XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Slingshot Review

Slingshot adds three good missions to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but too easily blends into the dozens of hours that surround it.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Slingshot asks the question: is more of the same enough to satisfy you? If so, and if you don't mind starting a new game from scratch, then you already know what you need to know about the first major downloadable content for this great turn-based strategy game. For $6.99, you get three smartly designed levels, the latter two of which keep tensions appropriately high as you encounter the same horrifying aliens that hovered ominously over the original game. The DLC also provides certain tweaks that open up powerful technology, such as the fusion core, earlier than you would normally expect, and it also adds some cosmetic customization options to fiddle with. But ultimately, Slingshot is an hour's worth of "more," and it struggles to find a worthwile place in the XCOM project.

Fire or overwatch? Decisions, decisions.

That isn't to say that these three missions aren't up to Enemy Unknown's high standards. The first, a rescue task that you face early in the game, introduces you to Shaojie Zhang, whose poker-faced expression and dramatic vocal tone contribute to the game's amusing campiness. His stoic presence is a continuation of XCOM's entertaining mix of pop-culture-inspired nuttiness and earnest characters that take each event with such dreadful seriousness. The mission itself is a standard rescue, but the map fits the setting--a detail the original game occasionally missed. The softly glowing lanterns, Chinese characters on signs overhead, blooming cherry blossom trees: these features impress upon you that you are, indeed, in China.

Aesthetics aside, the mission plays out exactly as you would expect for an early-game Enemy Unknown mission; you lead your squad through the mission, fending off almond-eyed sectoids, facing a spiderlike chrysalid, and ultimately escorting Zhang to safety. The central mission is structurally the most interesting of the three, having squad members sprint down the corridor of a passenger train and activating transponders while protecting their flanks--and taking position above, if you prefer. Why the hurry? The objective is timed, so you must perform the necessary activations before you reach your turn limit, an aspect that adds additional tension to an otherwise straightforward mission.

Zhang fails to see the humor of the situation.

The final mission has you assaulting a rotating alien ship that hovers over a brightly lit cityscape. This is the lengthiest and most challenging level of the three, and as well it should be, since you encounter it once you're deep into the main game. Like many of Enemy Unknown's similar assaults, verticality is a concern here, though like in similar XCOM levels, the symmetrical layout prohibits the action from becoming too chaotic. Like the others, this is a good mission, yet in context, amid the dozens of surrounding missions, it doesn't greatly elevate the overall course of the game. After that initial mission, Zhang enters your barracks and makes for a powerful heavy in the few hours that follow his introduction. Yet even with his formidable presence, the Slingshot objectives blend into the rest, as do the slight attempts at storytelling.

The price might seem reasonable at first glance, but as nice as these missions are, they don't heighten Enemy Unknown in any significant manner--and you certainly wouldn't want to start a new game for the explicit purpose of experiencing them. If a new playthrough is already in your upcoming plans, then you might appreciate a few fresh objectives. Yet without an identity to call its own, Slingshot is too similar to the many hours that surround it to be considered a must-play to anyone but the most fervent XCOM fans.

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The Good
Three new fun, atmospheric missions
Enemy placement and timed objectives lead to tense strategizing
The Bad
You have to start a new game to see the content
Adds too little, and is too unmemorable, to justify the cost
6
Fair
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About the Author

Kevin VanOrd is a lifelong RPG lover and violin player. When he isn't busy building PCs and composing symphonies, he watches American Dad reruns with his fat cat, Ollie.
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