Customer Review

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Niche Masterpiece!, October 10, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Greetings folks. First off, XCOM will not appeal to everyone and I'll wager it will turn off way more than half of the console gaming audience. Do not think it is an action-oriented game, because it's not; do not assume it is real-time or run-and-gun gameplay, because it's not; and never, ever assume you can walk a pre-determined path and just shoot everything in the way, because you'll end up burying all your soldiers.

XCOM is turn-based strategy game. If you had the pleasure of playing the original, you'll notice some familiar elements here. Other games that bear a resemblance are Heroes of Might & Magic (building the base, sending out forces, upgrading capabilities), Operation Darkness (not so well-known but an excellent turn-based game), or a PC game such as Age of Wonders, Disciples, or Fallout Tactics. If you unfamiliar with any of these, I'd liken XCOM to a science fiction-themed tabletop wargame. In any traditional boardgame, you take turns doing something; XCOM's tactical battles play out in this fashion, with the player moving their units one at a time across a battlefield. This tactical element is only half the game, however, and the other element (also turn-based, or paused while you make decisions) is a strategic setup. You'll need to build a base, research technology, outfit and train troops, and protect the nations of the world from alien threats.

Sounds like a lot, huh? No worries, because XCOM has a fantastic tutorial that introduces you to each part of the game step by step while you play. It's not a boring spectator tutorial; you get to jump right in the action and make decisions while the game tells you the implications and consequences. Some people find turn-based games boring, but I don't see how this game would work if you were rushed; some of the decisions you have to make in this game could literally cost you victory or defeat. Think things through and be sure before you hit the button to confirm.

PRESENTATION: the graphics remind me of a tabletop wargame played with toy soldiers; the environments can be destroyed, burned, etc making for a great experience; the sound is excellent. Overall, it's enough to enjoy the experience without slowing anything down. There are some graphical glitches, such as soldiers shooting through walls instead of around them, but I haven't encountered anything that I'd call a 'bug' as far as game-breaking or otherwise (just some visual anomalies).

GAMEPLAY: though it will vary for all players, I found Normal difficulty to be quite challenging later in the game (when more powerful aliens start to appear in larger numbers). I played a 16-hour marathon (hey, I waited almost 2 decades for this game) and I failed to defeat the aliens--don't take this game lightly! Every small decision counts, even if it seems trivial. The controls are easy to learn and very intuitive. The marriage between the global strategy and field tactics is well-done and keeps you wanting to play turn after turn.

>>>> One of the most powerful gameplay elements I experienced revolved around the soldiers. They come from many different countries; they look different and talk different; they have names and nicknames; and when they die, they are gone forever, remembered in a memorial shrine in the XCOM base. It is heart-breaking to have a veteran soldier die because of a bad decision or overwhelming enemy forces and realize he's been with you through 20 missions and survived where others have died.

>>>> One such soldier I'll share: Moses "Preacher" Adeju, a support troop from Nigeria. He fought through 18 missions, pulling other soldiers from the jaws of death (he was a highly trained medic), and died under a hail of alien guns while trying to save one of his mates. I guarantee you'll have many stories of soldiers you've hand-picked, named, trained, and equipped as you play through XCOM.

STORY: the story reminds me of an X-Files themed Battle for Los Angeles; there are plenty of tense moments when you don't know what's coming and the action sequences feel just chaotic enough to make you hold your breath when you fire off a shot or move your squad member out of cover (exposing him to fire). The developing alien invasion doesn't take over the game, which I think is smart; the star of the game is you, the player, as you manage your base and forces. The story elements are interesting but not overboard and just enough to keep you engaged and wanting to play.

CONCLUSION: If you have any interest in cult sci-fi / alien-inspired games, this one is a gem; if you enjoy turn-based games or tabletop games, this one is worth a look. There is no possible way you will only play this through once, so the replay-ability is high. XCOM is challenging, engaging, and has enough depth to draw in beginners and satisfy veterans. Most importantly, it has that "just one more turn" feeling that keeps up you way past when you should have gone to bed--and that makes it worth every penny.
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