XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review
Unfortunately though, while the overall tone and structure of XCOM remains faithful to the original games as well as being brilliant in it's own right, there's still a definite console fingerprint on parts of the game. There's the previously mentioned UI chunkiness and the lack of graphics options, for example - but the more pressing issue is the camera control.
To be clear though, it's not that the camera is terrible
. You can still rotate and zoom out as required, but you're limited to four diagonal viewpoints and you can't change the pitch at all - which is a pain when you want to check line of sight. It's also fiddly when it comes to free-aiming with special weapons, such as rockets or grenades.
Ultimately, while the camera is by no means terrible, it doesn't work as well as it could have and the only reason we can see for the limitation is make things easier to control with a gamepad.
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But! There is good news - a place where the pressures of modern gaming have forced XCOM to expand in a good way, rather than a limiting one. XCOM: Enemy Unknown now has multiplayer.
Or, it has a
multiplayer, rather. There's just the one mode and it's a simple one too, but it's also focused and deliberately at-odds with the approach of the singleplayer - disposable and quick to the campaign's lengthy and meaningful. Two players go against each other with teams they've customised using limited resources...and that's it. You can play as aliens, humans or both, but it still doesn't get any more complicated than that, really.
The result is that, while XCOM's multiplayer will be unlikely to pull attention away from the singleplayer game for many, it remains worthwhile as a palette cleanser. At those horrible times when your best soldier has just fallen to a critical hit and you're playing on Iron Man Mode with no chance to recover or reload? Then
XCOM's multiplayer is exactly what you need; a chance to rebuild those characters and give them one more chance to shine - though this time against your most hated friends.
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Then, when you've exercised your frustrations, you can return to the cruel, the punishing, the brilliant
singleplayer once more.
And it really is that good too. After what feels like years of boring re-reboots and modern adaptations which failed to either capture the essence of the original game or to present any character of their own (Hallo, Syndicate
!), XCOM: Enemy Unknown nails it. It captures the seriousness and challenge of the original series, amping it up with modern production values and a multiplayer mode which complements the campaign in an intelligent way.
Sure, it may have problems. There may be a lack of graphics options, the camera may be fiddly and customising your starting squad may involve lots of tedious menu back and forth...but these are small problems. What's far greater is the appalling number of hours we've invested in the game so far, with still no sign of slowing.