Review of XCOM Enemy Unknown : Aliens Invade!

Firaxis ressurrects a classic turn based strategy RPG involving aliens!

Aliens are invading! But fear not, XCOM is on the scene! Firaxis has released a modern take on an old PC favorite with their game XCOM Enemy Unknown, and it's recent DLC expansion, Slingshot.

What is XCOM?

XCOM is an old top down, turn based, strategy RPG, filled with micro-managing units and bases, production, and keeping the various countries on earth happy. When aliens invade, the countries of Earth band together to form XCOM, a counter measure to stop the invasion.Fighting aliens is all well and good, but the real key to XCOM has always been learning to choose your battles. You can't help everyone, and time is just as important a resource is money. Should you send your team to check a UFO landing in Prague, or do you fly them halfway across the world to stop a panic in South America?

This is just one of many questions you'll ask yourself in the course of things.When the mission is over, you take your soldiers (whoever survived, at least) back to your base, along with whatever alien tech you could get your hands on. Another big part of XCOM has been taking alien weapons and tech, and reverse engineering it, to better equip your soldiers, aircraft, and base. New weapons, scanning technology, every little bit helps.

So what's different?

It's easy to just let fanboyism kick in and say the game is awesome, but I won't do that. A lot has changed between the originals and Firaxis' imagining of the game. For one, no more bringing 15 rookies to act as meat shields. Initial squad size is four, and can be upgraded to a maximum of six. The main argument in favor of this is that since you have fewer soldiers, you tend to become more attached to them, and it makes losing one for good hurt all the more.

That's right. When a soldier dies, they're gone. Forever. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Tactical decisions, use of cover, and proper equipment are what will keep your men alive, not waves of rookies suicide bombing clusters of aliens. To help counter the ease of loss, your soldiers will gain classes and special abilities, making them hit harder, last longer, and have some nice tools on the battlefield.

You'll have four classes available to your soldiers, which are chosen randomly when a rookie "ranks up". Assault, Support, Heavy, and Sniper. Each have their own special way of bringing the aliens a nice hot cup of death. Assaults are big on short range weapons, getting up in the enemy's face, and then getting out. Heavy weapons soldiers carry rocket launchers, and are great for keeping big scary enemies busy with being suppressed, or being dead. Supports get the most out of Medpacks, and have fun little tricks to make your soldiers do better, and the aliens do worse! And Snipers are pretty obvious, able to deal massive damage from great range.

Another major difference from the originals, is the addition of a multi player component. Players agree on a "point value", and begin picking their troops. In this mode, you can mix it up, having aliens and humans fighting alongside one another, and the point system allows you to equip your fighters to be anything from a couple of decked out super soldiers to an alien swarm!

XCOM multiplayer


The biggest difference by far though, would have to be the bases. Or base. In the previous XCOM games, you could have as many bases as you could sustain all over the world, and you would need to occasionally defend them from being attacked by aliens. In XCOM: EU, you have one base and you never need to defend it. I can't say I like it. I kind of miss trapping aliens in a maze of hallways cunningly designed to lead them to their doom, but you can't have everything.

So, is it good?

Well, if you are a fan of turn based strategy RPGs, and you love punishingly hard games, this is for you. Clearing out an alien transport ship, rescuing civilians from a panic mission, and getting your first psychic soldier equipped in power armor and plasma weaponry is an amazing feeling. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to pull off, but oh is it worth it.

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It's not the original, but I believe it does it's best to harken back to it's former glory, without a lot of the clutter and restrictions that tended to bog down the player. The new DLC for the game is quite fun too, adding a special soldier, and quite a few new toys and missions for you to play with. I give the game a strong recommendation, and wish you the best of luck saving the Earth from the foul alien menace!

Columnist

A freelance crimefighter and player of VIDYA GAEMS, currently sweating like a pig in the Arizona desert.

Games XCOM: Enemy Unknown Genres Strategy Platforms Xbox 360Steam Tags firaxis
Published Sep. 8th 2017
  • Jeremy
    Columnist
    It takes time. And effort. I'm currently working on an Impossible Ironman run because I hate having hair.
    Thanks for the comment!
  • Mat Westhorpe
    Featured Columnist
    I've not played the original, so I had no "fanboyism" to overcome (although I do have a couple of friends who spoke of the originals - and Laser Squad - in reverential tones). One of them showed me the game and I was hooked just as a spectator.

    Having now played it, I can unequivocally say I love it. You can detect the old-school game design pedigree in the simplicity of the mechanics, and that is a great strength in my opinion. As I understand it, new X-COM is simplified even further with the removal of Action Points.

    I think X-COM: Enemy Unknown is an almost perfect blend of classic game design, up-to-date technology and great cinematic flair to draw the player in to a fantastic thinking man's disaster/invasion movie scenario.

    It's also unapologetically bastard hard. I've still not completed it.

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