XCOM Enemy Within Review

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Developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K. Enemy Within is 2012’s XCom Enemy Unknown but incorporating the original DLC Slingshot, Second Wave and Elite Soldier Pack DLC. This version also contains the new Expansion pack Enemy Within creating the most definitive version of XCom on consoles right now and follows on from the summer release of its prequel title ‘The Bureau’.

XCom is a turn based strategy series that dates back to its original game in 1995, which puts the player in the role of Commander of the XCom elite fighting force defending the Earth from the threat of an alien invasion. What makes XCom Enemy Within stand out from the crowd is the vast amount of micro management available in the role of Commander. As the player, you are responsible for choosing where you place your base of operations from which all missions will be launched from. You will then need to customise and choose what facilities to create in the base in order to support the on going fight against the alien threat by picking the right research labs, workshops and information gathering satellite networking sites that will help best arm, train and prepare your soldiers for combat against an increasingly dangerous and well equipped enemy. Resource management is also key to building a strong base foundation as everything you build will require the right materials and staff to conduct the research for and to then build the facilities and weapons, upgrades and tools to be used.

Before that can all be used, the micro management continues with the fighting force you assemble and send into battle. Each soldier will earn XP and level up depending on how successful they are in missions and if the mission itself is a success. As each soldier levels up they will unlock a choice of abilities which can be used during missions and which abilities you apply to which solider to build your fighting squad is as key as the micro management choices you made creating and maintaining the base. Having a squad made up of various skills and abilities is key to be ready for anything you might encounter in a mission. XCom is also known for the level of customisation you have for the soldiers not just in their skills and weapons but also in appearance from their voice accent, to their race and gender to giving them a first and surname. Enemy Within has more options then ever before to customise the appearance of the soldiers with the standard physical options but even more now for choice in armour and helmet options. With so much choice you can really, if you choose to, recreate your nearest and dearest and place them on the front line for you. Enemy Within adds a Medal system, awarded for performance in missions, they can be customised for the added ability they will give the soldier you award the medal to as well as the option to rename the medal to give it a very personal touch.

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Very early on in the game you gain access to the new content that Enemy Within brings to the XCom experience. Enemy Within brings the following new features:

  • 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.
  • eNew 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 first of the new features that the game gives the player access to is MELD. MELD is the new resource in the game’s universe that is contained in cannisters and placed in mission areas. The player will have a limited time to retrieve the cannisters before their countdown, which is based on a set number of player turns in the mission, expires and the cannister self destructs. How the player can then use the MELD resource is another great new feature that Enemy Within adds to the game. The new option for the player to use either Cybernetics or Genetic modification to enhance their soldier ranks. First the base must be outfitted with the Genetics Laboratory in order to allow for genetic modifications via the Research area of the base and the Cybernetics Laboratory to enable the cybernetic augmentation of soldiers.

cybernetics

Cybernetic Augmentation is the most expensive use of the new MELD resource but it is by far the most visually impressive new addition to the mix with Enemy Within. Once a soldier has been successfully augmented, which on screen begins with the soldier literally having their entire body replaced by a terminator style exoskeleton, there is the option to create a MEC combat suit for the now augmented soldier to use. Whilst this option will drain your MELD reserves, the immediate impact it will have on the battlefield will make it worth it. This new tank level soldier will have a much increased health bar but also packs some serious firepower which starts off with an impressive Mini gun. Each MEC can be upgraded to have an extra feature such as a flame thrower to burn anything in its vision cone area or a weapon that will take out the cover and cause some damage to an enemy hiding in range.

Genetic modifications can be used to enhance and give new skills to soldiers, it is a far cheaper use of MELD then Cybernetics. The new abilities can range from giving enhanced sight for aiming, bone marrow strengthening to give a Wolverine level of health regeneration on the battlefield if hurt or to deflect alien telepathic attacks.

These new enhancements options really change the combat options and strategy for the player to utilise during missions and with the beautiful way that the required MELD resource can only be obtained from collecting Cannisters during missions makes it a sublime addition to the playing experience. Of course, these new enhancements could be overpowering on the battlefield but the aliens are also capable of using such technology, which brings a new risk and danger of not knowing what you may encounter on a mission which makes having a well rounded squad with various combat options both for attack and defence more important then ever before.

That leads nicely into another new feature of Enemy Within. XCom is not the only force aware of the alien threat. A new menace has arisen who also has more then just a curious interest in the Alien threat as well as the operations of XCom. This new enemy is known as Exalt.

exalt

Exalt is 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. Extraction missions will then task the player with having to retrieve the agent to obtain whatever information they obtained, failing means losing that information and the agent.

seeker

XCom Enemy Within is a massively deep game on multiple levels. As a turn based strategy game I have not played anything else that even comes close to the level of detail of gameplay that it contains. From the micro management of everything in the game to the combat and adapting tactics on the fly to meeting the challenge thrown at you both in the missions you take as well as the added pressure of having to keep the member countries of XCom all happy and calm or risk them leaving the program and taking their resources with them. Everything in XCom Enemy Within revolves around the choices you make as a player, from the missions you choose based on gathering a particular resource of extra soldiers, staff or money or lowering the panic levels in one nation having consequences for the nation whose mission you chose not to take. If or when you lose a soldier in combat after spending time training them you feel that loss going forward.

I have played many games in my gaming life, but few have given me as rewarding an experience as XCom Enemy Within and it gives a challenge each and every time I pick it up to play and it will continue to do so. For fans of strategy games there is no finer example of the genre then XCom Enemy Within and it deserves a place in any gamer’s collection.

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