X-COM: Enemy Unknown
By Janus 32
When one thinks of the genre strategy games, one would safely assume it’s a game that is on the PC, and theres nothing wrong with that. Strategy games usually don’t work out on console due to movement and screen adjustment as opposed to how fast it is on PC.
But as strategy games go, there have been exceptions to the rule, like Red Alert 3 and Valkyria Chronicles. X-COM comes in as a multiplatform game that is continued from its PC predecessor. With the next gen consoles out, X-COM: Enemy Unknown blasts into the console race with its varied and abundant brand of strategy.
But as strategy games go, should they even be ported to console? Or is X-COM a welcome relief to a generation of games that’s just all fight but no brains?
The world is in peril. Extra-terrestrials have attacked and breached earths atmosphere and have begun their attacks on each major population. Killing, abductions and territory is being seized by this unknown enemy.
X-COM, a secret branch is called upon to lend assistance where it is needed against the aliens. Though not a force that has its own army, it is a relatively small project branch of the armed forces that have the technology and the manpower to infiltrate enemy territory and take out the extra-terrestrial threat.
Backed by 16 nations, the project is purely experimental. They are earths last defence and the group to call if any country is in dire need.
They are X-COM
X-COM is purely a strategic squad based game. You will only be able to control soldiers on the battlefield, there are no large vehicles of any kind to control. With this latest instalment, there are a lot of things to consider in order to combat your alien enemy, and a lot of it has some credibility in regards to modern warfare, if you think deeply as I do.
Starting with the main focus of your gameplay, is soldiers. No branch of any military would be without them, otherwise its Skynet all over again. Your forces are of course split into different categories depending on how they are played when they are rookies. They can either be Assault, Sniper, Heavy and Support. Assault soldiers can handle rifles and shotguns. Snipers can of course snipe but have further skill sets but only handle one weapon. Heavy’s handle heavy machine guns and can be upgraded to carry rocket launchers. Support can handle rifles and shotguns as well but their skillsets branch off differently to assault members as they can be double classed as medics. All classes have sidearm’s to complement their inventory. Each category in the grand scheme have great pros and cons, but a balanced team can be a deadly one. When you get on the field, you will be handling rookies, but of course as they gain experience by killing the enemy, they will be ranked accordingly vie proper military terminology. Squaddie, Corporal, Sergeant, Captain, Lieutenant all the way up to Colonel. And even better is customising each of your soldiers, you can change their names, their looks, their voices and what they will be equpped with per mission.
But as you gain the ranks of your soldiers, so to will you need to press your attention on how to take out the enemy not just by brute force. You’ll also need to counter their UFO’s with fighter jets called “Interceptors”. Like the name suggests, if a UFO is present, you must take action to take it down, failure to do so can mean that it will attack by other means, such as your satellites that you have hovering in space, but more on that in a few paragraphs.
Fighting the aliens also means you will need to understand them, as cliché as that sounds. You will be charged with recovering the bodies of your enemy for study by your science department. You’ll at one stage need to start capturing them as well to study how they behave, but not only if you get them, dead or alive, the enemy provides the science department ways to create new items and weapons for you and your interceptors. It is invaluable to have the research done if you want to have stronger offensive and defensive items for the later enemies you will face. Remember, not having the right gear means ill preparation, ill preparation means your men dying.
You will also have an Engineering Department that will work in conjunction with the science department in building and improving your hardware. Weapons, items, armour, the works. They can also improve weapons and their efficiency and you can build other very valuable items such as the ‘Satellite’.
The Satellite is an invaluable item that you will need to build, but again to launch the satellite you will need to build a Satellite uplink. Construction of buildings like more workshops and laboratories and power generators keep your project going. Building them adjacent to each other render you with bonuses and each building provide more engineers, more electricity, more scientists to further extend research and hardware building. Of course the more you have, the faster the wait time. Satellites must be launched over the countries that fund the X-Com project. In total there are 16 nations that have provided their support, put a satellite over them to watch for activity and they again provide bonuses and more importantly funding to keep you going. Put satellites over a certain group of nations and another bonus is unlocked from cheaper/faster times of constructing weapons/items to increased percentage in funding.
You will need to be wary of the “Doomsday Ticker” meaning that if 8 of the nations that are funding the X-Com project withdraw, then its game over. They will withdraw due to panic in their nations which is measured by a 5 dot bar ranging from blue which is safe to red which is danger zone. X-Com will be answering calls from every nation to help reduce the panic from the alien invasion, success means reduction of panic and other bonuses, failure means loss of soldiers/higher panic/increased pressure for training soldiers and other menial tasks that will set you back. In short? Try not to fail.
Every month you will be rewarded with additional funds from ‘The Council’. A mysterious organization that contacts you not just every month to review your progress, but from time to time to save important figureheads of their community. Which of course they reward handsomely. Remember, pleasing the council leads to greater rewards in X-COM.
X:Com: Enemy Unknown isn’t a fabulous looking game. Now don’t get me wrong, when I mean by that is that I say the game doesn’t have lollipops, rainbows, my little ponies and bronies walking about. The game is set in a futuristic world and each battlefield you encounter can be varied as an urban or rural area. The colour palettes are not bright but do feel right for the environments that you will be encountering your enemies in.
One thing about strategy games like the Command and Conquer series is that in X-COM, Non-Playable Characters (NPC’s) interact with you in cutscenes. Briefing you on missions and giving you feedback on your mission success or failures. This element of story telling for some may think is corny and outdated, but I have always felt these scenes gave you sense of power, a sense of responsibility to make sure the job is done right and completed by the numbers so to speak..it felt more personal.
Points for language that is used within X-COM. Primarily it is a mico management of a squad of men and women who you decide fight properly or fight sloppishly and end up dying as a result, but the language is very military. And as it should be, normal speak wouldnt help perpetuate a military unit that is fighting for the safety of humanity, again this touch is great to put some authentic spin on things.
Though a very minor detail that isn’t great with the presentation is graphics tearing. When players get their soldiers killed, in the action cam, you can see your character go completely bald and lose all sorts of facial features and die. It can be a cause for niggling annoyance because loading screens and details go slow in transition such as moving between your departments in your base. But again, these are very minor.
Though not covering all of the facets of the gameplay, X-COM is a daring instalment in its move to consoles because of sole fact they are better played on PC’s. Developer Firaxis Games and Publisher 2K Games took a huge gamble. Comparing to Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, X-COM has a more slower pace to fighting and strategizing. It really does force you to think. Every move counts, every inch of ground matters and one wrong decision can have a catastrophic result. Thats the battlefield. Back at the headquarters, your choices determine how you want to tackle the invasion, it can be through science first to learn about the aliens or can be through upgrading your hardware. There is no right or wrong decision, but what is guaranteed is you will be making decisions that will affect how you fight and how you deal with loss or making up for lost ground due to a failure.
This is what strategy is all about.
It’s a get it game for sure. Strategy doesn’t come by often and when a game such as X-Com: Enemy Unknown brings in factors that make you actually care about your soldiers, your research, the outcome of each battle, then you know you have an impressive strategic game that will push you to fight tooth and nail for the best result.
(P.N Though we did not initially outline the multiplayer format, players will be pitted against each other, a mano et mano battle, squad against squad. And the best part is it isn’t just limited to humans. Players will be able to engage with a squad filled with extra terrestrials mixed with humans. Or one can have a team full of humans and one with ET’s, its totally up to you. How does multiplayer handle? Exactly like chess and the campaign mode. In a nutshell? It’s devastatingly fun)