XCOM 2 on Xbox One review: The revolution has arrived

Twenty years ago the aliens took Earth, now it's time to fight back.

The aliens had won the war. They infiltrated our planet, made alliances with our politicians, and now we are firmly under their thumb. Propaganda has led the masses to believe in the Elders, but not all hope is lost. XCOM was driven underground but continued to fight back as a guerrilla operation.

Now the tides are turning. You, the Commander, have been rescued from the Elders and it's time to hit them where it hurts. The revolution has begun in earnest, and our only options are to defeat the monsters who have taken our planet...or die trying. This is XCOM 2.

Meet a dark future

For the most part the graphics in XCOM 2 aren't the best you're going to see from an Xbox One console. You'll see plenty of dark colors, interspersed with virulent glowing green from Advent technology. The graphics give you a feel that this is a dark, and guarded future, which plays in perfectly with the overall feel and story for the game.

No two missions are exactly alike. You'll find cover in the forms of cars, buildings, benches, trees, and even rocks. Every time something can be used as cover, you'll see either a half, or full, glowing blue shield to indicate what kind of cover it is. You do want to be careful about that though, because it's pretty easy for enemies to mow through wooden cover, and vehicles once caught on fire will definitely explode.

There is a lot of detail in the little things though. From the way your surroundings look familiar, and yet alien at the same time, to the different ways that you can customize each soldier in your squad. It's apparent that the developers worked to make sure that the graphics didn't overshadow the gameplay, while still giving you enough to easily sink your teeth into.

Viva la revolution!

XCOM 2 takes up two decades after the last game ended. The aliens that you were trying to defeat won the war, and have most of humanity under their sway. You, the Commander were taken by the Elders and for 20 years, XCOM has been searching, hoping that somehow you'd survived. That, is where things jump off.

Free from the Elders' clutches, your mission is to pick back up where you left off. Except that this time instead of trying to stop the aliens from invading, your job is to eliminate the threat on Earth and destroy the Elders and their influence. This is no easy task either. After all, 20 years is quite a long time for them to indoctrinate the humans under their influence, and dig in.

You'll have to steal alien technology, gather information, and do absolutely everything in their power to stop the extra terrestrials who have decided that Earth is theirs. With the Commander back in charge, there is hope again for the first time. This is a game about revolution, covert operations, and secrecy.

Unlike its predecessor, this time you are working with less than stellar resources. Your base is hidden from the Elders, and you'll be foraging for equipment and upgrades even while you are out on the battle field. You won't be running into any familiar faces from the previous game, but you can expect to here about them from the folks who have taken up their mantle.

Stay secret, stay safe

The XCOM franchise has always been at it's core, a strategy game. In that vein, XCOM 2 lives up to the promise even more so than the last game to. You'll have to think ahead to survive this battle because from the very get go, you are seriously outnumbered by the enemy.

XCOM 2 manages to blend the gameplay that got an entire new generation hooked on the franchise, with fantastic new features that add to the feel instead of taking away from it. You'll find new classes with great tweaks on their abilities, plenty of new research to occupy your scientists, and new enemies to destroy and then autopsy.

One of the big additions is how concealment works. At the beginning of each mission, your entire team is concealed. This will keep up until either you enter the enemy's range of vision, or you open fire on them. This is why flanking your enemies and setting up overwatch to attack as soon as they move upon seeing you is so important. Certain soldiers, like the Ranger, can acquire abilities that will keep them in concealment even after the rest of your squad has been detected.

The new classes are fantastic as well. You get access to the Ranger, who works as a scout and has access to a sword that can quickly eliminate enemies up close. The specialist deploys a drone which can help to aid your squadmates, or help deal with your enemies. Grenadiers have taken over for the Heavy and will take care of launching grenades to eliminate the Advent forces when they try to swarm.

Your characters also have new actions. In combat, you can pick up a severely wounded comrade to get them back to the ship in one piece. You'll also be able to hack Advent technology, and loot upgrades and equipment off of fallen Advent soldiers. Each specialized class also recieves specific actions that only their class can access. You'll also be able to set where your evac point is, unlike earlier iterations that had you moving your squad to get to it.

It's worth saying, that there is a pretty serious learning curve. I definitely managed to get my entire team killed on the first mission by disregarding flanking and concealment. The game doesn't take it easy on you, even when you're playing on normal difficulty. You're going to lose squad members, and you're going to have to replay missions. Rather than getting immediately discouraged, try to learn from your mistakes to keep from getting your squad annihilated.

You'll also get an eye on all of your stats at the end of each mission. On top of a base grade based on your kill to death ratio you'll also see an average of how many Advent agents you killed each turn, how much damage you inflicted, and more. Even if you don't manage to loot an enemy on the battlefield, you'll get what they were carrying, provided the mission ends with at least one turn left to loot the body. You'll also get a notification with a headshot each time you recruit a staff member.

You'll also receive money and resources when you complete a mission. You'll want to be quite careful with how you use these resources — you'll never have enough to accomplish everything you need at once. Instead you need to think carefully about how, and when, you expand, or what you have engineers build. The last thing you need is to be lacking alloys when you desperately need them to build new weapons to stay on even footing with your enemy.

Overall the gameplay has expanded and improved upon what we saw in the last XCOM game. Everything works together really well, and while the game itself has a steep learning curve, the gameplay is top notch and easy to learn.


XCOM 2 is a fantastic strategic follow up that blends old elements and new with serious flair.


  • Tons of new features
  • Thrilling story
  • Easy to learn and dive into


  • Game has a serious learning curve
  • You may need to replay missions several times before surviving
  • Managing money and resources can be quite difficult

XCOM 2 is easily one of the best strategy games currently available on console. It's got a stellar story, with plenty of gameplay elements to keep you intrigued and wanting more. While the game does have a heavy learning curve, and can be quite frustrating at times, it doesn't overly punish you for your mistakes. That's why we've awarded XCOM 2 with 4 stars — you can get it today for $59.99.

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This review was conducted using a copy purchased by the reviewer.

Jen Karner

Jen is a contributing writer for WindowsCentral. She's an avid gamer, especially when she gets to kill zombies, craft things, or use a bow. She can often be heard yelling about her chainsaw while playing Gears of War 4. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.