Reviews

XCOM 2

PlayStation 4 Port: When I reviewed XCOM 2 on PC a few months ago I lamented the lack of proper controller support and the performance issues. One of those two things has been fixed since launch for most people. Unfortunately there’s still no controller support on PC for XCOM 2 and from the looks of things it isn’t coming anytime soon. The console version just released and while I’ve had much more fun playing it on PlayStation 4 thanks to the controller, there are a lot of problems with performance and visuals.

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On booting it up for the first time, some of the visuals are disappointing in the menu itself. While graphics are not why people play XCOM, XCOM 2 on PlayStation 4 looks like a PlayStation 3 game on many occasions. The interface takes a bit of time to get used to but works a lot better with the controller. It puts the Steam Controller implementation to shame for sure. I’m quite shocked that the PC version hasn’t been patched with this controller support yet and it is worth bringing up again.

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Performance isn’t great though. It is pretty disappointing. Load times are long and sometimes it feels like the game is stuck while the AI calculations happen. There’s also lots of screen tearing and random stuttering which is disappointing considering quality of visuals on display. I expected better from 2K.

I hope they fix the stutter and screen tearing though because an 8 month late port with these issues is a poor showing. If you did enjoy XCOM: Enemy Unknown on PlayStation 3 though, you will be fine for the most part with XCOM 2 on PlayStation 4 especially with the lower than usual price.

 

Original PC Review: After how amazing XCOM: Enemy Unknown was in its own right and not just a reboot of one of the most iconic franchises in gaming, XCOM 2 drops other platforms to be a PC-only affair. It promises to be a bigger and more capable XCOM experience, but fails in many areas, ruining what could otherwise have been one of the best strategy games ever.

XCOM 2 is set two decades after the events of Enemy Unknown’s alien invasion. Humanity has suffered, the aliens now control things, and you are now on the offensive. This setting itself is enough to make XCOM 2 feel different. You are in control of The Avenger and your aim is to sabotage whatever the aliens are doing. The aliens are now called The Advent and you have to stop them.

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I love the changes to game flow and mission structure and how deeply tied to the narrative the gameplay feels. Speaking of gameplay, there’s a new conceal mode that lets you drop in with your forces into a mission and setup a calculated ambush on enemy forces. Every mission is procedurally generated and this adds a boatload of replay value when you couple it with the decision making at your disposal for your next action.

XCOM 2 still has the addictive tactical turn-based combat I loved in Enemy Unknown, but there are many things that annoy me here. Many missions have a timer mechanic, where you must achieve your objective within a set number of turns. While this does encourage risk taking, it isn’t something I look forward to in a turn-based game. The control options in XCOM 2 are another disappointment. The interface isn’t as intuitive as the much praised one in Enemy Unknown, and standard support has been dropped. I spent a few hours playing it with the Steam Controller as well since there is official support for it, but the overall experience is sub-par for fans of controllers.

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The class and ability system in XCOM 2 is great and you get access to everything from melee classes to hackers in the form of specialists and some crazy overpowered ones later on. Each class has its own ability tree in the form of a ladder system, and your own strategising on bringing a fixed number of soldiers into each mission will help you discover some interesting synergies.

Gameplay has this other issue where there are lots of pauses lasting a few seconds before actions, which just slow things down, like a random two second pause after firing or getting into cover. These things, coupled with a plethora of performance issues, degrade the XCOM experience.

Coming back to the time element in missions, there’s also the overarching Avatar project gauge. This is the alien’s win condition and it decides when you get a game over screen. Your freedom is hindered again here because ever so often you will need to do a mission or go to an area to do something you don’t want to do thanks to this gauge and your immediate need to reduce it. So you end up spending time destroying facilities and moving on to main story quests even when you’d rather not.

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The visual and audio elements are inconsistent too. While I do enjoy the step up in visuals, many areas look like they needed some more care and attention even at a higher graphical setting. The music feels like a definite step back. The soundtrack is not as memorable even though more care has been put into the rest of the sound department.

It has been nearly a month since the game released and performance is still inconsistent. Turning everything down to the minimum still does not give me a stable frame rate, and in most cases, the frame rate takes a dip at the most random times. Cutscenes have stutter and the game basically doesn’t feel polished enough to justify the delays and the focus on a single platform. The other issues I faced were with missions seemingly freezing for up to a minute without the UI appearing, leaving me unable to do anything.

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After Enemy Unknown, it is shocking to see XCOM 2 released in this state. Imagine ordering a burger from your favourite restaurant to have it served after a delay only to discover it not cooked properly. That is XCOM 2 in its current state. If you are okay with powering through inconsistent performance and going through Steam Workshop for Mods to fix some of the problems with XCOM 2, go right ahead and begin your offence on The Advent. For everyone else, I’d recommend holding off until Firaxis fixes things.

XCOM 2 was reviewed on the Asus RoG GL552JX provided by Asus

IVG's Verdict

7/10
  • Lots of story choices that make a difference
  • Addictive XCOM Tactical Combat
  • Procedurally generated maps
  • Soldier class and ability structure
  • Performance issues
  • Bugs
  • No standard controller support
  • Some annoying design decisions
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