XCOM: Enemy Unknown

The day has come. Aliens have landed. Their wars will be fought with the terrible weapons of super-science, menacing all mankind and every creature on the Earth. And I have never been more excited. And yes, I did just paraphrase of War of The Worlds. XCOM is here and has brought out the micro-management fiend in me.

XCOM comes from a long lineage of strategy games that started almost 20 years ago now. Sadly the series came to a halt several years after the first instalment and the series was thought to be lost. That was until Firaxis and 2K decided to revive the series.

The story for XCOM is simple: aliens have invaded and you need to stop them. Not because they are evil or anything but because they look a little cliche and I doubt this is going to end like E.T. did. Y’know, with all the hugs and magic fingers? For me the story was what I made of it. I could customise soldiers and choose where my bases were placed or which countries I let fall. The sense of attachment you get when ‘Dan’ takes a devastating shot to the face or when you have to leave ‘Mark’ behind because going back to save him might cost you another squad member combined with the difficult choices and a desire to see your friends survive the potential end of the world really grips you. You just have to find it amongst all the gooey green blood and dissected alien brains.

As far as levels go they are also extremely unique. As far as I could tell there were a good few that had completely different feels and layouts to them. The levels reflect key areas of the globe under great stress and unique and stand apart from one another. The HUD is sleek, sophisticated and never intrudes on the gameplay. Sure it is there and visible but not once did it diminish my experience. Another plus to this charming RTS.

I’ve had countless hours of fun and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I’ve been playing it. But what I can tell you is that I’ve set up mission command in my bedroom and the space probe in my garden is about 25% complete. Although a top-down game you always feel like you are part of the fight. Quick close-ups of your team obliterating alien scum leaves an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. Even the follow-up scenes where you watch a member of the squad dash across the map feels intense.

I honestly can’t begin to explain how much I love micro-management. XCOM captures everything that’s good about managing resources, troops, ships, money, research and building space. Every time you think you have perfected one aspect the game throws a curveball at you and changes your outlook on what is important in the game. A stand-out moment of micro-management for me was when I perfected my base to the point I had some great power connections and some awesome workshop bonuses to find out that I had no room left at that point and had to excavate more to find room for a crucial building. It almost cost me a lot of countries in the union. The possibilities seem endless and it could take months to find the perfect playthrough.

XCOM is fantastic on so many levels. I struggled to stop playing even to tell you how awesome it is. If you want in-depth micro-management you won’t find any as complex as this but if you are looking for a solid turn-based strategy you can focus a lot more on the tactical side of the battles. There hasn’t been anything quite like this on consoles this generation, or there hasn’t been any that have filled me with quite as much glee. If it had a stronger story and some slightly tweaked voice acting I would be giving it a 10 but as it stands not only is XCOM a great game but it is a strong contender for my game of the year. Batten down the hatches and fire up the comms link; Earth needs you.







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