Review: XCOM – Enemy Within

A screenshot of XCOM: Enemy Within (image: 2K)

The XCOM franchise has enthralled gamers since 1994 and while this year’s first-person shooter adaptation The Bureau: XCOM Declassified failed somewhat to gather traction among lovers of the franchise, 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown has received rave reviews.

A screenshot of XCOM: Enemy Within (image: 2K)
A screenshot of XCOM: Enemy Within (Image source: 2K)

In order to capitalize on its success, developer 2K launched XCOM: Enemy Within, a standalone expansion to Enemy Unknown. The word “standalone” for this title is being used very loosely, but should gamers pick this up with they have already played the 2012 Game of the Year, XCOM: Enemy Unknown?

What we like about it

The short answer: maybe. Enemy Unknown was one of the most exciting turn-based titles of last year, as gamers enjoyed its fast-paced tactics and perceived notion of saving the planet from a terrible alien invasion.

Enemy Within is not much different and being a standalone expansion, it duplicates all that the previous title offers – while throwing in some extra goodies for fans. While the title follows the same format, plot and mechanics, the pack introduces new maps, new tactical and strategic gameplay, and new multiplayer content.

Players of Enemy Unknown will know exactly what they will be getting themselves into, as the plot has not been altered and the graphics have essentially stayed the same. However, they could find enjoyment in new additions such as the Gene Mods and MECs.

For the Gene Mods, players will be able to build a Genetics Lab to physically enhance their characters’ abilities with augmentations to the chest, brain, eyes, skin, and legs. On the other side of the scale, the MECs enable users to construct the new Mechanized Exoskeletal Cybersuit for their squad, creating a new MEC Trooper class.

To move the technology of the game along, there is also a new alien resource, Meld, which can be gathered by players and used to unlock new research and upgrades.

What we do not like about it

While its predecessor XCOM: Enemy Unknown was refreshing to the franchise, Enemy Within seems to want to capitalise on its success and turns out to be a bit of a clone, rather than a meaningful upgrade. It would have been better suited to release the new upgrades and extra tactics as part of DLC, than a full-priced title.

It borders on being virtually a carbon-copy of Enemy Unknown, and except for the new alien types that gamers have to destroy, the Genetic and Mechanized modifications that users can add to their soldiers, and Medals, the title fails to add anything meaningful in order to entice players of Enemy Unknown to fork over cash for the same title.

Speaking of Enemy Unknown, users will also have to start a completely new campaign for Enemy Within, regardless if they have played the previous title. Users won’t be able to import their previous save game files or progress, making it a hard pill to swallow to start all over again. In essence, there shouldn’t be any tangible reason for players to pick up Enemy Within (if they have already completed Enemy Unknown), as they will basically by replaying the first game with only a few add-ons included.


It is not all bad – while the entire experience in very similar across the two titles, the general format of XCOM Enemy Within is still very enjoyable. The graphics remained the same, but the controls are just as easy as before and new players will be guided through the title with a series of tutorials.

Ultimately, XCOM Enemy Within is a good example of “if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it”, as Enemy Unknown was a perfect game in its own right.

Except for the new technology and alien additions, gamers would be better off to only play one of the titles, with Enemy Within being the preferred choice. For players who have never been exposed to the XCOM franchise, Enemy Within is a great place to start, but sadly it does not offer much more to returning players – other than a handful of options that could have sufficed as DLC.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor