Review and gallery - XCOM: Enemy Unknown, iOS devices, £13.99

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

On the face of it XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based game about fending off an alien invasion. It’s about advancing your team of customizable soldiers to the front line, and stealing the remains of alien tech. It’s about micro-managing your base, building facilities and launching satellites above foreign neighbours to keep their panic levels low.

But there’s a caveat. The game features permadeath. Despite levelling up my favoured marines - Max Junior and Harry Potter - and equipping them with the best gear researchable, they were still outflanked by tall thin aliens. And they died. In-game and forever. I even visited their memorial. XCOM is as much about building player memories as it is about shooting grey dudes in a flying saucer.

And now there's this new, iOS-friendly version. The original XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released at the tail-end of 2012 to great fanfare and it’s been ported by 2K China and overseen by Firaxis, the studio who created the original game. On iOS platforms (it’s available as a Universal App so you can buy it once and play it on both your iPhone and iPad with cloud saves linking them up) it sells for £13.99.

A lot of people will jump at that price point. We are used to handheld games that retail for 99p. They tend to be ‘freemium’ price systems with the option to buy in-game currency for £X. Consumers have reacted badly to games like Final Fantasy V (£10.99), a title that is twenty years old with little changed. And this is fair enough: why should we pay full price for a game that is two decades old and that we don’t, physically, own?

But this is something different. XCOM: Enemy Unknown contains the full-console and PC experience (without DLC) for a quarter of the price, and without tagging on freemium content. That’s it. That’s the only metric we should judge it by. It’s like a permanent sale. Why? Because the game functions brilliantly on the iPhone. On the iPad, it’s even better. It makes sense to use touch controls when scrolling and selecting skills. The only way it doesn’t make as much sense is when adjusting the level of terrain or rotating the camera. But in a lot of ways (such as managing your base) the user interface improves on the PC and console versions.

Admittedly, there are some faults: the textures are low-res, the cut-scenes aren’t skippable, the loading times are significantly longer and the character’s mouths don’t open fully during speech. But it’s XCOM. On a phone! I can take those cuts.

I shouldn’t be allowed to play it, really. You see, most of the time I work on the go. I edit documents using Google Drive. I tap away on the tube. I am, largely, locked-in to my iPhone. The game draws battery like a vacuum and draws you in too - making you eager for that one more turn of gameplay. It’s best played plugged in, or at least with a charger to take on the go. So far I’ve spent 14 hours in the game, cruelly defeated by aliens at every turn as I slowly mastered my own defeats. It’s still there, now, as one of the four shortcuts on my home screen. I’m ready to take the plunge in again.

5/5

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer

    £30000 - £36000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# Developer A highly s...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Test Engineer

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading software...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...