On Tuesday October 1st, TiX was kindly invited to a secret location in London to have special hands on time with new XCOM experience, Enemy Within.
XCOM Enemy Within is the latest title in the XCOM series for Xbox 360 and follows on from Enemy Unknown released back in October 2012. Unlike the PC version which sees Enemy Within purchasable as a DLC pack for Enemy Unknown, Xbox 360 players will need to purchase the new Commander Edition, which is a re-release of Enemy Unknown but will come with the Slingshot, Elite and Second Wave content packs and Enemy Within expansion pack included.
Enemy Within brings the following new features which are shown off in the War Machine trailer above:
- New Soldier Abilities: Research a new alien technology to advance the capabilities of your operatives:
- Gene Mods: Construct the Genetics Lab to physically enhance your operatives’ abilities including augmentations to the chest, brain, eyes, skin, and legs.
- MECs: Build the Cybernetics Lab to enable the construction of the new Mechanized Exoskeletal Cybersuit, or MEC. The new MEC Trooper class has specialized abilities and each suit can be upgraded with new weapons including the flamethrower and grenade launcher.
- New Weapons and Equipment: Give your operatives an extra tactical edge with new projects from your engineering team and the Foundry.
- New Enemy Threats: Adopt new tactics to counter the threats from two new alien classes including the Mechtoid.
- New Strategic Resource: A valuable new alien resource, known as MELD, has been released onto the landscape providing access to new research and upgrades.
- New Tactical Challenges and Maps: New tactical challenges are introduced across an additional 47 maps.
- New Multiplayer maps, units, and abilities: Create your custom squad from a wider array of options and dominate your opponent in intense, one-on-one, turn-based matches.
The demo used for the hands on introduced us to a new enemy for the XCOM forces to contend with alongside fighting the alien invasion threat. This new enemy is called Exalt, a human rogue element who seek to capture Alien technology for their own purposes which immediately put them at odds with XCOM.
Exalt as an enemy faction can create Cells in countries which will undermine XCOM’s security levels and increase the threat warning for that region. For XCOM, you as the player can create covert agents with the sole purpose of infiltrating these cells, gaining information on them and lead to missions available via scanning from Mission Control.
The playable mission was to place a covert agent in one of Exalt’s cells, wait for him to gather information and then launch a mission to extract the agent. Agents can be chosen and customised as per any XCOM soldier, with particular skills and weapon loadouts designed for covert agents which will aid them during the extraction.
Squad selection is as it was with Unknown so names, appearance, skills and weapon loadouts all customisable. I picked a squad that I would normally have picked for a mission in XCOM, some long range snipers, up close and personal soliders and prepared to go extract my Agent.
Set in a woodland area, I positioned my squad in cover and slowly made my way towards the agents location. As well as having the task of protecting the Agent for extraction, the added task of defending an Encoder from being hacked by enemy forces made the mission even more of a strategic challenge. It was not too long before I encountered the first Exalt enemy soldiers on the battlefield.
What struck me right away was how aggressive the AI was with this new enemy. As the turns completed, they moved into attack position very quickly to my position on the map and moved towards the Encoder faster then I manged to move my squad forward. Clearly my normal play style of slowing moving forward to take down the enemy using my snipers and overwatch would not be as effective as it normally would be for this particular new enemy.
I tried to match the Exalt forces move for move, positioning my squad to keep them covered whilst protecting my Covert Agent but I made the mistake of having my squad too close together, even in cover. I also failed to check the area for the positions of Exalt agents outside my Squads line of site, which with the new aggressive AI proved costly. A Single rocket from the enemy and I lost 2 squad members with two others dangerously close to requiring only a single shot to put them down. The cover they were in was also destroyed, and in one single bad strategic judgement call by me, the mission was in jeopardy of failure.
The Encoder was soon hacked by Exalt and my only option was to retreat with the agent back to the extract point and escape with my tail between my legs. But the Exalt forces were relentless, as I made my way to the exit point, more of their forces closed in and after a few turns of I had to sacrifice my final squad members so I could extract the Agent. Mission failed, XCOM 0 – Exalt 1.
XCOM Commander Edition is the most complete XCOM experience you can have on the Xbox 360. From Enemy Unknown and its content packs to Enemy Within and all the new options and enemies you will face, it will appeal to veteran XCOM players and new players alike. The way in which I was so utterly destroyed whilst playing the extraction mission demo was completely down to my own failings, and its refreshing to see a turn based strategy game with an AI that will punish you for making mistakes. I am very eager to try out the the new augment abilities for soldiers from genetic modifications to cybernetic implants to take the fight to the new Alien classes and types.
The Enemy Within expansion takes XCOM to another level and will add so much gameplay to an already impressive game series in XCOM and you are getting so much content in the Commander Edition which makes it worthwhile purchasing again for some or new for others.
XCOM Commander Edition – Enemy Within is released November 12th in US and Canada and 15th here in UK and Europe.