akonnick's XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PlayStation 3) review

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Fun Game Held Back by Technical Glitches and Poor Progression

At the end of the day, I can absolutely say I had fun playing this game. It reminded me a lot of the Front Mission series, of which Front Mission 4 is one of the best, yet underappreciated games in this genre. The battle systems, the class systems, the blend of macro/micro gameplay are all well done. I absolutely loved training my soldiers, watching them move through the ranks (and getting call signs) and watching what they can do in battle. It's like getting to live the GI Joe battle you always dreamed of when playing with action figures. The game systems work together well and you will definitely find that you are always discovering new strategies and team combinations everytime you play. I think anyone who likes strategy games ranging as wide as Front Mission to Fire Emblem to Civilization should give this game a try.

Now, why didn't I give such a game a higher score? At the end of the day, it didn't live up to its potential for two key reasons, both of which really hold this game back. First, this game is full of glitches on a level I haven't seen since the Fallout games. Everything from sound glitches to weird graphics hiccups seems to happen often. There are so many times where I standing next to an enemy and shooting at point blank range only for my character to turn sideways, shoot and have the laser hook 90 degrees and kill the enemy. Pretty impressive shot perhaps, but it happens to the point where the game constantly takes you out of the fiction and reminds you that you are playing a number crunching, stat driven, mash-your-numbers-against-my-numbers fest. Again, still a fun game in the same way that Fallout 3 was, but it is certainly something that was an unwelcome distraction.

The second issue is frankly the more serious one to me. I just walked away feeling like this game chose to approach difficulty in all the wrong ways. I should have known better as I feel the same way about the Civilization games, but I feel like this is a game where the designers add challenge by just punishing you rather than giving you new mountains to climb. As you scale up the difficulty level, you basically see that you get less money (which even on Easy isn't that easy to come by) and enemies hit way harder. Awesome. I also felt that even on my Easy playthrough, the enemy always had better weapons, armor, ships, etc. than I did. While I get that they are trying to create that sense of struggling against overwhelming odds, I don't feel that it made for a more fun game. Mass Effect achieved the same thing and I never felt weak playing those games even when the difficulty went up.

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