Video Games

Review: XCOM 2

Llewellyn Griffiths leads the resistance in an attempt to remove the imperious alien race that have taken over Earth in this review.

If you like the XCOM series then XCOM 2 is a no brainer. However, if you are new to the series or to the turn based strategy genre then you may be put off.  At its’ core XCOM 2 is a complete improvement over the series’ previous title XCOM Enemy Unknown. It is great fun traversing the procedurally generated levels and rushing to stop the alien menace completing the avatar project and annihilating mankind.

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Sam Jackson unfortunately doesn’t cameo

The storyline is both engaging and long, taking over 20 hours to complete. The game is based around the premise that in the previous game we, the humans, lost and the aliens now rule a global government. This was done as the developers claim most players failed to stop the alien invasion in their first play through. The game paints a dark picture of oppressed humans subjected to relentless propaganda, enforced gene modification and worse. You, the player control the resistance and are based out of an alien craft which is reminiscent of the helicarrier from the Marvel universe and aptly named the Avenger.

The XCOM project has become a guerrilla force flying around the globe, striking at unsuspecting targets, building up the resistance and recovering valuable alien technology. To suit this rag tag feel there are deep customisation options, allowing you to fill your ranks with you and your friends, or the A-team.  Combined with soldiers becoming more experienced as you use them, you get pretty attached. This makes it all the worse when they are eventually killed and you lose them for good! Once your squad members die in XCOM they aren’t coming back and if they get hurt they’ll have to spend several days recovering in the med bay.

A new addition to the gameplay is the concealment mechanic. You start some, but not all operations in concealment. This allows you to sneak up on the aliens and set up a lethal ambush. This is in contrast to the previous games, where as soon as you saw the aliens they would be alerted and take cover. The core gameplay is an improvement over XCOM Enemy Unknown in every way. It is still based around a top down isometric view, where the battlefield is divided into grids. However, the level of depth is greatly expanded, with new skills and strategies available to use. Each soldier class has different unique skills, which seem to be well balanced, meaning no one playstyle is favoured over another. However my personal favourite is the sharpshooter, who devastates enemies from afar.

To counter the increased number of playstyles there are a huge number of new enemy types the game throws at you. From the very human looking Advent soldiers to the Faceless, a shapeshifting amorphous blob, it seems ever other mission you encounter a new enemy.
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As well as the core gameplay, there is also the base management part of the game. This includes building various facilities in the depths of your alien spacecraft, researching new technology and engineering new weapons and armour. Unlike Enemy Unknown you are much more limited on space to build, as instead of your base being underground, you are of course on an alien craft. You have to fly your ship around the globe, choosing between various hotspots and missions to counteract the aliens. Be aware that you cannot address all threats and you will inevitably have to choose between several different missions to respond to, with those you ignore bringing grave consequences.

There are indeed drawbacks that hold back XCOM 2 from being an outstanding game. Firstly, the issue of bugs cannot be ignored. From game breaking bugs that mean you cannot complete the game (which I didn’t experience), to visual bugs like clipping through scenery and getting shot through a building. These bugs can be quite jarring and keep you from getting too immersed. Additionally, the late game can be very hard and frustrating. You can easily lose your best soldiers on a mission and then be unable to combat the alien’s increasingly tough enemies, leading to a failure state as you are unable to stop the alien’s master-plan.

In conclusion, if you are a fan of the XCOM series you are sure to enjoy this game. A new engaging storyline, improved graphics, amazing destruction mechanics and new features all make this a game worth playing. However unavoidable bugs and a frustrating late game may put you off and I would suggest waiting until Firaxis have updated many of the issues plaguing an otherwise commendable experience.

Pros:

  • Long and engaging storyline
  • Improved combat system with new tactics and mechanics
  • Beautiful procedurally generated levels provide extensive replay value
  • Deep character customisation options

Cons:

  • Plagued by annoying bugs and glitches
  • Difficulty can be unforgiving, especially to new players

Rating: 8/10

– LLEWELLYN GRIFFITHS

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