A shadow organization called EXALT--composed of human enemies that have an odd obsession with wearing handkerchief masks and dressing like Don Draper from Mad Men--tries to fill that void, but only partially succeeds. Fighting against human enemies is notably different than fighting against aliens, as the former always try to overwhelm with their sheer numbers. These missions add some welcome variety to ground battles, but they feel a bit bland after completing only a handful; the EXALT operatives 20 hours into your campaign are the same as the ones you'll face much earlier, except they pew pew with laser guns instead of pea shooters.
The price you pay
Alright, so Enemy Within is pretty great, and is no doubt the definitive version of Firaxis' XCOM reboot. The thing is, if you've already purchased Enemy Unknown on PC, this expansion will run you an additional $30. If you're a console gamer, you can't buy Enemy Within separate from the main game. Instead, you'll have to buy a pack-in compilation that includes both the core game and the expansion for $40--a pretty sweet deal if you haven't played it yet, but a bummer if you have.
While fighting EXALT forces is only sort of fun, they play a far more interesting role in Enemy Within's so-called "strategy layer," where they contribute to global panic. As if it weren't difficult enough to keep the world's nations from bailing on the XCOM project--thus decreasing your base's monthly income and by extension the survivability of your troops--hidden EXALT cells will crop up without warning, sending terrorized nations over the edge. As you complete EXALT missions, you'll gradually gain clues as to where their headquarters is located. Guess which nation they're based in correctly, and you can invade their HQ and shut 'em down; guess wrong, and whoops, Canada just backed out of the council.
Of course, the enemies of mankind aren't the only ones who get some new toys. Though some new items--such as ghost grenades, which turn your soldiers invisible for a turn--open a surprising amount of strategic avenues during battles, the real highlights are gene mods and MEC Troopers. The former imbues soldiers with passive buffs. Each body part has two gene mod options; because you can only choose one of these two options, no single mod feels too overpowered. They all, however, allow for some really cool scenarios. By the end of the game, my sniper (one Steven "Armageddon" Tyler) could use his superhuman legs to jump onto a previously inaccessible rooftop from the ground, then use his surgically-enhanced eyeballs to spot a distant alien and blast it away. Hotness.
Then there are the MEC Troopers, humans-turned-cyborg that walk around in a giant suit of power armor. At first, these guys are totally unreliable; they start off with mediocre health and accuracy so awful that Heavies look like marksmen by comparison. A few upgrades later and you'll be a walking tank, hurling grenades across the map and burning down droves of aliens via flamethrower, or launching them back into space with a hard-hitting kinetic punch. Building one of these units and upgrading it to the max is something every XCOM vet should experience.
All of the new units and items feel like natural inclusions in the XCOM universe, and while they become super powerful late in the campaign, their addition makes allocating your limited funds all the more difficult. I could've spent some cash on a satellite to prevent Egypt from getting wiped off the map instead of outfitting a MEC Trooper with a particle canon--alas, the allure of power was too great. Like always, decisions in XCOM have brutal opportunity costs, and a wealth of new things to spend money on means choices are tougher than ever to make.
But that's part of the fun. Enemy Within's new additions don't make the experience any easier; the added benefit of having access to gene mods and MEC Troopers is offset by new alien types and a whole new faction of fanatical humans. If anything, saving the world is harder than ever. You might find yourself wishing for a few more new aliens, or guns, or story missions (I definitely did) but the additions are undeniably cool. While Enemy Within isn't a huge makeover, it's enough of a facelift to make the trauma of devastating loss worth enduring, be it for the first time or the fifth.
This game was reviewed on PC.