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XCOM: Enemy Within Preview

by Diogo Miguel October 9, 2013

It’s quite difficult to improve a video-game that was praised by both press and gamers, but it seems like 2K Games And Firaxis Games still wants to give it a shot. It’s surprising to see XCOM: Enemy Unknown getting an expansion – rather than a sequel. Still it’s possible that the development team could make it even better with the XCOM: Enemy Within expansion.

Enemy Within is an expansion, but it has been developed so that it feels more like part of the main story. It basically adds a third party, EXALT, who are hell bent on protecting the aliens. Funnily enough, EXALT members dress in a manner that is very familiar of the agents in the recently released The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.

EXALT’s mission is to hinder XCOM progress at any chance given. This is why it is now imperative to also take on this organisation and eventually destroy it for good. This is done by scanning for missions to get rid of individual cells and finding out where EXALT’s headquarters are located. Resources are required to scan for missions and that makes it more interesting, since players will have to think carefully before looking for new missions.

Once a mission is found, a covert operative is then sent to gather information. The player can then scan the globe for more missions, whilst waiting for the covert guy to get back in touch. The whole process is very simple to follow.

Those that played Enemy Unknown are aware that it’s necessary to assemble a team to take on a mission. These wonderful human beings are fully customisable. Giving them names is just one of many options. But don’t get too attached since if one of them dies in combat, then it’s never possible to use this character again. The risk involved meant it was necessary to read through any mission information given. Making use of such information is vital to choose characters that have skills which might increase the odds of everyone making it back alive.

Once in a mission, it is possible to make use of the covert operative. This new class is weaker than most of the others already known to veteran players. They can also only equip pistols. But they make up for it with a special “EXALT Comm Hack” ability, which temporarily disables enemy weapons. It worked really well in combat and gave the characters a better chance of surviving against the various enemy waves.

It was possible to play through a few missions during the demonstrating. They were all placed in different real world locations. Interestingly enough, the location for each of the missions shown would change whenever starting the demo all over again.

One of the missions in Nigeria consisted of getting the covert guy out. All the missions pretty much came down to getting the covert operative out. But each had different objectives to complete that made it more interesting. This particular mission was rather difficult. It was completed, but it came at a price, since the whole team was sacrificed to get the covert operative out alive. It made it seem like what mattered was getting the precious intel, that will help defeat EXALT, back to the XCOM base.

Making such sacrifices is perhaps one of the best reasons for playing Enemy Within. Another missions set in Egypt asked the player to defeat all enemies before getting the intel. This ended in disaster, but it was due to rushing in when attacking enemies. But don’t worry since playing well and making good use of every tool available is likely to result in a better mission outcome.

Not taking the EXALT threat seriously is a costly mistake. This group is not only determined but will react appropriately to any actions taken in combat. It’s certainly the case that players should not waste any opportunities given, because EXALT operatives will exploit any mistakes.

At first it may seem confusing to get the hang of the fighting and moving controls. There is a rather clever Target mode that lets players make use of each character’s weapons and abilities. Enemy Within becomes a lot more interesting once it all makes sense. Thinking about where to place characters so they are not exposed to enemy attacks. Only engaging enemies when the odds are in favor of the characters. It all comes together in a way that will make players feel accomplished if it’s all done correctly. This is pretty much the Enemy Unknown experience – yet it also feels like there are some minor enhancements that will make it easier for newcomers to get into.

This is a game where it is necessary to think before taking every move. Especially since it feels like it takes a long time to see how it all works out once the player’s turn is over. It feels nerve wrecking to see how EXALT operatives react during their turns(this is a turn based strategy game).

It may seem like each mission is about just getting the covert guy out. But deep down, it also feels like the best aspect of these new missions are the objectives. Especially as each mission comes with different objectives that will really push players to their limits.

It’s impossible not to wonder how EXALT missions and story will fit in with the main story. But it felt like they managed to add some new ideas, that although fairly minor, will no doubt make the XCOM experience even better.

If the rest of the missions are like this then XCOM: Enemy Within will not only appeal to fans of Enemy Unknown, but also rope in a few new players.

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