Level Up! We Review XCom: Enemy Unknown (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Thursday, November 08, 2012
Source: Mania.com

We are in the midst of the first two major release weeks of the upcoming holiday season with some of the year’s biggest releases hitting this week and next week including Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed III, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  Save up those quarters!  It’s going to be an expensive month!
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Activision) PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC 
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is a First-Person Shooter (FPS) that revolves around unique gamepaly that propels the Call of Duty franchise into a world of future warfare, and back again to the modern era. The game is a sequel to the 2010 release, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and features returning Black Ops characters Sgt. Frank Woods and Agent Alex Mason, joined by a wealth of new characters. Additional features include: two distinct yet linked playable time periods, advanced weaponry, branching storylines created by player choices in Strike Force missions, exciting multiplayer options, and more. 
 Pushing the boundaries of what fans have come to expect from the record-setting entertainment franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops II propels players into a near future, 21st Century Cold War, where technology and weapons have converged to create a new generation of warfare between old and new foes. In this conflict, the mechanized creations of men reign supreme, facing off against each other as their creators stay safe and unconflicted, and in the process grow ever softer. In this scenario an important question will be asked: What happens when enemy steals the keys? To understand such a possible future, you must understand where you have been. 
Players of Call of Duty: Black Ops II gain an understanding of this and more through the game's additional timeline set in the late Cold War era of the 1980's. Within the campaign story, which spans these two eras, players will see familiar faces such as Alex Mason, his son David Mason, and Sgt. Frank Woods. Linking these together will be the rise of another player in the conflict, Raul Menendez. 
LEGO Lord of the Rings (Warner Bros.) PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS, PS Vita 
LEGO The Lord of the Rings takes players along on the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his unlikely fellowship as they set out on a perilous journey to destroy The One Ring and save Middle-earth. Kids, tweens, teens and parents can traverse the Misty Mountains, explore the Mines of Moria, knock on the Black Gate of Mordor, and partake in epic battles with Orcs, Uruk-hai, the Balrog and other fearsome foes while harnessing the humor and imagination of LEGO gameplay to solve puzzles and explore Middle-earth. Players will take on the form of their favorite members of the fellowship – Frodo the Hobbit, Aragorn the Ranger, Gandalf the Wizard, Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, Boromir a Man of Gondor, and Frodo's Hobbit friends Sam, Merry and Pippin – as they relive the most momentous events from the films.  


Scribblenauts Unlimited (Warner Bros.) 3DS, Wii U 
Scribblenauts, the best-selling, award-winning puzzle game franchise that challenged players to imagine anything and bring it to life, is back with Scribblenauts Unlimited for the 3DS, featuring more expansive gameplay and setting no limits on how the player uses his or her imagination within the game. 
Created and developed by 5TH Cell, Scribblenauts Unlimited features a huge side-scrolling open world with new, high-definition hand-drawn scenery and objects. Venture into a wide-open world featuring gorgeous 3D elements where the most powerful tool is your imagination. Help Maxwell solve robust puzzles in seamless, free-roaming levels by summoning any object you can think of. Leverage the 3DS' Street Pass functionality to see all of the creative solutions to puzzles by players in your area. And for the first time, learn the backstory about Maxwell's parents, 41 siblings (including his twin sister Lily), and how he got his magical notepad. 
Ben 10 Omniverse (D3 Publisher) PS3, Xbox 360, DS, 3DS, Wii 
Ben 10 Omniverse is based on the brand new series from the world renowned Ben 10 franchise! Players will experience the exciting Omniverse world in a new action game, where Ben discovers that untold events from the past are affecting the present. Armed with a new Omnitrix, players have the power to dial up 13 playable alien heroes, including new never before seen aliens like Bloxx and Gravattack and some old favorites like XLR8 and Heatblast. Fight in 11 action-packed levels throughout the subterranean alien city of Undertown, the streets of Bellwood, and the new Plumber base in Max's shop. 
When a modification for Ben's Omnitrix goes haywire, his new partner, Rook, gets sent back in time, meeting Ben from when he was 10. Rook and Young Ben get into a scuffle with the villain Malware who absorbs Rook's Proto-Tool for new powers, leading to a terrifying alternate future. Play as both Teen Ben and Young Ben and work with your new partner Rook to solve crime, fix both the past and present, and defeat the evil plans of Malware, intent on destroying the world! 
Midway Arcade Origins (Warner Bros.) Xbox 360, PS3 
Midway Arcade Origins is the ultimate collection of retro Midway titles. Enjoy over 30 games now with multiplayer, achievements, and Leaderboard support. Players will be able play their way through the golden age of arcade gaming by experiencing the titles that defined a generation of gamers. 


