XCOM: Enemy Unknown: More than shooting aliens

The strategy genre is a tough nut to crack on consoles. Many have tried, and many have failed. Here we have XCOM, a game that nails it.

 

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

From: 2K

For: X360, PS3, PC

 

XCOM comes from the same developers who made the console adaptations of the acclaimed Civilisation series of games. The basic premise of the game is that aliens have launched an offensive on Earth, and as the commander you have to defend humanity. You do this by controlling a team of four (initially) and co-ordinating their movements and actions on the various battlefields. When you are not doing that, you have to manage a base with research divisions and construction used to increase your efficiency on the battlefields. If that sounds complicated, that is because it is.

However, while it is deep and a little daunting at first, it soon makes perfect sense. The same applies to the combat, except in the opposite way. You start off thinking ''Oh yeah, I think I've got the hang of this''. Next thing, your previous tactics are completely useless when the game throws a different kind of alien enemy at you. The constant need to be dynamic and adaptable in terms of tactics adds real depth to the combat.

As well as being deep, the game is extremely challenging, even on the lower difficulties. Even though the soldiers are generic (although able to be customised), you find yourself building an attachment to them. One false move, however, and they find themselves in the memorial section of your facility. The enemies are ruthless and cunning, constantly attempting to outflank you on the battlefield. Completing the game on Classic difficulty with Ironman mode enabled is up there with the toughest of gaming challenges.

The research and construction element is also adaptable to your style of play. You can focus on increasing the quality of your squads' armour and defensive abilities, or choose to forgo that and put time into researching plasma and laser weapons that make short work of most of the enemies, but at the expense of the survivability of your squad.

XCOM would have been my game of the year last year if it were not for the superb Walking Dead game. It is deep, pretty to look at (mostly), but most of all, it is different.

I cannot think of another game like it that I've played on this generation of consoles.

I hope that the success of this game will lead to other developers realising the strategy genre is not impossible to crack on consoles and we will see more games like it.

If you are tired of playing shooters such as Call of Duty, or adventure games, such as Assassins Creed, then XCOM is the breath of fresh air that you are looking for.

 

- Simon Bishop