Xcom Enemy Within review

NOTE: Xcom Enemy Within comes as a standalone expansion on consoles and separately on PC. Console versions contain the original Xcom Enemy Unknown, as well as all previous DLCs, including Project Slingshot and additional customization DLCs, along with the Enemy Within expansion.

Xcom Enemy Within is the first major expansion for Xcom Enemy Unknown, containing new additions and modifications to the game, such as MEC Troopers, genetically modified enemies, a new enemy to fight (EXALT), as well as new types of aliens and council missions. Xcom Enemy Within also includes many more new maps, with older maps slightly modified to adhere to the new MELD gameplay mechanics, as well as additional multiplayer maps and new second wave options.

The additional gameplay mechanics do a good job of being implemented, without altering the core aspects of the game. You will have to choose whether the MELD containers are worth the risk to your troops and how you will spend the MELD you collect. Do you create MEC Troopers, Genetic Soldiers, or a combination of both? It’s your decision!


MELD is a new alien device feature in maps that applies to genetic modifications of soldiers, or the creation of MEC Troopers and their MEC suits. On the map there will be 2 sources of MELD, which must be reached by a soldier and then activated before the timer goes off, dealing damage to nearby units. MELD is not an infinite source, as missed opportunities will not be present if you visit the same map again. You can get some MELD from destroying Mectoids and I think Elite Floaters too, but the payoffs are small compared to the MELD containers on the map. The MELD allows you to choose between risk and reward, and it works very well. One MELD container will generally be close to your units and the other in a more remote location away from your units, raising the question of whether your soldiers’ lives are worth risking.

MEC Soldiers

MEC Troopers are a unique addition to the game, allowing for more strategic options with higher firepower, at the cost of permanently turning a selected soldier into a MEC Trooper. Any volunteer from the MEC Trooper program will have their limbs amputated and replaced with cyber limbs, allowing them to operate the new MEC suits. However, no MEC Trooper will ever be allowed to use conventional weaponry, nor their human skill set again, and will forever be a part of the MEC Suits, sporting a more robotic voice. This sacrifice gives them access to the very powerful MEC suits, allowing them to use heavy weaponry, such as mini-pistols, rail cannons, particle cannons, grenade launchers, etc. There are three level upgrades for the costumes, from which you will choose a choice between each. Do you choose a flamethrower or the kinetic attack module, since you can’t have both and it works similar to normal human skill sets? They will also retain their stats before boosting, so it’s best to reserve them for higher ranked soldiers.

Their original class before becoming a MEC soldier also gives them a passive buff, and they will level up and gain new skill sets for the MEC soldier as they move up. They are great when you need to bring in heavy firepower, especially against Mectoids and Sectopods, and other strong firepower units. You can also set them up for a support role, using restorative mist and becoming a shield for other units, so the options are up to you!

Genetic modifications

Genetically modifying your soldiers with MELD opens up new strategic options for your soldiers. As you perform autopsies on the aliens, you will discover new mod options for the soldiers. There are 5 different sections your soldier can have surgery for. Brain, Chest, Eyes, Legs and Skin are the options available to modify as you discover new options. These options offer interesting gameplay options, such as increased leg strength to jump over buildings, a bioelectric skin that allows you to detect nearby enemies without alerting them and make you immune to strangulation (seeker attack). You can even give their brain neural feedback, which will cause psi attacks against them to be knocked back towards the attacker, dealing a large amount of damage and putting all of their psi attacks on cooldown. So, as you can see, you may find some interesting genetic soldiers, and they will also change appearance, because their arms will be more exposed in their armor. As with the MEC Troopers, they will be out of action for a while (usually 3 days), except if you have a soldier with multiple surgeries ready for him, then it will be 3 days for each surgery, and they will be out of action until released.


Exalt is a new enemy organization that you will fight in Xcom Enemy Within. They are a terrorist organization designed to hinder and take down the Xcom organization, and they sympathize with the aliens and will do whatever it takes to slow down the project. EXALT operates through cells in the world, and this opens a new Covert Ops menu in the situation room. For a fee, you can scan and locate EXALT cells and send an operative inside to interrupt your work. Black ops soldiers can only use a pistol and one item, and not wear armor, and when it’s time for an extraction, you must send a squad to take down the cell and extract the operative, or he will be lost. Weapons obtained from Exalt can also be used by your own units and have the same base stats as XCOM-created gear of the same type. For each completed operation against EXALT, you will get new information about your base of operations and where it might be located. You can accuse a country of harboring them at any time, but making a false accusation will cause the country to abandon the project and add another brand to the Doom Tracker, so choose wisely! If you choose correctly, you can launch an assault on their base of operations, and if successful, knock them out of the fight entirely!

There are 2 types of extraction missions. One is to protect the data in a “king of the hill” style game player, where you must protect a square area with the computer inside EXALT from hacking it and locating the other transmitters. The other mission, your undercover operative, is to hack into two EXALT communications arrays and then proceed to take the operative to the Skyranger extraction point.

New aliens

XCOM’s Enemy Within also includes two new aliens to fight against, the Mechtoid and the Seeker. The Mechtoid is a Sectoid within a large two-pedal mechanism similar to the MEC Trooper suits, and just as dangerous. They can even receive mind melds from other sectoids, giving them a shield above their normal hit points.

The Seeker is a floating squid-like enemy that can hide and turn invisible, and will then search for lone units to strangle them. They will respawn and strangle their target, slowly killing them and rendering them unable to act while in the act, although there are genetic modifications and elements that help against strangulation. They prefer “hit and run” tactics and will generally attack when least expected.

Other additions

In addition to a base defense mission, and including Project Progeny (which was originally a scrapped DLC, but remade and included in Enemy Within), there are additional Second Wave options (options that can drastically change the game in various ways), changes to certain skills and level ups, and much more. New items have been added, such as new grenades and new foundry changes, which work with the new additions of MEC soldiers.


Overall, Xcom Enemy Within is an amazing expansion for an already amazing strategy game, and it doesn’t get in the way or hinder the core aspects of the original game, and is an example of how the DLC expansion should be done. I personally expect more XCOM from the firaxis team, and if you are a fan of Xcom Enemy Unknown (2012), then this is a must for you.

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