I never played the original X-Com back in 1993/1994 when it came out. I am told, however, that it is One Of The Greatest Games Of All Time.

“Here’s what happens,” Fish told me. “Aliens invade but you don’t know anything about them. They’ve got alien tech, alien biology, and so on. You don’t understand any of it. You shoot a few, though, kill a few, then you can start doing autopsies and learn about their biology. You capture a gun and you can try to reverse engineer it. It’s not just about repelling an alien invasion… it’s about *LEARNING HOW TO*.”

Whoa, I thought. I regretted not playing the original. “What about the sequels?” “Eh,” he shrugged.

Fair enough.

Which brings me to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Holy cow, this game is awesome. Here’s what happens, aliens invade but we don’t know anything about them. They’ve got alien tech, alien biology, and so on. We don’t understand any of it. We shoot a few, though, kill a few, then we can start doing autopsies and learn about their biology. We capture a gun and we try to reverse engineer it. It’s not just about repelling an alien invasion… it’s about *LEARNING HOW TO*.

You start with a 4-man team of soldiers who each take their turns (it’s not real time!) moving across the board… from cover to cover, if you want to survive, and it reminds me of Descent, kinda, insofar as you can run and go double distance, shoot once and move once, or shoot a special weapon (rocket launcher, sniper rifle). As the game progresses, you collect more samples and tech, which allow you to develop better weapons, which allow you to collect more samples and tech, and so on. There’s geopolitical intrigue insofar as, sometimes, you have exclusive choices (do you stop the abduction in China or the one in Canada? China’s reward is cold, hard cash but Canada’s reward is a handful of scientists… which do you need more? Oh, and you should know that the country you *DON’T* help will have its panic level rise somewhat).

You’ve got combat, you’ve got resource management, you’ve got aliens… and, most importantly, it seems they captured what made the original game special instead of trying to update the game for consoles (the way OH SO MANY games try and fail to do… usually by making them first-person shooters) and, as such, it’s a game that I can’t wait to get back to playing. Now, I haven’t beaten it so it might do something dumb like have the aliens all be rogue programs from the matrix following Mass Effect 4’s revelation that you actually chose synthesis but that created a race of spider robots or something but, barring something like that happening, I’d say that anybody who both loves video games and loved the movie Independence Day should definitely check this game out.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. I never played the original either, but I keep hearing lots of good things about this one. It seems to be a rare remake that is still appreciated by fans of the original.

    • I’m having a blast with it so far. The new technologies the game provides also provides new challenges. “Oh, I can capture aliens now? I have to completely change how I play!” That sort of thing… you go from playing all cautious and snipery to playing headstrong and chargey.

      I love games that make me rethink my tactics on the fly.

  2. I find the outpouring of love for the original XCOM kind of bizarre. I’m not exactly ignorant of the history of video games, and I’ve never even heard of XCOM. And yet, everyone says it’s One Of The Greatest Games Of All Time. So strange. Where have I been?

    • This was back during the period in my life where I was a “starving college student” and could not purchase video games at will. I had to pick between Heroes Of Might and Magic II and XCom.

      I picked Heroes.

      That’s why *I* never played it.

      • Heroes of Might and Magic II! HOLY CRAP!!! That was about as sophisticated as I got in RPG or whatever style of game that was. A few years back I was able to download a version for free off the internet. The only problem was that there was SOMETHING off in the code and the code was in all German. Somehow, despite knowing neither coding nor German, I located the error and got the game functional. Used to love that ish. I tried some of the later ones but they were all too complicated for me, which is more indicative of my low threshold for complication than any actual “problems” in the games.

    • The original xcom was an absolutely fantastic game. YOU SHOULD PLAY IT. ALL of you!

      Seriously, a game from 94 that is still playable and awesome?

      It ranks on par with Star Control II — which is another awesome awesome game.

      Next you’ll say you’ve never played Monkey Island. Or Grim Fandango.

  3. The thing that has struck me about XCOM is when I read reviews of it I assumed the squad-level action was the game. In truth much of the real game is what happens between missions.

    • I’ve actually had to restart. I’ve been playing XCOM as if I had a lot more pocket money than I actually had. You can’t play as if you’re playing Heroes, even at the beginning. Being a miser will get you a lot farther than saying “hurray, I made new kinds of body armor! Better buy four!”

  4. I bought XCOM yesterday and was monkeying around with the tutorial. I knew Firaxis and 2K Games had gotten it right when I suddenly realized that it was 0045 and I really needed to go to bed! Sure, they tweaked a few things here and there, but mostly what they did right is that this is the same game I remember playing back in the ’90s, only with better graphics and sound effects.

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