Boots on the ground, fingers on the screen in XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is heading to iOS devices and I’ve now seen it with my own two eyes. When I booked a 2013 Game Developer’s Conference appointment with lead designer Jake Solomon, I expected and prepared for a sitdown interview on the state of things at Firaxis in the wake of the 2012 hit. Imagine my surprise then when Solomon whipped out an iPad with no prompting and immediately fired up Enemy Unknown.

The 2K China-developed port is indeed just that: a direct copy of the campaign portion of the console game, carried over to iOS devices. Solomon’s demo was running on a current gen iPad, though iPhone will be supported as well. 2K is still working out the official support plans as far as which generations of iDevice the game will support, but Solomon confirms that he’s seen the game running on more than the latest.

The interface is, of course, the biggest change in this touchscreen-only port. Managing your squad seems extremely intuitive, with taps, swipes, and drags appearing to work exactly as you’d imagine them to. Individual squad members can be selected with a quick tap or by swiping left and right in the bottom-left corner to cycle between them. Movement requires a double-tap on the desired destination, with a single one merely bringing up the move range overlay that fans of the console/PC release should be familiar with.


Visually, only a few corners appear to have been cut. From the “ant farm” headquarters to the actual on-the-ground strategic play, the game looks very close to how it does on consoles. Solomon confirms that there are fewer polygons making up the world and that the overall number of map layouts in the game has been cut down. There are still multiple variants for each location, however. More importantly, the core gameplay is fully intact.

The only real absence from the game’s iOS release is on the multiplayer side. XCOM: Enemy Unknown definitely won’t offer online play as a feature when the game launches in summer 2013, but it’s not completely out of the question as an update or add-on down the road. The iOS version also won’t include any XCOM DLC; the particulars of offering that content to iOS-using gamers in some form are still being worked out. Firaxis is optimistic though.

The only other big question at this point is the price, and 2K isn’t talking. Fans can expect premium pricing in the App Store, though a 2K rep confirms that “premium” doesn’t at all mean that the iOS release will be priced at the same level as the boxed retail game. As anyone who played Enemy Unknown knows, there’s a lot of game here. Stay tuned for more from Solomon next week; he had a lot to say during our chat about the success of XCOM and the general philosophy that the team at Firaxis is embracing as they start to look ahead.