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Review: XCOM Enemy Unknown

A modern nostalgic driven romp is always welcome and this reimagining of a classic whilst bordering on camp silliness at times delivers the XCOM strategy game play we have been craving for a long time.

A disclaimer to begin with, turn based strategy floats my boat, and looking for something on the go on the phone or tablet has proven somewhat fruitless, and whilst that quest continues, XCOM Enemy Unknown scratches that old hard to reach middle-of-the-back itch on PC , Xbox 360 and PS3.

Those clever folks at Maxis have delivered a deep strategy and tactical mix with the console controller design in mind, but importantly, without compromising the traditional PC complexity of a game such as this.

Look out planet Earth, the aliens have landed, and who knows what they want.  A consortium of countries forms the paramilitary organisation XCOM, building a secret underground base to combat this new threat.  Guess who is brought in to command the new base?

At the tactical level it is up to you to manage XCOM funds to expand the base with new facilities, balance Engineers and Scientists to both build required equipment and research new technologies as aliens are brought back to base, dead or alive.

Satellites need to be deployed and missions undertaken in XCOM member countries to keep panic down.  If the local citizenry gets too spooked, that particular country may withdraw support from the XCOM project.  Whilst this does not make much sense logically, the effect is to be avoided as funds will begin to dry up as countries drop off.


The tactical options are presented in a slick side cut view of the base, where you can access quickly all aspects of base operations.  Essentially there are multiple arms races happening as time progresses, XCOM will need to ramp up weaponry, keep the XCOM flying interceptors well-armed and repaired as the air combat heats up and maintain a steady stream of income from happy member countries and the “grey market” where alien artefacts can be offloaded.

The strategic game requires a suitably equipped squad sent into the field with objectives set by a small number of mission types.  Rescue frightened civilians or a VIP whilst killing all the aliens in the vicinity.

Turn based squad moves utilising an ingenious two-move style that compliments equipment loadout works well.  From time to time the moving reticule can be annoying as it jumps unexpectedly between multiple levels.

Each mission plays out on a randomly generated “board” with explosive elements and two levels of cover to deal with.  The slowly introduced complexity of squad skills and alien types is easy to assimilate.  Before long you will be dealing with robotic enemies and wielding psionic powers against armoured brutes.  The only issue is becoming too attached to your squaddies who (particularly if you are playing Ironman level) you will loose from time to time.

XCOM Enemy is highly recommended for those missing this kind of gameplay from the current range of games on the market.   

The embedded video for this review is also for the new content released from the game.

With the Slingshot Content Pack, players will meet an enigmatic Triad operative, divert an alien ship’s course, and do battle with the aliens in the skies over China in a new set of linked Council missions. The Slingshot Content Pack includes three new maps tied to the Council missions, a new playable squad character with a unique story and voice, and new character customization options.


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.