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XCOM: Chimera Squad review – human-alien hybrids lay down the law | Games


Beginning where most disaster movies end – with cities ruined and civilisation in utter disarray – XCOM: Chimera Squad is about the horrifying aftermath of an alien invasion. Our heroic band of scientists and soldiers may have defeated the extraterrestrial conquerors at the end of acclaimed strategy sequel XCOM 2, but the world they won back is barely functioning. One squad member mentions that he’s from Canada before acknowledging that this was when such a thing existed. A mission briefing notes that hard cash is the only currency after the implosion of the global financial system.

To complicate things further, the aliens are still here. The stranded remnants of the invasion force are trying their best to assimilate into human society, with varying degrees of success. And even the very notion of humanity is in flux thanks to the widespread creation of human-alien hybrids during the occupation.





More finessed battles … XCOM Chimera Squad



More finessed battles … XCOM Chimera Squad

Chimera Squad takes place in City 31, which is not unlike the Los Angeles depicted in 1980s sci-fi franchise Alien Nation. In an experiment in integration, humans and aliens live alongside each other – and the city’s police force has to reflect the multi-species make-up of the people it’s protecting. Players must command a squad of human, alien and hybrid law enforcers, harnessing their various abilities to tackle a new threat to the city’s uneasy peace.

Lizard woman Torque can lash out her tongue and yank enemies from across the map; Axiom the Muton can race up to foes and pound them into meat with his fists; and Verge, a former Thin Man (the infiltration arm of the alien’s invasion force), can access enemies’ minds and control them like puppets. After years of being tormented by these abilities in previous XCOM games, it’s wonderfully cathartic to finally use them for yourself.

Then again, not much else has really changed. In essence, Chimera Squad is XCOM 2 with some genetic splicing. The base building is gone, although you’re still tasked with researching weaponry and training recruits in between fights, and the scope is limited to a single city rather than the whole planet. But now you have a permanent crew of unique characters, and battles are smaller and more finessed.

Rather than attacking with your team then waiting with fingers crossed for the computer to have its go, in Chimera Squad you can see the order in which each combatant will make their move. This allows you to focus assaults on the enemy who will attack next, and even change the turn order with special moves. It’s satisfying to work your way through a room, methodically picking off the most urgent threats, although it does tend to make the game a little easier than its predecessor.

Perhaps the most radical change is the introduction of a team of superheroes with unique abilities; battles can play out very differently accordingly to which squad members you select. The flipside is that, unlike in XCOM 2, the characters cannot die. If they bleed out, you’re simply sent back to the last save. This takes away some of the tension of the previous games, all those times spent agonising over whether to press on or replay a lengthy level because one of your squad bought it at the end. Still, the little snippets of characterisation are welcome in what can be a clinical genre – although the developers could have gone further, perhaps adding crew-specific missions as in Mass Effect 2, or something akin to Fire Emblem’s relationship building.

XCOM: Chimera Squad is essentially the Agents of Shield to XCOM 2’s Avengers. It gently plays with the formula, and tells the peripheral stories of a much wider world on a much tighter budget and with much smaller stakes. In other words, it’s XCOM but chilled – and, in these desperate times, that’s just fine.

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