A remake of the 1994 classic, X-Com UFO Defense. I've never played the original back when it was new, infact, I've actually only just played it. It's a good game, but it definitely shows its age. The remake fixes some of the issues with the original and makes it more enjoyable to play in just about every aspect.
Starting XCOM Enemy Unknown, if tutorial is on, the first mission is story based with XCOM's first sighting of alien life on earth. As the game progresses there are small bits and pieces of story which along with the beginning lay down the foundation of the story, but a lot of the story bits are through short audio clips when you see new aliens species and technology. With the game being an on going strategy game, length depending on the player, it's really the best way the story could have been done and it's done very well.
Once you make your way back from that opening mission is when the game truly starts. Base management is only one half of the game, the other being combat. You've got a few different facilities in your base of operations. Research, engineering, barracks, hangar, situation room, and mission control. Research alien technology to create new weapons, armor, and accessories in the research facility. Purchase anything they've thought up in research, upgrade technology, and build new facilities onto your base in engineering. Outfit your soldiers, recruit new soldiers, and promote soldiers that do well in battle in the barracks. Equip your interceptors or transfer them to other locations of the world in the hanger. Launch satellites, sell unneeded alien technology, and check countries status in the situation room. Then finally there's mission control, your view of the world map, which will progress time by scanning for threats.
In the situation room, throughout the game you will deploy satellites above countries. By deploying satellites, you'll get funding as well as scientists and/or engineers each month, but also it will reduce the panic level to these countries. One issue with the game though is that engineers are overall more important than scientists. If you launch satellites in countries that only give you scientists and you don't get the option of getting engineers as rewards for missions, you'll be stuck not being able to build any new equipment or facilities, including workshops which will add engineers.
When progressing time, mission control will show up with an alien encounter or one of your other facility operations may complete. Either way, it'll stop scanning and let you know. Alien encounters range from spotting a UFO giving you the chance to shoot it down, an alien landing site, alien abductions, bomb disposal, or terror missions. UFOs flying around, you'll be given the option to deploy an interceptor to launch and take it down which for the most part is automatic. You'll then be given the option during any of these missions to send your soldiers by sky ranger. You can always back out and do anything you may have forgot before accepting these missions just as long as you don't continue scanning.
At the start of the game you'll only be allowed to use four soldiers at once, but later be able to use five, and then six at most. When out on the battlefield you've got an overhead view of the map with visuals on the distance your characters can see. The game uses a fog of war type system where the map is blackened out until you get into range, but any part of the map you've already seen will remain. Even though you've already seen a section of the map though, if enemies are out of your range, you still won't be able to see them. Because of this you'll want to keep your characters in cover at all times since you never know when you'll move a character just in range of the aliens. Having no cover you'll have no bonus to defense and enemies shots will be more accurate, half cover will give you a little defense, and full cover is double half cover, while you can also double your cover bonus and nullify any critical hits by hunking down. Both your characters and the enemies can flank one another, removing any cover bonus. At your characters turn to move, each character gets two turns. At the most basic level, a rookie, you can either move twice, move and attack, move and use certain items, move and hunker down, or move once but over a longer distance than if you were to move twice. When moving, the game revolves around the same style as the original, a square based movement system. While squares aren't added there as visual representation, that's the style it is.
Certain classes get skills to allow them to attack then move, attack twice, or run and also attack. Each character has one class which is random upon hiring the class and leveling up the first time, so skills a character has as an assault unit will be completely different from skills a sniper unit will have. Not every character of the same class has to be the same as the other though, as aside from the first and second to last level, each level allows the player to choose one of two skills for the character to acquire and while some are more useful, both sets of skills are pretty useful and can make one character of the same class to be fairly different from another.
There's a couple of rare and annoying issues in combat that I've came across. One issue is that that the cursor will sometimes elevate to a higher location, such as the top of a UFO, not allowing you to move the character onto the inside of the UFO. Another, which has only happened once, is that if the enemy happens to start where your characters have visibility, they won't show up, but a turn later they'll happen to appear out of thin air when you're right next to them, flank you, and kill your entire party in one turn because you were on impossible difficulty. I tried impossible once after finishing the game.
The difficulty is as it's mentioned on the normal setting. Difficult, but fair. Soldiers in this game, while you want to do your best to make sure they don't die, are going to die. Aliens are sometimes just as powerful as you are, and losing a mission doesn't mean that you lose the game, as you could lose several missions and still overcome the game in the end. Now one really unique feature about this game, and the original, is that the longer you play, the more in game days you are from the start, the harder the game gets. It does end up getting to the point where you've already seen all the aliens and they can't send out stronger ones because they don't have anymore, but up until that time, the game sends out new species of aliens and more aliens, even if you don't make any progress.
The game has nice graphics both in and out of battle. Character models are fairly detailed although a lot of characters will look the same or similar. You can zoom in for a closer look at each of the facilities in your base. In combat environments are destructable, which this not only looks good but also gives strategic opportunities. Maps are hand designed rather than randomized though, so you'll eventually come across duplicates after more than one game, but the first game I've played was around 50+ missions and I've only seen two maps more than once. Sound quality is fairly well done. Solid round weapons don't sound as good as they do in some military shooters, but they sound good enough, sound like they should, while alien weapons sound like you'd expect.
Now one thing I think is worth mentioning, is that I've played the game on the PS3 version. The PS3 version has framerate drops which are mostly noticeable when the turn phase switches and at some other points, It also has screen tearing and while there's a lot, it's not really noticeable unless you're really looking for it. If you're one of those people who don't notice framerate drops and screen tearing, then neither should bother you, but if you're one of those people who are really picky about this stuff and really notice, then I'd recommend the 360 or PC versions, both of which run at more stable framerates.
So XCOM Enemy Unknown is a worthy successor to the original X-Com UFO Defense. If you're a turn based strategy game fan then I'd highly recommend it. As someone who hasn't played many turn based strategy games yet a fan of TRPGs, I've really enjoyed it, so any of you TRPG fans might also want to give it a try.
Gameplay - 9
Story/Presentation - 8
Graphics/Audio - 8
Balance - 9
Overall - 8.5
New scoring criteria.
Gameplay - 9
Design - 9
Presentation - 8
Balance - 9
Overall - 8.75