XCOM: Enemy Unknown
2K Games, PC (2012)
If you’re one of the handful of folks who actually read my blog you might be saying to yourself “wait a minute… you already wrote about this game.” And you’d be right. I wrote about the Xbox 360 version a couple months back, but a lot has changed since then. You see I had found myself in a position where I needed a new PC. And once I realized the new PC was able to run some new computer games, I started spending a lot of time (and money) on Steam. Thanks to a particularly handsome sale which got me Enemy Unknown along with five of its predecessors for less than I paid for the 360 version alone, I found myself once again heading a team of troops in an effort to rid the earth of an alien takeover.
On my seventh attempt at starting a campaign, I finally saw Enemy Unknown to the end. And as great a feeling as that was, there was actually an even bigger milestone here. When I had tallied up the time spent on both versions of the game, I realized I had put in 105 hours. There’s no way for me to go back and add up all the time I’ve spent on something like say Street Fighter II over the years, but this is the first time I’ve knowingly spent triple-digit hours on a single game. Certainly in such a small window of time - about four months.
So what would drive someone with such a poor attention-span to devote so much time to a single game? The obvious answer is obvious. Enemy Unknown is truly one of the most unabashedly fun games I’ve played in a long time. The battle system is just so riveting, it was easy to spend an hour or more on a Mission and still feel that “just one more before bed” feeling when it was over. But there’s also a lot more to it than just this basic answer.
The story (aka: something I normally don’t care all that much about in a strategy game) was great fun. The alien-invasion/paranoia vibe and pulp-inspired dialogue between missions really kept me interested. The music was phenomenal and I truly hope we see a soundtrack release. But what ultimately sucked me in the most was the progression. That is, even after 20, 30, 40 hours of gameplay I was finding myself still learning much of the finer nuances of Enemy Unknown. It felt like each new start-up would find me better prepared for a campaign. And once I had wrapped my head around base management (get those satellites up ASAP!) and managing terror levels, I started to feel in much greater control.
I suppose it’s also slightly tough to talk about this game without mentioning the emotional attachments you get to each soldier. This is an element that FireAxis implemented perfectly. To use it to greater effect, I named each new hire after a friend. This made it so much easier to keep track of who everyone was. Instead of having to to try to keep track of which snipers had climbed the ranks, I could easily recall that MrPopo and Fastbilly were my stars because I had that association in my mind.
I’d also like to mention that I really did enjoy the PC port of this game. Although having played it on consoles, I can tell you that they’re not miles apart. I did encounter some slight late-game bugs on PC, which I have no idea if they were present on 360 or not. But I enjoyed the convenience of having the quick-link to the Steam forums right from the launcher, and more importantly the screenshot feature. I can tell you that I spent lots of time madly tapping F12 throughout my playthrough. In fact all the pictures in this very blog post were taken in-game by me personally.
I’m quite certain my last post regarding Enemy Unknown was a glowing one. But after all this time with it I can now proclaim quite positively that this game would rank within my Top 5 games of this entire generation. A bold statement for sure. But even after 100+ hours, I’m looking forward to the Enemy Within expansion that is just around the corner.