POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT - this reveals a new type of alien for turn-based tactical add-on, XCOM: Enemy Within. If you've already decided that you're getting the expansion and would rather encounter and adapt to it yourself, give this preview a miss. This hands-on focuses on one particular encounter, for additional in-depth overview of Enemy Within's new features, you can also check out our other hands-on account .
All rise to salute the fallen. Sergeant Balls, start the bagpipes. AHEM. Lt. April "Congo" Palmer, slain by a Floater's light plasma rifle in Operation Devil's Giant. Eleven kills to her name. Squaddie Eric Stevens, mauled to death trying to taser a Chryssalid at melee range during Operation Flying Skull. My, my, what a mess that was. Lt. Shaojie Zhang, slain by a Thin Man at range in Operation Dark Vanguard. Rookie Dieter Kohler, strangled to death by a flying metal octopus During Operation Devil's Giant.
Wait, flying metal octopus? Balls, stop the bagpipes. Colonel Jenkins, stop crying. Nobody told me anything about a flying goddamn octopus .
INCIDENT DEBRIEF - OPERATION DEVIL'S GIANT
COMMANDING SOLDIER - April Palmer
PALMER: Responding to reports of alien abductions on Australian soil, we tracked down alien signatures to a small garage. We deployed from the Skyranger in a fan formation and commenced a sweep of the area.
OFFICER: And that's when you saw them, Lieutenant?
PALMER: Yes, sir. They were scouting the parking lot and cloaked when they detected us. A pair of giant flying metal goddamn octopuses, sir.
OFFICER: My god. How did you proceed?
PALMER: We deployed Lt. Ben Hudson and consolidated inside his protective distortion field.
OFFICER: How is Hudson coping with having no arms or legs?
PALMER: He screams whenever he sees his reflection, sir, but he says that putting on a giant mech suit with an on-board flamethrower is excellent therapy.
OFFICER: And then what happened, Lieutenant?
PALMER: Three Mutons burst through a door and a pair of Floaters attacked from the rooftop. Our sniper on overwatch nailed one of the flyers and Hudson used his flamethrower to waste an area, pushing the Mutons back behind some nearby vehicles. He then used his 'collateral damage' attack to destroy their cover. The cover was explosive cars, which exploded. The Mutons did not survive.
OFFICER: And on a scale of one to badass, how badass was this?
PALMER: This was actually extremely badass, sir.
OFFICER: And that's when they octopus attacked?
PALMER: One of them decloaked right next to Rookie Kohler, siezed his throat with its tentacles, and began to strangle him, sir. This seems to be their primary mode of attack. They seem to intentionally target the weak or the isolated, attack them, cloak again and resume hunting. Kohler, he'd already taken a hit from that damn floater. He ... he didn't make it, sir.
OFFICER: Other witnesses have described their methods as "balls-out terrifying". Would you concur?
PALMER: Yes sir, these new enemies are absolute bastards. They're an efficient counter to overstretched squads that might be rushing to activate those new Meld canisters in the field. They know we need them to power our mechs and genetic augmentations, and they know that we'll be rushing to get Meld before the canisters expire.
OFFICER: It's almost as though whoever designed these damn squid really knows what they're doing.
PALMER: Affirmative. the presence of these octo-squid, or "Seekers" as our scientists call them, slowed the team down considerably. We needed to put more soldiers on stationary overwatch to try and kill them as they decloaked. There's good news from the science labs, though. They've come up with tech that can inflate internal breathing tubes to fend off strangulation, and developed armour that electrocutes the bastards.
OFFICER: The amount of new research our scientists have been doing into cybernetic research and genetic modification is impressive, Lieutenant. We're particularly taken with the needle grenades that respect cover, but painfully disrespect anything fleshy trapped in the blast radius, and the invisibility grenade, of course, but I question their invention of the battle-fedora that assault soldier Lorenzo "The Hat" Ricci seems so fond of.
PALMER: It's my belief that the addition of the battle-fedora is mission critical, sir.
OFFICER: I hear that you dealt with the remaining X-Rays admirably, and got the rest of your squad back safely, thank god. How did you fare fighting in unfamiliar territory?
PALMER: It was a pleasure, sir. Recently, the aliens haven't just been attacking warehouses, forests and dime stores. We've taken on the alien threat in new urban areas, graveyards in the far-east, radar stations, farmlands and industrial piers. The multi-tiered battle zones offer plenty of raised sniping spots, and our assault soldiers just love dashing through those close interiors. There's also been a great variety of missions from the very moment he aliens invaded, and we were able to quickly draw up the specs needed to field mechs and genetically modded soldiers quickly.
OFFICER: Very good. But what can you tell me about that other incident, on that pier.
PALMER: The one with the whale , sir?
OFFICER: That's right, Lieutenant, that's exactly the one I mean.
PALMER: Well, sir, we were responding to an emergency contact when --[REDACTED]--
[REMAINING INTERVIEW CLASSIFIED PENDING COUNCIL REVIEW]
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Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.