XCOM: Enemy Within Review

XCOM: Enemy Within Review

Developer : Firaxis Games | Publisher 2K Games

Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: PlayStation 3, PC
Reviewed by: Michael Garvie

The year is 2015 and alien sightings are being reported around the world. Every nation is experiencing landings of unidentified objects and a council of the world’s leaders has been formed to deal with the invasions. An elite team has been put together to deal with the invasions and that’s where you come in. As the Commander of this specialised team, you need to lead your troops into battle, decide which countries to aid, and dictate which research options should be undertaken. In this turn-based strategy game, the Earth’s survival is in your hands. Welcome to XCOM: Enemy Within.

XCOM: Enemy Within

The title’s main menu offers you 4 selections; Singleplayer, Multiplayer, Load Game and Options. Selecting Singleplayer will take you into the Singleplayer campaign, and with the Commander edition, you can now adjust your XCOM experience with Second-wave options. Second-wave allows you to customise your campaign by including or excluding certain missions. It also allows a wide variety of alterations such as allowing weapons a broader range of damage, having rookies start with random stats and a new seed being generated every time you load up your saved file. These minor changes may not seem like they have much effect but, 1 or 2 damage may be the difference between a successful mission, and losing your entire squad. Selecting the Multiplayer option allows you to go into a battle against other players, and allows you to create a team of six characters, comprising of every unit in the game. This allows you to send the units that annoyed you most in the game, to annoy your opposition.

 XCOM: Enemy Within is a standalone expansion to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and as such, a lot of the mechanics are the same. There are however a large list of changes that were made to Enemy Within. Meld is one of the more prominent changes,, and probably the first change you’ll notice if you’ve played Enemy Unknown. While your objective for most missions in Enemy Within was simply to kill or capture the aliens on that specific map, in Enemy Within you now have an additional resource that you are able to collect on each map. Meld can be collected by sending a soldier up to the meld container and pressing A (for Xbox 360) to collect it. The tricky part comes in the form of a meld timer, in which each meld container only stays open for a certain number of moves. As this is a turn-based game, one move is the equivalent of your entire squad moving twice.

MEC Trooper 2

Another change that has been made is the addition of Gene Mods and MEC troopers. The Gene Mods are available once you’ve constructed a Gene Lab, and will affect your soldiers in a number of ways. The Gene Mods can be added to a soldier’s eyes, brain, chest, skin and legs, with two modifications per body part. These alterations include Mimetic Skin which allows your soldiers’ skin to mimic the cover they are behind much like a chameleon, or Muscle Fiber Density improvements which allow your soldiers to get onto high ledges and roofs without the need of ladders. These Gene Mods all cost Meld and will put your soldier out of use for 3 days. The MEC troopers (or Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuit troopers) are soldiers that are obtainable through research of alien structures, the construction of a Cybernetics Laboratory and through autopsies performed upon the bodies of the deceased aliens. The Cybernetics Laboratory will allow a soldier’s legs and arms to be replaced with mechanised arms and legs, and allow them to use weapons such as miniguns or particle cannons. The downside to this alteration is your MEC Trooper’s inability to utilise cover. However this is made up for by the large increase in health obtained by the suit. Converting your soldiers to MEC Troopers will also take 3 days.

Another addition to Enemy Within is the inclusion of two new aliens, the Mechtoid and the Seeker. A Mechtoid is simply a Sectoid (i.e a standard unit) in an armoured suit, much like your MEC  Troopers. While they are fairly tough to bring down due to their large amounts of health and armour, they become even more of a threat when paired up with Sectoids who, through Psychic abilities, can create a shield around the Mechtoid which will need to be whittled down before his health can be affected. The Seeker is a squid-like mechanical enemy that possesses not only a plasma attack, but will also attempt to strangle your soldiers. The Seekers also possess the ability to cloak themselves, which allows them to appear out of nowhere. At this time, they usually focus on attacking your isolated troops such as the long range sniper. Their invisibility can be negated later on in the game where Gene Mods and researched items will allow you to see them through their cloaks.


One of the biggest additions however is not of alien descent, but is in fact humanoid. Enemy Within includes the addition of an organisation known as EXALT. Much like the XCOM team, EXALT operates behind the scenes trying to acquire as much of the alien materials and resources as possible. However, unlike XCOM, EXALT sympathises with the alien’s attempts to evolve mankind, and see it as their destiny to allow man to evolve through genetic alterations and mechanised cybersuits. These enemies can be easily distinguished by their pinstripe pants, white shirts and ties. This could be to show that they are not soldiers, but in fact everyday men and women, who are fanatical about their cause. Later on you will encounter enemies with Gene Mods that are unavailable to you. This is due to the moral compass Dr. Vahlen is steered by, which prevents her from crossing certain ethical boundaries.

Graphically, the expansion looks much like the original, with a few tweaks here and there. Watching ammunition make contact with an enemy, or seeing your soldiers being shot in return, grants a feeling of realism due to the visual display. Poison clouds look stifling, and explosions due to grenades or rocket launchers, create large amounts of debris and rubble a, just as one would expect from an explosion. Even the destruction of walls and cars, while not to the extent of something like Battlefield 4, looks good and allows a fair amount of immersion into the game.

Sound, is one area where this title shines through . From the collapse of buildings, to the speech used by both troops and advisors, XCOM: Enemy Within utilises every aspect of the sound to immerse you in the title. Each weapon also has a distinctive sound, and while that may seem obvious, it is something many titles fail to utilise properly. Upon seeing an enemy, a certain tune will be played.  Even though it’s something small, the attention to minute detail is what separates good and great games – and XCOM: Enemy Within falls into the latter category.

Sectoid and Mechtoid

Even though I’ve never played Enemy Unknown, my experience with XCOM: Enemy Within has given me quite a liking to the XCOM series. While the title has a steep learning curve when playing on anything above normal, there is an easy difficulty that may seem to be too easy, but within minutes may still prove challenging. If you’re a fan of turn-based combat, then I would strongly suggest this title, especially if your fancy is tickled by strategy. Enemy Within does require you to ‘play smart’ to best it. If you absolutely hate turn-based games, then this probably isn’t for you, but the game as a whole might just be enough to make you look past the combat. I would strongly suggest going out and picking up Enemy Within if you even slightly liked what you’ve read, as it really is a gem.

The breakdown:
Story: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10

Interested in the Xcom series? Check out the following reviews:
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Married to the Master Race with occasional console adultery. Plays metal for the masses. Lover of straitjackets and hater of glitches.

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The Verdict


The Good: .
-Brilliant use of turn-based mechanics
-Allows for numerous strategies
-Allows for multiple replays

The Bad: .
-Steep learning curve could be too much for some players
-Very little variety in terms of game modes