|In the intervening twenty years, the Sectoids got ripped.|
You open in a world governed by ADVENT, an alien backed government that decries X-COM as terrorists. Taking initial control of the traditional tutorial sacrifices, you bring your team along with Central Officer Bradford, to extract the Commander - who, in a metafictional headfuck, is of course you - from an ADVENT facility where - to continue the headfuckery - you have spent decades unwittingly aiding the aliens by playing through endless variations of the invasion in a simulation in your mind, which is implied to have been the original X-COM reboot.
|Make no mistake; officer pullover will fuck you up.|
Much of the game is the same as it ever was, but with the addition of an overworld map which you need to navigate by contacting resistance cells, scanning locations and slowly expanding your influence. Some of your missions come from the resistance, others from scanning intel points, and some are linked to the central goal of preventing a project called Avatar reaching fruition by attacking alien facilities. The main things to get to grips with in the overworld are that funding is hella slow, scientists and engineers are rarer than hen's teeth, and you will miss out on things because there simply isn't time to do everything. Every time you set down to scan for supplies, there's a good chance one of your resistance bases will get raided, requiring you to mount a rescue mission (the game's equivalent of the old terror missions,) in which you have to tag out as many civilians as possible, at least one of whom is a shapeshifting ooze-ogre called a Faceless.
|The more things change, the more they stay the same.|
The other big difference is that you start most missions Concealed, until you get spotted or take a shot, which means that you can sneak up and ambush the first set of aliens by setting up lots of Overwatch before you spook them, and there is little in gaming more satisfying than pulling off a perfect opening ambush. There are also plenty of minor changes to the system: In particular, reloading no longer ends your turn, so if you run dry in a protracted fight you can spend your next turn by reloading and then firing. You can also call in an evac if the mission goes south, and carry your fallen comrades home for life-saving treatment or to nick their stuff. Weapons are upgraded at a squad level (unlock the shard gun and all your shotguns become shard guns) but can individually be fitted with modular upgrades like stocks, sights and hair-triggers captured from dead enemies to give a nice, piecemeal feeling to the loadout.
|"We'll include all the old alien types, but unrecognisable and really nasty."|
|"You're very tall."|
|The Codex is basically Norton Antivirus with an actual gun.|
There's only one real problem with the game, and that is that it kind of spoils its predecessor. I've played a lot of X-COM over the last couple of years, but I'm not sure I'll go back to it now that it's just a simulation I played in my head while I was in a tank, so that the aliens could learn to beat my peeps in battle. It's like being... the anti-Ender, which is depressing, if probably free of ultra-right bias at least.