Field Report: XCOM Enemy Unknown - Slingshot
by Andrew Yoon, shacknews.com, Dec 4, 2012 7:30AM PST
You'll have to start a brand new campaign to access any of the new content for XCOM: Enemy Unknown's "Slingshot" add-on. Considering how great the core game is, that's not really a bad thing. Unlike other DLC expansions, Slingshot is integrated into the campaign, with Council missions triggering at key moments in the story.
It's clear that XCOM's first add-on was designed to address some of the cosmetic complaints fans had about the original game. Although the threat is global, and the game takes you to places around the world, you never feel like you leave the good ol' US of A in the game. Whether you're in Mumbai, Johannesburg, or Shanghai, you always feel like you're in some generic middle American suburb.
Slingshot is set in China and the included maps make some effort to look as such. The add-on also introduces a new character, Zhang, a character that actually has a unique voice--addressing yet another minor shortcoming in the core game.
The three missions included in Slingshot are tied together by a loose "narrative." Like the rest of Enemy Unknown, there isn't much meat to this story. In the first mission, you must rescue Zhang for access to some unknown research. That eventually leads to a bomb threat, and eventually a climactic battle atop an alien cruiser. The sudden appearance of a distinct character doesn't disrupt the overall XCOM story, if only because Firaxis does so little with him.
The strongest of these three missions has you disarming a bomb in a train station. Unlike the bomb disarming mission of the core game, there's no way to extend the countdown. When you get dropped down, the situation is quite precarious, with very little time to complete your objective. The time limit forces you to give up the rather reliable strategy of using Overwatch, making for an interesting change of pace from the rest of the game.
Completing these missions unlocks a few bonuses for you to utilize through the rest of your campaign. Rescuing Zhang adds him to your squad, granting you early access to a lieutenant (and the associated bonuses in the Officer Training School). You'll also encounter certain enemies earlier in the game, such as a Cryssalid in the first mission. In addition to getting earlier access to certain autopsies, you'll also get early access to research the Blaster Launcher.
These are nice bonuses to get, and may adjust your approach to the overall campaign. However, beyond the three missions, there isn't anything that really adds to the game. Given how short these three missions are (about an hour and a half of content), a new weapon, enemy type, or ability would have gone a long way in making the add-on seem like a better value.
At $7, Slingshot is ultimately an expensive unambitious expansion to a terrific game. While I hope Firaxis' second DLC proves to be more fulfilling, I certainly don't mind an excuse to play through the XCOM campaign once more. For fans, simply getting "more XCOM" is a wonderful thing.
Field Reports provide our first-hand experience with the latest games and expansion packs. This report is based on the PC version of the game.