Gamescom 2013: XCOM: Enemy Within Hands-On Preview – Innerspace
Written Wednesday, August 28, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
If you can genetically modify a vegetable like a carrot or something, then why wouldn't you want to do the same to your crack squad of alien-busting super agents? XCOM: Enemy Within does exactly that, taking your XCOM: Enemy Unknown squad and pumping them up with extra-terrestrial enhancements. It's safe to assume that the enemy isn't quite so unknown anymore then, as you're able to exploit the invaders' cybernetics and genetics to create formidable units that'll grind your alien enemies into dust. Or so you'd think. You see, the aliens have a few new tricks up their sleeves too.
XCOM: Enemy Within is an upcoming expansion for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, bringing a whole array of new additions to the core game, including the ability to construct a Genetics Lab and Cybernetics Lab to create new physically enhanced Gene Mod soldiers and the Mechanised Exoskeleton Cybersuit (MEC), respectively. A Gene Mod soldier can leap to high vantage points without having to climb with leg mods, while brain mods enable them to reflect mind attacks back at Sectoids. You can even enhance your Gene Mod agent's skin and chest to make them more resilient, or give them augmented eyes to boost their accuracy and chance in scoring a successful hit.
It's the MECs that are your ace in the hole though, able to withstand massive damage and force the aliens onto the back foot. They're unstoppable hulking metal bipedal monsters, able to stomp all over the opposition. Until the Mechtoid crawls out of the woodwork, that is. Yes, the aliens have their own counterpart to your MEC; a fully-armed equivalent that can be buffed by Sectoids with psionic shields. During our hands-on time with Enemy Within, we find our squad unexpectedly cornered by Mechtoids after a brazen march forward into enemy territory, leading to a complete rethink in strategy. Taking place on a dark abandoned farmland map, we find ourselves surrounded by alien forces, corralled into a three-pronged attack from Mechtoids, Sectoids and Muton berserkers. An attack that holing up in a nearby barn does nothing to counteract.
Enemy Within is every bit as challenging and tactically demanding as XCOM: Enemy Unknown, forcing you to think on your feet and make judicious use of Overwatch. Just because you're rocking up onto the battlefield with a merry band of badass Gene Mod agents and MECs, don't think that you're any less vulnerable. Underestimating just how aggressive the aliens can be is essentially suicide, as we quickly found out. Entrenching your Gene Mod soldiers behind cover while placing your MECs in the optimum position to deal the greatest damage is key, and when you consider that the MEC is capable of inflicting massive melee damage with a Kinetic Strike move, getting the formation of your units just right is almost as integral as it is in a game of chess.
Preserving Enemy Within's new valuable resource for your research projects - a substance called 'Meld' that can be found dotted around the environment - is also a constant concern, as splash damage or crossfire during a battle will destroy it. As your MEC can blast through cover and cause collateral damage with its grenade launcher or flamethrower, you'll have to be extra careful, being extra sure to keep your fire away from the Meld, and aimed squarely at the aliens. It's something else to bear in mind among all of the other stuff you'll need to be aware of during a mission. It can be incredibly tough, and one wrong move can have a knock-on effect that could result in the permadeath of your entire squad.
If you've already played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you'll no doubt welcome the wealth of new content Enemy Within will be adding to the campaign, with 47 (yes, forty-seven) new maps including the aforementioned farm and a Hydroelectric Dam that we also saw; new weapons and equipment to build in your engineering facilities and your Foundry, as well as the Gene Mod soldiers and MECs to create and upgrade. What's more, all of this slots neatly into your XCOM: Enemy Unknown campaign, bolstering the amount of content available in the game considerably, although you'll want to start from scratch.
We found XCOM: Enemy Within every bit the challenge that Enemy Unknown presented, and more. Getting the measure of what your augmented and enhanced units are capable of, while learning how effective the Mechtoids can be in decimating your squad will prove pivotal in how successful your campaign will be with the expansion's new toys at your disposal. That includes new multiplayer content, including maps, units and abilities, as well as more stuff yet to be revealed.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has always proved to offer a tactically demanding experience with streamlined controls and balanced mechanics. XCOM: Enemy Within doesn't look to reinvent the wheel, but promises to offer more of what was undoubtedly one of last year's best games. As far as we're concerned, that's a proposition that's far too good to pass up.
XCOM: Enemy Within will be kicking ET's ass all over again on November 12th in North America and November 15th in Europe. It has yet to be priced.