Earlier this year, when XCOM 2 launched on the PC, it was hoped that a console port would come along soon after. The sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown was built initially for mouse and keyboard. While the PC iteration did have Steam controller support, many who experienced the reboot played the game on the console and were forced to wait. Now, the console iteration has finally released, albeit with a few major caveats that may turn some players off.
By in large, the game remains the same. The plot, for those who did not experience the game on the PC, follows the events of Enemy Unknown but with a twist. Rather than save the world, XCOM fell to the invading alien forces and locked the Commander away. Some twenty years after Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 sees the forces of the alien resistance fighting back against the now occupying alien force. Their first mission sees them rescuing the Commander and beginning the process of rebuilding XCOM.
The plot is incredibly captivating in that you have to build up a resistance force to the government. Essentially, you play as a terrorist faction striking against a corrupt government. As you progress, you discover that the alien force is building a project called Avatar, which seems to be tied into whatever strange experiments they were performing on the Commander. As they build up the Avatar, you have to make strategic strikes against different outposts, as failing to do so will increase Avatar development. Meanwhile, you need to decide which areas of the world you want to travel to in order to inflict the most amount of damage to Advent, the occupying alien force.
This is probably the biggest fundamental change to XCOM 2. There is a much more hectic feel to the meta game of deciding what to do and what not to do. It ends up making your choices feel far more meaningful but also makes what was already a stressful game into a frantic, chaotic game. It often feels like you have far too many choices on your plate, and often you are given minimal direction to what you should do.
In fact, that feeling of minimal direction pervades into the entire experience. Aside from a tutorial at the beginning of the game, you really do not have any additional bits of training put in place. In this regard, it feels like it is a true sequel to Enemy Unknown, assuming you already know how to play the game. For new players, this likely will feel alienating and make you wish you had played the original. But, for players of Enemy Unknown, this will feel like a homecoming of sorts.
The combat remains largely unchanged, but that is generally for the best. The tactical combat of deciding how to position characters and line up attacks still feels great and there’s a real sense of dread whenever you are moving into uncharted areas. The two biggest additions to the combat are the new emphasis on stealth and the addition of timers to many missions.
Stealth plays a heavy role in how you move your characters. You can move your soldiers around, positioning them in a way that allows you to ambush the alien forces. Being able to ambush a set of enemies feels extremely satisfying, especially when your characters are paper tanks, able to dish out heavy damage but get hurt extremely fast. This is exasperated when any damage taken on a mission will result in your soldiers having to take days to recover before being able to go back into the line of fire. Hitting those stealth ambushes can often make or break your team as failing will result in you being spotted and having Advent come down hard on you.
The other huge change is the addition of timers to a majority of missions. Many missions will only give you a set amount of turns to complete whatever that mission requires of you. These timers are tight, too, requiring you to think and act quickly. It can often be overwhelming to deal with these, as it feels like an additional difficulty meter being added to the game. While Enemy Unknown allowed you to plan then pounce on enemies, drastically losing that planning time in XCOM 2 means you have to act far faster in order to succeed.
The console edition makes some minor tweaks, but it remains incredibly similar to the PC version throughout. Obviously, the biggest addition is controller support, a feature still missing from the PC version. Honestly, the game feels fine with a controller and you don’t really gain much from having a mouse and keyboard. There are definitely some technical hiccups, especially if you’ve seen how smooth the game plays on the PC. Load times can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and many times the camera will freak out when you start a level. Additionally, textures will not load right on occasion, leading to enemies or characters who just have blank, black textures.
However, you do miss out on the modding community which has formed around the PC version and that does feel disappointing. There have been mods which make the game easier by tweaking timers. You also miss out on the work that Long War Studios has been doing for the PC version, which is a huge letdown. With the recent hullabaloo over mods on the PS4, it seems unlikely that these will hit the console any time soon (though one can hope they will arrive on the Xbox One version.)
The biggest disappointment, however, is how the DLC is currently handled. Generally, when these ports have come out some time after a release, the DLC is included with the base game in a Game of the Year Edition. However, XCOM 2 on consoles still charges you a premium for the current DLC packs, all of which are available on day one. While it’s nice that these are available to players who want to experience this content, it would have been nice to see them included in the base game especially since there has been this large of a delay.
XCOM 2 is still a great game. If you have the choice and don’t mind using a mouse and keyboard (or Steam controller), you probably should grab the PC version. However, the controller support works great and the game itself is largely unchanged. Aside from some technical issues and some disagreeable business decisions, the game still plays great and feels like a true sequel to Enemy Unknown.
SCORE: 8.0 out of 10
A code for XCOM 2 (PS4) was provided to Pixel Related for review.