The most recent addition to the X-COM franchise, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, recently made the jump to the Mac. Including all the previously released downloadable content, this Elite Edition has been much anticipated by Mac fans of the franchise.
Let’s take a look and see how gameplay on the Mac matches up to console and whether it’s worth it to double up if you’ve already got XCOM on another system.
Run and Gun
Before we even talk about XCOM on Mac, I’m going to answer the question on every console player’s mind. Yes, this is the same game you have for your Xbox or PS3. I don’t have a PC, but I’m betting it’s the same there, too. There’s some extra content in the Mac version, but you’ve essentially got the same game without a disc.
For everyone who hasn’t played XCOM: Enemy Unknown and doesn’t know what’s up, it’s pretty simple to get started. There’s even a tutorial level to get you going if you’re not sure what you should be doing. Before you get quite that far, though, you’ll need to pick a location for your XCOM base. Each continent has its pros, and I always choose Africa for the money bonus, but you can get extra engineers or scientists, too, if you set up shop elsewhere. As you’re moving into the game, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the controls and maybe turn the graphics settings all the way down. Let’s be honest, now, you’re playing on a Mac.
The game is split into two major parts, time spent on missions during which you’ll do the actual alien killing, and time spent at XCOM headquarters when you’ll build cool equipment and do experiments. There are several types of missions, and you’ll almost always have to choose among three sites. The location you choose will have a panic reduction, but the places you ignore will experience increased panic and may eventually leave the XCOM project, depriving you of resources.
Aliens come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s not obvious why that is when you start playing. I’m certainly not going to let you in on the secret, but you’ll need to be constantly upgrading your weapons and armor if you want your team to survive. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. When your guys and gals die, they stay down. There’s no do over, no Fenix Down. You’ll get attached to the old-timers, if only because you won’t want to spend the time leveling up squaddies, so you’re going to want your team to have the best equipment.
That happens in the XCOM headquarters. You’ll need to research all of the stuff you pick up from the aliens, including the aliens themselves. Using alien technology, you’ll create better guns, better armor, and even better first aid kits. With better tech, you can stay alive longer and kill more aliens. Everything costs money, though, and requires workers. Keep the XCOM council happy, and they’ll keep you in the pink, but neglect your member states, and they’ll withdraw their support. An easy way to keep everyone happy is to monitor the skies with satellites, but again, this costs you in money and people.
Officer Training School
Feral Interactive, the folks who published XCOM on the Mac, recommend you compare your system’s information to the game’s requirements before you make the purchase, and I couldn’t agree more. This is a big game that’s going to require a lot of resources. It’s about 14 GB, and that’s going to have to live on your hard disk somewhere, at least until you move it to another location. There are some pretty specific memory requirements and a whole list of graphics cards that aren’t supported. Read the requirements at the download page before you lay out your money.
Even if your machine will run XCOM, that doesn’t mean it’s going to have an easy time of it. Again, this is a big game. Before you get started, take a look in the game’s options. You’ll probably want to make sure the graphics are turned all the way down, or you may experience some serious lag. Don’t get me wrong, I love Macs, but they don’t come out of the box with the sort of graphics cards meant to play a game like XCOM, even if it is technically compatible.
Options is the place to find the keyboard mapping, and there’s a lot of it. You’ll want to get really familiar, because there’s a lot going on. It’s the kind of thing that will become second nature once you’ve played a while, but when you’re starting out, you’ll be coming back to this screen often. Thankfully, XCOM is compatible with a whole range of gamepads, so if you plan to play with a controller, you won’t have to remember what the Q, F, and X buttons are all supposed to do.
You’ve Got a Promotion
Fans of XCOM may already be familiar with the downloadable content that was previously released. Users purchasing XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Elite Edition will get all DLC available right now, including the Elite Soldier Pack, Second Wave, and Slingshot Content. That’s some good stuff, most of which was only available with preorder or through paid downloads. You’ll be getting some fancy customizations for your soldiers, extra stat features to toggle on and off, and some bonus missions.
Be aware of all of that stuff when you’re starting the game up for the first time, because you can put yourself in a bad way if you’re not sure what you’re clicking during your first load. For instance, randomized damage and stats for your soldiers may sound great if you end up with a squaddie sniper with aim of 75 and that Thin Man only knocks your underleveled assault for a single hit point. But if it goes the wrong way, it will be a really sad day for XCOM HQ. There are some tough options there, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push your limits. Just give some thought to each option before you go click crazy and toggle everything on.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a great turn-based combat game. It gives a respectful nod to the X-COM franchise of games that came before while updating the series nicely. XCOM on the Mac looks and plays great, and it’s just a lot of brilliant strategic fun. If you already own XCOM: Enemy Unknown for another system, there’s not really a compelling reason to drop fifty bones on the Mac version, but if you haven’t invested in XCOM, yet–and especially if you’re a fan of the X-COM franchise–this one is definitely worth a playthrough.