XCOM: Enemy Within. Fireaxis Games (2013) Xbox 360

By

Woop a reboot! I love a reboot… I think.

If you’re confused by the title this is the full expansion DLC version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (released 2012). It is the same game just with a few different soldiers, some new units, a resource called Meld, and a new pointlessly easy enemy named Exault.

I fucking hate remakes/HD Remasters

First of all this isn’t some cheap ass “HD” port of a game released about 4 months prior (Last of Us HD), or what 99% of the XBone/PissPoor seem to be. This is a complete re-imagining of UFO: Enemy Unknown/X-COM: UFO Defence but other than the name and the ultimate aim of killing aliens expect very little to remain.

Except strangely, this reboot managed to capture the essence of X-COM perfectly. Yes, things have been streamlined but did you ever play X-COM: Terror from the Deep on a PS1? JESUS that was a chuggy ballache in dire need of streamlining.To get XCOM working in this manner on a console is commendable.

Manufacturing is manufacture-y

Obviously this means a number of areas have been trimmed, it means engineering, research and basebuilding lacks detail, the amount of things to research has been nerfed, and you only get up to 6 units per mission. But it works. You no longer have to research 30 different things to get laser weapons. Find a laser, research it. Simple. Find an alien corpse, research it and it’ll give you some fluff to read as well as an item you can use. This approach works, as again, you don’t need to research 30 things to get something. Every piece of research leads directly to something without the need to worry about a master tech tree. So some people may be annoyed they can’t spend 30 years researching gold plated testicle stun-guns, instead you will be able to research almost everything within 7 months game time.

Research is research-ey

Difficulty

The classic staple is that X-COM is hard. Well, the reboot isn’t particularly hard. I played through on normal because at first I was a wuss and I didn’t want to sink 20 hours in and have to restart like I did the first time I played OG X-COM. But in my entire runthrough I’ve lost maybe 16 men. The ones I lost are all the Rookies, it mean that like in the UFO Series once a soldier is above level 3 they are a god and unable to die.

Once you have a tiny bit of research behind you like laser weapons you start to steamroll. It doesn’t take long either as again, the research is streamlined so you can conceivably have laser weaponry before your 10th battle and Plasma by the 20th.

Insert witty caption

I assaulted the alien base and didn’t lose anyone and I did this without save scumming. I did the aliens attack X-COM mission and only lost 2 of the generic guards.

I guess the issue stems from me failing to capture an Outsider Alien on the first attempt. Basically early in the game one UFO attacks a month, and if you don’t capture the boss you have to wait another month. The 2nd time a UFO came I actually forgot I had to capture the Outsider Alien, and killed it. So by the 3rd month I had Plasma researched.

The game does try to ramp up the difficulty whenever you hit a story milestone but I was doing 120 on the freeway before the aliens noticed. Even the Skinny Men weren’t a problem. By the time the big bastards appeared with 30+ health I was able to kill them in a single turn and started using rookies again just to make it harder.

Insert another witty caption

Your decisions matter dammit!

The choice system is a cracking addition, it  means subsequent playthroughs should be different and each unit will have a degree of variety. How this works is that you get several choices about troop upgrades in the levelling system, what you want to specialise in (Cybernetics/Genetics[DLC]) as well as a choice of 1 of 3 missions to take. With your decisions having short and long term consequences.

Mission choice also adds some micromanagement as you accepting one mission will cause the Threat Level in the other 2 countries to increase. You need to balance this threat as you can conceivably lose Council Funding in your first month (I lost 2).

Ooooo mysterious

Your decisions also affect how your troops level up, as each promotion will offer a new perk and you need to pick one. These perks are class specific so a Heavy Trooper will get better or more rockets, or nice buffs, Assault can run and gun, Support can carry more medikits. It makes it important to keep an eye on planning long term tactics as it is important to keep a balanced squad, and these long term goals can clash with short term needs. It also means if your one healer dies you could be in trouble. So ensuring a backup exists and you’re not overly reliant on one unit is imperative.

Playing with some of the second wave settings is way of further boosting the randomness as this setting will completely change the perks at each level and no longer locks some perks to some classes. No it won’t give a sniper a rocket launcher, but it might let a sniper carry more medikits removing the need for a crappy medic in your squad.

Upgrading/promoting the troops

Simplify, maaaaaaan

The best way to describe the combat is glorified chequers but you need to realise this isn’t a bad thing. Yes, is pretty simple in terms of combat and it effectively boils down to “are you in cover, who has the higher ground and are you being flanked”. That’s it. Once you figure this out you can flank charge those Assault troops with 25% hit chance and instakill most enemies as your hit and crit chance rockets to 95%, and snipers will blow heads clean off from higher ground. For everything else, you can spam rockets at everything using the heavies.

Negatives

I get that RNG is a big thing in XCOM, but there is a slight issue in the way missions spawn. Mission like “down the mothership” (Gangplank) spawned really early, when I only had 3 troops. So I had to abort the mission so to not waste those 3 troops lives. Likewise, on my second playthrough the mission in St John with the “Crysalids in the whale” spawned after I had Plasma Weaponry. This mission was insanely hard with regular guns, I pissed it with two men on my 2nd playthrough 1 shot plasma melting everything.

Infuriatingly, you can bork your game if you send a rookie squad with your gear before the magical alien attack X-COM mission. Since the game automatically sends your best troops it will send them with no gear and since this mission is compulsory and you cant faio you have to replay the enitre mission or save scum. Good luck with that as this happened to me in Ironman mode.

The enemy are too passive and they only attack you once they spot you, apart from on the escape missions or the X-COM base assault. If you move too far forward and spot the ememy they’ll attack you on their turn. But if you edge  forwards and move backwards they’ll charge headfirst into your overwatch (reaction fire). It means you only get attacked if you over-exert yourself which is something you learn to stop doing after 2 missions.

Overall

I really liked XCOM, it isn’t often I spend 40 hours beating a game and then immediately start again on a harder difficulty. The level of customisation is excellent, and while streamlined there is great depth to what is going on. I love the original X-COM games but I always remarked I didn’t really see the point in subsequent playthroughs as it would just be the same. Here I hoped the customisation and player choices would give further reasons to play, but they don’t actually offer enough variation. I even started to see a lot of the maps repeating on a second play. This is doubly bad on Enemy Within has EXTRA maps. So playing the vanilla UFO Defender I guess maps will repeat on a 1st play.

Buy it, play it. It is a proper reboot and not a lazy ass HD Remaster but it doesn’t quite scale the heights of the original.

Pros: When the character you named after your ex dies

Cons: When the character you named after yourself dies

83%

Back in the Day:

XCOM got scores in the mid 80s

Also available on PS3 and PC (2013) and PSVita (2016)

Advertisements