Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Rating Guide: How I Review Games
Here’s the situation. There’s an alien invasion and the shit has literally hit the fan. It’s up to you and your squad to handle things and defend the planet. You in? Get your popcorn ready for an unexpected thrill.
For those of you who don’t know XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an RTS game that’ll have you commanding a set of soldiers against an alien force. You’ll go back and forth taking turns trying to eliminate each other. It is not a third person action shooter. Firaxis did perhaps the best job I’ve seen of translating an RTS game to console.
When the game begins you’ll be knee deep in an alien invasion and called to task. Your task is to protect the nation … protect the world. You’ll lead the attack and bolster the defense of surrounding nations. Your progress must be kept because you have to keep each nation pleased enough to provide you with critical resources to wage war. I can tell you right now that keeping up with your resources and deciding who to help is very intense. I was shocked at how involved I found myself.
I was constantly in the barracks trying to perfect my troops and constantly spending money on developing new technology for my troops to use in battle. It was a constant struggle trying to decide if I should produce more satellites to locate more aliens or boost my troops. It’s tense because the missions get very challenging once the aliens start evolving.
The game is already tough enough figuring out the proper battle strategy each time you’re on a mission, but when you throw in all of the other decisions you have to make, it gets super tough. That’s not a bad thing because it definitely adds to the tension and enjoyment because you feel the threat. One of the best things about missions is that your soldiers gain experience which unlocks promotions and new abilities. You’re always progressing and that’s a lovely thing because as I mentioned the aliens evolve into some tough beasts to defeat.
As you die though (and you will) there’s a Memorial to all of your fallen soldiers that’s really cool to see. The little things in the game like this make the game a new experience. Somehow you just feel like you’re fighting a losing battle (although you’re not). And when the death toll rises the tension increases and the need to come back with all your soldiers alive grows ever more important.
I do have to point out that for all the strength the aliens have, they don’t seem all that smart. You literally have to walk into their view before they engage you. That’s something you can use to your advantage at times. However, once you engage them it’s a challenge. Enemies will get to higher ground, flank you and take out your strongest soldier first. They employ tactics that provide quite the fight. You have to make sure you use cover and are equipped with the right weaponry.
The levels are a little tight for room so battle is personal. Positioning in close quarters is essential soldier! That’s one of the things I wish Firaxis would have opened up a bit. As it stands you only really have a few places to go to and grab cover from the enemy. Pay attention to the number of moves you have because using a double move to get to a high cover spot can open you up for an easy counter attack. Did I mention the environments are destructible? I told you that the strategy in the game is intense.
To say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed XCOM: Enemy Unknown would be an understatement. I really, really enjoyed it. It’s quite possibly the best interpretation of an RTS game on console that I’ve played. The barracks system, the combat … it was all very well done. I purposely didn’t compare the game to the original because it deserves to stand on its own … and it does.