28 Reviews

XCOM: Enemy Unknown review: A surprisingly personal turn-based masterpiece

Civilization developer Firaxis gives us the XCOM sequel we've always dreamed of

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The game, naturally, feels right at home on PC with a keyboard and mouse, but they've done an incredible job mapping the game to a controller. The console controls are remarkably intuitive, which is a rarity when it comes to strategy games. One journalist we know actually preferred playing the PC version with an Xbox controller plugged in. The interface works as both something to be viewed on a monitor up close, and a big TV in your living room. It's one of the most harmonious examples of a game co-developed for consoles and PC we've seen, and neither group of gamers will feel like they're suffering because of the other.

It's not an amazingly pretty game, but the depth of the gameplay and dynamic, destructible environments make up for it. Textures are flat and colourful, which makes the world look almost like a table-top game dotted with tiny, plastic action figures. From above, which is where you'll spend most of your time, there's some nice detail and atmospheric lighting in the city environments, but swamps and jungles feel a bit lifeless. The base screen is initially impressive, but quickly becomes little more than a gimmick. You soon realise that it's quicker and easier to switch between areas using the text menu at the top.

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Firaxis have proved, along with the similarly excellent Civlization Revolution, that games like this can work on consoles as well as PC. XCOM is a dense, rewarding, and intelligently designed strategy game from the masters of the genre, and a faithful homage to the original series. But don't worry if you've never played an XCOM game before: the smart tutorial missions will put new players at ease, and the learning curve isn't too steep.

We'll never forget Jake 'Long Shot' Harper, from his first life-saving headshot to being carved asunder by a snarling space bug. Whenever we visit the memorial wall in our base (complete with mournful bagpipe music) we scroll through the list of names and think of all the brave men who died under our command, and the stories they created. You might think your Major is invincible, but all it takes is one bad move, exploding car, or chrysalid claw to unceremoniously end their life, which makes XCOM a surprisingly personal - as well as hugely entertaining - game.

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The verdict

A polished turn-based shooter that harks back to the golden era of strategy games. Rich, customisable, and fiendishly addictive.

  • Tactically rewarding
  • Satisfying, tactile combat
  • Hugely customisable
  • Lacks visual punch
  • Micromanagement can be stressful
9.2
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Firaxis
Publisher
Take-Two Interactive
Genre
Sim / Strategy

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