XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Chrysalids, Sid Meier, and Exploding Green Goo

The XCOM series gets a reboot, but does this turn-based strategy title hold up against its classic predecessors?

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There are some things you expect to see in an XCOM game: guns, gore, exploding aliens. A 7ft tall super-soldier with the face of Sid Meier? Not so much. And yet he's there, dressed in the finest sleek black armour and ready to do some serious damage to the alien horde.

Not that you get him at the beginning of the game, mind. Sid Meier is part of a collection of weapons and equipment that you get access to towards the tail end of this 3D reboot of the classic turn-based strategy game.

There are jet packs that elevate you to higher positions for greater shot accuracy, plasma rifles that can blow the face off a sectoid in seconds, ghost armour that makes you invisible to the enemy, and mind control techniques that let you use each enemies' own weapons against each other.

With a mighty set of weapons comes a mighty foe, and in the latter stages of Enemy Unknown it's the Chrysalids. They are, by the looks of them, the meanest of all of XCOM's aliens. They snarl and drool and wave maniacal claws as they leap and rip apart your soldiers.

But those soldiers are there to serve; they know the price of freedom. And you, as commander of the XCOM, must ensure that they do their very best to defeat the global alien invasion and see the continued survival of the human race.

On the battlefield, you have direct command of your units. They can can move twice in a turn, or dash further using both turns at once. Cover is the key to survival. Objects that make for good hiding places display full shields as you highlight them with the analogue stick. Ones that are less so display half-shields.

There's height to consider too, as you send your troops into the line of alien fire. Pressing up on the d-pad changes the verticality, letting you look at the surfaces of roof tops to see which would make great sniping areas for increased accuracy.

But of course, your alien opponents don't stand still. And when your turn is over, they sneak around you, trying to flank your position and unleash a few rounds from their lethal alien weapons. You command your troops to return fire by a few simple presses on the control pad. You can hurl grenades too, watching them bounce onto alien heads and explode in a gloriously gory splatter of green goo.

It's all very pretty, and all very slick. The interface is intuitive and visually stark, making it easy to pick out the information you need as it's overlaid over the detailed backdrops. There weren't any problems using a controller to command the action, but without trying out keyboard and mouse controls, it's difficult to tell if there is any disadvantage for doing so.

While there's action out on the battlefield there's still plenty to manage back at home base too. There's research to be done and manufacturing to instigate. A side-on view of your home base lets you jump to different departments with ease, while detailed 3D models and some slightly cheesy voice acting give you something to enjoy while you're deciding whether to cut up alien bodies for research or build a new plasma rifle.

There is of course the matter of strategy to think about too. Which country do you help? Which do you ignore? A world map showing the various panic levels of countries around the world helps you decide where to send the troops. But it's all a balancing act.

Neglect a country too much and they pull funding, so you have less to spend on research and development. But another, less panicked country might have greater rewards on offer for your help. It's another level of depth that just adds to the already tense turn-based strategy of the action sequences.

And if you get stuck, you can always call on Sid Meier. He's pretty good in a fight, you know.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is due for release on October 12 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.

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Discussion

45 comments
RavenXavier
RavenXavier

I swear to the Gaming Gods if they push back the PC release to try to sell more on the consoles I'll kill people. It happens All the time with cross platform releases but X-Com started as a PC series and at it's core it always will be. They better not screw us PC players over on this one.

sladakrobot
sladakrobot

Let me tell you that Turn-Based-Strategy games on consoles was earlier the normality.All these Military Madness(Nectaris)(btw BlueByte copied the system for their famous PC-Series Battle Isle),Advanced Military Series aswell as the Strategy RPG's like Tactics Ogre or FF Tactics was/are very popular.And they controls was perfect for a pad..Infact i think,the Realtime-Based-Games games(Cannon Fodder,CC+Red Alert,Craft-Series and such) is something what become very popular on PC's.

Now nough of that :) I agree with the comment bit below,FireAxis should make a bundle game +mouse for consoles(MS and Sony should allow really mouse as a controloption).I liked pretty  much the controlbuttons from the original games EU and Terror from the Deep.On first sight its too much but ones soon realize how simple and logic everythig is.LOL at the stereotype-generic name for the german female soldier Gertrud Schulz.Sounds like a very original John Smith LOL  I really hope we can change the names ourselves like in Enemy Unknown.

I dislike everything realtime...maybe its coz of my job,i have timepreassure the whole time and i dont really need it again when i am at home LOL

This became a very comment LOL To make it short...i really hope this game will be great.

 

zahinsa
zahinsa

This forced to restart xcom terror from the deep until it comes out.  I might try  Xenonauts in the meantime.  Given the number of MMORPGs which have failed recently and the me-too shooters out there, we might see a few great reboots of classic games.  For those people whining about it not being completely like the original, grow up.  Life is constant change and evolution, enjoy the ride.  I'm just happy this is pure TBS, none of that crappy pauseable RTS from Apocalypse.  Can't wait for this game. 

GarGx1
GarGx1

I want a Laser Squad reboot :)

Taffelost
Taffelost

I remember the original X-Com series. It was among the first games I played as I came over to the PC-side from the Amiga platform. What a time that was with loads and loads of brilliant games, of which X-Com was one of them. Ever since I heard they're remaking this tactical strategy game I've been extremely interested. Now that other XCOM game; not so much.

Rixtake
Rixtake

"Guns, gore, exploding aliens". What?

That's not the XCom I ever played. Get the REAL game from GOG or Gamersgate. This looks like Sims meet Call of  Doodah. Will it run on single core PC? Do the aliens just go to gas stations?  Ooh there are CARS. Are there cows in the countryside? 

