XCOM: Enemy Unknown is sort of a sequel/reboot for the series. Aliens have returned to Earth with the means to destroy it. The world has decided to reopen the XCOM unit, a sort of UN origination tasked with taking down aliens. Players take the helm of the Commander, a faceless, voiceless individual in charge of XCOM. Disappointingly there’s not much to the plot other than a cool premise. The supporting staff is forgettable and the soldiers are blank, customizable slates.
Instead, combat and missions are XCOM’s focus. The gameplay is similar to turn-based RPGs, with a free moving grid. In battle, units can move, attack, plant traps, heal, or even take cover. Each unit has a particular skill they’re good at whether it be support, sniper, healer, etc. What’s more, if an ally falls, they’re gone for good, but again, they’re just grunts so the only really loss is experience. That said, it’s a very hard, yet very rewarding system for those who take their time. It’s akin to Dark Souls. Other than battles, players can research aliens, build new facilities, or create items all in the name of destroying the alien scum. And in this way, it’s reminiscent of an RTS.
What’s not engaging about XCOM is, well, almost everything else. It definitely feels rushed in some areas like the graphics for instance. Despite a few impressive effects in battle and an interesting color pallet, XCOM looks like a hi-res PS2 game. Glitches and bugs are around every corner from texture pop-ins to audio drop rates. It’s a mess. Based on the PS3 version at least. And again, the story is rather blah and the music is equally as bland. But hey, it’s fun?
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is hard to rate. As a package, it’s kind of a wreck. Yet when it runs, it plays great. XCOM is a blend of many genres and game types and at the end of the day, it’s addicting, despite the steep difficulty and numerous flaws. For strategy fanatics and lovers of gameplay over story, it’s worth a shot.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on April 26, 2013 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.