XCOM: Enemy Unknown review

Bonjour, Guten Tag and Konichwa bitches, unwrap my delightful, multicultural Xcom review, choking hazard.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical role-playing strategy video game developed by Firaxis Games for publisher 2K Games, released on October 9, 2012 in North America and three days later in Europe and Australia for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is a “reimagined” remake of the 1994 cult classic strategy game UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as X-COM: UFO Defense).

First Impressions

To be perfectly honest with you, I loved it, no actually correct that, I’m ‘in’ love with it. Having never played the originals I had no real bias a friend of mine told me about it and since I’m a fan of RTS games I thought I’d give this a go. I normally write notes as I play games I want to review but this game was so addictive I couldn’t stop playing long enough to scratch my arse, so this review may suffer as a result of Xcom being as  moorish as bloody crack.

The game is about an alien invasion on earth and you are appointed as commander of the Xcom project (surprised I was there first choice to be fair), a coalition of member countries dedicated to studying and fighting the alien menace. You basically spend most of your time fighting aliens and collecting their magical trousers to reverse engineer your own magical trousers all the while setting up satellite systems and underground bases and alien Guantanamo bays all in the name of defending the earth from alien attack.

Game play

I’d sort of describe it as a sci-fi version of full spectrum warrior or a mix of gears of war and command and conquer but it sort of reminded me of the assassins guild bit of assassins creed brotherhood (AKA; the only salvageable part of that game). You know the part where you recruit plucky work-shy strangers, train equip and send them off to stab people in foreign lands and then sort of imagine what’s happening while faffing about climbing on rooftops and listening to the worst Italian accents known to man.

This game is basically that but you actually get to go on the missions and control them and not only do you get to kit them out, did I mention you can collect alien underpants and and study them and research new hitting sticks and magical pants for your boys. They also level up and gain new skills and cool little nicknames.

The nick names part I think is the most interesting because at the beginning of the game the characters just felt like pawns moving about on a chess board, they weren’t characters they were just randomly generated avatars, of varied race/gender/nationality

Close Encounters of the nerd kind

The first couple of missions some might die and it’s no big deal you just replace them, soldiers die, ‘it’s all part of the plan’ but the ones that survive level up get randomly generated nicknames. So it almost goes as far in terms of suspension of disbelief that these surviving vets are interacting in their down time, getting to know each other and giving each other nick names. Although as commander I can change their nicknames (and quite disheartening their actual names/nationalities/race but oddly not gender) I left them because it gave me a window into a non-existent sub narrative.

It’s a little bit like when you were a kid and you go to bed or put your toys away and then imagine that they talk or play cards when you’re not around. It astounds me that something so simple can add this little sub narrative, sparked by imagination and I got a little weirded out with myself when I started introducing my team to my brother to which he remarked ‘it’s like some freak is showing me his doll collection’. So eventually I got to this point where if a character died, I had to reload it and try again instead of sacrifice the character because so much time and effort and imagination had gone into that character that it justified putting more time and effort in to keeping them alive.

It amazed me that I could care about and value the lives of characters that I created more than characters in any other game that talked and had actual personalities as opposed to personalities I had imagined.

The short and skinny of it

All in all I think this game is effortlessly engaging and addictively fun. It just makes me laugh that games like Cod and Assassins Creed can try so hard to create likeable characters and fail so resoundingly and then a game like XCOM can come along and do it without even trying. I mean the game really only has a three or four different types of mission, you investigate crash sites, or save civilians or deactivate bombs, every mission is basically the same but for some strange reason it’s fun, it just has that something that keeps you playing.

I think this game is the perfect balance of fun game play/action and anal retentive grinding and crafting. To be honest I think it’s the best game to come out this year, the only fault I have with it is it could have been a little longer.

Pros; Great game play, storyline was passable, characterisation was brilliant.


Con; Could have done with being a bit longer, not much to look at either I suppose.


[xrr rating=9/10] 9/10

Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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