XCOM Enemy Within Review

Enemy Unknown’s replay value wasn’t evident until you started playing Iron Man, a mode which would cruelly wipe you out and force you to start a new game because of it. Instead of resenting the difficulty, you’d secretly treasure the stories of these failures – latching on to the moment where your best soldier died, or the horror of being sadly informed that Asia was under alien control. Enemy Unknown’s replay value expired when the game became a solvable puzzle – a set of clear challenges with an optimal route. As players we learned how to beat the system. Firaxis isn’t happy to let that slide.

Enemy Within knows how you play XCOM, and it isn’t going to let you do that anymore. Keep your snipers alone at the back of the map, and invisible squid robots will strangle them to death. Edge forward slowly using overwatch for protection, and you’ll fail to collect MELD canisters before they expire, limiting your capacity to upgrade troops with the new features you’ll need to survive.

47 new maps and tweaks to alien AI and grouping make ground missions far less predictable, but it’s this scope for detailed customisation that makes the expansion truly amazing. New equipment, gene-mod upgrades, and the ability to ‘Robocop’ your troops into MECs create vastly superior scope for specialisation, but tiny additions like flashbang grenades and special ammo designed for close-range combat add options to the earliest stages of the game.

These additional toys aren’t worth Enemy Within’s asking cost, but the implications of their inclusion are. This is an XCOM refresh – resetting the rules of the game you once knew, and encouraging you to play it in ways you’d never tried to. In my mind I’ve merely dabbled with these changes, and still have so many ideas I’d like to try. I’ve played it for 27 hours.

The best game of 2012 is back, and it might be the best game of 2013.

Version tested: PC. Game played for 27 hours.

9 / 10

  • Makes cheeky tactics obsolete.
  • Improves the game’s balance.
  • Genemods and MECs are unbelievably cool.
  • Makes XCOM feel unknown again.

Click above for enlarged XCOM: Enemy Within Screenshots


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User Comments

Igor_Rus's Avatar


Posted 16:01 on 16 November 2013
Latenius's Avatar

Latenius@ Jam_Sponge

Thanks, in retrospect it was a really silly thing to say because ironman classic indeed is the only way to play. I'm glad to know that I'm wrong. Didn't even think that they steal your money on top of them being new enemies.

Are you going to make a series out of your Enemy Within playthrough? It was really fun.
Posted 12:08 on 12 November 2013
Jam_Sponge's Avatar

Jam_Sponge@ Clockpunk

Maps are much more varied, aye - lots of interesting stuff going on with verticality, and some maps where full cover is horribly sparse. That - combined with alien AI tweaked to make their movements and positions less predictable - make the game feel fresh all over again.
Posted 09:52 on 12 November 2013
Jam_Sponge's Avatar

Jam_Sponge@ Latenius

Well, first of all - Ironman Classic is the only way to play! ;)

Secondly, yes - it's more of a challenge. Mechtoids are *****ing deadly, and Sectopods have been buffed to make them tougher than before. On a strategic level Exalt make things tougher too - at one point an undiscovered cell drained $150 of my $300 resources... (You can scan for cells to stop this happening, but the scans each month cost $50, $100, $200 etc.)

So yeah, new toys are great fun - but it isn't any easier. If anything the new systems can spread you too thin: Exalt missions require you to send an agent in alone undercover, and MEC and Genemod upgrades take soldiers out of the roster for a few days too. Relying on the same squad of five is riskier than ever, tbh.

In general reply to all of those considering picking up the original: DO IT. Best game of 2012, imo - tied with The Walking Dead.
Posted 09:50 on 12 November 2013
Iain_007's Avatar

Iain_007@ fimbo

It runs pretty nice on the mac although they seemed to be a bit slower with bug fixes / patches.
Posted 22:49 on 11 November 2013
Latenius's Avatar

Latenius@ Jam_Sponge

I'm a bit wary that the game will be too easy. I mean the mechs seem overpowered, the human enemies underpowered and I'm afraid the Seeker won't make that much of a difference.

Is it really "challenging" or is that just because you play ironman classic?
Posted 18:56 on 11 November 2013
fimbo's Avatar


All this talk of XCOM has convinced me to give Enemy Unknown a go. PS3 or MAC? (I ain't got no PC)
Posted 17:54 on 11 November 2013
sycholect's Avatar


Apparently the mech suits are very OP since you can heal them easily.
Posted 13:29 on 11 November 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar


So the maps really do feel a lot more varied?

Cheers, old chap - that is precisely what is tempting me, as the game feels like a title just right to be played on these cold dark nights. ;)

Shall have to do a trade-in tomorrow, by the looks of things.
Posted 13:05 on 11 November 2013
Jam_Sponge's Avatar

Jam_Sponge@ Clockpunk

The quantity of stuff added isn't huge, but it just changes the nature of the game entirely. Far better balance, way more viable tactical options, etc. It basically brings back the intensity and fear that XCOM Enemy Within had originally, before I'd played it for 70 hours.
Posted 13:01 on 11 November 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar


Sweet zombie jesus... after I had decided no more games this year, as well! Damned shame we previous buyers are being forced into another purchase, but... if it adds THAT much...
Posted 12:41 on 11 November 2013
anialator136's Avatar


best game of 2013? Bold statement but I know how much Matt loves this game.
Posted 12:25 on 11 November 2013
DragonGuard666's Avatar


Can't wait to delve back into XCOM, completed it or normal, dabbled in Ironman mode. So many great stories to tell. Enemy Within looks it's gonna make XCOM even more engaging.
Posted 12:21 on 11 November 2013


Quite looking forward to this! I stupidly cast enemy within aside as "not something i'm into". Then I played more than the demo! I now love XCOM!!!
Posted 12:06 on 11 November 2013

Game Stats

XCOM: Enemy Within
Out of 10
XCOM: Enemy Within
  • Makes cheeky tactics obsolete.
  • Improves the game’s balance.
  • Genemods and MECs are unbelievably cool.
  • Makes XCOM feel unknown again.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 15/11/2013
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 329 24
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