XCOM: Enemy Unknown Reviews

08 Oct 2012

The first verdicts for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis' attempt to reboot (or, I guess, "re-imagine") the classic X-COM series in a multiplatform environment, but still keeping it true to its turn-based roots, are now out. I imagine that the folks at 2K and Firaxis are be pretty happy with them.

EDGE, 9/10.
Their decor of these ships may look the same, but their contents rarely do. Enemies quickly ramp up in scale and offensive output. Thin Men and Floaters can be knocked out in a shot or two with a mid-level laser rifle; Mutoids are vast, overmuscled monster-men who’ll Bullrush your squad, then halve your poor team’s health bars in a single backhand slap. Tactical demands vary considerably depending on foe and mission type, often requiring you to either save civilians or kill everything you see. That said, by the end of the game you’ll have hit on a combat formula that suits, and your ragtag bunch of squaddies will likely have become a mega-armour-clad gang of elites, able to shred all but the most horrific foes with a few volleys.

But that eventuality feels like a reward. Charting a course through Earth’s imminent destruction is as unashamedly difficult as it was in 1994’s X-COM. It’s possible, through bad planning and bad management, to doom the planet early on, making the game feel unfair. Get it right, however – survive the stresses of management, and the strains of aliens – and you’ll feel like world’s greatest hero.

Destructoid, 9.0/10.
Against all odds, Destructoid managed to save the galaxy, even though we barely manage to keep this site running. That’s a story worth seeing to its end, even if I’ll soon forget it as many more stories play out in my future XCOM sessions. All the small nagging complaints I have with the game fade away when I recall all the great moments I've had with it.

The Escapist, 4.5/5.
Ultimately, these issues might dampen the experience, but on the whole the game is a fantastic. While many games stop at the decision of what weapon to equip, XCOM: Enemy Unknown forces you to make some hard choices both on a global scale and while combating the aliens.

PC Gamer, 87/100.
XCOM is a style of game that arguably hasn’t existed since original creator Julian Gollop released Laser Squad Nemesis in 2002; much of its appeal comes from the fact that it’s filling a long-standing void. That makes it easier to shrug off its flawed presentation of your base and other key elements. That includes inexplicably limited soldier customization, which has fewer haircuts than the actual military and offers a diverse selection of 15 nearly-indistinguishable American voices in a game where you command soldiers from 16 different countries.

Mostly, it’s a game that understands that loss can be leveraged in parallel with rewards to tell a great story. It paints from a unique emotional palette: doom, sacrifice, luck, surprise, revenge. It uses death like most of us use mayonnaise, and Impossible difficulty practically makes XCOM into a Mourning Simulator.

But this is where imagination fills in the gaps of XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s purposefully lightweight script. The tale we tell ourselves of Captain William Wonka and his untimely death by an exploding forklift is much more personal and permanent than a pre-cooked narrative about alien invasion. Hemingway would’ve appreciated this approach. “All stories, if continued far enough,” he said, “end in death, and he is no true story-teller who would keep that from you.”

GameSpy, 5/5.
You've seen me nitpick quite a few things in this review, including several things I think could be better and a couple of issues I'd consider major that absolutely need to be fixed (Firaxis is already working on a few of them), but I don't want to leave you with the impression that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is anything less than an amazing, triumphant game right down to its core. It's XCOM's Batman Begins, in effect -- it does a magnificent job of rebooting the series with its soul intact, delivering an awesome modern experience and paving the way for a future that doesn't just recreate the tense tactical battles and global strategy of the 18-year-old original, but builds on them. (By the way, this is one of the few times I'm actually thrilled at the prospect of DLC.) I implore you to play it if you have any interest in turn-based tactics whatsoever -- it is indisputably the best of its genre made in at least a decade. I leave the title of Best Game Ever with the original, but playing this one has done this old X-COM fan's heart good, and I believe it will make a whole lot of new fans, too.

Eurogamer, 9/10.
Near the campaign's end, there's a direct tribute to the original game's designers, the Gollop brothers, accompanied by an achievement called 'On the Shoulders of Giants'. It's a beautiful touch, a nod from one development team to another across the generations. They have something in common now. In their own time and place, each made a fantastic game called XCOM.

Joystiq, 4.5/5.
These complaints are minor at worst, however, and do little to tarnish the overall experience. The fact remains that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an exemplary turn-based strategy game. Firaxis has deftly blended management, tactics and the sort of gut-level, throaty encounters usually reserved for fast-paced action games. The mixture is potent enough that you may occasionally forget that the most critical moments boil down to nothing more than a percentage and a choice. On any other day, betting on a 60 percent chance might seem like a no-brainer. When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, you'd better think twice.

Official Xbox Magazine UK, 9/10.
Sophisticated, unnerving and reliably unforgiving, XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn't just Xbox 360's finest strategy experience - it's also a strategy game which changes how you think about strategy games. Go into it expecting a deadening flow of unlocks and build queues, and you'll get a nasty surprise. Approach the game as you would an odd noise in the basement, and the Earth might just have a fighting chance.

