Great review Kevin and a great game too. I'm not very good in turn based tactical games that use a board (Final Fantasy Tactics style), but with this game I think I'm going to overcome my prejudice towards this genre.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review
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Tension runs high in the excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
- Tension-filled turn-based matches
- Great sense of progression makes you feel increasingly powerful
- Complex interconnected economy makes each decision important
- Soldier perma-death gets you invested in the fate of your veterans.
- Map repetition
- Camera foibles and other visual glitches.
In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, victory is sweet--but it's so much sweeter when it arrives after a heart-wrenching standoff. With each turn, the newest entry in this beloved strategy series heightens the sense of tension, and each defeat of a hovering alien craft thus becomes cause for celebration. But don't get too intoxicated by the faint scent of triumph: nothing is certain until you've ripped your last enemy to shreds. Getting cocky and rushing ahead is a fool's strategy, and until the alien threat is eliminated, your guard must remain up.
Enemy Unknown isn't a simple remake of the original X-COM: UFO Defense, but like that game, it cannily instills a sense of fear. Earth is under attack by aliens, and the game makes no attempts to humanize the attackers. This isn't District 9--it's The War of the Worlds, and extraterrestrial invaders are to be annihilated, not welcomed or bargained with. This might be a modern rendition of an older game, but developer Firaxis relies on old-fashioned fears to drive its narrative. Almond-eyed greys and floating saucers ripped from popular culture need no explanation: they're clearly not of this world, and they're clearly out to destroy us. And so it's up to you, the commander of the super-secretive XCOM organization, to make Earth a safe haven once again.
Gameplay is divided into two portions: base management and combat scenarios. Near the beginning of the game, you select a location for your base of operations from one of several possibilities. The choices are more limited than the ones in the original X-COM, and this is the only base you manage through the course of the game. If you're a fan of the original, being limited to a single base might seem cause for concern, as might the subsequent loss of the oft-challenging base invasions. It may not share the full breadth of the game that spawned the franchise, but it would be difficult to accuse Enemy Unknown of "dumbing down" the core gameplay. Nevertheless, if you crave a relentless challenge (if not quite as relentless as the nail-biting X-COM: Terror From the Deep), you should play on classic difficulty, rather than the default difficulty level.
And so there are some changes to adjust to, but once Enemy Unknown is in full swing, you will be enthralled by its turn-based combat missions. Upon learning of an alien threat, you select units from your barracks to fill out your squad, and you are whisked to the point of contact. You eventually command up to six squad members--and in time, you might replace them with robotic SHIV units--but even in the early hours, the eerie atmosphere and faint sounds of skittering alien feet get you immediately invested. Upon discovery, the aliens are introduced with a burst of discordant music and a close-up of their ugly faces, and thus the stage is set for battle.
The basic concept is simple: get squad members behind cover where damage is minimized, and then take aim. Each squad member gets two actions per turn, though some of your soldiers will earn ways of extending this basic number. When possible, you want to move from cover to cover, diminishing the enemies' chances of landing shots while flanking them to lessen the benefit of their own cover spots. In the early hours, your options are few. But the soldiers that survive the mission level up and gain access to new abilities that you assign back at base. Additionally, you spend funds on better weapons, upgraded armor, and other enhancements. Simple grunts become trustworthy killing machines--and when your killing machines are fully leveled and decked out in your finest equipment, you'd best keep them alive.
But soldiers can, and do, fall in battle. The units don't have much personality apart from their battlefield quips, but you can customize them beyond their loadouts, giving them names, changing their hairdos, and adjusting the color of their armor. (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners be aware: some cosmetic customization features require that you enter a code that comes with brand-new copies of the game.) But while you may not develop an emotional connection with your soldiers, you'll certainly come to rely on the skills of your most senior combatants. Losing an effective soldier in battle is a tragic turn of events, though in some cases, a downed soldier can still be saved if you have a soldier with a medkit in battle--or if you are lucky enough to conquer the enemy before the unlucky victim bleeds out.
