Review: X-Com Enemy Unknown

Many mobile ports of console or PC games raise hopes that the new version can capture all the magic of the original, but few live out that promise.  Xcom, though, is one of these.

For those not already familiar of the Firaxis and 2K Games title, the latest Xcom game is a turn-based strategy title which has made a name for itself on Consoles and PC due to the tight gameplay, naming of characters and well designed graphics.

We were never going to see PC quality graphics on iOS but, in fairness, Firaxis have done an amazing job with the technology here and it really deserves to be seen running on the iPad.  That said, the iPhone 4S and 5 seem to cope well enough with the game, though the cramped screens sometimes make it harder to play.


Initially, though, you’ll have to recruit some troops before you see any enemy action on the field.  Choosing their skills, weapons and equipment is key to winning a battle against the enemy and assessing the fight ahead will give you a better tactical advantage.  Every successful soldier you bring back alive will boost their skills and caturing aliens will also grant you access to new equipment through research.

For the less patient, the game might not offer up much of what it has to offer in the first hour and research in itself takes a lot of time to complete, but for those used to turn-based games there is a lot to like about the constant need for upgrading and adapting.


Funding also comes from helping countries under attack.  Choose a country offering cold hard cash and you might miss out on hiring new scientists.  Ignore one region for another and they may well turn their back on you.  It’s a constant struggle punctured by bouts of action as your troops hit the streets in tense shootouts.

The other feature of Xcom that you might have heard about is the naming of troops.  This is surprisingly effective at adding a personal touch to your game as you watch your mother’s cat, Fluffy, expire in a hail of laser fire.  It adds another small layer to a game already crammed with both detail and atmosphere.

As I touched on earlier, graphics aren’t up there wiht the console or PC versions but are still pretty impressive.  There are the odd glitches here and there on the city maps and it can sometimes be difficult to make out aliens who are moving from cover to cover, but for the most part they’re still pretty impressive for a portable version.


Likewise, the overhauled control scheme, which uses touch and drag based controls over a more standard set-up, can be annoyingly stubbon at times.  But I found myself adjusting to it over time and it’s certainly the best fit for iPad play.

The number of countries have been cut down here, too, again due to limitations of the hardware, but there’s more than enough gameplay to keep you playing for weeks here.

So Xcom: Enemy Unknown is definitely an impressive port of the original and can certainly sit head and shoulders above most native iOS games.


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