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

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £26
inc VAT

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


Available formats: PC

CD Keys

The meat of the game takes place in the ground missions, where you deploy your squad to a turn-based battlefield to accomplish a fairly basic objective, with plenty of aliens standing in the way and usually a turn limit too. Each soldier has two actions per turn. Actions include movement (one Action), dashing (two Actions), reloading (one Action), firing (consumes all remaining Actions) and hacking (one Action). Taking shots at the enemy requires thought, as positioning is vital to a successful shot. Before your soldier fires on a target, you’re shown a percentage chance of a hit, and the potential damage a successful shot can deal. For example, a soldier standing further away from an enemy who’s in cover will have a very low chance of landing a shot, while one standing at point-blank range will probably (but not always) deal damage. Similarly, positioning soldiers correctly is crucial, as a squad member who’s been flanked is much more likely to be hit by enemy fire than one that has a piece of cover between it and the enemy.

Much like a board game, there are occasional logic-defying moments where the virtual dice roll means your soldiers miss a target standing within spitting distance. This breaks the immersion somewhat and is beyond rage-inducing, but, as with a board game, this random element is important for tension and unpredictability.

^ Characters in XCOM 2 are highly customisable, with modular weapons, changeable apparel and new perks all decided by you

The more kills your soldiers rack up, the better they’ll get and the more perks you’ll unlock for them. Once a soldier has completed one mission, they’re promoted to one of four classes (Ranger, Grenadier, Specialist, Sharpshooter), giving them unique abilities that means a balanced squad with at least one of each of the classes is essential. It’s a deeply personal experience. You become attached to the soldiers who have survived several missions and when they’re killed it’s a huge loss and could even spell the beginning of the end of your campaign.

^ Your squad starts each mission concealed, meaning they can sneak around the map and only break cover when they get too close to the enemy or open fire

The aliens are brutally hard. There’s a mix of human-like soldiers with guns, mechanical warriors with heavy armour and various terrifying aliens with abilities far beyond yours. All the old favourites from Enemy Unknown have made a return, but they’re all grown-up, meaning each one is harder and more unpredictable than ever. The Sectoid, once the easiest foe in Enemy Unknown, has gained hitpoints, a creepy smile and the terrifying ability to control the minds of your soldiers from the off, making them a hassle from the very first mission. Vipers are able to use their long, lizard-like tongues to drag you towards them and then crush you with their snake-like bodies. Some can even disguise themselves as civilians, morphing into giant, gloopy monsters just as you’re about to rescue them.

There are new gameplay elements, including Hacking, which is a risk/reward system that, if you succeed, grants you mission bonuses. If you fail, the aliens get a significant buff instead.

^ XCOM 2 has a variety of environments including small towns, futuristic cities and forest highways

The pacing of the missions in XCOM 2 has changed significantly, with an emphasis put on speed this time around. Enemy Unknown players may be dismayed by move away from extreme caution at all times, but it’s much more challenging and rewarding as a result. Focusing your intentions on a single point of the map makes each mission more interesting and makes you consider each move you make, balancing risk with reward. Each map is randomly generated, too, meaning you’ll never have the same experience twice. It’s still nice to occasionally play missions where you’re able to methodically lay out your troops without any time limitations, but XCOM 2 is all the better for its renewed focus on objectives.

It’s ultimately a little unpolished, though. Your soldiers sometimes shoot through walls, the in-game camera often finds itself floating off into the distance, with actions taking place but with no way to see them. Animations can be jerky and there are numerous unnecessary pauses as animations finish or sounds finish playing. Many of these issues plagued Enemy Unknown too and it’s a shame that they’ve resurfaced here.

That said, it does little to detract from the ‘one more turn’ feeling that Firaxis games are so good at creating. It’s impossible to drag yourselves away from XCOM 2 during a mission, and while gallivanting around the ship micro managing everyone, your mind has already started planning the next assault and allocated its budget to the next big upgrade. XCOM 2 perfectly blends large-scale strategy with small-scale tactical battles, making it a worthy successor to Enemy Unknown and a must-play for strategy gamers.

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Available formatsPC
PC requirements
OS SupportWindows 7 and above
Minimum CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E4700 2.6 GHz or AMD Phenom 9950 Quad Core 2.6 GHz
Minimum GPU1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770, 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 or better
Minimum RAM4GB
Hard disk space45GB
System requirements
Price including VAT£26
Product codeXCOM 2

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