XCom: Enemy Unknown (2K Games) Xbox 360, PS3 
XCom Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the much-loved XCom series which first debuted way back in 1994. And it is especially welcomed since the last two planned entries in the series ended up being canceled. I have long decried the lack of turn-based strategy games being made today and thankfully XCom: Enemy Unknown brings back the tactical, turn-based strategy game in all its glory, and adds in RPG elements to boot. 
In the near future, Earth has been invaded by an alien race who is making incursions around the globe. Most of the world’s nations have banded together to form a Council of Nations. You lead a multi-national task force of 4 – 6 soldiers who defend the planet against the aliens, rescuing civilians from abduction, and securing important locales. 
In the missions you guide your team on a rotating, 3D map. On your turn you can take several actions much as moving to cover, then doing another action such as firing your weapon, lobbing a grenade, or laying down suppressive fire. You can dash which allows you to move further but ends your turn. You can also fire off rockets, hunker down for better cover, heal a downed teammate, and many other options. Your soldiers fit into several classes such as assault, support, heavy, sniper, etc…each comes with their one unique abilities, weapons, and skill trees. You can customize the look of your soldiers by changing race, skin color, head and facial hair, although the customization isn’t terribly diverse. 
When you earn a promotion you essentially “level up” and can choose from one of two new skills/abilities which help to customize the character into a certain class and proficiency. For example, A sniper normally cannot fire after moving but you can learn a new skill which will allow you to do so. Movement is extremely important as the ability to flank the enemy increases your chance of not only hitting the enemy but also scoring a critical and often killing hit. 
But XCom: Enemy Unknown isn’t all about combat. Back in your base, you will need to make a lot of decisions in various departments. The research department can be assigned various research projects on the alien technology and the aliens themselves. Once complete these can allow new weapons and items to be made and provide other perks. In the engineering department you can assign them to build new items and facilities such as new satellites. Satellites are your eye in the sky to keep track of alien movement. The more you have, the quicker you can respond to alien threats. You can also build new labs and other facilities such as an alien containment facility. These building assignments take resources such as credits, scientists, and engineers to build. Completing missions rewards you with all of these things. 
In the barracks you can customize and hire new soldiers. You can also get upgrades. You start with just 4 soldiers in your team and one of the first things you should do is purchase the ability to add a 5th and then 6th member to your team. 
Your situation room allows you to scan the world at large and see what countries are on the verge of panic. Panic can be reduced by stopping the alien threat there or launching a satellite to keep watch. If a country hits its max panic level they will soon withdraw from the council. 
The Mission Control room is where you will scan for alien threats and receive your missions. It’s also where you go to quickly pass game time such as when you are waiting for a research or engineering product to be completed. Just be sure not to ignore threats! 
And there are threats aplenty as the aliens come in many types such as the Thin Men who can poison you or crawlers that can kill you and turn your soldiers into zombies under their control. It’s actually quite heart wrenching as there is no saves, no resurrections or raising from the dead once this happens. And when you’ve built up a solider to Captain’s rank or above its tough to lose him and then have to start again with a new rookie recruit. You also have your vaunted Skyranger aircraft that can quickly respond to an alien craft and hopefully take it out. Your Skyranger can also be outfitted with upgraded weapons. 
There is an online one-on-one player matchup where each player is given an equal number of points to spend on units. This is a straight battle format with none of the resource and planning management included. 
XCom: Enemy Unknown is an outstanding new entry in the series. There are some minor graphic glitches and frame rate stutters…limited troop customization and some repetitive maps, but the addictive and refreshing gameplay will keep you busy wiping out alien hordes for hours!  Grade A-