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Xbox 360 Game Review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown


Format: Xbox 360
2K Games
RRP: £49.99
5 026555 246224
Age Restrictions: 16+
Available 12 October 2012

From the makers of the Civilization series comes a game about humanity’s final stand. Threatened by an unknown foe, the Earth’s governments come together to form a stealth paramilitary organization known as XCOM to combat this extraterrestrial assault. At the helm of XCOM, you command the global defence team in battle against a frightening alien invasion. Determine the destiny of the human race by building and co-coordinating a fully operational base, researching alien tech, formulating combat missions, and choreographing soldier movement in battle...

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reworking of MicroProse's 1994 game UFO: Enemy Unknown. It's a turn-based tactical role-playing strategy game which sees you in command of Earth's last line of defence against an unknown alien threat. When you start the game all nations have signed up to the XCOM organisation, but as you progress you have to be careful that you are looking after all nations fairly. Ignore a country and they will slowly cease sending funds and eventually leave the organisation altogether. Lose a certain amount of nations and XCOM will cease to be - ending the game.

Review imageThe game contains numerous aspects, but the main gaming environment sees you taking charge of a squad of soldiers as you are dropped at various locations on the globe to rescue civilians and put an end to any alien activity. This is done through a simple turn based environment with you being able to move each of your soldiers one at a time (in any order you wish) until you come into contact with the aliens. Once this happens you take a turn with each of your team and then the aliens take their turn - each character having a move where they can (depending on rank, special abilities and how far you move them) fire at the enemy or hunker down out of harms way. There are different soldiers with different fire arms (including shotguns, snipers, LMGs and assault weapons) and each come with a back up pistol as well as special abilities and the the option to heal, throw grenades or fire rockets.

Getting the right balance in your team is essential, and making sure that you know where each of them is is also key to winning each game. For example, it's no use having a team made up of soldiers who all wield shotguns (well it might, but it's highly unlikely). When you land in your environment you never know where the alien threat is, so you have to start slowly moving your team. However, little clues as to where the aliens are appear on screen (in the form of strange sound waves). But you won't want to go charging in that direction as there may be groups of aliens at different parts of the map. So moving slowly and assigning a couple of your team to "overwatch" (where they will shoot at any alien movement that is close by during the aliens next go) can help you get in get the job done and get out as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Review imageSome of the aliens that you meet can fly, so using cover close to them isn't always a good move, as they can fly behind you and attack you. Once you have the basics under your belt (and if you've researched and engineered the Arc weapon) you can attempt to capture an alien alive, so that your research team can find out more about them.

Any of your team that make it back home, can be promoted which allows for them to be put through various aspects of training that will give them an edge in following battles.

When it comes to picking your team you can either go with the computer's choice or you can pick your own. This is sometimes a good idea (well, editing their loadout can be) as you'll sometimes need to make sure you have someone on your team that can perform a certain task (like stun and capture a live alien).

After each battle you are returned to the XCOM HQ (its location continent you are asked to pick when you start the game). Here you can make use of the various artifacts which you will have collected. In the HQ you can enter the following screens: Research; Engineering; Barracks; Hangar; Situation Room; and Mission Control.

Review imageIn Research you have the ability to set your research team on to the task of examining the artifacts you recover on your missions. This allows new equipment and weapons to be reverse engineered.

Engineering allows you to build and buy items that you have the blue prints for (these include new weapons and attachments, armour and vehicles). You can also build new facilities (like a power room, a laboratory and a satellite uplink).

In the Barracks you can change the look of your soldiers (their race, sex, nationality, name etc) as well as edit their weapons and equipment); put them through training school (which does things like add an extra member to your team for missions); visit the memorial room (where you can see the stats of the characters who fell in battle); and recruit new soldiers. After every mission you will be given the option to promote some of the soldiers who have performed well. Each promotion comes with two options for you to chose - which are additional skills that will be unique to that soldier. In addition any soldiers who are injured won't be able to be redeployed until they are well again (once you finish each mission you are told which of your team are injured and how long before they can resume active duty.

Review imageThe Hangar screen allows you to view and edit the fighters you have. You can deploy them to cover different continents and upgrade their weaponry as upgrades become available. Your aircraft are scrambled when alien craft are spotted in the skies. If you successfully take the aliens down then you can deploy a team to perform a salvage operation and take care of any aliens. If you fail to take down the alien space craft (you can either flee if your craft becomes too damaged) you can scramble another, if you have one. As you upgrade your craft you'll also be able to perform manual moves like dodging the aliens fire as well as firing yourself.

The Situation Room helps you keep a track of the mood of the rest of the world's nations. This is important as you'll need to try and keep everyone happy because nations will leave the XCOM programme if they feel they are wasting their money and you are not protecting them. You can launch satellites (if you have the facilities in your Engineering department - you'll also need to build a satellite) over specific nations so that you are forewarned when aliens attack); View XCOM finances (keep a check on your monthly expenditure and income); Visit the Grey Market (where you can sell surplus artifacts you've discovered, in order to help fund your current projects); and Pending Requests (where member nations will occasionally ask you for items or equipment. If you agree then you get a financial reward).

Review imageAnd finally Mission Control where you can scan for any alien threats or undertake any outstanding missions.

It sounds rather confusing, but it really isn't. The game eases you into the mechanics in a very natural way.

There are a limited number of earth landscapes to battle in - if you feel the fight isn't going the way you want and you decide to reload from an earlier save point you can either go back a couple of turns, or to the start of that particular battle (at which point a whole new environment awaits you). This I thought was a clever way of stopping cheats playing a fight through to the end and then reloading and starting again so they know where the aliens spawn from.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is incredibly addictive and once you start playing you'll find it hard to stop.


Darren Rea

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