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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Logo - We Know Gamers

Firaxis Games look to re-imagine the classic hit UFO: Enemy Unknown with their title, XCOM: Enemy Unknown keeping what made the past title so great while adding a little of their own flair that works for the more modern gaming crowd. Will XCOM: Enemy Unknown prove to be a strategy title worth praising? Or will the original still remain king?

So the Earth is in danger and we've been invaded by enemies from outer space. A group of countries called The World Council join together to form the XCOM project and the purpose of this project is to defend the planet Earth against the oncoming threat. Why are these aliens here? And what do they want with the human race? These are the questions that are constantly brought up through the game as you try to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Last one there is a goose!
So here we are presented with the standard “Oh we are being invaded by a race we know nothing about” as the humans can do nothing but run for their lives. I was really pulled in with the game opening segment and felt it was a great starter for the story but unfortunately, it wasn't expanded on as each soldier in the game doesn’t necessarily have their own thing going for them. The narrative within the game usually progresses forward once you complete an important objective however it’s never necessary to do so and is not forced upon you making things less linear.

I felt at points we were driving forward our own story in conjunction with the game’s narrative. You make certain decisions when it comes to the countries you help, you take these soldiers into battle; some make it back and some don’t so in a way you gain an emotional connection with the characters on screen and what’s interesting is they themselves react to their team as well e.g. when a soldier gets killed.

So you play the role of Commander, the head honcho or whatever other word associated with leadership you would like to use; and when it comes to the gameplay, there are two sides you need to deal with. Both aspects are equally important as they basically decide how much trouble the game will give you as you delve deeper into it and the fact that they work together seamlessly to create what I like to call the overall XCOM experience.

Man I'm really good at hide and seek.
We begin at the XCOM headquarters where you make all the necessary preparations to tackle the alien threat. Here you have access to and can make use of various professions and facilities to either create new weapons and armour, research into the aliens weaknesses or train new soldiers to go out into the field but whoa, before you get a little ahead of yourself and decide to go crazy, you should also know with all big projects, funding is needed and that’s where the different countries around the world who are with the council come in. These are the people who enable you to go about doing what you need to do so you better look after them when they need your help. Initially the headquarters will only include the essentials that you’ll need but by completing missions and taking on special objectives, you’ll be able to expand and build an amazing base; of course this works in conjunction with the narrative as you’ll need certain things at certain times.

A big part of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is making decisions and not just any decision but smart and logical choices in order for you to have a less brutal time with the enemy forces. Projects cost time and money therefore you need to plan ahead and make sure you invest into what you need immediately rather than what looks more bad ass and believe me, you can make a variety of cool looking stuff. Another big area is the barracks, the place where your great men and women who put their lives on the line call home. At the end of a mission they may receive a promotion depending on their performance and these generally pushes each soldier into the class they are most suited for. The promotions not only improve a soldiers rank but also allows them to utilise perks suited to their class such as the ability to engage the enemy more than once a turn or allowing a soldier to shoot at an enemy within a friendly’s sight. It gives an almost RPG like element to the game and an aspect which just further adds to the whole strategic side of gameplay.

Top down view for better tactical gameplay.
The second part is the combat missions, where you go out on to the field and actually make contact with the aliens. These missions are launched from the Hologlobe at your headquarters in which you are given the freedom to accept that task or wait for another catastrophe to be brought to your attention. Here its turn based strategy and probably where you’ll be spending most of your time banging your head while all your soldiers are getting wiped out. Everything happens in a perspective view so you have a good look at the battlefield but not everything ahead, so the surprise isn't ruined. Now the whole point here is to always be thinking one or even two steps ahead, yes the missions vary on difficulty level and you would be notified about this before even going into it, however the sooner you get used to controlling your team, understanding each soldiers skills and especially knowing who is equipped with what, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Of course depending on the difficulty level you’re playing on, the AI will be tuned to that although it’s worth noting that even on normal, things won’t go as smoothly as you believe it would. When it comes to actual tactics, the AI employs the more obvious strategies when coming up against your soldiers so in a way you feel like an idiot by allowing it to perform certain things but for those who are new to games such as this, it’s a good way to learn what not to do. You won’t be thrown into the deep end immediately so when it comes to taking on the enemy, it’s done in a progressive way so the better you get, the stronger the enemies that will come your way.

Overall the gameplay was pretty solid and I felt that Firaxis tried really hard in making sure they created a detailed experience for veterans while at the same time making it easy for newcomers to learn and adapt to the game’s style.

Online Gameplay
As with the current titles of this generation, an online Multiplayer was included that allows you to test your wits against some of the best players in the world. You can take part in the standard set of games such as Ranked Matches which gets you onto the leaderboards and Quick Matches which pairs you up with the next available person. Custom Matches give you slightly more control over what’s going on as you get to decide the match type and how many points each player gets to use along with the amount of time given for each turn.

True unity between the alien life forms and humans.
The actual online gameplay itself is pretty much the same as you would find in the campaign but with a couple of differences. For one as I mentioned earlier, each player is assigned a certain amount of points in which they’re essentially used to buy characters and weapons to take part in the battle. It’s quite interesting actually as there are no two obvious opposing sides so you can create a team that involves both races. I think it’s great that all the classes are open to you from the beginning but I guess the war begins before you even get into a match as you have to try and create said team without exceeding the set amount of points. It’s a good mix up to the overall gameplay without doing something too drastic and leading away from what XCOM: Enemy Unknown is all about.

Obviously when comparing it to its predecessor, XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a visual look that far surpasses it however don’t expect any super-over the top graphics as they seem to have taken more priority on the actual gameplay mechanics themselves and how the interface can be seen more compared to the environment. In this case it does work better since the camera is zoomed out all the time and the overall game runs a lot smoother because of it and it’s still pleasing to the eye without trying to become too realistic. One problem I did come across is from time to time, the graphics themselves wouldn't keep up with what was happening on screen which could be due to general performance issues or optimisation.

The game’s soundtrack is one that mostly comprises of more ambient and atmospheric sounds to accompany the gameplay itself. When you are in the base, you’ll be hearing sounds more related to what’s happening in the different rooms along with a simple beat in the back that works together with what’s taking place. Once you go into the missions themselves, the pace starts to quicken a little bit creating an atmosphere that makes you want to go to battle.

Final Verdict
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a title that rewards you well for thinking smart but can also deal out heavy consequences for silly mistakes. It really gets into detail regarding how you manage your team and its resources, aiming this at the smarter player who wishes for a more in depth gameplay experience however at the same time, making it easy for new players to pick up on the game’s mechanics. The story may not exactly be the war story that looks to tug at your heart strings however I believe the game offers so much when actually interacting, that the narrative is not made such a big deal of. XCOM: Enemy Unknown wants you to save the planet however don’t think it’ll make it easy for you.

Story = 7/10
Gameplay = 10/10
Graphics = 8/10

Final We Know Gamers Score = 8.3/10
Had a chance to play the game? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below!
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review
Reviewed by Liban Ali
on Jan 01 2013

Rating: 8.3/10

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