XCOM requires strategy, patience; Walking Dead 4 slips

10/25/2012
BY CHRIS CAMPBELL
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

The excitement upon playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown got the best of me. I saw some pesky aliens wandering near my base and charged them like Pickett at Gettysburg. Not surprisingly, my squad of soldiers met a similar fate, despite a couple centuries worth of advanced technology and weaponry.

So I did what any respectable gamer does: I restarted the game. Next time I took the fog of war more seriously -- XCOM relies heavily on strategy and patience. Try to go another way, and you'll be hosting a lot of memorial services for your fallen comrades.

The turn-based strategy game has two focal points, managing your base and combat in the field. Keeping your base in order, buying/upgrading weapons and armor, and keeping tabs on skirmishes around the globe may sound tedious and boring, but it's far from it. With a Wes Anderson-inspired cutout view of your base, content comes from every nook and cranny, giving you lots of detail and some occasional mini-games to break up the dialogues and menus you navigate.

Out in the field exists a swarm of alien critters that are not necessarily the smartest you've ever encountered in gaming. They make up for a lack of brains with sheer numbers and their own weapons, which can pack a punch if you aren't smart about your movements. As I said earlier, patience is critical. Some camera glitches will ruin some of the dramatic cinematic shots that accompany your attacks, but they stand out only because of how excellent the visuals are otherwise.

Strategy game enthusiasts and even those who dabble in the genre should snatch this game up right away. Just remember not to rush into battle, lest you end up surrounded on a battlefield all alone; we know how that tends to work out.

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The end is nearing for the characters in The Walking Dead game series. And not in a slow, dragging-a-dangling-limb kind of way you'd expect from a zombie. Only one episode remains, which means it was probably time for a little bit of a letdown installment.

You still play as Lee, keeping a watchful eye on may-as-well-be-your-child Clementine and ever-manic Kenny. Keeping Clementine safe and away from the flesh-craving hordes is always your top priority; reaching that supposed rescue boat on the coast is a close second.

Around Every Corner is not horrible by any measure; it's just a departure from what made this series so unforgettable, with episodes dominated by taut tension and character choices that rarely paid off the way you expected. In reality, this episode plays out as a typical action game (and a good one at that), even if it doesn't quite gel with its predecessors. Sequences take place that you would never expect to see, such as a massive shootout where ammo is not a precious resource but a means for zombie carnage. Again, plenty thrilling (including a big cliffhanger at the episode's end), just not keeping with the tone previously set.

I'm still filled with excitement to see how this series closes out when Episode 5 is released, and even a hiccup along the way should not deter gamers from checking out this adventure's penultimate chapter.