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XCOM: Enemy Unknown makes a confident leap to touchscreens

XCOM Enemy Unknown Interview

Much like the Apple products it launches on very soon, XCOM: Enemy Unknown “just works” when played with a touchscreen, it turns out. Shocker. If you’re here looking for info about the game itself, you’d be best off looking at our review of 2012’s highly praised turn-based strategy game. We’re here today to give you a sense of how all of that feels once you bring it over to a tablet interface.

First, some basic housekeeping: although Enemy Unknown is coming out for all iOS devices, we only got to spend time sampling the iPad version of the game. What’s more, this particular demo was running well – but still not perfectly – on a fourth-generation iPad (the most current one). There’s still time to  improve the performance a bit and fix up some of the occasionally iffy controls, but it definitely seems like the core spirit of Enemy Unknown is alive and well in this direct port.

Mostly direct port, we should say. 2K Games still hopes to bring multiplayer to iOS, as we learned at the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference in March, but there aren’t any updates on that front at this point. The mobile release also sports fewer cutscenes (specifically the autopsy/interrogation bits) and maps, but not to a level that players will really notice it on a single runthrough.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Map navigation controls are as intuitive as a regular touchscreen user would expect them to be, though touch-eschewing Luddites will be happy to know there are virtual buttons as well. You can swipe around to move the camera, pinch-zoom, and spin two fingers in a clockwise/counter-clockwise motion to rotate perspective.

Squad controls are similarly intuitive. You tap to select individual squaddies, or swipe left/right where the soldier name appears in the bottom left corner of the screen to cycle through. Moving is as simple as dragging your finger off of the selected unit to the desired destination. The iOS port uses all of the same iconography from the console/PC versions of the game to denote your range of movement.

Issuing orders is entirely virtual button-based, with separate info screens providing details for what each icon means. Any order you give, whether it’s movement or some kind of action, requires a second confirmation. This should limit the potential for accidental squad commands.

In all other ways, XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iOS feels like its siblings on console/PC. The game runs well and the killer content that earned so many high marks from critics is almost completely preserved. The game also features iCloud saving, though we’re waiting for confirmation from 2K on whether or not these cloud saves can cross devices.

Expect “premium pricing” for Enemy Unknown (whatever that means) when it comes to the App Store sometime this summer.

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