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Games : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: October 9th, 2012 Movie Release Year: 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Overview -

Firaxis, best known for the 'Civilization' series, has already proven itself brave. The long-standing strategy game developer is putting its reputation on the line by revisiting a similarly long-standing boon of the entire genre. Firaxis is rebooting 'XCOM' with 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown,' taking on the challenge of modernizing a beloved series while keeping it exactly the same, so-to-speak.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Release Date:
October 9th, 2012

Video Review


Firaxis has turned what could have been the visual dynamism of a board game into a surprisingly cinematic experience. In battle, the camera often swoops in and captures little bits of action. It adds nothing to the tactics, of course, but oddly enough there's an intangible improvement to the overall pace and tone of the combat. Taking a second to watch your assault trooper burst through a door, only to find alien foes on the other side, creates a connection to the battlefield other turn-based infantry games are sorely lacking. The thing is, I would have never known those other games were lacking had "XCOM: Enemy Unknown" not implemented these touches for itself. It speaks wonders to the inventiveness of the development team.

And every aspect of the game, whether you're consulting with the shadowy council or experimenting with new, dangerous technology back at your buried base, feeds well into the narrative tone. The ever weirder cast of alien enemies are countered by battle-hardened human soldiers. Your slightly futuristic transport ship plummets into battle with urgency. The only drawback is that after a while, and with a game with so much replayability, the environments and visual themes get a little repetitive. You're not going to a shootout at a candy factory or amusement park because it simply wouldn't fit, but I would've appreciated some sort of dramatic shakeup now and again. Even fallen alien ships feel drab after a while.

Audio Review


A steely dark voice, the only one more commanding than your own commander voice, issues orders as leader of the council. This is a world as much defined by its voices and sound effects as it is the purple skin of a hulking beast. "We will be watching," the voice says, just before cutting off. The constant worry of your scientist back at base, the drumming excitement of the score leading you into battle, that steely voice, all keep reminding you of your dire situation, and the unbridled power at your fingertips.

It gets worse, by which I mean better, on the battlefield. A veteran might cower and cry at the loss of a nearby ally, while the scurrying footsteps of a nearby, yet unseen enemy impend your doom. When the sounds around you aren't dire, they're eerie. And it's all the more rewarding when a cheerful applause rings through your base after you successfully shoot down your first ship. 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown' thrives on its atmospheric sound design.

Firaxis, against all of its own set of odds, manages to balance all its interweaving systems with grace and individualized importance. Every researched item feels useful the moment you receive it and every call to your attention feels essential to success. It makes ignoring some calls in favor of others, or choosing an assault soldier over a heavy for a given mission, feel real and impactful. It turns a game into a mission. And it's a special mission indeed. There may be problems with the later difficulty curve, a bit of mission repetition or the weak narrative, but the sheer complexity of 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown' earns itself a pass on those admittedly minor problems. Leadership, as I've learned, is no cakewalk. But it's educating. It's thrilling. It's harrowing. It's horrifying. It's fun.

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