The rebirth of the cult classic X-Com series with last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was well received by critics and consumers alike, with the gameplay proving that console strategy was far from dead and 2K Games backing the product confidently enough to see it making an impact at retail. The recently launched The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has shown that this is a franchise that has room to grow, but the reveal of XCOM: Enemy Within proved that it’s not all about direct shooting action.
XCOM: Enemy Within is a revision of the XCOM: Enemy Unknown retail package on console and purely an expansion for PC set to be made available on digital channels. The difference in release plans isn’t so much a sign of 2K Games’ support as much as it is representative of the different core markets: PC gamers would willingly purchase or reinstall the original videogame for the purpose of buying the new content, whereas console gamers are more likely to have traded-in XCOM: Enemy Unknown by now. 2K Games have therefore taken the wise decision to include all of the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown content on the XCOM: Enemy Within disc and give players the option to simply jump into the new content from the start.
XCOM: Enemy Within’s campaign is said to be substantial – around half the size of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, according to developers Firaxis – but just one mission was available to Electronic Theatre during a hands-on preview. Thankfully it was a mission that showcased all of the new additions that have been revealed thus far. This began with a look at the new unit type: the Mec Trooper class.
The Mec Trooper is a hefty beast capable of absorbing great amounts of damage; so much so in fact that it actually has an ability that allows it to become temporary cover for other units. When in the attack it’s not exactly a light weight, with the Collateral Damage ability able to destroy cover and damage any enemies behind it even at a distance while the Kinetic Strike presents a rocket powered fist that dishes out up to twelve damage points to anything it strikes up close. Of course the greys have their own version of the Mec Trooper to keep things balanced, so players will have to learn the best tactics to overcome this great strength.
A second new addition to the troop types is that of the Gene Mod soldiers. These are renovated versions of regular troops which have greater specialisation but are no stronger than regular troops. This specialisation, as you might expect, is directly related to their class giving them a significant advantage, such as snipers being able to mount high lookout points for greater range and accuracy.
The Gene Mod soldiers and Mec Troopers add a significant new tactical layer to the under lying XCOM: Enemy Unknown gameplay, which is of course the point of XCOM: Enemy Within. Building on the existing critically acclaimed gameplay is exactly what the core XCOM audience want, and based on the very small slice of XCOM: Enemy Within that Electronic Theatre has witnessed, is surely a recipe for success.