Going boldly into the unknown…

On a whim I decided to pick up XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Normally I would say that I am not particularly fond of the XCOM series, but for some reason I bought it… and haven’t stopped playing it since. I played through the first couple of single player missions, and I started to really get drawn into my squad of four. However, there is another portion of the game that I want to talk about that I also started to get immersed in. The multiplayer, yup, turn based multiplayer goodness; thats what I want to talk about.

Sectoid about to get beat down.

The Squad

Just like in the single player part of the game, you are in control of a squad of up to six people. Your squad is very customizable, not as deep as single player, but satisfying just the same. The human soldiers are the only one you can really get down into the details with, but the fact that you can choose from all the alien races makes this squad creation interesting. Now, to keep the squad system some what fair, every attribute is given a point value, and each player only has a limited number for a given match; my squad for instance, is setup using a 10,000 point limit. From the eight or so matches I’ve played online so far, the best way to do it seems to be having several mid-level soldiers, as opposed to one or two maxed out commandos; however, I like to go against the grain.

My four man squad

My personal squad is composed of four members. two of the weak little gray aliens and two higher level soldiers. The two alien members of my squad, who happen to be named Fred and Barney, pretty much serve as scouts and suppressive fire support. I tend to send them around the back alleys of buildings or have them breach doors first. My soldiers, Juan and John(I didn’t name them that way), are a solid combo. John is a moderately powered sniper, with some nifty gadgets to help give sight on the battlefield; while Juan is a heavy gunner, with some nasty armor and a rocket launcher.

Tactics… nope

This game is perfect for players who love using a solid strategy to tackle their opponent; unfortunately… I don’t have one of those. Right from the outset, I have mentally written off Fred and Barney. They act as my sacrificial pawns to draw out the enemy forces. Naturally I have Juan and John in flanking positions to counter anything that comes out of the shadows; however, it seems that I will time and time again fall victim to my own observations. I am constantly beaten by well rounded squads of human soldiers, who favor better tactics than what I possess. There is something to be said for Juan’s rocket launcher though. On one particular occasion I had him breach a door to the inside of a courthouse. Once inside I had sight of the enemy troops standing outside a window on the other side of the building (here is where I would normally say something like “put 2 and 2 together…”, but I don’t like doing math in public), so naturally I made Juan blow up the wall! Luckily it took out one of the weaker soldiers, but didn’t have too much effect on the other. Even in this case, I was defeated eventually. The opposing player sent one of his troops up and over the roof of the building and they pinned me down, allowing one of their soldiers to effectively destroy Juan’s face; which leads me to my next point.

The environment

The maps that these multiplayer matches take place on are pretty awesome. The exception, in my opinion, being the train yard. The locations involving building however, are my favorite. The bar level specifically is awesome! Why do I like the bar so much? because it allows for players to post snipers on the roof top to watch over the parking lots, while the more tactical fighting takes place between the front and back rooms of the bar.

the “Bar” map

Other levels also focus on indoor combat, but I prefer the bar stage because of its simplicity throughout. The courthouse would be a close second place, with the interior involving many more rooms and a second floor. Did I mention the destructible environments? If you don’t have a direct line of sight to an enemy… make one! throw a grenade, or shoot a rocket launcher. Enemy hiding behind a car? BLOW IT UP!

But I digress. This is a game that surprised me, especially the multiplayer. If this article has even remotely peaked your interest, then please, check out the demo. Sadly, the demo only covers the single player campaign, but I found it to be pretty rewarding and a great experience. but that is a story for another day.

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