XCOM: Enemy Unknown PC Review GDC Awards Edition

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I am extremely excited to do this review.   This review will seem late to most, but we figured that a review was necessary due to the upcoming 13th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco in March.  XCOM: Enemy Unknown is up for both Best Game Design and Game of the Year.

These nominations don’t come as too much of a surprise for me.  XCOM: Enemy Unknown is very easily my Best Game of 2012.  Which is odd, because I am really not a big fan of turn-based tactical role-playing strategy games.

I think Firaxis Games knocked it out of the park in this remake.  XCOM: Enemy Unknown feels like the classic Heroes of Might and Magic PC game mixed with a tabletop Warhammer squad all neatly packed into the Unreal Engine 3.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown puts you in charge of the XCOM (Extraterrestrial Combat Unit). This unit is the most technologically advanced military unit the world has ever seen. However, the invading aliens actually have superior technology and weapons.

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You start off with a four-person squad, which can be upgraded to a six-person squad.  There are four classes that you can mix and match in this squad: Assault, Heavy, Support, and Sniper.  Each have their perks, but my favorite class is the Sniper. Snipers can cover your guys from far away while doing a crazy amount of damage, so I always had two of them in my six-man squad.

Right away you figure out that rushing ahead to reveal spots on the map or potential alien foes is not the greatest idea.  It is usually best to strategically place your guys while moving forward so that they’re covering your guys’ backs.  Otherwise, your guys will wind up being completely blindsided by a squirrely alien or three.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a difficulty that is analogous with its predecessor UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994). It’s very hard.  Moving too far ahead too quickly in a map will give your foes a first crack at you, which increases your chance for a death.

This aspect is what I think makes XCOM: Enemy Unknown “Game of the Year” for so many people.  A character in your squad dying is one of the worst feelings I have had in a game in years.  You could spend 8 hours leveling up a character (For me it was my Heavy class character nicknamed ‘Brick’) and once that character dies, it’s gone.

But, with the incredible downs that this game brings, there are amazing upsides. Any time I could do an autopsy on a new alien that I had brought back to the lab to get new technology for my XCOM was very exciting.  Getting alien guns for my Sniper was priority one for me.  It definitely paid off.  The subsequent alien goo splatter of a critical headshot I would get with their own technology just felt great.  And, even completing a mission without a soldier dying is very rewarding.

There were so many times I would find myself completing missions, but I would still feel like a complete failure.

Spending money wisely is so important in this game.  I can’t count how many times I would have to load up an older save because I incorrectly spent too much money and was left with $8 or $10 and didn’t have enough money to buy more soldiers.

In conclusion, buy this game.  It is recognized industry-wide as THE game of 2012.  I still find myself coming back to XCOM: Enemy Unknown three and a half months later and getting emotionally invested into the game almost immediately.

+Extreme replay ability

+Even if you aren’t into turn-based strategy games, it’s still amazing

+Great character progression

+Fun, tightly controlled mechanics

+Action packed critical strike cut scenes

-There are still some minor bugs

-Multiplayer may be too steep of a learning curve for some

Review Score: 9.5/10

Author: Samg