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

(continued from previous page) ...first words that come to mind is satisfying. Shooting down an enemy rarely ever feels this good, and nailing several aliens in a single turn will bring a smile to your face. Firaxis Games proves once again that when it comes to strategy games they stand at the top. XCOM: Enemy Unknown will make you think, and then think some more. Normal difficulty will provide more than enough of a challenge for most gamers, but for the brave and hardcore XCOM fans there are the “Classic” and “Impossible” difficulty settings to gratify you.

The next word I think of is unforgiving. One small slip up on your part can spell disaster for the entire squad. There also is no restarting a mission. For better or worse, you live with your decisions and the consequences that follow. If a mission goes south you can abort the mission at any time, but squad members not in the drop-zone will be left to die. The threat of the world ending is also very real, leaving a lingering sense of despair. Difficult choices will need to be made because you can’t save everyone. You will slowly see entire countries become engulfed by the alien forces.

The gameplay and character animations in XCOM: EU is polished and refined. As the commander of XCOM, you sequentially move your squad members to your desired position, progressing forward until enemies appear. When they do, each member of your team gets a chance to move/attack/hold position. Once each squad member has finished, the aliens get their turn. As expected, this pattern continues until one side is no longer standing. How you dispose of the aliens is up to you. Explosives are fairly effective, but destroy the bodies completely. Using regular weapons will dispose of your enemies while leaving their bodies intact, allowing them to be gathered and studied back at XCOM. A third option is made available a few hours into the campaign that lets you capture enemies alive, which is the most dangerous method but also the most beneficial to XCOM.

The simplicity of this formula along with the large variety of enemies makes every operation unpredictable. There is never a guarantee that your whole team will survive, no matter how well prepared you think you are, especially with new recruits. During fight sequences, inexperienced soldiers can become panicked, causing them to act randomly, sometimes even resulting in the death of an ally.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is not visual porn by any means. The graphics are fitting for the caricatured character builds and environment style, but clearly was not the focus in designing the game. The visuals overall are on par with the average PlayStation 3 title, but are consistently interrupted with frame-rate drops throughout the game and some non-rendering textures during cinematic sequences. Frame-rate issues can become a nuisance at times, especially when in the middle of a life and death situation.

Apart from minor responses from soldiers, there are only a handful of characters who speak. The voice-acting for the characters that do speak is fairly cheesy. Whether this was intended or not, it works. It seems to pay homage to all cheesy Hollywood alien films, like Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!,” and does so well. Similarly, the overall music is great and very fitting. The soundtrack gets you pumped before starting a big mission, adds to the tenseness of battle, and commemorates all those who proudly gave their lives with the playing of bagpipes.

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. Action/strategy games are rarely found on game consoles and XCOM: EU is a welcome addition. It is a game that you can easily pour dozens of hours into, whether in a single campaign or starting new ones to better manage your resources. There is no real substance to the storyline, which is fairly common among strategy games, but each decision made carries significant weight. The crowning achievement of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the polished battle system mixed with the sheer unpredictability and intelligence of enemies that gives any player a challenge. The visuals and caricatured style are good ... (continued on next page)

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