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XCOM 2 review - Is there time to save the world?

Michael Passingham
4 Feb 2016
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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
26
inc VAT

Addictive tactical combat and deep, strategic gameplay make XCOM 2 an essential buy for PC gamers

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Specifications

Available formats: PC

There aren't many games that allow you to fail the very first (non-tutorial) mission, but XCOM is the brutal exception. I failed the game's first task, not once, not twice but three times as I bumbled my way back into the XCOM universe, discovering that a lot has changed since I left. There's work to be done.

XCOM 2 takes place after the events of 2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown where it appears that the alien race that had been previously such a troublesome bunch, have now settled on Earth, joining forces peacefully with us humans to create Advent, a ruling force put in place to make our lives more peaceful and prosperous.

A likely story.

XCOM has realigned itself, transforming from defenders of the Earth to a mini rebellion, starting from nothing in an attempt to unite rebels across the globe to bring down Advent before they conquer the Earth. Nothing new here, but it's all the motivation you'll need.

^Failing a mission now has even more dire consequences, with aliens getting a big buff as reward for beating you

Aboard a former alien ship, now called Avenger, the between-mission portion of the game has a Firefly/Faster Than Light feel to it, although in this case the Avenger has its hands full here on Earth, never attempting interstellar travel. It's actually very similar in layout to the underground base used in Enemy Unknown, but with its ability to hop across the globe in just a few in-game hours, this is very much a mobile base that encourages you to venture out, making contact with rebel groups, hunting for hidden resources and paying visits to the Black Market to stock up on supplies and sell items picked up on the battlefield.

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It's all a bit overwhelming, with several resources - Intelligence, Supplies and Power - all essential but scarce in equal measure. You're also given personnel to manage and distribute to various parts of the ship. Engineers are required for constructing new facilities on the ship, but they're also extremely helpful for making existing facilities run more efficiently. You'll never have enough Engineers. Scientists are required for researching new technologies faster. You'll never have enough of them, either. The sooner you accept that your ship will never run as efficiently as you want, the sooner you'll start enjoying the game without constant worry and frustration.

This scarcity makes each ground mission feel even more important, as failure means you'll not only give the aliens the upper hand, it also means you're not rewarded for your efforts, even if you've lost several soldiers and used up valuable equipment. Most mission failures will result in some form of 'Dark Event', which buffs the aliens for a period of time and helps them work towards their goal completing the 'Avatar Project'. Your aim is to stop this project, with a persistent, ominous progress bar showing you how close the aliens are to completing it.

The story is moved along with some slick-but-cheesy, dialogue-heavy cinematics that I didn't particularly care for, but it does at least provide some context to the objectives you're trying to complete.

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