I know it’s a little late, as it has been out for a few months now, but I have finally got round to playing XCOM Enemy Unknown and I am loving it.
For those who aren’t familiar with the XCOM series, which can’t be many of you seeing as the original game was released nearly 20 years ago. Microprose produced a number of other games up until 2001, but when a couple of games they were working on got cancelled (XCOM Genesis and XCOM Alliance) we all thought that was it, the franchise was done for.
Thankfully, we just needed to be patient because in October 2012, XCOM Enemy Unknown was released, a game that is essentially a re-make of the original game from 20 years ago. Apart from the name, which was changed from UFO Enemy Unknown presumably because everybody recognises the term XCOM.
For those people who aren’t familiar with the XCOM series, Enemy Unknown is a turn based strategy game, where a squad of up to six marine-like soldiers are sent to various places across the planet for a number of missions. These range from simply wiping out every alien on the map, to defusing an alien bomb or rescuing a VIP from the clutches of those damned alien forces. When you’re not shedding alien blood for the benefit of humanity you have your base and your resources to manage. Will you promote your soldiers, investigate new alien technologies, or simply build some new facilities for your base. Although, all that costs money so you have to make sure that enough of the world’s nations are providing you with monthly funds. They generally don’t like it if you let their cities get destroyed or their civilians captured, but as long as you complete their missions for them or send them the equipment they say they need they’ll stay pretty sweet and keep throwing the cash at you.
The gameplay for the missions in XCOM Enemy Unknown is simple, each soldier can perform a set number of actions per turn. This could be running into cover, firing at an enemy, or setting them on overwatch which will allow them to shoot at any enemy that moves into their sight. Cover is a lot more important in this game than in earlier versions, so it’s important to make sure you outflank the enemy as much as possible and more importantly you don’t allow them to do it to you. There is little more to it than that, but don’t let my simple explanation fool you into thinking that it isn’t challenging either. I’m playing on easy and I have had to reload more times than I would have liked to. Mind you a lot of those re-loads is because I rather egotistically named a soldier after myself, and I can’t exactly let him die can I.
Oh by the way, each attack will have a percentage change of success, and reloading will never change the outcome of that attack. For example, you have just after you saved the game, you take a shot at 85% chance to hit and miss. Thinking you’ve just saved your game, it wouldn’t take a lot to reload and have another go at the shot. Well if you did it will still miss. You could do another action knowing that your original action will fail, but trying the same action over and over will always have the same result.
I’m not sure whether my love of this game stems from the nostalgia of playing UFO Enemy Unknown until my keyboard bled, or whether this is just a truly great game on its own. The controls are simple and the strategy is highly addictive, hours have already been lost on one mission as I was flanked by huge amounts of enemies and I did not want to lose a single man. I know that I want to keep playing it. Sure XCOM Enemy Unknown could be considered a direct copy of the first game, but who cares quite frankly. The original was awesome with now very dated graphics, so keeping the same gameplay and updating the graphics, including a bit of voice-acting what’s not to love.
If you don’t trust me, and want to try XCOM Enemy Unknown for yourself you can download the free demo from the official site by clicking here, or get a load of these screenshots.
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Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife and his player 3. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.