Over the weekend I finished my first play through of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, so I wanted to share my impressions of this classic remake.
I have worked on games for the last 7 years, and last year the company I was currently employed at was finishing up Scary Girl for XBLA, PS3, and Steam, so I felt like it was time to start looking for another job. One of the lead engineers contacted me to see if I was come to work on some mystery project. At the time I was super hyped about getting the chance to go work at Firaxis, but after talking it over with my wife and family they felt it best that we stay here in Wisconsin while my wife finished up her nursing degree. After finding out what this “mystery project” was it makes me highly regret not trying for the job. Although I really hate interviews its a killer on the nerves, and generally everything that can go wrong does for me when I fly out to one, but thats a different story so there is no guarantee I would of gotten it, but I’d like to think I would of.
When XCOM came out I was really excited not only because I was looking for a good strategy game, but also because I felt a little bit connected even though I wasn’t. So as I set in, I had no idea how addicted I would become, although not completely perfect this game is a must buy for strategy game lovers.
The core of the game takes place in your home base, and out in the field. The home base is where you manage soldiers, training, engineering, research, building facilities, hangar bay, and panic control. Then once your ready to advance time or take on a mission, you’ll enter mission control. Everything in this game takes time, and you’ll never have enough time to do everything. Every decision you make will have a lasting impact on the game. You need to keep the country’s that are part of the XCOM project happy and maintain a strong well trained military unit.
The game does a great job of introducing the basics of the game, but quickly ramps the player into very difficult missions. I felt the difficulty jumped a bit too much at first and found myself quickly losing Canada from the XCOM project. I soon realized the value of satellites and satellite uplinks to keep the panic level down. The game lets you lose to win or lose with very little hand holding, which is actually quite refreshing given the current direction of games.
Managing everything is fun, but for me the most enjoyable part of the game is out in the field. Positioning, reloading, firing, using an ability, and running too far ahead to save a human is all things you have to balance to complete a mission. Also when a soldier dies, he is dead for good so you have to constantly replenish soldiers in your barracks with new recruits. Later on you can build SHIV units to replace a soldier so you can use them as spotters without losing valuable guys if they are caught off guard.
There are some clear bugs especially with overlapping menus, save game sorting, enemy clipping through environments, and a crash or two. These are by no means show stoppers, and i’m sure some will be patched in the future knowing the quality of work Firaxis puts out.
I played the game on the PC with almost the highest graphic settings, and the game looks gorgeous. The effects are are also very nicely done with fine details in everything. The most impressive part of the game is the destructive environment. I love firing at buildings and seeing chunks of the wall evaporate leaving the enemy out in the open for a shot to the head. The UI is very elegant and crisp, it finds the right balance between providing the massive amount of information needed and remaining unobtrusive.
The only noticeable issues with the graphics is the occasional animation pop that occurs when preparing to launch a mission or when an enemy is first revealed. You really have to be watching to even notice it though.
This game is a must buy for strategy gamers looking for a challenge. With the few bugs I encountered I still found myself enthralled in the world of XCOM and couldn’t wait to get the next upgrade or finish the next story mission.
In the Future
I’ve started playing Multiplayer and so far its been really fun, but I want to give it a lot more of my attention before I clearly state my feedback on it.