So you want to keep your soldiers alive. And that means treading carefully, even before you have encountered hulking berserkers and speedy floaters. As you close in on the game's final hours, you'll have discovered that managing the fog of war is as vital as performing the right actions once combat has commenced. If you move too quickly into the fray, you risk alerting more enemies than you can handle at once. One of your greatest adversaries in Enemy Unknown is your own patience, and this battle against human nature is part of the tension that builds from the moment you enter the map. Where are your foes? Should you risk flanking a cyberdisc if it means uncloaking a portion of the map? If you're already in over your head, you may not want a trio of pointy-legged chrysalids intruding on your personal space.
If they do intrude, however, you might still have the tools you need to survive. Soldiers of different classes have different roles in battle, and depending on their loadouts, you have a number of ways of approaching the enemy. Close-range weapons like shotguns and alloy cannons are super effective, but getting in close can be a big risk. Meanwhile, having a sniper move too close to a quick-witted floater can dramatically reduce your chances of landing the shot. You need to know your soldiers, and develop strategies that make sense. A quartet of mutons looks threatening, but you have ways of whittling down their numbers if you play your cards right. A SHIV's suppressive fire and a soldier's flush skill can be used in tandem to bring down stubborn foes. Alien grenades, shredder rockets, and other doodads can be more than helpful as well. Just as a seemingly simple situation can turn deadlier than you imagined, a difficult encounter can be tamed with a few smart moves.
Great review Kevin and a great game too. I'm not very good in turn based tactical games that use a board (Final Fantasy Tactics style), but with this game I think I'm going to overcome my prejudice towards this genre.
Seems to be poor usability is becoming the norm. Windows 8 and this monstrosity can vie for the title of "least user friendly experience". User satisfaction=zero. Poorly implemented and unnecessarily complicated strike team controls rob the game player of the opportunity to truly influence the course of the game. The net result is a dull point and click experience that feels a lot like Battlefield 3.
I'm a gamer from way back and remember the original XCom well. This simply does not compare in any way. Its akin to remaking a classic like Gone with the Wind and casting Stallone in the role of Rhett Butler.
I like the game as I am a fan of the original X-COM series. There are a couple of things that this game does not have that I miss (ability to sell items u built and sending out more than one interceptor per alien contact) other than that though, I find the game enjoyable.
damn, that game is bad! I've played ~50h and it's so monotonic and boring, god I wish I got something else to play...
@Xeroxer You played 50 hours of a game you didn't like? Why on earth would you... oh, I see what you did there.
You guys are crazy, this game is terrible. I love strategy games and difficult ones too but this game is just frustrating and awful. I seen a photo today with a picture of the xcom game cover and it says "The worlds top soldiers and the last hope for humanity, can't hit an enemy from 5 feet away" lol it made me laugh cause it's true and this games garbage save yourself money and don't buy it.
@JamieMacInnis16 Might not be the best idea to recommend not buying it, when you apparently don't understand and aren't into the concept of the game.
People who are into these types of games should definitely play it.
@Zevvion @JamieMacInnis16 I understand the game, as I've played other turn based games with action or time points. I like those kind of games but I just find this game has too many cons and not enough pros. Just because the first Xcom was good back in the 90's doesn't mean this game will be good, and it's not. Just like the new Jagged Alliance isn't nearly as good as the Jagged Alliance before. I stand by what I said first. This game is terrible, download a free trial or demo first and hopefully you'll see it for yourself before you waste your money.
All the 'cons' you list in your original post make it seem like you do not understand how the game works. It's like saying there is no first person perspective in Gears of War and therefor: it sucks. You squad misses because of any number of reasons that originate from bad tactics.
Of course it is possible you do not like it. But I do not like GTAIV. That doesn't mean the game is terrible. This game didn't receive GOTY at allot of respectable sites because it's terrible.
It's really, really good.
