XCOM: Enemy Within Reveals the Traitors Among Us

XCOM may have met its match.


XCOM: Enemy Within

"Commander, our intelligence sources indicate that a previously unknown organization is attempting to undermine XCOM field operations. We believe this group harbors some misguided sympathies for the invaders and is intent on acquiring alien technology and artifacts critical to your efforts. Early reports indicate this organization calls itself EXALT. We trust you will isolate the source of this new threat, and eliminate it."

This briefing from the council was all I had to go on before squaring off against XCOM: Enemy Within's newest foe: EXALT. This group of traitors--as central officer Bradford described them--is a paramilitary secret society with aspirations of world domination once the aliens have finished genetically "perfecting" humanity. "They've had their eyes to the stars for many years now," explained senior game designer Ananda Gupta, "and now that the alien invasion is here, EXALT's reaction is 'Bring 'em on!'"

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"EXALT is something I feel complements the alien invasion very well," Gupta added. "The invasion is still center stage, but now you have this other opponent that is not necessarily working with the aliens--but is certainly not working with XCOM--and you have to deal with them in a very different way."

If left to its own devices, EXALT will--starting in May--launch operations in various countries to interfere with XCOM's activities. This harassment comes in three flavors: propaganda, which increases panic; sabotage, which drains some of your money; and research hack, which disrupts your current research project. The amount of panic increase, money loss, and time wasted depends on, among other factors, your difficulty level.

Once you've had enough of EXALT's shenanigans, it's time to bring the hammer down. The only problem is figuring out where said hammer falls. EXALT is a shadowy organization that enjoys operating in secret. To locate one of its cells, you can either wait for EXALT to strike, accept the penalty, and retaliate, or spend a little cash to conduct an intel sweep of Earth that will automatically reveal any EXALT cells currently in hiding. Of course, there is a limit to how often these scans can happen, so use them wisely.

In either case, once an EXALT cell is exposed, you have only a few days to react before it goes back into hiding. Removing that cell means volunteering one of your soldiers to infiltrate EXALT's ranks and schmooze with the terrorists for a few days. That part is easy; the hard part comes a few days later when that agent radios home for extraction. Now you have the option to send in your XCOM team, fight the traitors, and bring your soldier home safe--or abandon him and lose the reward. This is also the part of the game I had the chance to play.

You can recover EXALT weapons intact and use them. They have the same stats as your own, but look more intimidating.
You can recover EXALT weapons intact and use them. They have the same stats as your own, but look more intimidating.

The mission I played was a covert data recovery mission, one of the two randomly assigned EXALT mission types. It's a bit like king of the hill in that the bad guys are trying to capture and hold a point on the map, and you're trying to stop them (by shooting them). If the enemies are successful in capturing the first point, a second becomes active, and the process starts anew. Lose that one, and EXALT takes the cake.

And let me tell you something: those EXALT troopers are a group of grade-A jerks. Slacks and suspenders aside, these boys must have just returned from a corporate retreat because synergy is their primary tactic. EXALT troops will heal each other using medikits, cover their own with smoke grenades, and gleefully fire rockets into that one car you decided to stick all of your guys behind because it had really good line of sight and you're also an idiot. They're the worst.

If you're not like me and successfully complete an EXALT mission, you will be awarded a clue as to the whereabouts of the group's headquarters, which is randomly hidden in one of the game's countries. Once you have completed three missions--and collected three clues--you can attempt a raid on the bad guys' evil lair, but you won't be able to pinpoint with 100 percent accuracy which country actually houses EXALT HQ.

Why should you care? Well, let's say you bust into Germany unannounced and don't find a global terrorist organization's secret headquarters, that's going to be pretty awkward. So awkward, in fact, that the country you mistakenly raided will instantly withdraw from the XCOM program. Whoops.

Since EXALT aren't willing to directly oppose the aliens, they won't be able to unlock the PSI and plasma weapon technologies.
Since EXALT aren't willing to directly oppose the aliens, they won't be able to unlock the PSI and plasma weapon technologies.

When dealing with the EXALT threat, you control the tempo of these encounters. Do you wait for a cell to strike before smacking it down? Do you take a more proactive (and expensive) approach by using intel scans? Or do you ignore these traitors entirely? According to Gupta, if the alien invasion is like fending off an avalanche, then dealing with EXALT is more akin to a fencing match. Both parties are on equal footing (initially, at least), and how you deal with EXALT, if at all, is entirely up to you.

If you have a question about EXALT, the new MEC trooper class, or any of the other new features in XCOM: Enemy Within, be sure to leave it in the comments section below. Your question could be featured in next Monday's (10/14) episode of Ask GameSpot!

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Avatar image for adrianjarca

This sounds great. Can't wait.

Avatar image for texasgoldrush

Wow, XCOM's Cerberus

And also, Base Defense is in.....aliens attack your base now.

Avatar image for zeus_RO

@texasgoldrush proof please. links would be great.

Avatar image for stev69

@zeus_RO Instead of lazily demanding proof go and look for it yourself, but im sure its in there also have seen an article on it.

Avatar image for AlphaWolF_J

I think its about time they opened up this game to the modding community ,because those really low textures are not aging well.

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan

This is a very helpful preview.

