Reviews: XCOM Enemy Unknown

Completely Irredeemable

This game, including the DLC, costs roughly $50.

For the same price, you can buy a shock collar. Do that instead. That way, you can experience something that's at least painful AND consistent.

This game accomplishes approximately nothing. The gameplay is clunky and bland. Firefights are entirely counter-intuitive. Hit percentages are a lie and flanking doesn't work. Don't play this game.

The graphics are hideous. There are superior textures in Far Cry 1, nearly a decade older. Don't look at this game.

The design is half-baked and constricting. There's only really one truly efficient way to construct a base, but there aren't many options to begin with. XCOM is a brilliant organization that sends an Osprey halfway around the world with only FOUR soldiers on board. Perfect sense. At maximum, you can upgrade to a team of SIX. Not nearly enough. If you do a poor job of defending earth, you lose funding and countries drop out of the program, with no alternative. Apparently, millions of people just surrender at the first sign of trouble. Don't think about this game.

The story is laughable, mitigated by stilted voice acting and dull dialogue. No sense of character whatsoever, save for what you can imagine with your interchangeable soldiers.

Don't bother with this game.

Must-have for strategy fans

XCOM: EU is a strategy game that makes the player feel smart for being smart. Whether you're on the battlefield or making executive decisions off it, XCOM keeps the player constantly engaged by demanding careful forethought to every action's benefit and repercussion. Except on maybe the easiest difficulty, expect to suffer many soldier and country losses because XCOM's difficulty is consistently high, though never unfair — unless you're playing on Classic, where it does the original XCOM's difficulty justice.

XCOM encourages creative strategizing from players, as many variables factor into battle such as terrain elevation, fog of war and destructible environments. Exploiting these advantages is the key to outsmarting the computer, whose A.I. presents plenty of tactical challenge.

The plot of XCOM is not nearly as deep, being very loyal to the generic aliens-invading story. The characters Vahlen and Shen, however, are very charming and help keep the plot entertaining by adding in their findings, quips and observations. You're going to want to visit the two a lot, too, because pursuing their research projects is just as enthralling as combat. Each science project completed rewards the player appropriately with better weaponry and gizmos. It's a well-executed system of combat success -> research -> pay off -> combat success.

Also, the soundtrack is solid, with the combat music being pretty catchy and hummable. By the way, the game is long. A single playthrough of the campaign took 40 hours on my fastest run, but replay value is kept high as the game only gets funner as you learn more and more.

I really enjoyed XCOM for its focus on making strategizing fun. If you've played Fire Emblem, the combat is pretty similar with turn-based, tiled floor, percentage-based combat. Strategy fans will certainly love XCOM's potential for deep strategy, and those new to the strategy genre will find a really fun and charming game, regardless.
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