XCOM: Enemy Unknown is essentially a re-imagined version of the classic 1994 game UFO: Enemy Unknown. The developers at Firaxis Games have made an effective use of the stereotypical wide-eyed aliens and flying saucers to instill fear into the minds of players. Thanks to the 90s popular culture these representations of aliens have been ingrained into the minds of people and developer Firaxis has adequately employed those fears. The game performs well and oozes of tension on both the PC and the console, something very rare in the world of turn-based strategy games.
The plot of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is simple enough. The game is set in a futuristic world where aliens have invaded the earth and the fate of the planet and its defense lies in your hands. In the opening sequence of the game, a secret multinational group called the Council of Nations creates an elite paramilitary and scientific organization called XCOM whose task it is to prevent the end of the world by thwarting the alien incursion. You are the commander of XCOM and have the dual role of directing missions against enemy aliens and running the organization’s scientific division that creates new technology. You have to manage the financial resources and devise combat strategies holding the fate of humanity in your hands.
The gameplay of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is divided into two parts: combat missions and base operations. You’re given a number of options for your base of operations out of which you have to pick one. Unlike the original XCOM, this is the only base you’ll have throughout the game. As you learn of the alien threat you pick units for your squad and set off to battle the aliens.
At first one squad member gets to perform two actions at every turn but as you progress through the game, some of your soldiers can gain ways to extend that number. The soldiers that survive gain additional abilities as the game progresses. With your financial resources you can invest in upgraded weapons and armors till you turn your soldiers into powerful killing machines. In time the soldiers can be replaced with the robotic SHIV units.
In between missions you have to manage base operations that involve getting funds from different countries to perform autopsies on captured aliens and advance your squad’s abilities. There are satellites that help you keep track of alien movement all over the globe and every time a satellite catches activity you have to employ an interceptor to annihilate the enemy. You have to efficiently manage and allocate your funds at every step of the way. If in case any country is left defenseless it may withdraw and leave a substantial hole in your income.
The uniqueness of the game lies in its unpredictability. The atmosphere is always filled with uncertainty and the fog of war keeps you on your toes at all times. Every conflict matters and you may lose soldiers, run out of financial backing and even fail entire missions. You have to make careful, calculated decisions at all times and a single wrong move can have dire consequences. XCOM is a refreshing change from games these days that offer you unlimited respawns. As the entire world panics you are faced with an unbelievably high-tech alien enemy possessing devastatingly superior technology.