At the heart of the XCOM experience there's a deep tactical layer which has lost none of the knuckle-biting edge of the original. It's played out in turn based combat with your squad making the first move until they encounter an alien force, which then appears in a nifty cut-scene to show the enemy off before they move into position.
You won't be managing the squad's inventory (a change we're happy with) in the tactical side of the game, nor will you be hoarding Time Units etc. In this XCOM you have two actions which your soldier can perform. This does simplify things a lot but offers a new player much more freedom and less of a glacier-steep learning curve. Play continues turn by turn until you encounter the alien forces, often shown with a quick little cinematic scene to introduce them via the action camera.
When you have an alien in line of sight and combat is possible, you can press the right trigger to activate the Tactical GUI which gives you a list of options, you can trigger an ability (if you have one unlocked), fire off a shot (hit chance is based on numerous factors, including elevation and equipment) or move again for a better position. You can also trigger Overwatch, which allows your soldier to take a reaction shot against any alien that moves into their line of sight.
The shot is at a penalty, but it's better than nothing and can guard against ambushes.
You can see easily where your soldier can move to, what cover is available based on the shield icon and what objects are useable, such as ladders, which your soldier will automatically climb if they have enough movement tiles with which to do so. The 360 GUI (console GUI in general) is excellent and really intuitive to use. If you want to cover more ground you can move further than a single move, this is dashing, but it will consume both your action slots and leave you unable to do anything else except hide in cover.
The more aliens you kill using conventional (non explosive) weapons, the better, since you'll recover artefacts from their bodies and weapon fragments etc. You can use grenades/rocket launchers, but they will decimate any important components and leave you with just corpses.
Tactical Map Battle
Sometimes there's no choice if you want to save the squad, because once the soldier is dead, they're gone. If they're wounded they have to recover before they can return to active duty. This makes for intense and nail-biting battles as well as some amazing story moments (personal soldier stories) as the squaddie manages to fire off her rifle, with only a 5% chance to hit, scores a critical and decimates the Sectoid before it can open fire next turn.
XCOM is wonderful for this, for telling your own soldier's story without the need for cut-scenes and so on. It comes down to those moments of heroism where the soldier took a shot and killed the bad guy, or managed to save a critically wounded ally in the heat of heavy resistance. Perhaps you didn't know the Thin Man had Overwatch this turn, you ran to save your buddy, but the Thin Man gets a reaction shot off and even though it should have hit, it missed. You slam into cover and on your turn manage to heal your friend, open fire and finish off the Thin Man.
It might be third person isometric turn-based tactical play, but your heart is still pumping just like you're playing a first person shooter. We love it!
So that's XCOM's tactical scape in a nutshell, there are more nuances and so on, but we've covered the most important and we'll leave you to figure out the rest. Remember though, Overwatch is your friend!
Yes some things have changed; you have a simplified game in many ways but in others it's just as complex and the changes are for the better. XCOM's remake is brilliant and designed for new fans and gamers to enjoy as well as the hardcore X-Commers.
XCOM is brash, bold and colourful it runs on the Unreal Engine. So you do get some texture-pop in on some of the cut-scenes. They're quick though and smooth out pretty fast. We love the art style for it and it reminds us of GI Joe/Action Man. In fact the HQ is pretty much the Action Man HQ we always wanted to see as kids. The gung-ho aesthetic is married to a superb visual design which comes through on all levels of the game, especially in the cinematic style and vignettes which bring to mind the early Wing Commander games.
We get a feeling of nostalgia and a deep sense of gamer joy when the Skyranger rockets into the air and leaves the base, with the trails of vapour pouring out of the engines. Or when it comes down to land at a mission site and the squad disembark. These little graphical touches are something special and it makes XCOM glorious because of it.
The same can be said for the action camera in combat, which highlights awesome shots, cinematic action and makes the turn-based gameplay even more visually appealing.
All in all XCOM has a great aesthetic and visual design, it really does look grand and the special effects are spot on. Each mission area is hand designed, the aliens are often ported in randomly at the start however, so no two missions ever play alike even if the same area is used again.