We’ll put it simply: This game has us more excited than any other turn-based strategy title in recent memory. XCOM: Enemy Unknown takes the spirit of a classic DOS-based strategy game, injects it with big production values and vibrant graphics, and infuses it with accessible mechanics to create quite the tactical package. In other words, we’re really looking forward to killing aliens when the game launches less than two weeks from now.
To express our excitement more eloquently, we’ve settled on the nine things about Enemy Unknown that we’re looking forward to most. Catch the Chryssalid fever (which you might want to get checked out, by the way) as we delve into the most enlivening of XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s new features…
We get to take back Earth one territory at a time
When those no-good aliens invade the entire planet, you’ve got to fight back with attrition. The lengthy single-player campaign lets you plot out your tactical advance around the globe, offering up the choice of mission selection with a wide variety of objectives and complexities. That means that the battleground settings, enemy types, and goals will constantly keep you on your toes. On top of the calculated reclamation of humanity's turf, you’ll be treated to various in- and out-of-match cutscenes, giving the ruthless alien aggression real context.
Customization lets us get attached to our personalized squads
Tactical strategy games are at their best when you really care, from a self-invented narrative standpoint, whether your soldiers live or die. What better way to do that than having full control over their specialties, appearances, and names? The names part is key: Christening your squadmates after family and friends will have you screaming in agony over their untimely (and nigh inevitable) deaths, while keeping the labels within a theme will spice up each round with some unintentional humor, thanks to randomly generated nicknames. The best thing to come from our elite team of presidentially named warriors says it all: The valiant deeds of Thomas “Werewolf” Jefferson will forever be remembered in our hearts.
The one-on-one multiplayer is seriously tense
Head-to-head strategic multiplayer makes you think, but rarely will it make you this anxious. At the beginning of each round of multiplayer XCOM, your squad of humans (or aliens, but more on that in a moment) will be plunked down into a totally fog-of-warred territory, with no idea which direction the enemy will come bearing down on you. Funnily enough, some of the best multiplayer moments happen before you’ve even engaged the enemy, when you're nervously bolting from cover to cover in the hopes that you get the jump on your foe before they spot you.
We get to take a walk in the space invaders’ shoes
Multiplayer also opens up the floor to those extraterrestrial buggers, letting you combine humans and aliens into any configuration that the adjustable point tally will allow. Getting to play as the story mode’s sworn enemies is a hoot--you haven’t lived until you’ve battered in a Sectoid’s face with the mauling fists of a Muton, or zipped around the map as the unfortunately named, jetpack-toting Floater. The pièce de résistance: Impregnating a hapless, near-death soldier with Chryssalid larvae, then cringing in horrified delight as he bursts into a spiny, alien newborn.
We’ll be melting minds thanks to our psychic powers
Mind over matter, as they say--or in this case, psyche-severing brain powers over ordinary bullets. As previous XCOM: Enemy Unknown trailers have so gloriously demonstrated, psionic soldiers will be a huge boon to the human forces over the course of XCOM’s campaign (and multiplayer modes, at that). Hypnotizing an alien into stunned shock, taking over the feeble intellect of a Sectoid, or using mind control to force a high-ranking officer to idiotically drop a grenade at his feet--all of these wonderful, wonderful things are possible (and probable) when you’ve got psychic powers on your side.
Overwatch makes the game infinitely more accessible
We’ve said it before in our previous XCOM: Enemy Unknown hands-on preview, but it bears repeating: Overwatch stands to change tiled, turn-based strategy games as we now know them. If you’re unsure of what to do next, or you want to prepare for whatever comes your way without going on the complete defensive, simply activate Overwatch. This tells your soldier to sit tight; if they see any movement from their current position, they’ll automatically blast the enemy moving target with reduced accuracy. It’s the perfect way to hedge your strategic bets, and when you want to hunker down without wasting a turn, Overwatch will be your best friend.
The difficulty shows no mercy
Too many games these days coddle you with lengthy tutorials, endless tooltips, and braindead enemies early on. Enemy Unknown says screw that: Let’s make the player earn every last kill. Even on the Normal setting, XCOM pulls nary a single Muton Beserker punch, slaying your soldiers without mercy if you send them into the fray willy-nilly. Only the most masterful of alien-killing tacticians can even dream of taking on the Insane difficulty level--perfect for gamers who want to test their mental mettle and could care less about their twitch reflexes.
The rebirth of a cult-classic franchise
It might’ve been before your time (and hey, some of us are right there with you)--but those that remember the original X-COM: UFO Defense hold it in incredibly high esteem. We can think of no better developer to helm a strategy revival than Firaxis Games, which worked wonders with the Civilization franchise. It turned this 1994 DOS franchise into an accessible (and sleek) sci-fi wargame, and that’s about as great a reboot as we can ask for.
Wide-open research trees enable exciting experimentation
One of the standout segments of the original UFO Defense actually took place outside of the battles, where alien autopsies and world travel enabled better weapons and enemy intelligence. That kind of tactical research is back in a big way for Enemy Unknown, which has you in command of an entire compound of soldiers and scientists ready to investigate whatever you so wish. Deciding whether we want to cut up an imprisoned alien specimen or upgrade our weaponry using extraterrestrial tech is truly the roleplaying spice of XCOM life.
Suit up, soldier
Those are the reasons we’re pumped for the aliens’ arrival--but there’s plenty more to XCOM: Enemy Unknown that we’ve still to uncover. If you’re also excited for this tactical turn-based shooter, let us know in the comments what about it has you riled up--just don’t say you’re looking forward to getting probed.
GamesRadar is the premiere source for everything that matters in the world of video games. Casual or core, console or handheld - whatever systems you own or whatever genres you love, GamesRadar is there to filter out what's worth your time and to help you get even more from your games. We deliver the best advice, the most in-depth features, expert reviews, and the essential guides for all the top games.