X-Com: Enemy Unknown PS3 Review

The story is simple to this game. Aliens are invading and you are the commander of a secret group / army that must save humanity. The game is dual sided. At its core, this is a turn based tactical strategy where there is a game grid. You select your troops and send them off. Your troops on the game map have two part moves. You can either spend each troop’s on movement or one move and one attack. You cannot attack twice (without abilities) and once you attack, that’s the turn for that troop. Each troop / soldier starts out as a standard grunt with no abilities. You give them armor, a primary weapon, a secondary weapon and a misc item like a grenade, med kit, stun gun or body armor. Once they get a promotion (level up), they take on a specific job, such as a sniper, heavy weapons, support, assault and so on. Each promotion gives them a new ability that you can chose. The whole selection process and soldier load out is done very simple. There are no overwhelming choices of 30 armors. At the most you might get a few for each category. Very simple, very quick and if you want you can customize your soldiers.

Back to the strategy game. Cover is your friend, you want to have cover between chess pieces and the alien chess pieces. Keep in mind since this is a strategy game, you see an almost overhead view. Sometimes when your soldiers are running to cover you will see an OTS perspective and when you take aim, you see the active soldier’s perspective. That doesn’t mean you have control of the aim of course. Every attack gets a percentage that you’ll actually hit them. If there is no cover and close range the hit percentage is 90%+. If enemies are out of range or covered, that percentage turns into 60% or less. Flanking is important and the enemy will flank you if not destroy the cover.

When you start getting better weapons and armor, the game will beef up its enemies as well. You’ll never be coasting by for too long. Once the difficulty starts ramping up, you’ll find yourself unable to use common tactics like flanking, because when you flank on deeper missions, you risk waking up more enemies to join the battle.

The battles have different elements to them like if a soldier is critically injured (but not dead yet), they will bleed out and die within 3 rounds if not stabilized. Even if they’re stabilized, that doesn’t mean they’re back in the fight. They just lie there and if you complete the mission, then you get them back. So a few battles will leave someone critically injured and you need to decide to bring a soldier with a med kit to stabilize them and risk having that person die in the process or do you clear out the enemy first and risk the person dying in the process or do you just let them die? Future upgrades make it so they can be revived to actively fight again and not just stabilized. It is a deep system that sets it apart from other games. It feels rewarding if you’re able to pull it off.

These missions seem pretty randomized. Sometimes you’ll have to chose from 3 missions. Each mission will give you a major reward like money or engineers or a new soldier. So there’s a lot to consider when selecting a mission. The game will even warn you about the difficulty of the mission as well.

The other half of the game is the simulation of running your own agency and army. It is broken up into different divisions, like research, engineering, barracks, hanger and the war room. When you win matches and battles in the game you collect things to research. You assign what they should research and that will enable more things to make and buy like better armor, laser weapons and so on. Then with the engineering, that is where you buy and make the things. You also can see your facility and add other sections to your facility such as power plants, laboratories, satelite uplinks and so on. The barracks is where you update, hire soldiers and view dead soldiers. You can also do it before the missions begin so visiting the barracks isn’t always a top priority. The soldiers are all randomly generated, which is awesome. You can modify their looks and info if you want to get into that.

Next up is the hanger, I should explain that you have satellites and can launch others. This gives you a first response to alien invasions. You will send up a fighter jet to take out the space ships. You do not control the fight…. you just watch it. The hanger is where you upgrade these air defenses. You will have hangers in every continent of the globe. So if all of your jets are in North America, there will be no air defense for Australia. And if you chose not to scramble a jet, then the aliens will come back later and destroy your satellites. You can upgrade to stealth satellites too. The final division contains finances where you can sell junk that you obtained from winning battles. More importantly you can see the globe’s panic level. Every major country has a panic level. The higher the panic level, the less they’ll pay your shadow corp. Basically its like a chart showing you how well you’re doing and how much of the planet has been taken over.

Seeing where you are in the world’s conquest means that if you lose a mission, you haven’t lost. You won’t redo the mission over and over until you beat it. When you lose, you lose. It is one battle in a war. I think that’s one of the perks to the game, you have loss and you just have to accept it.

If you let a country slip and they get worse and worse, that means when you have a mission in that country it will be more difficult. And difficulty in this game is something to take note of. The game will warn you how difficult a mission is. I should also point out that if a soldier is killed in action, that’s it for the soldier, they are no longer with you. You’ll feel every death. You see your soldiers grow, you’ve customized their look, if not rename them so when they die, you feel it. Those are the hours you had them on your team and now they’re dead. With other games it doesn’t matter that much, but with this game you feel the impact. When your soldiers are injured, they can’t participate in missions, which is the perfect reason to train usually unused less experienced soldiers. Its a very nice process.

The graphics are good, but not outstanding. Good atmosphere, lightning effects. There are little details that make it stand apart from other strategy games. The voice work is good as well. The game does a good job of feeding you information through voice overs. The soldiers have their own voices too.

In all, the two major elements of turn based strategy coupled with a business sim mean that you’ll never overdose and get bored. There’s always a break between the action of missions and that drives you to keep going, because when you’re done with a mission…. then you need to do research and engineer stuff, but when you’re done with that… there’s a new mission to get to! I can understand that this game isn’t for everyone. This is a very high quality game that you can sink hours and days into. You won’t have the exact same experience twice.

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