XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

I find myself these days playing video games less and less, this is probably due to me not having a lot of money and being bored on what games I already have, hence why all my reviews are on games that have been around longer than the Crab Nebula… Anyway. This time around aliens have invaded Earth and it’s up to the nations of the world to camber together and create the XCOM initiative. Earth’s first and last line of defence.So here we go, XCOM Enemy Unknown.

I was originally going to play Metal Gear Rising because it was free to PSPlus users, and since I’m a PSPlus user it made sense to download it. The problem was it would take some time to download, therefore I decided to play something else in the mean time. This game was kicking around because again it was free to PSPlus users so I thought I’d give it a go. I remembered hearing it was quite good so decided at long last to give it a go, and you know what? I’m glad I did. I found myself staying up until the small hours of the evening engrossed in the workings of my squad and my base.

XCOM starts in the near future at the start of a global alien invasion, you are a nameless, faceless commander type in charge of XCOM, a massive international effort to protect the earth from alien threat. It’s up to you to not only manage the troops in battle, but also take charge of base management, research and development, engineering, finance, caring for the troops etc. It sounds like a lot but as long as you don’t do anything too stupid a lot of it manages itself. Just make sure not to spend your money and resources too frivolously and you’ll do fine.

Gameplay wise, it’s your standard turn based strategy game, you move your troops, the aliens move theirs until someone has no troops left. Each troop type has their own special abilities and traits, Snipers fire from long range, Assault troops get up close and personal, Support troops heal the wounded and Heavy troops blow shit up. As you play your troops grow and get stronger (if they survive that is) unlocking more perks. Meaning later on when the aliens show they really mean business and send their elite soldiers you can still have a fighting chance. It’s also up to you to keep the different international bodies happy by deploying satellites above them to detect enemy spaceships, or complete missions within their borders. If not they will pull their support from the XCOM initiative and you’ll lose their funding.

One point I do need to mention that both goes for and against XCOM is the randomness of the missions, especially that of the UFO missions, which is the main way to collect the alien alloy which is needed for a lot of the later armours and weapons. It can be in game weeks between aliens invade areas where you have satellite uplinks. Therefore if you blow all your alloy on developing your base, you’ll end up sitting around twiddling your thumbs for the next week waiting for a ship to turn up and knowing you it’ll land somewhere with a low threat level and force some country like France to leave the XCOM initiative, but I digress. In it’s favour though it does mean that each game is different in the fine detail. Sure the story never changes but how you get from the beginning to the end is sure to be different.

Another mild annoyance I have with the game is with the difficulty curve. Especially for first time players. The difficulty ramps up over time rather than how much effort the play puts into the war. At the beginning the game the aliens are pretty much sending out the kids on work experience and over time they send out more aliens each more powerful than the last. So if they start sending out their berserker and you haven’t researched laser weapons yet you are in for a world of hurt. Which is why I’d recommend getting laser weapons as soon as they become available. I’d also recommend levelling up many soldiers rather than take out the same 6 over and over. I say this because later in the game it is near impossible to train recruits due to the difficulty of the enemies. Equipping them with the best weapons and ammo may help but it does seam that the enemies know which of my squad and instantly seeks them out. Maybe they can sense inexperience, I don’t know. On a similar note I thank god for the ability to save at almost any time. The amount of times I made one false move and ended up losing my best men was beyond measure.

Now my final thought. I started writing this review months ago, but never got around to finishing it because I was too busy playing it. I enjoyed it from start to finish and all moments in between. I must get for anyone especially those with a PSPlus subscription because you’ll be getting a great game for a ridiculous price.

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