XCOM on Mac: As We Play

As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time.

All feedback on this concept is welcome.


The Mac-Attack

Despite being designed with consoles in mind, there’s no denying that XCOM looks and feels better on a personal computer. Using the mouse to flick between units and tracing their path works more responsively than a control stick ever could. The game is an undeniable pleasure on all fronts and one of the greatest surprises 2012 was able to offer.

On Mac, the game doesn’t suffer from the same jutters and stammers one might expect from Xbox and certain PC’s.  The cut scenes don’t struggle under the weight of limited processor power because the game has been custom designed to be reactive and responsive to the machine in use. As such, the game can be maxed out or reduced and still perform at an exceptional level. The graphics were already enriching and enlivening but the Mac experience is all the more immersive because of this level of personalisation.

He’s my brother…

Personalisation of units and characters strikes surprising emotional chords. Many games allow you to tamper with skin pigmentation and the distance between eyebrows. XCOM doesn’t, yet you feel a closer connection to these units than most other games on the market. Name them after a partner or sibling or best friend or parent, stick them on the field of battle, watch them claim medal after medal and get their soldier status promoted, then have their guts unceremoniously splattered all over the war-torn surface. Or watch from afar as they bleed out, knowing that if you get out of cover to try and save them, you’ll also get your head blown off.

The commemorative wall posted after the mission debriefing will unmercifully create a catch in your throat.

XCOM is genius. It allows for progression and development only to snatch it all away from you. It’s a game that makes you believe in your troops and supports you in creating strength in depth, only to drag you out of the comfort zone kicking and screaming when the pressure is on. The veteran of war that takes your unit to victory may not be the character you’ve built your squad up around.

As a result, the game can be both your worst enemy and best friend and it takes great pleasure in playing both roles.

We love additional content

Mac owners instantly get all additional content released for the game upon purchasing. This includes a three mini-mission adventure called Slingshot which follows a similar structure to the main game, though isn’t filled with randomised missions.

This already makes for a full, dynamic package, though the struggle for multiplayer does create a bit of a concern for me and Mac gaming as a whole.

In 2013, we have simplified systems in place for people to play multiplayer matches with each other across Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam and even Nintendo Network. But Mac’s system just feels clunky, dated and largely unpromoted.

This drastically needs to change.



Gim mae a tag, pal

So, yes, the online experience is fully in tact on Mac. There have been no omissions as far as the core game is concerned, however, in order to play online, you’ll need to have GameRanger, a separate app, installed, something which wasn’t clearly defined without having to hunt through the instructions.

And unfortunately finding games has proven to be a challenge. The community isn’t particularly active (largely because the game has been out for a long time and released on almost every other format, including mobile and on more widely used networks).

The main issue is that Mac gamers have received the title over a half a year after everyone else. The other issue is the online system isn’t promoted properly and only seems to attract a limited window of gamers who were part of a limited window of purchasers for the format.

The result? You’re not going to get much online action.

Naturally, it’s hard to overview an online system when the game shouldn’t be stuttering and stammering because it’s not receiving pressure from droves of people logging in to play. On the same hand, when you can’t get a game because of lack of people, you also have nothing to overview.

If Mac and Apple want to be considered a competitive force in the gaming world, then the online community needs to be a massive focus for the future. When you consider Xbox One and Playstation 4 are all about their matchmaking systems, streaming gaming videos and helping each other out during certain sections and the PC version of Steam is full of online opportunities where the Mac version is hamstrung with less than half the library, Apple’s archaic approach isn’t going to win anybody over.

Final Analysis

XCOM is the game recreation that only a handful wanted, but has now created a cult following the likes of which no other rebooted franchise has seen this generation. Whether you’re a strategy afficiando or a rookie, anyone can dive in and get their jollies from this immersive experience.

It’s deep, rewarding, frustrating and emotional, and I wouldn’t change the first thing about XCOM. Conflicting feelings have never been such fun.

A wonderful Mac recreation of one of the best games in 2012. Lovingly recreated and fully formed, the game is as good as its ever been, but unfortunately suffers from poor online focus.


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