A turn-based game, which uses actions rather than continuous movement a la a Real Time Strategy sim, XCOM has great appeal with its in-game team members. You start with four squaddies right in the midst of an operation and the goal from the start is to complete the mission without losing a team member. Recruiting new members is a snap – as long as you have the money – and it becomes a fun challenge to see who of your original four can survive through the game. (I had a sniper maxed to the nines who died in the penultimate turn of the game. Fortunately, he gave his life for the cause, as it opened up the killing shot by my support specialist who was ghosting.)
The customizing of each squad member is pretty cool, right down to their names and countries of origin. It’s more customizable than the original XCOM game from the mid-90s. I tend to customize their armor and look based on their skillset, so I can quickly determine at a glance what their specialties are without having to constantly look at their info. I usually have several “backups” of certain skillsets, such as Assault and Medic, as they often get wiped out by tricky aliens at times.
XCOM’s battle maps contain a lot of terrain and features you can blow up or damage. It may not seem like a big deal to many, but to me it adds to the visceral feel of each mission. Trying to minimize collateral damage, especially when conducting a rescue or relief mission, is something I strive for. And then there are times when you’re on the filling station map and just decide to lay waste to everything because the Chryssalids are closing in…and you just lost your sniper…
While some complain that the maps are too repetitive or that there aren’t enough, I find them to be just the right mix. With multiple angles and object placement, the familiarity can be helpful at times when plotting a strategy or an approach. It speeds up game time, in a way, without really taking away from the game.
I’ll say this: XCOM makes you work for your victories. Even on the ‘normal’ level of difficulty, it’s a tough road to push through until near the very end. I’ve had to restart several Hard and Ironman versions because of finding myself outnumbered, outflanked, and outgunned a few times. Small, simple mistakes can be amplified in higher levels of difficulty, making wins more rare – but also that much sweeter.
The original XCOM was the same way; every mission was harrowing, every shadow held an unknown enemy. Nothing spooks you more than sending a scout around a hanger corner and finding two Cyberdisks waiting for you, dropping their grenades right on top of your position and wiping out your scout, the wall, and the medic behind the wall. (Yes, this happened. Yes, I was in awe and infuriated at the same time.)
I’ve been pleased with the console remake of XCOM ever since I first heard of it. The graphics, gameplay, array of tech and weapons, and the DLC that since came out have been fun, and it’s definitely a game I’ll continue to play for as long as my 360 holds out.