Preview: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Firaxis is famous for strategy. It's fitting that it's the team to take on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and bring the strategy game to the console in a way that doesn't slim it down too much, and a way that makes sense.
Siobhan Keogh | Tuesday, August 14 2012 | 12 Comments
Product type: Turn-based strategy game
Classification: Not rated
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Test Platform: PC
Developer: Firaxis Games; Publisher: 2K Games
A fully fleshed-out strategy game that works on consoles and PC.
Firaxis is famous for strategy. The company is in charge of the juggernaut that is Sid Meier's Civilization, and it's safe to say that the developers there know what they're doing when it comes to turn-based action. It's fitting that they're the team to take on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and bring the strategy game to the console in a way that doesn't slim it down too much, and a way that makes sense.
In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you play as a part of a special military operation. Aliens have invaded, and it's your job both to fight the enemies and to conduct research to learn more about this mysterious new species. As you research, you can develop new and better weapons to fight with.
The game is incredibly cheesy - but it seems deliberate. It has none of the seriousness of other strategy games, instead relying on its over-the-top terribleness to create a so-bad-its-good vibe. The aliens are little green men with big round eyes, the voice acting is horrible in a Just Cause 2 kind of way, and the story is even weaker. That's almost impressive.
In each mission, you control four soldiers and navigate a 3D environment. Death is permanent, so losing one of your soldiers means you lose any bonuses they're accrued - a mechanic seemingly adopted from Civ. If one dies in Enemy Unknown, however, they are simply replaced when you undertake your next mission. Each character takes his or her turn, during which they can perform two actions. You might move a character into cover, then peek over cover and take a shot at an enemy. Or you might use both actions for movement to get your character into a better position for attacking.
You can not only move around the ground in this environment, but you can climb up the sides of buildings using ladders or drain pipes. Do that, and you have a better shot of hitting your enemy when you attack.
The tutorial mode is a little dull - it doesn't let you figure anything out for yourself at all, and instead tells you exactly where to go and what to do. We realise that a tutorial is designed to teach you about the game, but it would've been nice to have just a little more freedom to help get us into the game. Once you get past the tutorial, though, the game is actually quite in-depth, and not as easy as it looks. When you attack, you have to weigh up your chances of hitting versus the risk of moving in closer to your enemy, and it's easy to make a mistake.
Some of the most interesting gameplay, however, comes when you're not in missions at all. That's when you get to choose your research to unlock new skills and weapons, and even more interesting, choose which missions to take on. See, you're a part of a coalition of countries. More than one country could be attacked at once, and you have to choose which country to help. You'll improve your standing with the country you help, but also degrade your standing with the one you don't, so you have to struggle to keep everyone happy. If you don't, the country will drop out of the coalition, and take its money and resources with it.
We understand that making a strategy game that works on consoles must be hard - there's often a lot going on - but it would have been nice if Firaxis had made a little more effort with the graphics. Frankly, they look about ten years old. Of course, this is just preview code, but it's pretty rare for graphics to be improved at this point in development, aside from the odd glitch.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown looks interesting, but not astoundingly so, and it might be a hard sell if it's a full price game. For strategy enthusiasts who lament the lack of games for consoles, however, it could be worth a shot. PC gamers are probably going to want to stick to the many tried-and-true already available to them.
The one ithat complains about a game until I ask, did you read/listen to everything?
That's why you don't understand.
Posted by don at 4:12:05 on September 15, 2012
there were many fans for this brand thats why they use its brand to market their new game.
the previous xcom games from 80s was created with passion focusing replayability, randomness, very strong concept and lots of strategic details.
The new one simple dumb the mechanics for a fast pace game as gamers these days don't have time for a "long" game. added current gen graphics on demand to suit how games should be in this era. to cater to consoles and mass productions for sales.
Its a different game afterall with the xcom skins and theme.
Its not a game created to replace the previous one. Just see it as a New game will using the brand name.
Posted by Anonymous at 2:55:35 on September 15, 2012
To me, it sounds like you read the synopsis of the game and expanded it with a few of your own words, because you obviously didn't get in to the total nitty-gritty of the game. For instance, it is not trivial to lose one of the team on a mission (to be replaced with another on the next)... when playing the original XCOM, losing a team member was akin to losing a family member! They need to be nurtured and looked after, to get them to their best skill level in order for you to really succeed. Especially in this remake, as you only get 4 team members on a mission (each with specialised skills).
So, back to my initial statement.... if you had played this game for at the minimum a weekend, your review would have been completely different.
As for the graphics, everyone one of the screenies I have seen makes me want to play the game more - so what if they aren't photo-realistic... it's the atmosphere they create and the gameplay involved that makes the game. Just play the original XCOM to get an idea of an awesome game that doesn't rely on snappy graphics to hide a poor game concept....
Posted by Paul at 16:29:22 on August 24, 2012
To pull a phrase from Penny Arcade, if someone tells you XCOM is bad they're either ignorant or an idiot. So which is it? Do you not know what you're talking about, or are you retarded?
Posted by Alex at 18:02:08 on August 16, 2012
Part of XCOM's charm was the [deliberately] comically-bad writing. Keogh notes that writing, and points out that yes, it seems deliberate. That doesn't mean it's not worth noting.
Another part of its charm was the use of very stereotypical, 1980s/90s Sci-Fi 'Roswell Gray' aliens and similar ultra-cliches. And yes, the terrible graphics were charming, but those weren't quite so deliberate: they were just a product of their time.
The graphics of the remake do look disappointing: I'd been hoping to see the brilliant aspects of XCOM wrapped up in something a little more current-gen. There's a difference between "retro-charming" and "dated". Look at the retro-game sequences in Saints Row: The Third, or Shadows of the Damned. Those are charming, but slick. XCOM just looks like it was rendered on a ten-year-old engine updated with duct-tape and prayers to Cthulhu.
You're welcome to judge the new game however you like -- I've loved plenty of games that were critically panned, and hated plenty of games that were critically acclaimed. Personally, until I get my hands on the finished product, I'm going to trust the opinion of my extremely experienced colleague, whose own experience makes my gaming obsession look like a weekend hobby.
Posted by Harley Ogier, PCW at 11:20:27 on August 17, 2012
and while you're busy trusting your "extremely experienced colleague" about those graphics that were "rendered on a ten-year-old engine updated with duct-tape and prayers to Cthulhu" (that's not near as clever as you think BTW), ask him about all the errors in his extremely experienced article.
I've read every article, preview, and video that I can lay my eyes on, and this one article is the ONLY negative article, and the ONLY one whining about the graphics of all things. In my experience, the "uninformed" game reviewer usually relies on complaints like "poor graphics" as a crutch and as a way to hide their lack of...well....experience.
I hear a new Call of Duty is coming out. I'm sure you guys will love the graphics.
Posted by Anonymous at 18:55:33 on August 17, 2012
If you're going to write game reviews then for the love of god please spend some time playing games as opposed to playing with yourself.
Posted by Anonymous at 12:00:31 on August 15, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 10:27:59 on August 15, 2012
When I say the tutorial showed me how to do things, I mean it told me EXACTLY where to place my characters at all times, and went on doing that for 20 minutes. Put this guy here. Now put this guy here. Now this guy here. Okay, and this guy here. It could have been cut down significantly by auto-moving my other three characters after teaching me how to move the first one, to make it faster. I just found it a little restrictive, but that's me.
I did research the franchise, but seeing as I haven't played it before I chose to not talk about previous games. I wanted to be honest about my experience.
Posted by Siobhan Keogh, PCW at 9:16:31 on August 15, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 5:21:16 on August 15, 2012
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