I think this tactical game is incredibly good despite some camera issues. It kept me really focused in making the right choices from the beginning, by launching the satellites at the right time to prevent countries from leaving the council too early, and so postponing the end of the game.
@skr10 I agree, I am a military veteran, and even though I have some experience, the game requires a lot of tactical choices and strategic thought.
Are you lot PAID to give this a good score? Its TOTAL and ABSOLUTE GARBAGE. Binning this crap right away.
8.5 is good enough. I still think the original ('94 ?) is still deeper in the strategy level and that is a game that worked on a 386.
This game should have been thought with aliens having a real plan for earth invation. For instance I would have made them react differently depending on your XCOM actions. But to do that you would have to implement the original geoscape game. You need the liberty of creating other outposts (to have only one soldier base) which would have the manufacturing and research locations. And aliens should be able to raid your bases. Ammo should be needed otherwise you can live without needed Elerium forever.
I really wish the campaign didn't always hit the same plot progression points at exactly the same time. I know I'm always going to shoot down that first alien ship I come into contact with, I'm always going to be introduced to each type of alien at a certain point. It feels like it should be more open than it is.I only developed this critique after playing 30 hours, but honestly the game rushes to get to certain points, and it feels artificial. Additionally, the enemies don't quite introduce themselves into combat situations in the best way. If you move too far left and discover more aliens who only once discovered 15 tiles away attack you, then that might be the difference between death and an amazing result. That the cloud of fog is so vital is a little annoying. I wish that they would even attack on their own, it would make planning much less annoying.
I'm enjoying this game currently. I'd say that it doesn't conjure the same ideas of fun as most any other game I'd play; it's sort of an old-man game where the enjoyment is derived purely from making the "right" decision....as a re-introduction to the series it is solid...like people have said there are certain hold-ups to the game's rigid cutscenes and straight-to-point action but it's also a highly streamlined and well made game. There is merit to games that are able to do this level of streamlining...and keep your head up and hope for another entry into this newly minted series.
Never in all my years of gaming, have I ever seen a classic out of a Classic. They took the original, and keept what made it a great game, updated it, refined it, and made a classic of their own.
8.5 is too low of a score for this game.
I have played the original X-Com extensively and I must say I love this new version.
I really don't understand why people say it's dumbed down. Because you can't crouch & prone? Because you can't equip a grenade with a bp vest?
Come on. This game is about making decisions. Why would your heavy need a grenade? Strap on that bp vest!
They took out most of what made the original frustrating and polished the rest. It's simply fantastic.
My only gripe so far is that I can't choose which soldier will be a sniper or heavy, etc, the game chooses for me. Other than that, geez BUY THIS GAME!!!
@astr0creep I totally agree! I also played the originals and I am enjoying this "reboot" hope they re-make some of the others in the series.
@astr0creep they say its dumbed down becasue they removed most of the stats and the number of weapons and enemies.
@ajac09 Well, then "they" haven't played it.
The game retains the original feel, the essentials AND it's tons of fun! :)
@astr0creep @SgtStrungOut @ajac09 In this case, the change here is...well...not really good, and don't make it sound like many people don't like this new version simply because they "cannot get used to it" etc etc. It is frankly just a dumbed down version made to suit the xbox and playstation, instead of being a full PC game.
also someone said something about the cross platform issue. when i first played xcom i played it on the playstation under the name xcom ufo defence the pc version was named ufo enemy unknown and both games were identical for most part i dont even think that console really lacked any of the commands that were in pc version but it has been a long time since i played the playstation version
i like the game overall it is refreshing to see a new xcom that captures so much of what made the original so good. i also feel the way the game industry is nowadays that we are lucky to have even this stripped down version of xcom. now that i have said that i do have major issues with this game many i hadnt noticed till i read these reviews. first off i feel forced to progress a certain way i know i am supposed to have choices but most of those choices seem to be more drawbacks using up precious resources rather than help. the base while neat at first becomes boring and there is little you can interact with which is what made base invasions so cool in original and stressfull since you could be destroyed. i miss being able to sell goods i have engineered from alien materials back to the government for a profit and being able to shoot down ufo's before they ever land. the cutscenes while cool at first become repetitive and u start to get aggrevated every time u spot an alien and it beats its chest or how the sniper always does the same thing when he gets a crit. i have many more issues with the game issues i hope they correct through patches dlc's and expansion packs which is the standard for the industry now release a stripped down core game for $60 then make another $100 off of downloadable content and expansions to finish the game.
