It’s been a long time since I played X-Com the way it was meant to be. For me it was with X-Com – Terror from the deep that I consider to be the last true X-COM game. Many has come and gone during the time until X-COM Enemy Unknown was released by Firaxis. The game is a real X-COM game, but it also isn’t exactly what it used to be and while it wears the successor part pretty fancily – the game is a multi-platform game – and it shows.
There are some things that you will easily get over – some of the simplified features like only one base, no real ammo count, fewer tactical options and not a point by point spend for moving and firing, tossing grenades using covers and setting up overwatch etc. These new mechanics are pretty fluent and also pretty satisfying. I say pretty because they are to me at least, not better and not excusable IMO. Still, I can see that since almost 20 years ago, the players have changed and newer generations have emerged and to make games for those – you have to adapt to the times. It is a bit sad I believe since the old game mechanic is evident in many games that builds on this very point by point turn-based strategy. I also feel that it is pretty negligent to so disrespect the younger generations taking for granted that they can’t play games that takes time, not having patience enough and are all MOBA of twitch FPS gamers that are glued to consoles and Facebook. I don’t believe that is the entire truth AT ALL.
Still, this is what we have. But it is still a good game. It is even good enough to be an X-COM game, it just could so easily have been so much better…
A few points that I have some gripes with:
The camera controls: instead of having a 360 degree camera you have 4 set angles, an action camera that is zooming and moving as you move it back and forth. The last bit, moving around as you scan the battlegrounds perhaps can be avoided but I don’t think so.
Surprise: on the tactical map you suddenly find aliens – they always see you and in the new “story cam” they disperse always gets a chance to run away, jump into cover etc even though it is YOUR turn. Now what about the element of surprise? Oh – its not there only for the Aliens…
Surprise no2: …you see the aliens have another benefit – story, they can now “spawn” troupes to the map and suddenly appear on ground you already covered. Weird, stupid and not very strategy nor tactilely correct IMO.
Out of ammo, inventory etc: You get a few reloads, a set number, you can’t change this, you can swap a few weapons for weapons of the same class, and you get a grenade/gear inventory spot to switch a few things around – but you can’t make your LMG guy carry more then 2 reloads – not even if you want to. Say what? A feature I really miss since in the original game, I could have a slow moving character taking the rear and blast everything and then get some speed back when the inventory got lighter – no such things now.
What class you say?: Your barracks have people, people that turns out to be something whether you like it or not. After a mission or so you realize they are now a sniper, or a heavy support, an engineer etc – and you have no say. Doing missions gives you a chance to have certain characters as “payment” and they come with a defined class. Perhaps when you get a few more buildings and upgrades perhaps?
That damned tactical map: The map, I know I had angst about the camera, but it is more than that, the entire setup is simplified and also not easily played. You have some visual aids, but these aides are not very good – and not nearly as “cool” and ominous as in the original games. And that damned camera. It feels so much like a bad Xbox game sometimes and that is sad because I can’t see why they simply didn’t just make it a free 3D rotated camera. *Sigh*.
The good then?
It is an X-COM game, it has some satisfying moments and the story and tactical display and being turn-based are good enough for me to say – buy it! – But be prepared and don’t believe it will be as it once were…