XCOM: Enemy Within Review — Playing With The Devil’s Toys
Thanks to the genetically modified and cyborg troopers that you can produce, combat gets some fun twists. A G-modded soldier may cloak when in high cover or leap onto rooftops, while a cyborg trooper — which wears a hulking mechanical exoskeleton cybersuit (MEC) — may deploy mines or call upon his inner arsonist with a flamethrower as he lumbers around the battlefield. My favorite MEC upgrade is, by far, the Kinetic Strike Module, a powerful melee attack that deals a whopping 12 damage and destroys cover. Seeing a MEC Trooper punch an enemy through a wall never gets old.
You’ll come to love your troops even more than in Enemy Unknown, as a greater number of customization options have been added, including hats, helmets, and armor decorations, as well as language options — yes, your Russian soldier can actually speak Russian now.
XCOM’s “action camera” continues to impress with its cinematic highlights of battle. Watching my MEC perform a Mortal Kombat-esque fatality maneuver on an alien MEC for the first time was an absolute delight that prompted me to repeat the experience as often as possible.
Playing through XCOM again reminded me of what makes this title so great. It’s more than just a game — it’s an experience. It’s an experience that is executed with cinematic flair, from the Abrams-esque lens flares to the motion picture camera angles, the medal-awarding ceremonies to the rousing applause upon successfully taking out an alien installation.
Enemy Within even outdoes Enemy Unknown’s musical score with a discordant, spooky, and distinctly sci-fi soundscape that just feels alien and builds tension. I was, however, disappointed with the treatment of the final EXALT mission. While I loved the visual design of the EXALT HQ, the victory simply wasn’t treated with the pomp and circumstance that I’ve come to expect from XCOM and doesn’t come within a mile of the satisfaction that Enemy Unknown’s ending delivers.
Ultimately, though, Enemy Within rehashes everything that was great about Enemy Unknown, while adding more content, more customization, more options, more depth, more story, and more, well, XCOM. In my review of Enemy Unknown, I had concerns about the merits of repeat playthroughs. Without question, Enemy Within warrants a new playthrough.
The other issue I had with Enemy Unknown was its barebones multiplayer. Sadly, Enemy Within does little to improve the experience. Sure, new maps and units are added, unit costs have been rebalanced, and you can now edit your squad outside of a match, but the core issues remain: you cannot play versus an AI opponent, and it’s just a basic squad-versus-squad battle in which two players select from a pool of stock units, with no persistent rewards or consequences.
Nonetheless, if you enjoyed Enemy Unknown, then I highly recommend Enemy Within.
- Engaging new subplots
- Dealing with the EXALT threat is exciting
- New combat elements add depth and plain ol’ fun
- Soldiers have greater customizability
- New missions, music, and maps create even deeper immersion
- Multiplayer leaves much to be desired
- EXALT storyline ending doesn’t live up to XCOM standards
Final Score: 92/100
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