"Daring intervention by unknown military forces in the United States prevents alien abductions."
The bit I love most about the new XCOM is undoubtedly the news ticker in the control room. Headlines like the above stream constantly, giving the world's reaction to your battles and the ongoing alien situation. Small touches like that bring you into the game world and make it feel alive. They're even enough to make you forgive XCOM's flaws. What flaws? Find out by clicking the continue button.
XCOM is a tactical turn-based command game alternating between tense gunbattles with alien death squads and management of a defence organisation against the overall threat. You launch satellites, research tech and generally annoy the alien menace to death. Let's get the immediate out of the way. I barely played the original X-COM released waaaaay back in the 90s. I much preferred Apocalypse. I'm more interested in XCOM on its own merits. Oh I also promised flaws didn't I. Ok, ok. Merit then flaw.
It's got a good atmosphere and flow. Battles are always tense and you're always thinking about what you can do to benefit your organisation. If I can stun that alien, it'll give me an interrogation subject. The base management always keeps the tension, mainly by having the mission control dominate the top of your view. You can always see that blinking globe and the alien spacecraft tracking their away across it. Your decisions are always focused on the next battle. If I can make a few more medikits I might be able to save a soldier's life. Immersion points gained.
It ruins this by terrible recycling of maps. In one instance I got a mission in Germany, immediately after had a mission in China and both used the exact same battle map. The lack of randomization in the map construction means you'll likely suffer this throughout your game as, however many maps there are they eventually run out. Immersion points lost.
The mission types vary enough to keep it interesting. Starting with basic abductions and ramping it up to alien bases and bomb defusals. By late-game they can feel a little fixed but by then you tend to be steam rolling missions anyway so you're just running through more of them. The maps too, play into the making the missions more interesting. One particular incident springs to mind, an abduction at a gas station became all the more dangerous when the aliens started shooting out the gas tanks and nuking my operatives.
The itemization and inventorying is sub-par. Another game that immediately comes to mind is Risen. Risen had about three different armours. XCOM has three different guns per class. Basic, upgraded and ultimate. The real problem is compounded by the fact that soldiers are extremely limited in their carry-on luggage. They get one gun, one suit of armour, one pistol and one “extra”. The assignment is rather arbitrary too. Chitin plating is an extra not an armour. Rocket launchers apparently weigh the same as pistols. Bringing a grenade and a medikit? You best step off son.
I could go on forever but it'd be the same tit-for-tat. XCOM has both good and bad points, showing that, while there's good work there is room for improvement. Also what many of the bad points boil down to is a need for more. More maps, more items, maybe even more aliens. What it has right now is a solid base and that's a good start for fighting aliens from.