Videogamer, 9/10.
Perhaps that's because XCOM works best as a panic management simulator. It's about controlling the terror levels of the countries you need money from, calming the alarm of your squad members as their leader is killed and their behaviour grows erratic and your own fears as you try to remain level-headed in the face of a terrified populace, a concerned council, and the sharp, poisonous appendages of a trio of chittering creatures advancing towards your wounded sergeant. After all, remaining calm under such overwhelming pressure isn't so easy when the person in mortal danger is named after your partner or best friend.

Computer and Videogames, 9.2/10.
We'll never forget Jake 'Long Shot' Harper, from his first life-saving headshot to being carved asunder by a snarling space bug. Whenever we visit the memorial wall in our base (complete with mournful bagpipe music) we scroll through the list of names and think of all the brave men who died under our command, and the stories they created. You might think your Major is invincible, but all it takes is one bad move, exploding car, or chrysalid claw to unceremoniously end their life, which makes XCOM a surprisingly personal - as well as hugely entertaining - game.

NowGamer, 9.4/10.
Thinking, planning, failing and dying is back in fashion: XCOM is a phenomenal reimagining of a classic title and an instant classic in its own right. The love poured into it and the sheer depth of the experience has created something truly special.

Strategy Informer, 9.0/10.
So as long as you’re happy that the game’s real qualities are found in single player, offline gaming sci-fi epics, XCOM: Enemy Unknown comes highly recommended. Remember that this recommendation also goes for players who aren’t usually the turn-based type. As long as you enjoy action, sci-fi and a rich amalgam of gaming styles, there’s loads to enjoy right here.

GamesRadar, 4.5/5.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown elicits feelings of nostalgia you might not even realize you have--but not necessarily for an earlier era of gaming. Researching new equipment and customizing your soldiers is like a trip to the toy store, and bringing them to the battlefield feels like ripping open the packaging and playing with that new, awesome toy for the first time, discovering all it can do and testing its limits. Firaxis has done a remarkable job at adapting the classic gameplay of XCOM in a way that should satiate both fans of the series and those new to the genre, and though it’s capable of being brutally difficult, it doesn’t shy away from rewarding you for your successes. It’s a game that should absolutely be played by anyone interested in a more strategic take on the cliched alien invasion story--so long as you’re not afraid to lose a fight once or twice.

Polygon, 8.5/10.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown brings the memorable turn-based alien invasion classic gracefully into to the modern age, but comes just short of fully reinventing the genre. While tactical, squad-based combat has never felt so effortless and rewarding, the strategy component takes just enough away to make the game as a whole feel like two slightly disjointed halves. One of those halves just so happens to be one of the best and most artfully-designed strategy games in recent memory.

Official PlayStation Magazine UK, 9/10.
With every element of Xcom’s complex yet utterly accessible systems – from meaningful combat tactics, to budget balancing, to life-or-death diplomatic decisions – feeding directly into every other aspect of the game, this is as compelling a world as any in recent memory. Enemy Unknown is fast but thoughtful, mentally taxing but constantly exciting, and chaotic yet always balanced and welcoming. This really does do it all – and it does it very, very well.

LazyGamer, 9.0/10.
Brutal, fatal and exhilarating. The feeling of dread when you realise you are doing damage control against a complete unknown entity. The smack of shame when you lose a nation or a soldier. The sense of achievement when your guns are big enough to one shot some of the lesser aliens, or the mission where you get home without anyone going to the infirmary, will leave you giddy. If you like tactics or the original, you will not be disappointed. Enemy Unknown shows that old school games still have the reach and punch in today’s hand-holding environment, if you can handle its niche. The best thinking game I have played in a long while.

Kotaku thinks you should play it.
XCOM is one of the most important strategy games in years. It's a great remake, sure, and that's enough for most longtime fans, but for everyone else, know that this is a truly accessible strategy game. To the point where, if you own a 360 or PS3, you can play this with a controller and not miss a thing.

In the end, long after veteran XCOM players have appreciated the effort and moved on, that will hopefully be this game's lasting achievement. That it took a project that only noisy, hardcore PC gamers should have cared about and, through window dressing, interface tweaks and some combat changes, turned it into a game that everyone can enjoy.

While Rock, Paper, Shotgun goes scoreless, but it's quite clear they love the game (or at least, the single-player portion of it they reviewed).
The story is that I love XCOM, I’m so glad it was made and I expect to be playing it and replaying it for a long, long time to come. There are things, big and small, I would change or don’t see the reasoning for, but it all-told it does so much more than I ever thought possible, both in terms of resurrecting XCOM’s core values and making a turn-based strategy game with high-tech, 2012, thrilling presentation.

This isn’t a matter of a starving man grateful for the slimmest of pickings. XCOM is a bounteous strategy/roleplaying feast, and I’m not particularly dismayed that a couple of the side-dishes taste a bit suspect. It’s a triumph that XCOM even exists, so that it’s also bloody brilliant and thoroughly modern with it excites me to introverted core. X-COM’s tiny, precious world has seen many unwelcome invaders over the years, but trust me – this one comes in peace.
 
 

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