XCOM®: Enemy Unknown iPad Review

By , on June 21, 2013
Last modified 8 years, 4 months ago

XCOM®: Enemy Unknown
  • Publisher: 2K
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: 20 Jun, 2013
  • Size: 1.6 GB
  • Price: $9.99
Download on the AppStore
5 out of 5


  • Essentially the full XCOM experience on your mobile device.
  • Deep and rewarding strategy.
  • Base management is as engaging as combat.
  • Tens of hours of content.


  • Occasional issues with some gesture controls.


We know it’s pricey, but if you like playing strategy titles on the go, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the best and deepest mobile games available on the App Store. The fate of the world is in your hands, Commander. What are you going to do?

  • Full Review
  • App Store Info

The iOS version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown represents something of a gamble. Developer 2K China has spent time and money of porting last year’s console and PC strategy favourite to iPad and iPhone. This is no companion app – XCOM iOS is the real deal. Apart from some derezzed visuals and a slightly smaller map count, what you’re looking at is the complete XCOM experience in portable, touchscreen form.

If you were abducted by aliens and missed the hype surrounding the game original release, here are the Cliff notes. You are the commander of XCOM, a science-powered military organisation charged with protecting the future of mankind by detecting and eliminating alien threats.

Gameplay is split into two distinct categories. For half the game you’ll be engaging in top-down turn-based combat, using a small squad of specially trained XCOM troops to investigate and neutralise extraterrestrial activity. Your objectives range from shooting anything that isn’t human, to research gathering and search and rescue missions.

The rest of your time will be spent back at your base. Here, you must divide your focus among a number of important responsibilities. Troops must be recruited and trained via the barracks. Your science team is on hand to research alien tech, and use the info to create more advanced armour and weaponry. Building all this fancy gear requires an engineering staff, whom you must also manage and expand accordingly. As XCOM is a global initiative, you need to ensure your allies around the world remain calm during the invasion, and approve of your efforts. If they lose faith in you, you lose valuable funding and resources. All of these elements must be balanced to keep the XCOM initiative alive.

As with console and PC versions, what makes XCOM great is its deliberate and unforgiving strategy mechanics. It’s essential to invest thought and consideration into each and every move you make. Caution is the keyword here. While you can dash a soldier headfirst into enemy territory and attempt to wipe out the alien scourge long gunman-style, this will inevitably result in the death of your unit. And when we say dead, we mean dead. Soldiers killed on the battlefield cannot be resurrected. Instead, you must gradually train up another rookie to take your fallen comrade’s place.

To survive you must advance carefully, taking advantage of available cover at all times. Managing your troops perks and items is important, too. Knowing who has the ability to dash and shoot in a single turn, could prove the difference between success and failure.

However, battlefield prowess is useless if you can manage your base properly. Choosing the wrong project to fund, or ignoring a particular country’s security can cost you valuable equipment and cash, and even the game. If you don’t wish to restart your efforts from scratch, you’ll want to choose carefully, and save regularly.

It goes without saying XCOM’s visuals have taken a hit on its journey to the App Store. Textures are more basic, and battlefield are lacking some of the fancier lighting and atmospheric effects. The touchscreen controls gel pretty well with the strategic point-and-click action. We noticed that the game had trouble differentiating between some of the gesture commands, and occasionally we’d end up moving the camera when we meant to move a soldier. However, none of these niggles interfered with our enjoyment of what is a top-tier port of a first class game.


Screenshot 1 of 10 Screenshot 2 of 10 Screenshot 3 of 10 Screenshot 4 of 10 Screenshot 5 of 10 Screenshot 6 of 10 Screenshot 7 of 10 Screenshot 8 of 10 Screenshot 9 of 10 Screenshot 10 of 10


istako 8 years ago

To everyone hoping to play this on a iPad 2 - the game is awesome, but don't get bought into 2K's crap. They are claiming to have not only tried to fix the crash issues, but to have already fixed them and released the fix with the last patch - no such luck. The game crashes constantly and is unplayable on my device, and it runs perfectly (on iOS7, which is actually recomended by 2K)... So just saying, if you have an iPad 2... wait a bit. I'll gladly buy this again when it's FIXED, because the game is quite awesome, but until then I'm good.

DarkScience 8 years, 2 months ago

Yes I have tried it on the phone, your right there is just too much going on for the phones small screen. I play in on my iPad mini - its fine on there!

I said I would write a little on the game after playing so here it is (sorry its a bit longer than planned!):

I was certainly sceptical of the hype this game received, I have never played the original on console either so I was pretty blind to its gameplay and history other than the review. The style of the game being turn based strat, the fact that it involves an alien invasion and the few quid off original price were enough for me to invest, and I am glad I did!

What has struck me the most playing this game is the relationship you seem to build with your soldiers. The first time you get a solder with a chaf haircut you go in and tweak him up so he looks mean, a few plays in and he has been promoted and now is pretty kick ass. A few more days play and you have a full team of characters who you have styled, nicknamed each with a given roll, ie medic, blow the crap out of every thing guy, plasma rifle guy. This aspect of the game is hard to appreciate watching some one else play, but you feel so much for these little guys and you become very aware that one wrong move will see your invaluable sniper wipped out, stats all gone with no idea when another sniper will develop in your team!

My last session saw me taking on a hidden alien base (in hindsight somewhat prematurely) the team swept through the base and confidence grew, but then 2 alien insects changes it all. It was like watching a sci fi horror movie as each of my soldiers were stabbed by the fast little buggers, before turning into zombies, turning on each other throwing up green stuff allover the place! My big guns guy stayed behind to give the sniper a chance to leg it and reload, but he too was lost taking out only one insect. Then it was all quiet as the sniper had lost view of the remaining alien, after the reload it appeared right in front of them, there was one chance to shoot the little blighter in the face, but it did not kill him, cue sniper zombie! The whole team was horrifically wiped out (sounds like my kind of film to be honest!!) Subsequently lead to a previous game save load and a strategy re-think! But lesson learnt!

As you can see from that lot (sorry!!) you get so involved with this game, on a level I have never experienced before, for me thats what keeps me coming back. On top of that the game play is great, tonnes of stuff to level up, countries to manage / keep sweet and the money is certainly an issue, its tense even when your not shooting.

If you have the cash and the space in your memory for this game definitely give it a play! It is by fat the best turn based strategy game I have ever played!

makedonii 8 years, 2 months ago

DarkScience i hope you play it on the ipad, cuz its cinda unplayable on the iphones small screen

DarkScience 8 years, 2 months ago

Only a few quid off, but enough to make my head believe its making a saving !! Lets see what all the hype is about!! I'll update next week...

Jonman 8 years, 4 months ago

is it worth the 19.99 though, seems a little much

DarkScience 8 years, 4 months ago

It's cheaper then the console version, and virtually identical!

Jonman 8 years, 4 months ago

thanks, ill definitely consider this

DarkScience 8 years, 4 months ago

Thanks James! been waiting for that - it really does look as good as all the hype! TBS is definitely my favourite genre. But with recent purchases of frozen synapse and Lev. war ships (and KOTOR) I have plenty to keep me going for a few months. I doubt the price will drop any time soon, but thats ok - it looks worth it!!