Avatar image for TheDane87

I can't wait for this game to come out!!!!!!!!! Looks amazing!

Avatar image for innominatus2

I have another question: Can you tell us something more about base defence mission?It is pretty much confirmed it can be attacked by EXALT. What would be the consequences of losing?

Avatar image for zeus_RO

@innominatus2 How did you reach the conclusion that base defense is confirmed??

Avatar image for texasgoldrush

@zeus_RO @innominatus2


Avatar image for Boddicker

@zeus_RO @texasgoldrush @innominatus2 Look at the Steam achievements. I'm too lazy to do it for you.

Avatar image for zeus_RO

@texasgoldrush @zeus_RO @innominatus2 link

Avatar image for jessie82

so human enemies?

and will there be all three in one mission so having to deal with aliens AND exalt at the same time?

Avatar image for WarchefThrall

@jessie82 Those missions could be pretty fun.

Avatar image for Skrillbak

Man, they may be harming humanity as a species but those EXALT guys are truly dapper gents.

Avatar image for Treflis

My question.

If you choose to ignore the EXALT group entirely, will it affect the outcome of the campaign story?

Or rather does EXALT have any influence at all on the Campaign story or is it just another group you might fight as you progress?

Avatar image for WarchefThrall

Now the name "Enemy Within" finally makes sense, now I get it!

Avatar image for innominatus2

My question is weather Exalt terrorist will get stronger later in campaign? Or will genetically modified, titan armor wearing, plasma armed Xcom troopers mop the floor with them just as they would do with sectoids?

According to what we know EXALT is after alien technology just as Xcom is, so such progression would make sense.

Avatar image for Priss_Lance

@innominatus2 EXALT apparently gets Elite versions later, with Gene Mods that XCOM don't get.

Avatar image for GH05T-666

XCOM is awesome, cant wait to get this!

Avatar image for Bhemont

Awesome, just, awesomesaucewithbbqonsaturdayeveningandbreadcrumbs!

Avatar image for Toplinkar

Sounds terrific. Now I really want this.

Quick question, the article states you can revcover their weapons intact, do we need to capture them the same way we do with aliens? CAn you capture an EXALT trooper?

Avatar image for kagento

@Toplinkar Considering that the reason you can't recover alien weapons (unless capturing a live specimen) is because they self-destruct upon the owner's death, I think we can be sure these weapons won't self-destruct.
However, the normal weapons amount isn't limited right now; If these EXALT weapons are the same as your basic setup what's the point? My guess is that they might be tweaked for more accuracy-less power or viceversa.

Avatar image for Priss_Lance

@kagento EXALT weapons look cooler than what XCOM has, so there's that. I know what weapons I'm giving my troops.

According to other vids, the EXALT's weapons may not self-destruct, but the EXALT operatives certainly will if you try to capture them with an Arc Thrower.

Avatar image for MXVIII

Dude! Central Officer Bradford is a bad ass lol

Avatar image for HapiJoel


Avatar image for Dexyu

This will help me survive till Ac4 and Ac4 will help me survive to Watch dogs and then its just cracker sand water for me til next pay check woop thee f dooo . . . .
But it will be so totally worth it !!

Avatar image for R_Mckay

this add on keeps getting better and better! and I hope they can manage a base defense/raid scenario :) but that may be too much for the console side ... but if they can do it for the PC... heck I'd buy that too! :D

Avatar image for barrybarryk

Rev3Games has a video up of one of the EXALT missions up. It looks great with EXALT attacking in serious numbers, far more than you'd normally see in the game

Avatar image for Hiddai


Avatar image for bdous

What can you tell us about the plot of the game ,how it continues the story of Enemy Unknown ?

Avatar image for moonlightwolf01

@bdous It doesn't its an addition, the game follows the same basic story arc you just get a tonne of new tech, gameplay, missions and enemies. The fight with the aliens still ends the same way theres just a lot more to do on the way.

Avatar image for barrybarryk

@moonlightwolf01 Well it does add the new human enemies as well in cells around the world

Avatar image for rosen22

They just sound like a pain in all honesty and little fun. What do we get out of actually shutting them down? Their tech or bonuses etc? Seems like a time sync based on the info here. Hope the game sufficiently rewards you for this big job.

Avatar image for zeus_RO

@rosen22 Maybe they will put like a Second Wave type option to take EXALT out if you want to.

Avatar image for jessie82

@zeus_RO @rosen22 so you pay for a dlc to fuckup your game with another enemy only to unlock an option to disable them...

sounds totally worth it...

Avatar image for zeus_RO

@jessie82 The DLC gives you new units (mecs), new research trees (genetics & others), new alien enemies, new weapons (flashbang grenades & others), new maps, new unit abilities AND it also tosses in a new narrative branch with the EXALT. I'm saying that I would be cool with an option that keeps EXALT out of the game but keeps all the other stuff. Personally, I welcome the EXALT stuff. Make the game HARD. XCOM is supposed to be challenging and damn right unfair sometimes.

Avatar image for zeus_RO

Holy crap!! That trailer... was that XCOM Base Defense in there?? Will you have EXALT atack your base if you ignore their action for to long?? Looking forward for this and the new MP maps.