The lights are on
When the first trailer for Firaxis Games' XCOM: Enemy Unknown expansion was released, we got the hint that there might be more to contend with than the alien menace. It seems that a paramilitary group called Exalt is just fine with being assimilated by the aliens, and they are doing their best to disrupt XCOM activities.
Recently, we sat down with XCOM: Enemy Within's lead designer, Ananda Gupta. Not only did we get to see the new breed of enemies in action, we got to fight them ourselves.
Exalt will enter the fray in the beginning part of XCOM's mid-game. There are cells throughout the world that are working on operations. Once those fire off, whether it’s stealing money, inciting panic, or destroying research progress, that cell will be exposed for a limited amount of time.
Before they go into hiding, you can task one of your soldiers on an undercover mission. You can also fire off intel scans that expose any active cells, destroying their progress and giving you a window to infiltrate.
Those soldiers will go in civilian clothing with only a pistol for protection. They can use items and their abilities, though. After a period of time, they will signal for evacuation, and you'll either need to execute that mission or lose your operative forever.
They come in two flavors. Extractions require the covert operative to collect intel from two points and get to the Sky Ranger under cover of an armed team. Data recovery ops put the recovery team on the defensive in a king of the hill type match.
There are two critical points: a transmitter and an encoder that masks it. Exalt must first capture and hold the encoder, before they can move in on the transmitter. In this mission, you'll need to defeat all enemy troops, which is not the case in the other type.
"We needed a strategic layer initiative where the player controls the tempo," Gupta told us. There is an end-game, as each successful infiltration of Exalt yields a clue as to which country is harboring the enemy base.
Correctly accusing a country will enable a raid to permanently end Exalt's operations. Making a mistake and pinning it on the wrong country will cause the target to leave the council immediately. For example, a successful covert operation might tell you that the Exalt base is not in North America. These are conveniently tracked in-game.
Taking out Exalt quickly will be important, as their skills and abilities ramp up throughout the game. The operatives, snipers, heavies, and medics use gene mods, and some of those include ones that aren't available to XCOM troops. At a certain point in the timeline, Elite Exalt troops start showing up with these new abilities.
With the new enemies come a few new grenade types. Ghost grenades confer stealth to anyone in the target zone. Gas grenades mimic Thin Man spit and inflict damage over time.
During our playthrough, we successfully completed an extraction on the new rural highway construction map. Our team hit its shots, and we pulled out with barely a scratch.
The data recovery mission went far worse. The tire shop is a great new locale, and I was able to use a truck on lift as a makeshift bomb. My luck turned after that, and Exalt surprised me with new troops dropping in that wiped my team out.
Regardless of my catastrophic collapse, Enemy Within is great fun. It makes smart changes to the core formula and offers up new challenge thanks to the eight new human enemies and two new aliens we've previously discussed (the Mechtoid and Seeker).
Multiplayer fans will be happy to know that there are eight new maps, and all eight Exalt types are fully supported. Enemy Within is challenging and exciting, providing smart changes to the core experience that create a fresh new experience.
You'll be able to battle back the traitorous humans on November 12th. Enemy Within will be downloadable content on PC and a separate retail version will release for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
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