XCOM 2 is the sequel to Firaxis and 2K's 2012 blockbuster squad-based global strategy game, XCOM: Enemy Within. XCOM 2 places you in command of a rebel organization of both rookie soldiers and some returning faces and takes place many years after its predecessor. Following a similar concept as the majority of the previous XCOM titles, XCOM 2 features perma-death for the (many) unfortunate squad members that you will lose along the way, as you work to stop the "Avatar Project" from essentially erasing humanity from existence. With XCOM 2 being one of the most anticipated titles of the year, I was thrilled to get my mittens on a copy and here are my thoughts.
I just want to get this out of the way right at the start … I understand many gamers struggled with performance issues and I was one of them (though my brother had little issue with the game). Fortunately though some minimal tweaking of my GPU and a little playing around in the graphics settings soon got me running upwards of 30-45 FPS. While a wee bit annoying, it was nothing world-ending or game-breaking; just inconvenient for a short period of time.
That said XCOM 2 is a brilliant follow-up to an already stellar series. XCOM has been around for decades and when XCOM: Enemy Within was released I immediately bought it for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, AND PC (to the tune of $180+ USD) because it was simply THAT GOOD. I had high expectations for XCOM 2 and going into it I was a bit concerned that my expectations were too high. Fortunately that concern was unfounded as XCOM 2 is brilliant in most aspects. Sure there are some nuances, like the fact that it is currently PC/Mac-only, or that hit rates are incredibly stupid (more on that in a few), but overall those nuances do not ruin the experience of the game.
Within the first few missions of the game any fears that I had that my expectations were too high were laid to rest as the missions are brilliantly paced, enemy AI intelligently crafted, and the fact that there are an incredible amount of customizations that one can do to their soldiers really brings the entire experience together. The biggest issue that I have with the actual gameplay is the hit rate; there are many, MANY, instances of having 92%+ hit chance and utterly missing (the worst was near endgame where one of my squad members had a 98% chance to hit and they missed … only to have the last remaining enemy kill my last remaining squad member).
Outside of the abysmal hit rate, there are a number of excellent additions to the franchise. The new/expanded classes (Ranger, Specialist, Sharpshooter, Grenadier, Psi Operative) are awesome and each have two essential "paths" that they can take. The Ranger can go full on melee, another new addition, where they run up and hack things to little bits with a wicked-great sword, or they can go more "scout-like" which is a run-and-gun technique. The Grenadier can go "heavy weapons," like grenades or rockets, or they can go LMG and lay down suppressive fire. Sharpshooters, easily one of my favorite classes, can got either Sniper or can favor … close-range Pistol-whipping goodness (which I absolutely LOVE). Specialists can go Medic or "hacker" while the Psi Operative is a veritable time bomb of destructive capabilities.
The squad members are not the only thing to get a massive overhaul as your mobile command base, the "Avenger" has a handful of new tricks up its sleeve. From the (essentially) rebadged old rooms like the Guerilla Tactics (which would have been the Training School from the previous title where you get squad upgrades) to the new Laboratory (increased research speeds), Advanced Warfare Center (increased recovery rates), and the Defense Matrix (which builds turrets for when UFOs hunt down the Avenger and force a "siege" on your command center, an awesome way to gather XP for your squaddies). Gone are the Satellite Uplinks of yesteryear and in their place are Resistance Comms, stations that can be staffed to increase your contacts with world-wide resistance teams (essentially the same as the satellite uplink from Enemy Within).
Beyond the horrible hit rate (which I admittedly downloaded a mod to address), the biggest issue is that every single mission feels far too rushed. Most missions have a turn counter and if you fail to complete the objective then you lose the team in a forced retreat (with them being taken captive), or are rewarded with a flat out "Game Over." Adding to that is the alien's "Avatar Project," which, without getting spoilery, is essentially the big bad super weapon that the resistance is out to stop. In a strategy game that requires pinpoint precision and expert planning, being rushed into the making daring yet stupid moves (that often do not pay off due to the aforementioned hit rate issue) is the antithesis to solid strategic gameplay. The mission timers, to me, felt like a way to artificially increase the difficulty in a game that is already difficult.
Past its occasional shortcomings XCOM 2 is a stunning game and near, if not at the pinnacle of squad-based strategic combat and is an instant classic. The enthusiastic and incredibly talented modding community has been hard at work adding new weapons, classes, skills, maps, and even "fixing" the broken hit rate or increasing the number of turns before a mission is considered a failure. XCOM 2 is a force to be reckoned with and will be for years to come.
Article by Robert