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.