I've been meaning to get into XCOM for a long time, and it was with Chimera Squad that I finally took the plunge. I haven't really given strategy games a chance since I obsessed over the grand strategy of Medieval: Total War almost two decades ago, but I decided to break my long tactics duck after hearing Firaxis' latest is especially beginner-friendly.
And that has been my experience so far. Not only is it half price ($10/£8.50), I can also get straight into the action with pre-made characters with existing back stories. Rather than carefully crafting my own characters only for them to ignominiously die shortly after, I can get started straight away with heroes designed by folk much more creative than me. Curiously, though, it's not the strategic action in XCOM: Chimera Squad that's sticking with me, not the last-gasp evacs and crucial critical shots, but its transport system.
I'm specifically referring to the hologram of the game's urban setting, City 31. Here governing forces are attempting to cling onto an uneasy peace between humans and aliens, and you use this transparent model in the pre-battle menus to plan your squad's next move. You need to pick your battles carefully: Mission rewards vary, and you need to ensure that you don't neglect any of City 31's assorted districts for fear of unrest.
The city map is a utility, in other words. A tool with which to help Chimera Squad protect the city. For me, however, it's an infrastructural work of art. Chimera Squad just has the most astounding traffic flow of any city I've ever seen. So much as a glance at the gif above will be enough to make any town planner despair.
Just look at how fast the cars move. They rip around the holographic streets at a frightening pace without so much as braking, let alone stopping. But there are no traffic jams or accidents. Nothing. Admittedly some vehicles seem to disappear into the ether, so perhaps someone should look into that, but getting where you need to go in City 31 looks an absolute breeze. It's entrancing. Hypnotic even. In England a deceptively shallow pothole can scupper even the simplest journey, and don't even get me started on our trains.
These are the things occupying my mind when underground insurgents are threatening humanity's hard-fought peace in Chimera Squad. Maybe it shows that I'm just not cut out for strategy games: Put me in charge of anything and I'll no doubt be distracted by something shiny instead of making and implementing important decisions. Either way, the next time I'm stuck in traffic, I'll reflect on City 31's free-flowing neon veins, and despair.