XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a great game that is a refreshing change of pace from the constant barrage of first-person-shooters and third-person action games that seem to have plagued the industry for the last few years.

We like

  • Gameplay is fun and satisfying, great replay value
  • Very challenging and unpredictable, never allowing you to become too comfortable
  • All decisions made, whether in or out of battle, carry a heavy weight

We dislike

  • Consistent frame-rate drops can hurt the experience
  • Lackluster story

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a refreshing change of pace to the genre of turn-based action, strategy games, and it excels on all counts. XCOM: EU is Firaxis Games’ reimagining of the much loved classic X-COM which first debuted in 1993. The series hasn’t been seen since 2001 with the release of X-COM: Enforcer.

In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you are commander of a world-funded organization, XCOM, that has been formed to protect the world from the invading alien horde. As commander you are responsible for researching the invading threat, developing new ways to combat them, and dispatching a team of soldiers to various parts of the world to prevent human abductions and to maintain the panic levels of the world’s countries. XCOM: EU’s story really does not go beyond this simple plotline. It serves only as a means to give reason to what you are doing.

XCOM’s command base is located in a continent of your choosing and each gives you a unique bonus based on that region’s specialty or resources. At the start of the game, your base is operating at the bare minimum. With funding received from various nations and the successful completion of missions, resources are made available to you, allowing you to further develop and expand your base of operations. The base consists of six viewable locations; research department, engineering department, hangar, barracks, situation room, and mission control.

The research department is, oddly enough, where research is done. Throughout the game you will recruit scientists to improve upon current technologies, examine alien technologies, and examine the aliens themselves. Once research projects are complete new items will become available to build in engineering. Engineers will also be recruited throughout the game, and more engineers equals faster build times and more toys that XCOM will have access to. The hangar allows you to improve and relocate ships to various parts of the world to better respond to UFO sightings.

The barracks allows you to view and edit the soldiers at your disposal, improve squad size and abilities, hire soldiers, and view a memorial of your fallen comrades. All soldiers can be customized to a degree. There is a limited selection of choices where you can change a soldiers race, voice, head, skin color, hair, hair color, and (if male) facial hair. One great addition is that you are given the freedom to rename soldiers and give nicknames. As simple as it is, being able to name the soldiers in your squad after your friends or various celebrities is a lot of fun and greatly appreciated. Naming your soldiers provides a more personal attachment troops and can make it all the more upsetting when a soldier is killed-in-action, and in XCOM:EU, soldiers really are disposable. As mentioned before, there is a memorial with the names of every soldier KIA during your campaign, meaning that once someone dies they’re gone for good. One of your most seasoned soldiers can be gone in an instant due to a poor choice or slip-up. With the constant threat of each mission being a soldier’s last, XCOM is able to house up to 99 soldiers and for a price there are always more waiting to be recruited.

The situation room gives reports regarding the panic level and status of various countries and shows time remaining on the doomsday clock, which can be remedied with the deployment of satellites. It also displays current objectives, XCOM’s finances, and national requests. The situation room also provides access to the “Gray Market,” where you can sell-off excess materials at a fixed price when money runs low (which happens a lot).

Master Control is where you scan for alien activity, where transmissions are received, and where soldiers are deployed. Scanning for activity causes days to pass by in seconds and ends only when a project is completed, a request is made, or alien activity is found. When aliens are found, troops are deployed and the fun begins. Abduction reports occur in groups of three and have varying difficulties. A higher difficulty means stronger enemies and more of them. Each abduction site also has a unique reward if successfully completed; such as additional scientists, engineers, soldiers, or money.

After playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, one of the first words that ... (continued on next page)

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