XCOM: Enemy Within Review
Core gameplay intact, new classes and missions, Slingshot DLC included in PS3 and Xbox 360 versions
New aliens are boring, final Exalt mission could have been better, PC version a little pricey
Bigger, Stronger, Better
After a half-hearted attempt at being a tactical shooter, it is time for the XCOM series to go back to what it knows best, hardcore, turn-based strategy.Â Last year, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was easily one of the best titles of 2012 and now the series is back with the expansion pack, Enemy Within.Â While it isn’t exactly a sequel, it still manages to enhance the already stellar gameplay and add more hours of play time to an already lengthy game.
Enemy Within contains the exact same story as Enemy Unknown, so the narrative is still relatively bare-bones.Â The few new story missions could have fleshed out the story some, but fail to do so.Â Even the new enemy, Exalt, turns out to be nothing more than a faceless organization that has no reason for its actions other than it is ran by evil people.
Core gameplay mechanics are the same as the previous game, this is good news for XCOM fans who are still in shock over The Burea’s gameplay.Â Secondary gameplay options have been integrated into the core gameplay as well either to help balance things out, randomize events for players who like to load previous saves, or make the game a bit more challenging.Â In regards to new content, it doesn’t take long before players will get the chance to play with the game’s central new feature, Meld.
Throughout missions, players have the opportunity to extract the unique alien substance called Meld which can be used to enhance the players’ soldiers.Â Retrieving Meld off of the battlefield is easier said than done because the player will have to extract the substance from an alien device within a set period of time.Â The new risk/reward style of gameplay to regular missions adds some tension and extra challenge to the game while shaking up the core gameplay.
Upon arrival of the XCOM base with Meld, players will have the option of using the alien substance to either create genetically enhanced soldiers or cybernetic soldiers.Â Gene enhancement allows soldiers to receive various buffs and abilities throughout various categories with health regeneration being one of my most prolific for the start of the game.Â The level of usefulness for each enhancement will be significantly different depending on a gamer’s playing style.
Cybernetic enhancements takes a much different approach than genetic enhancement in which a soldier is transformed into a cyborg that can pilot a customizable mech.Â The mechanical suit is definitely a good starting weapon as it can take quite a few hits to decommission and can dish out an exceptional amount of damage.Â The only problem with this class, is the suit only has six base upgrades, only three can be chosen, and tends to be the least accurate of all the classes.
Another new feature in Enemy Within, is the inclusion of covert missions where a single soldier is sent undercover to gain Intel on the new enemy faction Exalt.Â After a few days in the field, players must extract the agent immediately or lose the agent for good.Â From here on, one of two mission types will occur as the player’s squad faces off against human enemies.
Exalt actually puts up more of a fight than expected since they are essentially XCOM but evil; finding out the enemy can use a rocket launcher to tear apart a group’s cover and then flank them is a nasty wake-up call.Â These mission, like most, are enjoyable, but it would be nice if there was more variety other than the two mission types presented.
Successfully completing these missions gives players information used to deduce Exalt’s main base, but choosing incorrectly causes a country to forfeit all support to XCOM and it’s almost impossible to cheat because the location is randomized for each playthrough.Â The final Exalt mission sadly is anticlimactic especially in comparison to all the new story missions.
Enemy Within doesn’t just contain new maps for regular mission, but features some great, new story missions as well.Â One mission in particular, I won’t spoil the where or the why, requires players to defend themselves with only three members of their squad against increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
Speaking of enemies, besides the Exalt soldiers, Enemy Within contains two new aliens; the invisible Seeker and the Mechtoid, the aliens answer to the player’s robot suits.Â Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily add much to the gameplay since they look more threatening than they really are.Â Mechtoids, while very powerful, are very inaccurate against mid-to-long range targets and Seekers are a problem easily solved with overwatch.
Graphics & Sound
Graphics and sound are exactly the same as the previous game, so no surprises here.Â While the game isn’t a graphical achievement, the art direction carries these limitations gracefully on its shoulders.Â The only problem I found was with the somewhat glitchy animations, but watching a unit accidentally flip backwards through a window is more endearing than game breaking.
In all honesty, I’m not a fan of the multiplayer aspect of XCOM.Â Luckily for those who are, Enemy Within contains new maps and classes to help keep all those competitive armchair generals busy for a while.Â Other than that, not much has changed in the multiplayer.
The PS3 and XBOX360 versions contain the Slingshot DLC.Â While the missions aren’t anything too spectacular, they are still fun especially since this is the first time I’ve played them.Â Overall, having the DLC integrated into the game is a nice extra.
XCOM: Enemy Within is a great expansion that adds worthwhile additions and more hours of gameplay to help make a great game even better.Â Aside from the lousy new aliens and anticlimactic final Exalt mission, Enemy Within is a must buy. Though I do feel the PC version, which is just DLC, may be a little too pricey at $30.Â Regardless, the game is great and a definite upgrade that should be experienced by all hardcore strategy fans and fans of Enemy Unknown.