@Kamfau dude... you are so damn right... ive player terror from the deep and the original xcom and i couldnt have described this new xcom bettter, or the fact, that indeed, the way the game industry is (destroying) changing were damn lucky to have at last a streamlined new xcom... kudos to you man, i think we are mind merged!! :P
Personally, I think this game is fantastic. I can see why they'd make it easier and more accessible. To console players, games like this don't come often, and just throwing new gamers head-first into classic XCOM would be painful. And I'm not saying they should abandon their original, hardcore base, but I appreciate the effort put in to beiong able to draw in gamers like me.
I did not play the original X-COM. I like the strategic games of 90s and up. Also like the good graphics. I saw this game and love it even before playing it. I buy it in pre-oreder. I have play it every day since and thats something for me.
Well this is a remake of the original just because is called the same. But it looks like another game wich is base on the same but in another direction, so "re-imagination" of it as they called.
I can say this game is simple but fun. Looks like is too casual for some hardcore gamers but also a nice candie. For me is in the middle between casual and deep in aspects like base manage or squad combat plus the huge number of maps and cinematics as voice acting, so i really like it and right now i thinking in the steps i will do next time i play the game.
I hoping they release sequel with i more opcions in actions, little bit deeper result and with more overall things happening of side battles like Civilizations or Total War.
Finally, no one erase the original X-COM so you can always replay that. If they hurt you using the X-COM name is because they could and pay for it.
Watered down and frankly not even a strategy game. More like a turn based dice game. There's no strategy involved anymore, just point and click till you get to the next cut scene. Major let down for old fans, but probably a nice change for the Call of Duty generation of gamers who require instant gratification and hold-your-hand style mechanics.
@SKaREO I never played the other XCOM games, I wanted too, but never did. So when this one came out I jumped at the chance to try it out, and it is AWESOME! I know games like this never live up to all the fan's wish it could be... but this game made a fan out of me and a lot of other people who never tried the originals. BTW... I am not part of the CoD gen who require hold-your-hand style mechanics but I REALLY needed the tutorial. So I think 2K and Firaxis did a fine job.
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"but it would be difficult to accuse Enemy Unknown of "dumbing down" the core gameplay."
Sorry, but I have to accuse the reviewer of being too lenient in making this assessment. It is obviously dumb down -- every battle feels linear, aliens are alerted to your presence as soon as you spot them, and they never wander around the map into your line of sight.
Besides the rifle and pistol, each soldier can also be equipped with either a grenade, medikit, nano-vest, etc......wait, what? Only one slot for such an item? It doesn't make sense....you mean I cannot equip my soldier with a protection vest and a grenade at the same time? Too heavy?
...It later made sense because it would make the game too easy! I play on classic and so far I've met with little failure in missions.
Maybe because I am a hardcore player who knows patience with these type of games. But with XCOM, I really need very little patience because there aren't many tactical choices to make. If this ain't dumbing down, I don't know what is.
Still a fun game nonetheless, but I shall call it XCOM LITE until some modders can beef it up to greatness. It's a shame really, since it has such great potential.
@Munstable I can understand your stance coming from someone who's played the older version of the game but can you understand why people like me who are being introduced to XCOM with this new version are so impressed. This game is a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with mmo's and first person shooters.
I'm sure you can also understand why the "dumbing down" of this type of game is necessary to make the game more accessible for console players as well as the casual audience who will pick the game up out of curiosity. I think Firaxis did a great job of reinventing and re-introducing XCOM to the masses.
