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March 19, 2014 / Jett

XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iPhone Impressions

2K raised some eyebrows (mine included) when they announced a port of XCOM: Enemy Unknown for iOS. I love that game, but how the heck were they going to make it work on those devices? Well after the fact, I found out that it works pretty well.

As far as I can tell, the iPhone game is a fairly straight-up port. All of the same gameplay is kept intact, right down to the weird glitches when enemies hit by rockets go flying through the floor. On that basis alone, this makes for a quality product.

Now the real question is how well does it work as a mobile experience? Graphically, I think it’s using the exact same visuals, though everything has been scaled down to work on the device. It clearly doesn’t look as good as the home version but it looks great on the phone or tablet.

Due to its turn-based nature, it’s easy to simply stop at any time and carry on later. The game by default saves after every turn, though you can adjust it so that it only saves manually. I’m very particular about managing my saves with XCOM, but manually saving on my phone just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. Instead of throwing my phone out of the window each time my whole team got killed or I lost progress because I forgot to save, I toned the difficulty down to easy, which still proves to be a challenge.

I wish they had done a bit more to optimize the interface for the device. Moving the camera around can be a bit finicky, especially during odd cases where the camera glitches out and moves way out of focus. Moving characters is fairly easy, though there are times when you’ll mean to touch a tile and instead touch an adjacent character, which throws off your controls. I wish the interface and the menus as a whole were reworked as well, as there were opportunities where text could have been easier to read or options were easier to navigate through.

Misgivings aside, I’ve poured in many hours into this iOS version of XCOM already. If anything, the worst part about the game is that its a battery vampire. Playing for about an hour will turn your fully-charged phone into a brick, so choose your spots wisely. This is definitely meatier – and more expensive – than most of the mobile fare out there, but if you’re in the mood for a proven strategy game, check this one out.

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