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Customer Review

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars XCOM - The Best In Console Strategy Since...X-COM, 13 Oct. 2012
This review is from: XCOM Enemy Unknown (PS3) (Video Game)
Hats off to Captain Larry, nickname 'GungHo'. She was amazing. A shotgun surgeon, the vanguard of my squad, charging bravely across war torn cityscapes burnt asunder by alien fire. Her bright pink armour and shock of electric blue hair a bastion of hope to all. Not for the Muton who stomped on her like a bloated, squishy bug obviously; the brutish alien wore her guts like a scarf and preceded to rip through two rookies as if they were made of tissue paper. And years after playing X-Com on my Playstation i am again shedding a nerdy tear for my digital soldiers. On a strategy game for a console no less.

For those who are unaware of the linage of XCOM or don't care it is a game of turn-based tactics at squad level wrapped up in a strategic layer that involves research, development, managing your soldiers and base, plus choosing which alien threat you can or will respond too. During missions you play on one the games many maps and guide your troops turn by turn in and out of cover, through buildings, along rooftops and deep into the control rooms of crashed UFO's; searching for aliens to kill or stun based on percentage shots worked out by a soldiers Aim skill, distance and cover. The aliens by contrast want you dead...in the case of the Chryssalid's something much worse. Mostly they want you dead though.

A tutorial holds you firmly by the hand for the first few hours and makes a thorough job of explaining game concepts.

The approach Firaxis seem to have taken with XCOM is that of a board game. There are certain mechanics in the game that may not work thematically but do a great job of creating tension by forcing the player to make choices that can have immediate and far reaching consequences.

The most obvious of which are the alien incursions and the panic level of nations. Outside of story-based missions there is never a singular choice when the aliens attack, you can choose to respond to only one nations plight (or none if you wish) and must abandon the others. Those nations you turn your back on have their panic level raised up a notch, and once it hits critical they will leave the XCOM initiative and go there own way, taking their monthly funding with them. Panic levels can be decreased by use of satellites which are expensive and take time to build as well as completing missions. Later in the game the whole concept works like a side game of plate-spinning, hard decisions have to be made and sometimes juicy rewards abandoned (each mission has its own sweetner) in an effort to keep hold of a high funding nation.

The idea of hard choices or at least meaningful ones is a constant throughout the game. When soldiers level up they are arbitrarily handed a 'class' which they are locked into for the remainder of their hectic lives. Have too many snipers and need a support class? Then you have to make the decision to field rookies on the next mission and leave the more experienced guys at home and hope they level up into a class you want. Equip a grenade or med pack? Without the corresponding perk you can only take one. The same with research and base building. Time is precious and high level research and base building eat it up as well as your credits.

On the ground the combat missions are fast paced and exciting. Each soldier can move and perform a combat action, or move twice in a 'dash'. Higher level characters have access to more abilities, which stack up to an impressive amount of tactical options, with some abilities aiding teammates when they in turn use their own special abilities. The aliens too have there own skill set which they use to great effect. Each encounter with a new species becomes a cautious affair of probing attack and retreats as you try and work out just how a new threat can hurt your team. I don't want to drop spoilers but some of the alien abilities can hit hard and fast, again reinforcing the idea of a 'board game' balance to XCOM that might infuriate those demanding greater ingame realism to their skirmishes. The first time panic rips through an entire squad because one member fell prey to an alien special ability can cause huffy sounds and eye rolls but then slim chance critical hits that save the day and your own well timed special abilities can equally turn a lost cause into a win.

The missions are mostly shooty shooty but VIP and civilian rescue, bomb disposal and other objective based missions are put into rotation along with live alien capture; think pokemon but with more goo and torture. Research via alien autopsies can only go so far and capturing live aliens (at your own discretion and peril) adds another factor to XCOM's battles, with the big bonus that you only retrieve alien weaponry from stunned aliens.

Graphic wise the game is decent and well put together but not without issue. The camera can be a pain, providing a close up view of the back of a soldiers head during the cinematic close ups of shots hit or missed and has trouble in tight environments. There can also be occasional frame rate jerkiness when a map gets busy with aliens, civvies, smoke and rubble. Soldiers appear to sometimes shoot through walls and floors at aliens, especially during overwatch when they react to enemy movement they obviously shouldn't be able to see and there will be other times when you and the game will disagree as to a soldiers line of sight.

The music is nice if a little subdued, i would prefer something more bombastic as my guys gear up for battle and eerie as we explore a map waiting for alien contact. And your multinational squad of soldiers are all voiced by similar sounding American voice artists. [EDIT] Actually the deployment theme has wormed its way into my head and is really pretty good.

Overall XCOM provides a minty breath of fresh air to the playstation roster and is a well thought out and engrossing strategy game in its own right. Multiple difficulty levels provide a hefty challenge if you wish it and the solid gameplay is loaded with so many tense moments, choices and is sprinkled with great touches. Your customised squad for example you will see in the rec room or gym of your base and there is a page of remembrance to your fallen soldiers, complete with forlorn bagpipe accompaniment that just begs for your own Shantner-like eulogy to your personal favourite, (best wait until your significant other is out the room for that though). And there is always that next alien weapon to research, item to build and country that is on the verge of tipping into all out panic. Much of the scope and bloat of the original is gone, if that is not an issue and you are looking for a different gaming taste than what is usually on offer, then XCOM is definitely worth a look. Check out the demo on PSN store.

(TIP: Play on Ironman, it makes the game 26.7% more fun.)
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Dec 2012 13:37:30 GMT
Mr Ogden says:
Very informative and well balanced review. I've been meaning to get this game for a while now,how addictive is it? Dark Souls nearly swallowed me whole into the "abyss" this year, could X-COM do the same?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2012 16:40:14 GMT
Greycut says:
The game is addictive, i am on my third playthrough, not including several other playthroughs where i have been wiped out. The combat is excellent, turn based, tactical and challenging, more so on 'classic' difficulty with ironman mode on.

But...

Having spent so much time with XCOM i think the developers did stumble with the wraparound strategic portion of the game. It is linear and too scripted. If it were more of a sandbox game experience similar to the originals with a comprehensive list of front end game options then i would consider XCOM a classic.

The multiplayer too, as small and weakly developed as it is, is great fun when you face off against a sporting player.

So yeah, if you like turn based - tactical squad games then at the very least the first playthrough of XCOM will be addictive and fun; you wanna get that Dark Souls vibe, then learn the ropes before playing on 'Classic -Ironman'.

Btw check out Valkyrie Chronicles if you are looking for another PS3 gem, and Legastia or Rainbow Moon on the PSN store if you enjoyed the grindy aspects of Dark Souls.

Posted on 20 Jun 2013 13:13:19 BDT
John Roberts says:
One of the best reviews I've seen on Amazon! Definitely voted up for such an informative and touching description of this game! I'm definitely gonna get it!

Posted on 16 Nov 2015 18:11:54 GMT
Ricky Bobby says:
Nice review. I loved the original on PS1 and must have spent months of my life playing it right the way through repeatedly until I'd got every aspect of the game down to an artform. Am I likely to enjoy this remake or is it just going to leave me either confused or pining for the original?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2015 13:01:55 GMT
Greycut says:
The remake is streamlined but is made with so much care that you still get that x-com vibe.

Right now on the psn store you can buy X-com: The Enemy Within for a tenner. It is an extended version of this game with cyborg enhancements, psi abilities, new threats and extended story missions. Well worth it i think.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2015 10:47:18 GMT
Ricky Bobby says:
Sweet! I missed that so thanks. I'll be buying it as soon as I get home tonight :-)
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