@SgtStrungOut @IAMTYLERDURDEN @SKaREO @Munstable If he is a casual gamer, his opinion might actually matter more. Like it or not, the masses outnumber your kind of non-"dumbed down player." If you feel so motivated to correct this or judge gamers, then you are just the kind of person needed to help change them. You're either a complaining elitist with nothing to offer or a person who recognizes that the only people left to help are those who haven't been able to acquire what you'd probably call "hardcore gaming tastes".
I can agree that the game is not as deep as its predecessor, but come on. If games were made only for people who have been accessing games since before 1990, there would be no industry. Ah, but who am I? I haven't given any constructive criticisms to the devs of XCOM. lololol
@IAMTYLERDURDEN @SKaREO @Munstable Totally agree. And i think is a little price what we are paying (that its in fact "dumbed down") as it could bring back the genre as it was (now im really looking for a sequel). But we have to admit they really nailed it in the balancing between new comers, console, and the original game.
It's not just about games, it's about the society in which we live in, and that is sad. If you have any constructive ideas in how we might fight against the oppression and injustice happening all around the world, I would be most happy to hear it.
Maybe we can start by not being so self-centered? I dunno but it's a thought.
@SKaREO @Munstable The goal for any game is to make money and knowing ahead of time that this new XCOM was going to be cross platform, Firaxis had to take into account new players, console players, and players of the original like you. They had to find a balance and so far, it seems they were successful. There will always be hardcore fans that compare the new to old and it's almost impossible to please them.
@IAMTYLERDURDEN @Munstable Accessible? This is a PC game, why should it be made accessible? I'm so sick of that bullcrap, it's just greed. Simply greedy developers want to make more money by selling a game that already has a successful marketing image. It's shady and disgusting and this game is an abomination of the original and a disgrace for all strategy games. I can't believe Firaxis made this game, Civilization is such a great game, what happened here?
@IAMTYLERDURDEN I agree and I'm glad that you like the game!
Like I said before, this game is good but at the same time, I couldn't help but spot the little flaws that is preventing it from being great.
But your take on it have just reminded me to look more on the bright side of things to come..
Hopefully, newcomers like you can help revive the genre so it's all good. :)
My tip for making a team go up the ranks is, save before you go into a mission, get a few rounds in save again. If you loose a unit re-load. I have 18 troops, all r upto Maj and Col ranks. I have a Major Sniper, takes them out with one shot, then gets in the zone and takes 3 shots. So I say save and save often.
@jayse1972 Man, thats kinda lame. Sure it's great having super soldiers, but that takes away half the fun! I think the game was meant to be played without the constant saving... Knowing that if you do something stupid and get your trooper killed they will be dead for good makes you MUCH more careful and attached to your soldiers.
@Lytmare @jayse1972 in fact if the game were to be played like that it would take forever to level up soldiers, and thats a critical game design error. 4 members troops (at start) with very limited resources (until past half game) makes it near impossible to stand 2 casualties and/or wounds (average) per mission! and its beacuse im attached to them that i dont want to let them die. And heck, it happend one time or two that having everything under control the A.I. spawned aliens right in the middle of my troops!! WTF!!! (in ufo missions) so what do you do then huh? i said F%CK IT, reloaded and put everyone on overwatch; last thing that damned cyberdisk saw was a bullet swarm down its freakin throat... i laughed my a$$ at that i must admit
@jayse1972 That sounds really boring. Plus, if you are playing on Iron Man, that isn't an option.
Ok, I am at the end of the game and I feel that this is a very dumbed-down, lazy rushed imitation of an XCOM game.
The geoscape is a glorified dialog box where you click on the "Present the next event" button or "Pick one of these 2 or 3 options". The XCOM mood is killed by talking characters. A 3rd year compsci student could probably program better game mechanics. And it's completely swarmed with bugs.