XCOM 2 is not a simple reboot of the XCOM series. While, of course, the game includes a variety of new enemies, weapons and a new campaign, XCOM 2 also brings a lot more to the series, giving it the breath of fresh air it needed.

At the heart of the game, there is little difference from the classic XCOM fans have come to know and love. As always, you control a group of soldiers and participate in a turn-based attack against groups of enemies across battlefields specifically designed to make it difficult to traverse easily; you need to make strategic movements. On each turn, each of your troops will be given two action points to use for movement, offensive strategies or defensive strategies. What you choose to do with the action points will drastically affect who lives and who dies in your troops.

The thing that makes XCOM 2 feels so new and fresh is the addition of unpredictability. You will often find yourself in circumstances where you play out your strategy, everything seems to be under control and you are in a strong position. Then, only a moment later, something very unpredictable occurs and the battlefield descends into mayhem. In this sense, XCOM 2 may be the most difficult of the XCOM game series and certainly presents the player with more difficult challenges to overcome on the battlefield than ever. One thing which XCOM 2 seems to be excellent at doing is destroying strategies that worked for you on past missions. Each time you think you have devised the perfect formula for tackling these missions, XCOM 2 will offer up something different and will force a return to the drawing board.

The main reason for this new-found unpredictability aspect is due to the story of XCOM 2. Without spoiling any major, XCOM 2 is set around twenty years forward from the original game which means that the efforts made to stop the alien invasion in the original XCOM game did not succeed and the invasion has continued for all this time. Naturally, this means that Advent have grabbed quite a foothold on the world and thus, in XCOM 2, you (XCOM) are the ones in hiding. As a result, much of the gameplay now involves you trying to surprise the enemy with an attack. The role that XCOM play in the battles against Advent has very much been reversed; XCOM are usually heavily outnumbered and must use stealth to win battles.

This brings a new gameplay aspect to XCOM 2; you are able to conceal yourself during battles. Any groups of enemies who are not aware that you are there when the mission begins will not try to hunt you until you are noticed. If you are clever, you can use this to your advantage and execute several enemies before any others notice and come to offer support. This adds a new aspect to the strategy which you must devise in order to beat the various missions in the game, which gives XCOM 2 a very fresh feel.

The fact that XCOM are the side which are making the “undercover” attacks against Advent throughout the game also means that you will feel a lot more pressure during battle in XCOM 2 and the missions will be far more fast-paced and frantic. You will be attacked from all directions and you will need to think quickly and use your moves efficiently each turn in order to escape alive. Missions in XCOM 2 range from straight-up brawls to move-limited objectives with civilian rescue missions in between. You will find yourself battling between the risk of losing troops and forwarding mission progress all the time due to the high-pressure gameplay without much room for error.

In terms of content, XCOM 2 has an enormous world map, which often offers up problems of its own. You will often be faced with a decisions to make outside of battle which could have massive consequences down the line. As with the previous titles in the series, you will need to manage the resources you dedicate to intelligence and to engineering: do you build more equipment now or do you further the development of your weapons and armour? XCOM 2 will not offer any help with these choices, you will need to make the call on your own, often without much to go on. It may even be the case that if you make some wrong decisions early on in the game, you may reach a stage where it becomes almost impossible to win any further missions and you may need to restart the entire game. If you do not allocate resources to defensive development at the start of the game, it will make it incredibly difficult to progress later in the game.

You will also need to make decisions regarding which objectives you will chase as you progress through the game. Do you leave civilians to perish in order to collect further resources for your engineering team? Do you send help to an ally or do you go on a mission to help your research team work on an upgrade? Again, these decisions may have significant consequences later in the game and XCOM 2 again offers no help as to which objective you should choose.

Graphically, XCOM 2 does an incredible job at improving on past games in the series. The environments in which you are doing battle look stunning and vivid and the world maps are full of a huge amount of detail. Graphics are certainly an aspect of XCOM 2 which won’t disappoint. Sound effects are music are also excellent and tie in very well with the theming and the game and its design.

Overall, XCOM 2 is a fantastic entry to the series and may be the best yet. It brings a wave of new life to the series by turning the tables and presenting twists and turns at every point in the story. If you plan on playing XCOM 2, you will need to your wits about you and your mind focused and sharp in order to succeed but ultimately, the experience is a highly enjoyable one.