on 15 October 2012
As with many reviewers here, I grew up with the original XCom, playing it on my Amiga back then. It was amazing and I have been hooked ever since. As no real update for the original ever arrived until now I salved my need to play it by playing games like UFO: Aftermath and its two follow ups. They were pretty good, and very close to Xcom's legacy.
Now we have the updated, 21st Century vision of XCom, and its not to bad really, but far from perfect. After reading all the current reviews here I have to agree with most opinions, although I have to say Steam wasn't an issue for me and after all this time I wish people would simply rate the game play, not the Steam. Everyone knows Steam sucks, we don't need to keep hearing it, nothings going to change so get over it.
The game has been simplified, it has to be said. Whether to accomodate the new surge of young teen game system enthusiasts who can't seem to handle proper PC games with a little thinking required, I don't know. But its a shame developers seem to think they have to make games that Wii and Xbox players can manage rather than us PC gamers.
As for the game itself? The downside first. I really miss the inventory for soldiers because this games inventory is terrible. You have four spaces, armour, main gun, back up gun, and extra. The armour and weapons choices upgrade as you research new tech, so no problem there. But where are the spaces for extra ammo? Why can I only have one extra item? And why are the extras so stupidly listed? I mean you can have one grenade, a medkit, a sight for your gun, extra body armor, but they all go in the extra slot rather than upgrading existing items, so you can only have one at a time. You can't have a sight, extra body armour and a grenade. Why can't the sight go on the main gun? Why can't the extra body armour upgrade your current armour? Why only one grenade? Also, as someone else mentioned, you are now told what your soldier has upgraded to rather than having the choice. I want to be able to choose if soldier A has the skills to be a sniper and not have my game tell me thats it, no choice allowed. Also once that soldier has been pigeon holed into his class, his main weapon is immediately changed to that class and you can't change it back. So if a sniper he gets a rifle, if a heavy he gets a light machine gun, etc, etc.
Also you only get one base. You can send satellites to watch over other countries, and even a couple of interceptors to be stationed there as the ones at home base won't reach most other countries, but thats it. You'll get alerts occasionally that always list three emergencies, but you can only ever respond to one! So the other two countries suffer and their opinion of you drops accordingly. I was hoping this kind of thing would be handled a lot better for this game. Why not be allowed to have more than one team? You could respond to a number of emergencies then as long as you had the money and resources to accomodate all those soldiers and aircraft. Also the storyline is very rigid. Things seem to happen at set times no matter what you do which gets a little boring as you don't feel in control.
Lastly on the negatives, the learning curve for difficulty seems higher on this game, even on easy. I might be looking back with rose tinted glasses at the original XCom, but I don't recall massive alien invasions so soon into the game. I remember many enjoyable hours of shooting down UFO's, stopping abductions, doing enough research to actually stand a good chance at fighting off the oncoming hordes. Not so here. About an hour in, after completing a few pretty easy site recovery op's and 'stop the abductions' op's, I get notified that a major alien incursion is occuring and I have to immediately go stop it ... with my five soldiers. So I get to the scene and immediately am set upon by about ten aliens, of different types. I hardly have time to do my first few moves before my guys start dieing around me. I don't know if there were more aliens past those ten, I guess so, but as I died so fast I don't know. Also I should quickly point out, I'm no newbie to strategy games, I know how to move soldiers around a board.
On the good side, however, the tactical battles are still as gripping as the original XCom to my mind. I love the two stage movement, the way cover is handled, the little mini movies thrown in occasionally when a soldier moves. The graphics aren't incredible, not when you consider whats possible these days, but they easily handle the job at hand. Being able to climb a drainpipe to send your sniper to the rooftop for maximum overwatch is great to see. The story is just as captivating to, researching all the cool alien tech, cutting them open to see how they tick, its all there from the original game.
So, to close this rather long review, yes, its XCom, but its also suffered the curse of the console playing community. Gone is the cool and indepth micro-management, in is the streamlined, compact gameplay that significantly reduces the length of the game, and to my mind, the replayability. Its a shame that XCom's rebirth seems to have been handled in the glib manner most of our golden oldie games that have resurfaced recently have been. For my money? Glad I bought it, fun to play, but I think I'll go back to UFO: Aftermath for a proper XCom fix.