When we first laid eyes on XCOM 2, it was at 2015’s Gamescom. The sequel to one of the previous generation of consoles’ finest strategy titles, we noticed that it wasn’t coming to Xbox One and PS4. That has changed….
Back then, speaking to someone from Firaxis after their presentation, we inquired about the lack of a console version. The gist of the answer that we got was that the team had such high ambitions with XCOM 2 that the PC platform was their only real choice this time around. Ironically, in a way, the console port proves they were more or less right.
That’s not to say that XCOM 2 on PS4 is a bad game. Not at all, in fact it’s a great strategy game that knows no equal on the platform. It’s, level for level, the same game we played and reviewed for PC at the start of this year. The shift in balance that comes from starting out in a near-defeated position to bouncing back is still there, as is the interplay between the world map and the individual levels that echo the classic XCOM turn-based style of gameplay. And yes, it’s still a painfully difficult game at times – which makes success as rewarding as ever.
The switch to gamepad controls has been well done – taking some cues from the successful conversions of XCOM Enemy Unknown and XCOM Enemy Within, no doubt. Subtle tweaks make good use of the available directional pad to work with differences in elevation, and exchanging a keyboard and mouse combo for a gamepad never felt like a compromise.
XCOM 2’s console problems are on the technical side of things – with poor performance putting a damper on the experience of the game. It’s not the first PS4 game that has load times that are longer than we’d like, but the in-game stuttering is what really hurts the game. For a franchise that (in its modern incarnations) has brought a cinematic flair to turn-based strategy, it’s a real shame to see that smooth delivery hampered by technical issues. It’s almost as if XCOM 2 was designed with the PS4 Pro in mind – since it’s especially during busy scenes that it becomes clear that the ‘standard’ PS4 is lacking in horsepower, at least when it comes to the current state that XCOM 2 is in.
Does this ruin the game? Of course not. The PC version is definitely the way to go if you have a choice in the matter, but the PS4 version still offers the same kind of glorious gameplay that its desktop-based cousin does. It’ll be really interesting to see if the Playstation 4 Pro introduction next month will bring the game to a PC’s level of performance – eerily echoing Sony’s words that said the PS4 Pro was there to make sure Playstation gamers didn’t defect to PC.