Game Armor Analysis, XCOM: Enemy Within

xcom1Lady Soldiers from XCOM: Enemy Within

Alrighty, second writeup for the weekend, GO!

I’ve meant for a while now to offer a writeup for the XCOM games. My brother picked it up a couple years ago, and I was immediately impressed with the armor designs for the women soldiers in the game. Unlike other science-fiction combat games, where skin-tight catsuits or shorts and unzipped jackets over tube tops are considered effective combat attire, ALL of the armor in XCOM offers full body coverage for both male and female soldiers. I picked up a copy from a Steam sale last week and found myself infinitely addicted.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown and its expansion Enemy Within are turn-based sci-fi strategy games featuring excellent squad-based tactical combat on various urban and wooded environments. In Enemy Unknown, players are in charge of the XCOM Project, a secret multinational organization formed to combat an alien menace responsible for abductions and experiments on human subjects across the globe. The Enemy Within expansion adds a new level of story and challenge with the addition of EXALT, a secret organization aiding the aliens and attempting to undermine the XCOM Project. In both games, players recruit, manage, and deploy elite special-ops units against alien invaders while studying captured alien technology in order to better combat this unknown menace. As the game progresses, players are able to research and create improved weapons, armor, and facilities to better equip their soldiers.

As there are three tiers of armor with several cosmetic options per tier as well as subtle differences in armor style depending on character class, I think it best to just focus on the default type for each tier. Tiers two and three also have armor variants to aid individual class types, which, again, I won’t have space to go into. There is also a mech-trooper class with mechanized armor which I will discuss at the end.

xcom2Base armor
Aussie sniper, Major Emily “Black Rook” Walker models the most basic armor set in the game. It is a simple Kevlar vest, bullet- and shrapnel-proof, but only moderately strong against alien energy weapons. The torso padding covers all of the major’s vitals while the shoulder pads protect from disabling shots to the arms. As a sniper, Walker’s armor is scaled-back a bit compared to the heavier classes, sacrificing thickness for better flexibility and mobility when moving about the battlefield. Her under-armor consists of a heavy shirt and pants that should hold up under the wear and tear of heavy combat, without sacrificing movement and dexterity.

As well as her rifle, Walker packs a pistol for up-close fighting and binoculars for spotting alien movement. As headwear is fully customizable for all classes, our Rook prefers a ball cap to shade her eyes while sniping and a headset for coordinating the other members of her squad. Knee and elbow pads allow her to crouch behind and brace against cover while sighting in on alien drones or EXALT agents. Lastly, her heavy combat boots are solid and durable for traversing any terrain.

xcom3Carapace armor
The carapace armor, sported here by German assault trooper, Major Lea “Red Knight” DuPont, is the base tier-two armor. Reverse-engineered from bits of captured alien armors and mechs, alien alloys make the armor better able to shrug off alien energy and plasma weapons without increasing the weight or sacrificing mobility. The carapace armor also comes in a lighter version that offers less protection, but increases the wearer’s mobility and includes a grappling-hook attachment.

A front-line trooper, Major DuPont’s armor is designed for up-close combat. Though able to equip assault rifles or shotguns, Red Knight’s skills and abilities are geared more toward rushing in and flanking her enemies at close to point-blank range. Additionally, she packs a pistol as her sidearm and a fragmentary grenade for wounding aliens under heavy cover. DuPont’s bracers and boots are of the same alien metals to protect her arms and legs from alien and EXALT weapons. The major sports a military beret to emphasize her elite-commando status.

xcom4Titan armor
Worn here by Scottish heavy trooper, Captain Rose “Highlander” McKay, the titan armor is the heaviest infantry armor available in the game. Combining the aliens’ bio technology with super-strong metal alloys, the armor absorbs attacks from all but the heaviest alien weaponry. Additionally, the suit comes in stealth and jet-pack versions. Torso, joints, arms, and legs, the titan offers full-body coverage under the heaviest combat conditions. As a heavy infantrywoman, the good captain can use all the protection she can get.

Always on the front lines, Captain McKay packs heavy-ordinance repeating rifles for shooting up alien kidnappers or laying down suppressive fire against entrenched foes. Instead of a pistol, Highlander uses a rocket launcher for blasting up alien mechs or EXALT soldiers. McKay’s slightly insectoid-looking helmet keeps her pretty head protected and may even protect from alien poisons and toxins.

xcom6Mechanized armor
Heavy mech armor is also available by integrating alien alloys with the aliens’ bio technology and cybernetics to create the ultimate frontline soldier. Mech soldiers volunteer to be fitted with cyborg enhancements in order to interface with the massive robotic suits. Though too big to utilize cover like regular infantry, mechs are heavily armored and can absorb a huge amount of punishment from alien and EXALT weapons.

If that isn’t cool enough, mechs are outfitted with a variety of heavy weapons, turning these soldiers into walking ordinance platforms. Their main-hand weapons consist of Gatling guns or rail guns, while off-hand they can use flamethrowers or battering weapons to flush enemies out from cover. Mechs can also be equipped with over-shoulder grenade launchers or force fields that infantry can crouch behind for cover.

In terms of story, research and technology, game play, character customization, and aesthetics, I’ve never seen a more well-thought-out tactical game than XCOM. But to me it means the most that the designers and developers were willing to show the lady soldiers some respect by giving them smart, practical armor. A+ job all around.

All screen captures taken from game play. XCOM was produced by 2K Games and developed by Firaxis Games and Feral Interactive. As always, thanks so much for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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3 Responses to Game Armor Analysis, XCOM: Enemy Within

  1. tsuhelm says:

    Just wish my steam version worked! One day when I get a gaming PC I will be back to play through all of these games…unless something better has come along!

  2. apstorm says:

    The only thing that bothers me about the XCOM remake’s soldier gender designs is the fact that the males are always big burly dudes, and the women are always slender and lithe (as a slender guy, I really wish there was a bit more variety in builds for both genders, and maybe some height variance, as well), and I’ll also note that I just recently noticed the fact that the animation for the first successfully-identified Gifted soldier is tailored for the male model, as all the effects were out-of-place when one of my female agents was first to prove she was more than human.

    As limited as the selection of appearances was in the original X-COM games, women and men were all the same size, and you couldn’t even tell them apart once they were wearing the endgame armors- the Power Armor and Flying Armor completely concealed their just-barely-there hips and breasts and they were all just ‘X-COM soldiers’, not genders anymore.

    Far as I can tell, XCOM 2 tones down the size disparity, so that’s a good step, in my book.

  3. I agree, and I’ve remarked on this disparity myself. I mean, I’ll grant them that the ladies are a fairly athletic variety of slender and lithe, but the size differences still lean toward male power-fantasy. I’m glad to hear that XCOM 2 does more to tone that back. Thanks for your comment!

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