Where does an 800 pound MEC Trooper equipped with a grenade launcher and sensory distortion field sit? Wherever and on whoever he or she damn well pleases.
Mechs are the showiest additions to Enemy Within, an expanded but fundamentally identical version of 2012's finest turn-based strategy game: even at low levels and with basic kit, they quickly form the centre of any given battle, radiating buffs and firepower in all directions. The catch? They can't use cover, though they can act as fully mobile cover spots for vanilla soldiers given the appropriate upgrades.
Gene troopers, the other new class, are more subtly endowed: you can outfit them with see-through skin, a second heart and aim-enhancing body odour. Both new troop types become available early in the campaign, but are expensive to produce: you'll need appropriate base facilities, a willing grunt, a few days to blow on production time and access to a bunch of Meld, a new resource that's gathered from self-destructing canisters during regular missions. Rushing to gather Meld before the cannisters pop can be unwise, needless to say, but let it slip through your fingers and you may have difficulties down the line. It's that quintessentially XCOM balance of risk and reward.
Enemy Within also bulks out the hostile roster a tad, adding an alien breed of mech that can fire twice in a turn, and a robot squid that'll turn invisible in order to creep up and choke people. Confound those shellfish and their fetishistic ways! The off-worlders are now backed by the traitorous human Exalt, who will try to disrupt your management of the globe till you send troops to stave their faces in.
Exalt cells in countries will periodically take chunks out of your funding, national morale and research progress; to nobble them, you'll need to pay for an intel scan, then dispatch an infiltrator (for every cell you expose, you'll also get a hint as to the country that hosts the Exalt's main base). This keys into a pair of new King of the Hill and objective capture mission types, which see you fighting against units armed with Earth-grown kit and abilities.
These battles feel relatively staid alongside human-versus-alien encounters, but they're a nice change of pace, and XCOM veterans will welcome the extra layer of strategic pressure. They'll also probably welcome the eccentric Second Wave difficulty modifiers, which allow you to do things like randomise a soldier's starting stats, give weapons a much wider attack power range, and reroll the last attack calculation after loading from a save.
All the new alien and human units are playable in multiplayer, and there are eight new maps to pick from. You can also now edit a squad and save several load outs while offline, so there's less waiting around for people to sort their Psi troopers from their Sectoids when beginning a match.
The campaign has been reworked from top to bottom, though the fixes and additions aren't obvious at a glance. The new edition includes 47 new maps, including some thrilling rooftop brawls with downed flying saucers, tweaks to the existing classes, a bunch of new weapons like the Ghost grenade (which douses all affected in camouflage-juice), all Enemy Unknown's DLC add-ons and, alas, many of the latter's technical problems. Our retail copy crashed a couple of times during one playthrough, and the most complicated textures don't always show up for duty till after a cutscene begins. Analogue stick cursor control is also still a bit fiddly when issuing move orders.
Still, the bulk of that is probably nothing a day-one patch won't fix. Returning base commanders might want to ponder whether new classes, maps and foes are worth a second investment, but those who slept through the original extra-terrestrial invasion should pick Enemy Within up immediately.
It's out 15th November.
It's the end of the world as we know it - again - and we're feeling fine. Bolstered by tweaks and new toys, XCOM remains Xbox 360's greatest strategy game. A proper sequel would have been preferable, though.