgia with today's technology. X-Com is a must have for anyone who wants to see a classical idea updated to keep pace with today's games.


A Classic Re-Imagined

Endyo | Oct. 9, 2012 | See all Endyo's reviews »

It’s been 18 years since the XCOM franchise first entered the gaming realm. An early project by the ever-awesome Sid Meier, it was a classic favorite of many people old enough to have actually played it. In the time since the original X-COM: UFO Defense or Enemy Unknown or whatever it was called in your particular region, there have been only a handful of sequels and even fewer that actually even maintained the gameplay style… let alone actually held up to the high quality and entertainment value. Finally, after so long, we’ve finally got something worth talking about. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical strategy game at its core. For most of the game you’ll be commanding a small squad of four to six people across various missions that mostly center around blasting aliens in the face or faces until they release their stranglehold on whatever particular area they chose to terrorize. This is done by maneuvering your (extremely fragile) soldiers from cover to cover and using their skills (or, if rookies, lack of skills) to dispatch of the alien oppressors. The system of line of sight, fog of war, and tactical cover makes for a very tense atmosphere where you’re inching your units toward an unknown (hah) enemy hoping to spot them without putting yourself in a position to be annihilated. The entire experience will leave you gnawing at your fingernails hoping that that Sectoid you just spotted doesn’t flank you and take out the soldier you’ve been honing to a killing machine over the past eight missions. One thing that XCOM: Enemy Unknown does particularly well is that it makes you care about each soldier individually to the point that you come to expect certain performance from them and use them accordingly. Each soldier starts as a fairly weak and forgettable rookie that has no particular skills outside of moving, shooting, and using items. If they survive, they may get the chance to level up and get randomly assigned a class – heavy, sniper, support, or assault. Heavies get light machine guns and rocket launchers and excel at sort of hanging back and laying down heavy suppressive and often deadly fire. Snipers, of course, shoot long range and do concentrated heavy damage. Support work to sort of maintain the rest of your units – healing them, reviving downed soldiers, and throwing smoke grenades for extra cover and bonuses. Assaults work as the highly maneuverable front-line forces. They’re most likely to stay alive getting in close to the enemy and using things like shotguns to do high damage when they get there. As you progress with these individuals, they begin to specialize in their respective classes allowing you to choose particular skills and abilities to make them more effective. In addition to fighting with and maintaining your little club of fragile fellows, you’ll also be running the entire XCOM base when you’re not out directing combat. Here you’ll be building various facilities and excavating deeper in the ground in order to not only equip your squad, but also to better maintain your observation of the world and all of the attacks that occur. You’ll be building laboratories to get scientists and research the tools and weapons you need, as well as the alien threat itself. Workshops will supply you with more engineers to help you build things you research and discover. You’ll need satellite uplink facilities to support satellites you place over countries in order to detect UFOs flying in that area. Power generators give you the energy you need to run all of these buildings. There are many more buildings, including those that are inherent in the game such as the barracks, that house your soldiers, and the hangar, where all of your flying machines live. The base building aspect of the game is a bit shallow, but extremely important so it is necessary that you pay close attention to what you’re doing lest you end up broke and missing out on something you need. The actual win/loss criterion for the game is that you must maintain support for XCOM from the various countries that support it and supply it with resources. If you lose eight countries, you’ll lose the game. Now you may think, “Oh that’s not bad, I will save everyone.” No, you won’t. Everyone is getting attacked and panicking all the time. One failed mission or ignoring the wrong plea for help at the wrong time can mean a lost country in an instant. You’ll want to make sure take careful stock of what resources you have and where they would serve best. Sometimes, it’s necessary to simply give up on a particular place simply because there’s nothing you can do. And that’s part of what makes XCOM so delightfully unforgiving. The game is nothing short of a challenge. Not a challenge that seems unfair or a challenge that is so overwhelming you question the reason you play it at all, but a challenge that forces you to actually think tactically and strategically and assess things in sort of a cost-benefit analysis sort of a way. You’ll say to yourself something like “Ok, I know that thin man is in overwatch, but if it don’t move from the position I’m going to get flanked and I’ll never get a shot at anyone… should I try to take the shot at the thin man or make a break for that more secure cover?” Or perhaps it will be more grandiose, “Canada is one block from all out panic… but if I put a satellite above Japan I can get 200 more resources and better cover Asia for UFOs.” The turn based functionality gives you as much time as you want to debate with yourself what decisions to make, yet when you make them you’ll still wonder what could have been. It’s a truly engaging experience. The only problem I could possibly note with XCOM: Enemy Unknown is that, because the controls are designed for both keyboard and mouse and a gamepad/controller (thanks consoles) the interface seems a little clunky at times for a PC title. It’s something you kind of get used to after some time, but it can be a bit annoying for at the start. Regardless, it takes very little from the game as a whole and I would recommend it to just about anyone who doesn’t want their games to hand over meaningless wins with limited content.