The Average Gamer

XCOM: Enemy Within Preview – Human Enemies Revealed

XCOM Enemy Within - Bridge
You can understand aliens invading earth. They’re statistically likely to have been around much longer than we have and probably do that sort of thing all the time. They want our resources, our genetics and presumably to transport us halfway across the universe as soldiers in their next conquest. It’s not nice, but it makes sense.

It’s more difficult to sympathise with the XCOM expansion’s newest villains, the members of a pro-alien, anti-XCOM human faction named “EXALT”. Their motives aren’t as clear, but presumably they’re hedging their bets in the opposite direction, assuming that humanity’s survival isn’t an assured outcome and are trying to prove their fealty to their new alien overlords.

Exalt aren’t quite as well equipped as XCOM, decked out in suits and face coverings rather than tactical armour, but they vastly outnumber the organisation. They specialise in overwhelming strike teams with steady waves of reinforcement, but also relying on the kinds of tricks you’d try to use against them. They can go into overwatch to limit advancement, along with throwing grenades and firing rockets to deny cover and break up clusters of soldiers.

Splinter cells of EXALT forces crop up in countries all over the globe, each operating independently. In order to prevent these groups from becoming too effective you need to perform two tasks. First, you send one of your units into a country as an infiltrator. Later, once you’ve been given the go-ahead, you send in a squad to complete a difficult mission.

The spy unit you choose benefits from being as veteran as possible. They’ll have more survivability and options in the field, but the tradeoff is they’ll be removed from your active roster until they return from service. When they’re sent out they can’t carry any armour or weaponry larger than a pistol. They’re limited to just a single piece of tech. This means they absolutely rely on the rest your squad for support, similar to the initial game’s escort missions.

After time passes one of two mission types will begin, the first is an infiltration where your spy unit needs to access terminals dotted on the map and eventually return to the transport skyranger. The second type is much more difficult, where you prevent EXALT forces from hacking a terminal themselves, revealing the location of another point on the map and sending in another wave of friends to try and capture it.

In the first mission you’re able to take things slow and bide your time, picking off EXALT forces as they appear and gradually moving your spy around the map. In the second you don’t have the luxury of waiting around. You need to get moving to track down the first transmitter and prevent it from being hacked. It’s a difficult proposition, given EXALT’s willingness to use overwatch tactics that prevent you from gaining much ground.

We weren’t show all of this in the ideal setting where we’ve grown a crack team of soldiers suited to our own playstyle, which we’re choosing to blame for not actually completing any of the missions and instead facing a full party wipe both times.

Our recent demo also didn’t display much of the game’s other promised additions like mech-units or genetically modified soldiers, but what we’ve yet seen is highly impressive and an excellent extension of the core XCOM formula.

Enemy Within will hit Steam as DLC and Xbox 360 and PS3 as a full release next month. We’re extremely excited.