Dear readers, I loved XCOM: Enemy Unknown. And, I mean, I loved that game. After finishing it on 360, I snatched the overpriced Enemy Within— which should have been an expansion (and you know it!). I even grabbed the Enemy Within again when it was available for Android; a game so good to have available on the go!
So, to say that I was looking forward to the sequel is an understatement. I am happy to report that, as is often the case with movies (The Avengers notwithstanding), this sequel is better than the original…
GRAPHICS & AUDIO: XCOM 2 is by no means ugly, but it’s not Gears 4 or Uncharted 4. But then again, that’s never been a selling point of the series. The same can be said for Enemy Unknown/Within, and, of course, the PC original. As for the sound, there’s nothing either really good or bad to say about it. As much as I’ve played these two (three games if you count Enemy Within) entries, I couldn’t hum an XCOM theme if my life depended on it. Though I’d recognize anywhere that weird gurgling sound that indicates that aliens are near…
GAMEPLAY: Hallelujah, here we go. In the first game, you could move to a crawl forward and slowly wait for the enemy to strike. Positioning a few soldiers on Overwatch, and sending a heavily armored Assault soldier forward to force the aliens out hiding. Well, you can forget about that tactic this time around. It’s 20 years after Earth’s loss in the first game, and we now “coexist” with the aliens… Well, we’re their bitches, really. And we’re super thankful because they’ve turned the planet into a police state, but have taken care of diseases, crime, etc, etc.
But of course they’re doing shady things behind the scenes. Enter you, The Commander and the resistance. Because of the new story and setting, you now start most missions with the new Ambush dynamic (some types, like Retaliation, don’t have this). Since you know rely on more guerilla-type tactics, you start with an ambush meter. This gives you a chance to sneak up to a group of adversaries, set up your soldiers, and try for a successful ambush takedown. “That sounds easier than the first game”. True, except that the second you fire off that first shot, they’re already scrambling to cover and planning to counterattack.
Most units also have some sort of leader. The AI shows a sort of “survival instinct” that ramps up the intensity level of the encounters. If the unit leader is taking heavy damage or is the last one standing, don’t be surprised if he bolts to call in reinforcements or regroup with a nearby unit. Oh, and on top of the improved enemy AI, the maps in XCOM 2 are procedurally generated, so replay value is not a concern at all if you love the genre, let alone this franchise.
Last but not least, those long range, slow motion sniper kills just never get old. While graphics aren’t everything, XCOM 2 doesn’t look too different from last gen’s offering, and the customization options are still meh. Still, Firaxis Games’ heady gameplay is fantastic sci-fi strategy that you should go out and get.