XCOM: Enemy Within (Xbox 360) | Zombiegamer Review

XCOM_EW_logoDeveloper: Firaxis
Publisher:  2K
Distributor: Megarom
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: PlayStation 3 and PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.5/10

UFO: Enemy Unknown (known as X-COM: UFO Defense in the US) was one of the few games in my life that I finished more than twice. It was a game that allowed me to inflict the same kind of genocide on aliens that humanity has done on zombies. And I loved it. The game and the genocide.

Fast forward to 2012 and Firaxis drop XCOM: Enemy Unknown into my salivating lap, and a love was reignited. Yes, there were some issues, flaws and missing elements, but in a time of cut-and-paste-first-person-reaction-based games, XCOM was a breath of tactical turn-based fresh air.

Of course, an expansion to the game should’ve always been expected, but an expansion so vast that the console versions become a standalone game got the old suspicions up. It’s all well and good offering continued value after all, but let’s not milk the cash cow now…

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Thankfully, that is not the case with XCOM: Enemy Within. What you essentially get is XCOM: Enemy Unknown, spliced together with plenty of new content, including new soldiers, abilities, weapons, enemies, maps and missions. While those who played Enemy Unknown may feel a little like they’re stuck in the Matrix at first due to the feeling of déjà vu at the beginning, the new elements start to appear thick and fast, and make what at first feels like a replay, less so.

If you played any of the previous games, the one thing you will know is how connected you become to your soldiers. You nurture them. Rank them up lovingly. And shed real tears when one of them is mercilessly gunned down by those pesky aliens. That is still present and accounted for. And now you can bestow medals on them as a way of virtually thanking them for making your life more meaningful. The medals offer additional attributes to the soldier wearing them, so choose carefully when the opportunity to do so arises – you cannot reverse your decision.

One of the core additions to the game is the – slight spoiler alert – Gene Mods via the Genetics Lab and MEC Troopers via the Cybernetics Lab. Yes, your bog standard meat puppet can now become a super-soldier.  With a mech suit!

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Of course, these are there to take on the two new alien types as well a paramilitary organisation known as EXALT. There is always a small minority out to ruin it for the rest of civilisation, and to a large degree, EXALT is that minority who are desperate to claim the world for themselves. But like all humans, even XCOM is not beyond sneaky and underhanded tactics, and this is where the addition of Covert Operations proves a welcome gameplay addition. The missions usually involve extracting one of your soldiers from enemy territory via two new mission types – Covert Data Recovery (horde-like mode) and Covert Extraction (an escort mission of sorts.

Enemy Unknown suffered a little due to the lack of map variety, but Enemy Within really has gone all out. The variety is refreshing, and now UFO’s which get shot down don’t just crash in the woods, but in urban areas too. Most maps introduce the newly added element called ‘Meld’, which is used to build the super-soldiers we will rely on to save the world. The addition of Meld on the maps adds another combat and tactical dynamic, as the element only has a number of rounds life before expiring, and if you don’t make haste, then you don’t get the goods.

Rounds you ask? Yes, we did say the game is a turn-based one right? If you read this far and found yourself thrilled by what you’ve heard, this might be a deal breaker. However, do yourself a favour and put all preconceived ideas about boring turn-based gameplay aside. Every move you take (you traditionally have two per soldier per turn), they’ll be watching you. And believe me, we aren’t talking about the police, as the aliens will shoot first, making every move an agonising decision.

The game has so much on offer, that it’s tough not to spend days detailing it all. Suffice to say that when not blasting the aliens on the ground missions, you can expand your base, monitor the skies, research and manufacture (some of the new items hark back to the upgrades from the UFO: Enemy Unknown era).

Graphically, the game is perfectly adequate, but this is not a game concerned with reflections and eyebrow details anyway. The sound is a little repetitive, and on the ground, it gets a little frustrating hearing the same response to each successive move.

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Closing Comments

Head directly to XCOM: Enemy Within. Do not even feel you need to visit XCOM: Enemy Unknown first, because it’s all here, along with the Elite Soldier Pack, Slingshot DLC and Second Wave. Yes. You should get this game.

Zombiegamer Rating:Real-Romero

Read about our ratings here.

What I liked

  • Turn-based, alien genocide goodness.
  • New maps, new enemies, new stuff!
  • Tactical gameplay.
  • Research and development.
  • Nurturing soldiers.

Not so much                  

  • Losing soldiers. We zombies have feelings too you know.
  • Slight and minor bugs here and there.
  • Would’ve been nice to bring in your old saves from Enemy Unknown.

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About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.