The game controller is the tip off. Who uses a GC when you need to stop and think. It's Turn Based! This isn't Mass Effort! You might have to use a little bit of cleverness. 

I might get this when the Gold edition comes out. The one with the laundromat expansion.

archiekins07
archiekins07

I bought the Original X-com on the PS1.  I loved it so much I bought it 3 times, not because I wanted to, it's because I lent 2 copies to friends and I never it saw again.  Its such a classic game and so beloved by many who know how to use Time Units and setting the right team before deploying out.  I hope the pretty graphics stay true to the hardcore fans like myself.  I actually downloaded all 5 X-com games from Gamersgate, X-com UFO DEFENCE, TERROR FROM THE DEEP, APOCALYPSE, INTERCEPTOR, AND ENFORCER.  It was a pretty sweet deal if I remember.  You guys should go check it out and download at least first 3 games, UFO, TERROR AND APOLCALYPSE.  Interceptor was a flight sim game and Enforcer was an email based game.

diaspore
diaspore

X-COM for consoles? Blasphemy! Travesty!

MindlessTeef
MindlessTeef

I have my concerns, but the more I see... the better it looks. I just hope that in end, XCOM EU will have equal parts substance and flash. I like a pretty face as much as the next guy, but XCOM should remain complex and involved. + 1 000 000 points to FIraxis for keeping the TBS system! So far, the game remains a possible pre-order for me, let hope Sid doesn't dissapoint:)

ZOD777
ZOD777

There are lots of purist fans from the original that are skeptical about how true to the original this game will remain, and I am one of them.  Change is good, but only if it is for the better, and there may be some things included/omitted from this game that will not sit well.  This article is a good and somewhat humorous outlook on the subject that I read some time ago.  I agree with most of it.

 

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/01/06/the-new-xcom-my-needy-little-wishlist/

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

Call up Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Rip Torn......we'll be needing their servioces come October lol

Totally looking forward to this......

deliman
deliman

i remember playing the original years ago on pc.  it was a great game for sure.  I had no idea this game was even in development till i read this article.  hopefully it will play well with a controller.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

For once I have to agree with the PC fanboys on this; strategy doesn't work too well on consoles. Package it with an xbox / PS mouse and it would be more promising.

Arcadiu5
Arcadiu5

Literally can't wait for this

Luminious0
Luminious0

yeah, old classic Enemy Unknown.. final suit you get is bad ass. You use a Jetpack. Also, similiar armor in Terror from the Deep. Looks good!

xgropo
xgropo

I have the feeling that this, like so many other games recently, will be dumbed-down for console users. Apparently we can't handle complexity and sophistication in a video game. See Civ5 for a good example.

doppelgang
doppelgang

PS3.....PS3.....

 say it aint so.....

PC only. NOW.

 

or else you will never be able to do the original justice!

jamesjgraham
jamesjgraham

I hope there will be destructive environments (buildings...) and that the game will be balanced for both Aliens and non-Aliens alike.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

is this confusing to anyone else? I thought they were making this a 1st person shooter now? Or are they making 2 versions of the game?

Dirty_Window
Dirty_Window

Oh and the Art director looks like the Man vs Food guy. :D

Dirty_Window
Dirty_Window

Looking forward to this. As long as it's not watered down for the masses, it'll be a good game. 

axlroselm
axlroselm

 @zahinsa I have high hopes for Xenonauts too! It looks like a promising title!

MindlessTeef
MindlessTeef

 @GarGx1

 YES! There was that Laser Squad Nemisis game, but I would love to see a proper sequal to the game that was X-COM's origin:)

archiekins07
archiekins07

 @MindlessTeef first is classic, i still play it to this day, was even hoping to have it on ios so I can play on my iPad or iPhone. It would be perfect for iDevices or smartphones alike.  If I recall, they were making a game for ios which was true turned based style to X-com.  

mdavies97131
mdavies97131

 @ZOD777 what bothers me is that from the latest interviews, it is implied that the random-gen maps won't be making an appearance, which really hurts my fan-boy feelings, as that was one of the things that made the original great.  What I infer is that there are a lot of pre-made maps, that you will be "unlikely to repeat within a game"  In the original, the exact same map would be all but statistically impossible, and highly unlikely over a life of playing.  I may pick this up as a good game, but so far I'm thinking Xenonauts may be closer to what I'm craving (I'll get both, lol)

balrogthane
balrogthane

 @MooncalfReviews Fingers crossed that a turn-based game can ease the discrepancy.  With real-time, console is hobbled to a ridiculous degree, and pretending otherwise just makes you sound foolish.  But turn-based... I'm okay with having to take a few extra seconds to get an action done, if I'm not going to be penalized for it.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @xgropo 

I seem to recall Firaxis claiming dedicated development for the PC version - I'll see if I can track down the quote.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @jamesjgraham 

As one of the Alien race, I agree... :P

 

From what I've seen, the destructive nature of the environments is definitely an existing aspect of the game, though to what extent is still unknown.

MindlessTeef
MindlessTeef

@archiekins07 Agreed, still remains a great game. I'm just waiting for the Dosbox project for Android to get done:)

MindlessTeef
MindlessTeef

 @PinchySkree

 Jip, on PSX the next year... after the DOS and Amiga version. I would think TBS would work well on a console? At least better than Realtime strategy games. I would'nt call it "Blasphemy", but I didn't think the average console gamer would be interested in X-COM. I will gladly be wrong though:)

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Yeah it will. The other one looks like a Syndicate style mess lol.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Thanks. That still seems confusing (they are named very similarly), but I'm glad they decided to do both.