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XCOM: Enemy Unknown


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[font=palatino linotype]I haven't posted a topic in this forum in [i]forever[/i], so I thought I'd post about a game I just bought yesterday. The game is [b]XCOM: Enemy Unknown[/b] (hereafter just referred to as XCOM), which is essentially a re-imagining of an older title (which I have never actually played, but am now keen to try).

This is really my first new Xbox 360 title for a while. I have to admit that XCOM was really not on my radar as far as new games go, but I had read a few reviews of this game over the last week and they really convinced me to give it a try.


If you're unfamiliar with XCOM in general, then the best way to describe it is probably to say that it's a bit like Civilization mixed with Final Fantasy Tactics. That is to say, you have a team of units (a squad) and your battles are turn-based. At the same time, you have a home base that you expand and you also have a research tree associated with this (so you can research new upgrades and technologies, which you can then manufacture). Whilst all this is happening, you have to manage the needs of the nations that are funding the XCOM program (e.g. if you neglect, say, China for too long while it is being continuously attacked by aliens, it will eventually withdraw from the program entirely).

I've only had a day with this game so far, but I'm finding it to be incredibly addictive. Although turn-based, the action moves pretty quickly. Also, interestingly, I've found that my squad are not simply canon-fodder - or at least, I don't view them that way as I play. Maybe it is because each squad member is individually-designed, or maybe it is because each squad member essentially has a "career" where they continually build up skills and specialities. Either way, losing a squad member (which has real permanency in XCOM) never ceases to bring about a genuine emotional sting.

The actual gameplay is pretty straightforward, especially if you've played Civilization before. Each squad member has two moves per turn, and it's up to you how you "spend" those moves. You might use one move to get behind an object for cover, and then use the other move to fire at an enemy. Within that context there are numerous speciality skills that can be utilised - one of my favourites is "Overwatch", which basically means that your squad member stands sentry and if an enemy moves within their line of sight, they will automatically fire upon said enemy (without taking up a move).

One of my favourite aspects of the game is the fact that the environment itself has a major impact on the a squad member's percentage likelihood to successfully hit an alien target. When you go to fire at a target, you'll see both a percentage chance to strike the target plus a percentage chance to achieve critical damage. These percentages are heavily influenced by things like relative height to the target, distance, and the kind and number of objects between yourself and the target (firing through a glass window is different than trying to fire through a wall, for example).

The strategy shifts significantly as you play, both because the environments themselves are highly destructible and because the game gradually introduces new enemies with unique (and horrifying) capabilities. You often feel that the odds are against you, but clever strategy and patience usually gets you through.

So far I would say that my biggest issue with the game is probably the actual "base mode" part of it. I love the idea of the high strategy that underpins the core ground missions, but sometimes it feels a bit loose and ambiguous. As the game progresses, you end up managing a ton of aspects of your base and its peripheral activities - personally, this can sometimes feel like too much. And because there are so many interdependencies between your research and what you construct (whether it is facilities or weapons/objects for your squad), I found myself getting a little lost here and there. It can feel like a lot to wade through.

Having said that, I'm still really enjoying the game and it's definitely very addictive. I highly recommend it. I haven't yet tried multiplayer and I'm not really sure about the structure of that...but if anyone here has both XCOM and Xbox Live, let me know your GamerTag if I don't have it already. If multiplayer is anywhere near as good as the single player mode, then I'm sure I'll love that too.[/font]
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