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XCOM: Enemy Within
Score: 90%
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/Online

Introduction:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was, far and away, one of the best games of 2012. Its intoxicating formula for turn-based strategy bliss and the threat of permadeath hovering above each and every one of your squad members made it feel as if every single decision meant something; of course, the consequences may have sometimes felt incredibly harsh, but it was that unflinching brutality that made each near-miss and each success feel that much more satisfying. XCOM: Enemy Unknown was about conquering a set of odds that were increasingly stacked against you as you progressed. As downright evil as the enemies you fought in that game were, XCOM: Enemy Within introduces an even more insidious threat: your fellow man.

Premise:

XCOM: Enemy Within isn't a full-fledged sequel to Firaxis' 2012 masterpiece: it's more of an expansion. However, that qualifier alone generally tends to automatically lower the expectations of the fans. But that shouldn't be the case here. This release is bursting with quality content that differentiates itself far more than it needs to in order to escape allegations of "it's the same game." It feels different in some ways, and thankfully, those differences are meaningful.

Enemy Within introduces a rogue faction known as EXALT. They, like XCOM, are a paramilitary force that deals with supernatural threats. However, unlike XCOM, they understand the motives of the alien race that invaded under the orders of the Uber Ethereal, and wish to advance the human race beyond what it currently is. This in and of itself may seem like it could be viewed as a worthwhile cause, but unfortunately, they also want to take over the planet. So they do so however they can, whether it's on the field of battle or on the global front, spreading panic and pursuing a ruthless cyberwarfare campaign with XCOM itself.


Transhuman Warfare:

What's great about XCOM: Enemy Within is how the ideas introduced in the story actually feed into the already excellent gameplay. This is most readily apparent in your ability (as Commander) to augment your soldiers with genetic modifications (Gene Mods) or to completely transform them into MEC troopers.

So how are you able to gain these incredible advantages? With an alien substance called Meld. Meld is stored in special canisters littered across the battlefield. However, unlike other recoverables, Meld has an incredibly short shelf life. That is, it will explode if you do not get one of your units to it in time. But Meld is such a desirable resource that you will catch yourself actively switching up your tactics in the hopes that you'll get to it before it's too late. This, coming from a series that rewards careful thought and conservative planning with survival by the skin of your teeth.


Expansion of the Year:

If you played XCOM: Enemy Unknown and enjoyed it, you should already have XCOM: Enemy Within. Thanks to its expanded squad customization options and added layers of strategic depth, it's a strong second outing for a franchise reboot that is destined for greatness. It's not just "more of the same," though if it was, that would still be enough to warrant the asking price.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos
Minimum System Requirements:

Windows Vista, 2 GHz Dual Core CPU, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT / ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT or greater, DirectX 9.0, 20 GB HD space DirectX Compatible audio
  Test System:

ASUS G74S Series, Intel Core I7 - 2670QM, 2.2 GHz, Windows 7 Premium, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M, 12 GB RAM

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