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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

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Take me to your retailer, this reboot of a 90s classic has broken me. A strategy game like no other, XCOM puts you in control of an elite but surprisingly small force who are mankind’s last hope of surviving a sudden and bizarre invasion from outer space.

I have to say, if I had not been so much of a fan of the original series, I probably wouldn’t have picked this game up. The visuals are pretty dated, the design of the invading forces is a strange, mismatched group of squidgy weaklings and steroidal cyborgs that are not particularly appealing (with the exception of the Thin Man, who is actually pretty creepy). Even the look of the defending forces just looks… Well, BAD.

The levels, which are randomised on each mission, are pretty unremarkable tile sets that when seen once don’t improve over the course of the game.

However, where this game really shines is it’s gameplay – hours & hours of BRUTAL, UNFORGIVING, GAMEPLAY.

XCOM is hard. Even on normal, it is a challenge. Don’t expect to make it through without taking casualties. And these casualties are permanent, by the way. Once John Richter Jr. – Medic – has died, he stays dead. All that experience gained from previous successful missions is lost to the ether and they are replaced (if you have the cash) by a rookie that is barely more than pants-shitting, skill-less, cannon fodder.

And that’s only half of why it’s hard. Continually balancing which new technologies to research, which countries to save or leave to UFO rampancy is tough. If you lose a country from the XCOM committee, it too is gone forever. And if you’re a total masochist, you can play through on Iron-Man mode which saves the game after every turn, stopping you from reloading to undo that dreadful mistake that got half your squad turned into pink goo.

It’s a bit of a niche game, but if you like strategy games then you can’t help but learn to love this harsh mistress.

Pros: Great gameplay, a real challenge.
Cons: Not the sexiest game out there, sometimes repetitive.

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