XCOM: Enemy Unknown (for iPad) review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown makes its iOS debut, and it's an excellent turn-based, alien-blasting, sci-fi strategy game.
Photo of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (for iPad)

2K Game deftly ports its hit PC and console turn-based strategy game to the Apple iPad, losing very little in transition. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, gamers take control of the Extra-terrestrial Combat Unit (XCOM, for short) that’s tasked with defending the Earth from an alien threat. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has some relatively minor graphics and control issues, but the game’s an excellent paramilitary sci-fi title for those in the gaming populace with strategy leanings.

Gamers who aren’t familiar with XCOM’s gameplay (or the turn-based strategy genre as whole) will appreciate the useful tutorial that walks players through the movement, attack, and cover mechanics. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is best played with a mouse and keyboard combo—my fat fingers often had trouble pinpointing the exact square in a grid where I wanted a troop to move—but the touch controls are decent enough for mobile gaming. Levels aren’t randomly generated, but the alien positioning changes with each playthrough. As a result, each alien skirmish—a mix of sneaking, positioning, and firepower—feels slightly different.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s graphics are close to console-quality, but when some soldiers speak without moving their mouths, the characters look like marionettes holding big guns. Despite that visual stumble, XCOM: Enemy Unknown gives players the freedom to edit their troops’ names, appearances, and weapon load outs, which leads to character attachment. Note: When a favorite soldier bites it s/he is gone for good. That said, you can recruit new fighters and upgrade their guns, grenades, and other weaponry. A XCOM: Enemy Unknown recent update added asynchronous multiplayer play, but it’s caused some stability issues on the iPad mini.

iPad owners with a thirst for a thinking person’s game will find a lot to like in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. There are numerous ways to engage enemy combatants, and lots of customization options for crafting your dream squad. XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s story isn’t particularly intriguing, but the squad-vs.-squad action is enough to keep strategy fans coming back for just one more game.


Verdict
XCOM: Enemy Unknown makes its iOS debut, and it's an excellent turn-based, alien-blasting, sci-fi strategy game.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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