XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [previewed], Mac, PS3, 360)
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Enemy Within expands the original content on two levels. Down in the trenches, in XCOM’s turn-based, solider-controlling gameplay, we’re seeing new additions like solider modifications and new enemy types. It isn’t just new aliens that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix and the alien ghosts from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
There are scummy jerks in fedoras, too. Well, they probably own fedoras.
Exalt is a comically evil paramilitary secret society that is down with the aliens’ genetic perfection aims. It intends to rule over the world using alien technology and genetic superiority. It is basically a facile, extra occult Nazi party, but with a name that has an “ecks” instead of a “z.”
You’ll have to fight with Exalt members in covert operations, which are two new mission types within the expansion. Their AI has been tuned differently than the aliens, too, allegedly making them more cooperative and tactical enemies.
In Covert Extraction, you send a plainclothes solider into a scheming Exalt cell, then go pick them up, ensuring they live through the process (and you hack a com relay). In Covert Data Recovery, your solider on the inside doesn’t need to make it out alive but you need to protect two different assets. The first can be sacrificed if you want to hole up and protect the second, but you get less money.
I ran a Data Recovery mission -- successfully, in fact. My covert op, a Russian armed with only a pistol, actually managed to hit every overwatch shot and made the final kill. Unfortunately, I lost two in the process soldiers, including a dependable Italian heavy, Maurizio Mancini, who was close to my heart.
I mention the soldiers’ nationality because soldiers now speak in their native language, rather than everyone having the same handful of American English combat barks. It’s a subtle addition, but I liked it a lot.
On the macro level, Exalt changes your day to day operations as XCOM commander as well. First, Exalt cell attacks are another event you’ll have to respond to. Fail to do so and it can hinder your progress in some way. Exalt will run Propoganda attacks to raise panic, Research Hacks to slow your lab’s research progress, and Sabotage attacks to directly drain your money.
You don’t have to take Exalt’s shtick lying down, however, just foiling them in retaliation. For a fee, which increases each time, you can scan the world for potential Exalt activity. An exposed Exalt cell won’t be able to begin its attack, letting you choose whether or not to engage it or to let it go back underground and prepare another attack. Stalling is always an option if you’re not presently up to a challenge.
Engaging with Exalt, whether through planned covert ops or otherwise can also yield clues to where Exalt is located; for example, you may learn Exalt is not in Africa. With enough clues, you can take a stab and accuse a country of housing the cell, or collect more clues until you're sure. A wrongly accused country pulls out of the XCOM project, as they are well enemy within their right to do. Choose correctly and you get a shot at Exalt’s challenging, fortified base.
Playing Enemy Within reminded me of how good XCOM: Enemy Unknown is. After playing it, I had to go home and start a new game of Enemy Unknown, x-completely aware that to experience Enemy Within’s additions, I’d need to start a new campaign. Maybe next month it will be time for that Classic Ironman run, with an added twist.
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