From a series founded on complex strategy and sophisticated gameplay comes a title based on fast action and a simple premise. If the classic X-COM: UFO Defense fed the super ego of the dedicated gamer, surely X-COM: Enforcer is designed to feed the id, featuring nearly endless waves of enemies, impressively destructible in-game scenery, and even power-ups to add to the fast-paced excitement. As an Enforcer on the X-COM team, the player grabs a weapon and hits the streets with the sole objective of eliminating as many evil gray alien invaders as possible. As long as they keep coming, the player keeps shooting, taking reasonable care to rescue any innocent human beings than may wander through the scene from time to time. The game is based on the Unreal Tournament engine and features an over-the-shoulder third-person view on the action.
The XCOM part of the title XCOM: Enforcer is a gimmick. The only facet of this game that bears even the slightest resemblance to XCOM is the alien critters you're busy blasting. Nearly every creature I saw rang a distant bell from the first XCOM, and alien craft that you run across are of XCOM-style design. Beyond that all similarity to previous XCOM incarnations ends. This game is totally, 100% a 3rd person arcade shooter, complete with "boss" monsters every couple of levels. You're the Enforcer, a robot specifically designed and built to mow down aliens invading earth. And mow them down you will - hundreds of them in every level - leading to the inevitable ultimate combat with the numero uno alien himself on board the alien mothership. It's a pretty overused plot in the videogame realm.
There's no finesse to this game. The aliens don't duck or hide, but rely rather on swarming attacks, and there's no reason on earth to ever take your finger off the trigger even for a second. Killing aliens gets you power-ups and data points. The data points can be used at the end of each level to buy weapon and system upgrades. Power ups are temporary and get you speed, a damage multiplier, stealth mode, that kind of thing. There are a dozen different weapons which appear continuously at random as you travel around each level - machine gun (your default weapon), shotgun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, blade shooter, mass driver, fusion rifle, hyperblade, lightening gun, etc. If you're getting the feeling that you've seen all this before, you're right. There really isn't a thing in this game that's new or different, and yet the shear number of aliens you encounter keeps the game playable on a certain mindless adrenaline level. If it moves, shoot it. How hard is that? Even on levels where you have to rescue humans, catching the humans in the crossfire causes them to just scream and drop to the ground. I don't think it is even possible to kill them with friendly fire.
Graphically, the game reminds me strongly of Redneck Rampage. I think that is due in part to the scenery - cornfields, trailer parks, bowling alleys, barnyards - which is often very similar to RR (I guess rednecks and aliens hang out in the same kinds of places), but also because the general quality seems about the same. There are loads of other landscapes - football field, shopping mall, parking garage, art museum, skyscraper, graveyard, airport, etc. I would have to call the graphics better than average, but we're not dealing with the Quake 3 engine here. Aliens chop up nicely leaving hamburger bits all over the place. Weapons effects are perhaps overly colorful and cartoonish, but that's clearly what the game is going for so it works. You can leave bullet holes in just about everything, and many objects can be destroyed. The aliens grunt, groan, snarl, and shriek. Humans scream for help. The scientist who built you offers helpful comments ("Good luck, Enforcer. You'll need it"). Sometimes the scientist has an Elmer Fudd thing going, "Ewaticate the awiens, Enforwcer." It's not so strong a speech impediment as to be obvious, so I'm not sure if they meant it to be a joke or if that's just the way the voice actor was. To laugh or not to laugh, that is the question. Lots of weapons sound effects to go with the different weapons. I would have liked to hear more punch to the blasts of some of the heavy weaponry, though.
Complaints? Oh, I have a couple of little ones. You can only hold one weapon at a time (when that one runs out of ammo, you revert to your default weapon which has infinite ammo). So you're in combat, and you see your favorite weapon appear, and you pick it up, but then bump into some other weapon that has appeared and end up with that instead. There's no way to control whether or not you pick up a weapon other than to avoid running into it, but in the kaleidoscope of mass destruction, it can be hard to tell what you're running over. And there's no way to prioritize the weapons so that you only pick up a weapon off the ground if you have it ranked higher than the one you're currently carrying. The problem is especially acute when you have spent all your data points upgrading a certain weapon, only to have that weapon replaced in your hands with one you haven't upgraded at all. Also, I've had trouble judging jumps and ledges because I've both fallen through solid ground to my death, and hung way out over a cliff standing on thin air Wile E. Coyote style - that's a glitch. Finally, on any level you can collect letters to spell out 'BONUS' and unlock a bonus level. These levels are very peculiar twists of old arcade games with an Enforcer theme, like a Pacman where you're the pacman and aliens are the ghosts and you're picking up data points. Another one is a Frogger where you're trying to pick up data points on a highway while avoiding speeding cars. Weird. After the rush and action of the game itself, these bonus levels seem dull, and I never looked forward to unlocking one except for the data points I could collect. On the plus side, they're timed to last only 60 seconds, so they're not dull for long.
Shooting, shooting, and more shooting. There's no denying that this game gets repetitive after awhile, but can you think of an arcade game that doesn't? The levels are short and there are lots of them (about 40 total, not counting bonus levels), the weapons are varied as are the aliens, the locales are well-drawn and fun, and the screen is almost continually packed with stuff dying. What more could you want in escapist arcade entertainment?
People who downloaded X-COM: Enforcer have also downloaded:
X-COM: Interceptor, X-COM: Terror from the Deep Collector's Edition, X-COM: Apocalypse, UFO: Enemy Unknown Collector's Edition, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, Vietnam 2: Special Assignment, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
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