XCOM Enemy Within is not a true sequel, it’s more like an expansion pack that tries really, really hard. You won’t find a brand new game with new mechanics and innovations when you boot up Enemy Within, instead what you will find is the same gameplay that made Enemy Unknown such a hit with some refinements, new features and all new content.
Enemy Within has a new story with a new enemy; EXALT. EXALT are a human terror organisation that came up with the handy idea of using aliens as a way to seize power for themselves. There is very little back story here and I found myself wondering about these guys, where they came from and what motivates them. It’s not an engrossing story by any means.
The EXALT have a range of sleeper cells throughout the world that you need to find and eradicate. To do so you all find yourself playing through some covert style missions as well as the usual extraction missions. Although this doesn’t add much to the entertainment as the bulk of the gameplay still centres around the extract style missions.
Enemy Within is really similar visually to it’s predecessor, nothing much has changed here. You do have some new settings and visuals but it’s pretty much the same as Enemy Unknown, which makes sense for an expansion game like this.
While the base mechanics are the same there are a number of new features that change the way your approach your strategies in Enemy Within. The biggest of these new additions is Meld, a new alien substance that acts as a new resource and is scattered randomly across missions. Meld is a very interesting addition because it allows you to unlock two new types of upgrades through the Genetics Lab and Cybernetics Factory. If you are like me and the idea of meddling with a soldiers genetics to create a super enhanced fighting machine excites you then this is pretty damn cool. Within the Genetics Lab your scientists can do exactly that, augmenting your soldiers to perform beyond their human limits. The Cybernetics Factory allows you to talk your soldiers and twist them into giant mech-like battle tanks called MEC’s. There are 3 different upgradable levels, all of which deliver massive fire-power.
You need all this additional fire-power and abilities as your enemies are also up skilled. You can expect to face-off against alien squads that are pretty similar to the XCOM units. You can expect to come up against snipers, support units, rocket wielding heavy units etc. They also have access to the Meld upgrades. Their scientists seem to be less ethically responsible and have some really interesting augmentations to deal with.
There are of course a range of new weapons and other upgrades such as medals that you can earn that make the game feel like a much improved version of it’s predecessor.
XCOM Enemy Within was developed by Firaxis Games and published 2K Games. Our review is based on the PS3 version. It is also available for the PC & Xbox 360.