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XCOM: Enemy Within Review

XCOM: Enemy Within is a stand-alone expansion to 2012’s award winning game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Enemy Within adds a whole array of new abilities, upgrades, weapons and a new soldier class to combat the new enemies and aliens that pose a threat to earth. The core storyline from the original is still intact and has been expanded with new resources, new strategic and tactical gameplay, and new multiplayer content to provide a fresh expanded XCOM experience.

The gameplay is split into two different elements, similar to the likes of Omerta: City of Gangsters, where you’ll spend half your time in the base managing the various areas required to make your fight against the enemies a successful one. After selecting where you’d like to situate your base of operations, the departments that will require your attention include ones such as research, engineering and the barracks, where it’ll be up to you to make the important decisions regarding the direction and application of the resources available to your disposal. The rest of the time is spent in the turn-based combat missions and scenarios and it is here where the true XCOM spirit comes through and the game really comes into its own.

The tension filled turn-based matches are thoroughly enjoyable but at the same time, they’re more nerve racking than anything I’ve ever experienced in a game before. Choosing your squad of soldiers from the barracks for the upcoming mission is important, but once you start to build a personal relationship with them it makes these decisions so much harder knowing that perma-death is always lingering and that feeling is only heightened when you’re on the battlefield. The missions take place on maps that are littered with cover spots (some of which are often destructible), buildings that have various access points and other elements that help to give a height advantage over your enemies whether it be the natural contouring landscape or some strategically placed accessible items. 

Enemy Within includes over 40 new maps and a lot of tweaks to the original maps from Enemy Unknown to improve upon and adjust them for the Meld container placements. The concepts of the battles are simple but amazingly complicated at the same time. Getting your squad to cover is essential as your enemies are in possession of weapons that can easily lay your team to waste, but be smart about your movements and use strategies such as flanking and ambushing and you can overcome what’s laid in front of you with chess-like manoeuvres. One of the many new additions in Enemy Within is an alien resource known as Meld which is stored in containers that need to be captured during battle. It is present in most mission types and has a self-destruct timer that will destroy the resource and damage anything nearby should it not be captured in time. The Meld is utilised by your research department to develop new alien technology as well as genetic and cybernetic enhancements such as MEC Troopers (which is a new class where any soldier’s arms and legs are replaced with mechanical cybernetic implants) as well as gene and ability modifications which are researched via alien autopsies.

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to keep your squad members alive. Not only because of the personal relationship, but also because every mission and escapade they take part in and survive provides them with more XP so that they can develop and gain new abilities and you soon come to rely on your most seasoned of battle veterans to lead your team to victory. The work that your research and engineering departments put in allows you to build and buy enhancements such as upgraded weapons and armour, amongst others. As well as the larger changes that Enemy Within provides, it also has a number of smaller additions when it comes to new technology, such as new grenades like the flash grenade and other new items like reaper rounds and new foundry projects??. Throughout the game the enemies become stronger and smarter, and hopefully over the time that you’ve spent with the game your tactics have become more refined too. Included in Enemy Within are two new alien types, the Mechtoid and the Seeker, and a new organisation known as the EXALT. The Mechtoid is essentially a Sectoid in a mech suit armed with dual plasma mini cannons and the Seeker is a robotic squid-like flying unit that leech onto your units by using a cloaking device and attempt to strangle whomever it’s attacking. As for the EXALT, they are a human paramilitary unit who, although not siding with the aliens, see the current situation as an ideal time to attack XCOM and attempt to gather enough resources to seize power.

Another addition in Enemy Within is the new mission types. They are welcome additions and do well to diverse the gameplay even more. Covert Operations are centred on the aforementioned new enemy in the EXALT and are tactical missions to counter the threat that they pose. Send in one of your squad members as a covert operative with nothing but a pistol and, providing they survive, their extraction then triggers one of the two new mission types; Covert Data Recovery or a Covert Extraction. Also included is Operation Progeny, which is a side plot that was originally planned as DLC for the original Enemy Unknown, and Operation Ashes and Temples, which brings back base defence style missions.

The controls work surprisingly well on console. I can see it being more suited for a keyboard and mouse but don’t let that deter you. The menus, UI and battle controls all feel very smooth and it’s obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the control scheme in order to make it suitable and easy to use. The only slight gripe I had with them was during battle sequences when I was manoeuvring my squad around the field as the movement marker is very sensitive. I often accidentally chose an incorrect point right next to cover rather than up against the cover, leaving my squad member exposed, purely because the marker moved very quickly.

XCOM: Enemy Within includes even more new additions and tweaks that I haven’t already mentioned and I could probably spend hours and hours writing about them. Firaxis have done a fantastic job at taking an already accomplished and polished game and building upon it even more. I have never really gotten into tactical based squad shooters before, but XCOM: Enemy Within was so fun and enjoyable that I ended up getting lost in it and playing it for a lot longer than I thought I had. There are so many changes and improvements in Enemy Within that seasoned players will be able to pick this up and enjoy an experience that they’ve not had before, and as for those of you that are yet to play XCOM, this is the perfect opportunity to play one of the best tactical shooters around. The only slight letdown for those who already own Enemy Unknown is, unless you’re playing on PC, Enemy Within is not available as a download DLC and you must purchase the disc-based version to play it, but I can safely say that it would definitely be worth it.

Words by James Grantham.

(Version Tested: Xbox 360)

+ A whole host of additions and tweaks.
+ Thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.?+ Turn-based matches are both thrilling and nerve racking.?+ Map repetition is a thing of the past.?+ Perma-death makes you care about your squad, but


- It is a gut shot when it happens.
- Lacking in great visuals

Edited On 11 Nov, 2013

( 2 )
shiny miller's avatar
shiny miller 3 years ago
Loved Enemy Unknown and really looking forward to this, but the fact only the PC version is available independently is really annoying. I already have the original version on my PS3 (as should most people as it's on PS Plus) so they're basically making me buy the whole game again just for the add-on!
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 3 years ago
I bought the PC version of Enemy Unknown on Steam and will get this expansion on PC at some point, probably via steam, when it drops in price and is on sale. I also intended getting it on Xbox 360 too, but glad I waited now as I can get the Xbox 360 of Enemy Within and get Enemy Unknown too.

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