See How XCOM Has Changed For Yourself

See How XCOM Has Changed For Yourself

Strategy games have a tendency to straddle an area between slow, decisive moves and the chaos of action happening seemingly out of your hands and all around you. Some strategy games are slower-paced than others. As tense as things can get in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it’s more or less leaned towards the ease of turn-based decisions than the rush of other games of its kind.

So Firaxis did something different this time. It came up with XCOM: Enemy Within and managed to amp up the action with one simple change: you don’t have to kill all the enemies within.

Not always, anyway.

(P.S. All footage was recorded on a PC on lower settings to avoid monstrous file sizes on our end. That’s why it looks a little grainy.)

The Exalt — the new, human enemies that make up a paramilitary secret society — are well-dressed.

Seriously, their suits are quite dapper. In other news that’s probably more relevant to you: they’re also incredibly aggressive in all manners of the word. In both character and battle behaviour.

The Exalt are hellbent on using alien technology for technological advancement (and a bit of what sounds like world domination) and they don’t care who dies in the process. In Enemy Within, they’ll hide Cells in random countries, which build towards launching an operation against your team. What that means is: if you don’t attack once you see the threat of a Cell pop up on your radar, they’ll take advantage of your hesitation and board your ship first. Or they’ll attack your cash reserves. Or terrorize people with propaganda. Or undo progress on your active research projects. They suck, basically.

So you do what any wise strategist would do: you attack first. This means assigning one of your soldiers to a covert operation of your own against the Exalt. I consider the soldier with the bone marrow genetic modification (which gives a boost to health regeneration) but move on to a tried and true soldier before setting out to infiltrate Australia, where a Cell was hiding, to gather intel. (You can watch me do this in the video up top.)

You need to get in, hack a few things around one of the (new) maps to get your intel from a transmitter while simultaneously keeping the Exalt away from that area and then get out alive. You can watch me play that new mission type here:

It sounds simple but the execution is a lot tougher than that. Juggling different objectives — namely, keeping the Exalt at bay while advancing on the capture location — can make things more hectic than XCOM is used to feeling. Because you do need to keep a balance on the playing field, you might find yourself forgoing playing more conservatively as you might have normally and instead rushing against both the time and your aggressive opponents.

Watch as I advance on the capture point while hacking their communications relays to keep them from coordinating between each other. In game language that translates to: they won’t be able to use their regular attacks for a turn.

You can launch these covert operations to collect data on the Exalt, eventually leading up to gathering enough intel to accuse one of the nations of harboring the Exalt’s headquarters. It’s pretty much game over for the Exalt once you figure it out (and then of course launch a raid against HQ), but you’ll have to go on more than a few missions to get to that point. You can make an accusation as soon as three clues are collected, but be careful where you toss your glares, because the nation in question will leave the council if you’re wrong about them.

The other half that makes up Enemy Within is the covert extraction mission type. There’s more urgency to this mission, similar to the covert operatives. But whereas you’re fighting to get in and exterminate all Exalt in the covert operatives, extraction dictates more of a get-in-get-out playstyle where you’ll need to collect your operative and bring him/her back to base alive. No need to kill all the Exalt in this mission.

Check out my round with this mission type here:

What you might notice is just how, again, aggressive the Exalt are. They’re fast, they’re coordinated and fairly smart, too. In the extraction mission, you’ll be required to have your operative hack two relays before bringing him/her back to safety.

This is where a new ghost grenade comes in handy, since you can keep the operative under cover and alive for at least an extra turn.

There’s a lot to this upcoming expansion, some of which we’ve covered. This’ll have to tide you over until November 12, when Enemy Within releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.


  • I had great fun with EU, this expansion pack is looking pretty good to me.
    In fact, having just finished gtav and uninterested in its MP, I might fire this up again for another campaign

  • Should probably go back and finish the EU… got pretty close to the end then lost interest because i stuffed my base up…

  • I’ll tell you one thing. Watching someone else play XCOM like an absolute donkey is maddening. Especially when they take an absolute age with every single decision.

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