2K games

Firaxis games

Garth DeAngelis

Out now to buy on PS3, Xbox360 and PC

“Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

A classic PC strategy franchise makes its return from 2K games and Firaxis. A goliath Alien fleet is invading earth, slaughtering thousands of innocent lives. You take control of an elite military organisation tasked with stopping this menace by any means necessary. How you do this is up to you, you have complete control of this organisation. The success and failure of this war is down to you.

This game is hard, very hard. One minute you can be dominating the enemy, then before you know it you’ve been completely decimated to the point you’ve lost the game, and I don’t mean you’ve lost restart checkpoint, you have lost the full game start the entire thing from scratch, knowing you can fail brings a sense of dread throughout the entire game, you make decisions that will help you survive, ‘if I buy this new weapon, my troops may be better, but can I also afford to keep this country intact? Do I risk my men so that this country will still support us?’ This game requires thought, if you think getting the best characters and rushing through will help you win, think again, this game is relentless, and it’s beautiful for it.

You spend 50% of the game in the XCOM base, here you construct facilities such as research centres and power stations, hire and customize various soldiers for your growing army, make deals with various countries for support, and scan for Alien activity, navigating the base is through quick and easy menus, with your various staff members giving you advice on what’s the next step, this is where you make the hardest choices, and were you will probably make the biggest mistakes, you are given a chart that shows how every country is doing, the more countries that leave the less finical backing you will get, which eventually leads to you being shut down. When that Alien activity is detected it brings with it the other 50% of game play, combat.

Combat itself is turn based strategy, you take up to six of your squad members to a large variety of maps and face a large and unique roster of enemy Aliens, from the creepy Thin Men to the God-like Ethereals, the game play itself is like a stat based version of Worms, you command each individual soldier and use a wide range of abilities to damage the opposition, your squad members come in four different flavours, The Shotgun wielding Assault class (personal favourite) whose best for rushing in, and flushing out enemies, the support class who obviously is there to help out his comrades with Smoke Grenades and Medikits, the Heavy who carries a very large gun and is fond of wrecking as much havoc as possible with as much explosives as possible, and finally The Sniper, who in the right position on the map, can become a monster for the enemy. Every class has their role, they have their strengths and weaknesses, you build your characters up individually from mere rookies, to an unstoppable force that would make the marines from the movie Aliens blush. It’s one of the few games where you really grow attached to your squad, and is actually depressing if one of them is killed, especially if it was your mistake that got them killed.

Your squad support one another and if you don’t use them as a team you will fail. The combat is balanced and fair, there is never a point where you feel like you have been cheated, well unless the game glitches and spawns four heavily armoured aliens on top of you. The game has got a problem of doing that, but luckily it doesn’t happen frequently enough to become a huge flaw. The camera can also sometimes be an annoyance during the in battle cut scenes placing itself behind or even inside a wall, though this never happens during actual game play. When you are moving and placing your troops the camera is flawless and allows you to see the environment clearly except when shrouded by the fog of war.

One of the big elements of the game is the ability to customise your troops and most importantly name them. This leads to you naming them after your friends this leads to deep emotional attachment to them even before you’ve spent twenty hours of gameplay with them. The customization options sadly are not that deep, in the base game there are nine hair styles and three helmets (though there are plans to add more in DLC). If you are looking to perfectly recreate yourself than this is going to be very difficult, it would be easier to style yourself to look like an XCOM solider. The sound design of the title is varied. The soundtrack is sadly rather forgettable; it is mainly comprised of stock sci-fi music. The only memorable piece of music is the Aliens-esqe music that plays during the load out screen before battle, it certainly manages to get you in the right mindset before combat. The sound design for the Aliens themselves is spot on; each alien type has its own unique sounds each other giving a sense of fear to what you are about to encounter.

The game is not for everyone. The game is slow paced, tactical and will easily frustrate the average gamer. However if you are bored with the endless stream of First Person Shooters then this is the very different title you are after. I can’t recommend this game to everyone as most people sadly would not enjoy it. Though you are a gamer who enjoys using their brain, this is the game for you.

Review by Ellis Atkinson & Jarrod Beauchamp

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