Xcom 2

Alien over­load

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased out now! Re­viewed on PC

Pub­lisher 2K Games

Hu­man­ity seems doomed from the out­set in XCOM 2. Earth’s cit­i­zens live a cod­dled life un­der the to­tal­i­tar­ian con­trol of aliens and their co- opted sol­diery, Ad­vent. The re­sis­tance lives on only in the form of a few de­ter­mined sol­diers, sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers who have man­aged to re­pur­pose a huge alien ship, the Avenger. This is your home, and you must fight back.

There’s a rhythm of suc­cess and set­back that makes this strate­gic mas­ter­piece so grip­ping. Scarcity of op­por­tu­nity forces you into dif­fi­cult dilem­mas and what you choose to do mat­ters enor­mously. You need to re­cruit new rook­ies; you need an en­gi­neer to build a comms fa­cil­ity that will let you con­tact more ter­ri­to­ries; you need alien al­loys to upgrade your weapons. You can’t have all of th­ese. You can prob­a­bly only have one.

Com­bat is turn- based, and takes place on pro­ce­dural bat­tle­fields that are un­can­nily well gen­er­ated. For the vast ma­jor­ity of bat­tles the ter­rain is busy, in­ter­est­ing and ben­e­fits from a huge leap in vis­ual fi­delity from pre­quel En­emy Un­known. The snowy forests, slums, city cen­tres and alien bases are var­ied both in dec­o­ra­tive as­sets and in the ver­ti­cal­ity pro­vided by cliffs and multi- storey build­ings.

You start most bat­tles incog­nito, and can freely move around the map with­out be­ing at­tacked, as long as you stay out of the de­tec­tion range of en­e­mies, lin­ger­ing civil­ians and watch­tow­ers. Once con­ceal­ment is bro­ken, life be­comes much more dif­fi­cult. Suc­cess­ful shots are dic­tated by chance rolls, and you se­cure favourable odds by stay­ing in good cover and flank­ing. A poor move or a stroke of bad luck can wipe out a sol­dier, or take them out of ac­tion for days.

There’s very lit­tle to crit­i­cise here. The cam­era oc­ca­sion­ally wafts through walls in close- ups; there’s some­times a lengthy pause be­fore the char­ac­ter you’re watch­ing acts. A lack of fore­knowl­edge in your first playthrough will force you to be more re­ac­tive than con­sid­ered, though the con­stant flow of new en­emy types and story mis­sions makes up for that. But thanks to your vary­ing start­ing po­si­tion, pro­ce­dural mis­sions and tac­ti­cal depth, XCOM 2 can and should be played re­peat­edly. Tom Se­nior

This is your home, and you must fight back

Tut. Ev­ery­one knows gi­ant alien ma­chines are sup­posed to have three legs.

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