Barely a month after its initial announcement, the Slingshot DLC for XCOM: Enemy Unknown is invading computers and consoles worldwide. The game itself garnered much acclaim for its revival of the classic series (read our review), but does Slingshot expand upon what Firaxis have created? Read on to find out.
Slingshot brings three static council missions into the mix, though gamers have the choice to ignore the mission and play the game as if the DLC never happened. Once the first mission is accepted, the XCOM Squad is sent to China to rescue a Triad operative named Shaojie Zhang, a man claiming he has information that will be vital to the XCOM project. He’s a scar-faced gray-haired veteran, and rescuing him comes with its own fair share of risk. Slingshot throws late-game enemies at you before you have the technology to safely counteract them, meaning players will send their squads in with ballistic weaponry to face chrysalids, mutons and a minimum of one cyberdisk. Sound horrifying? That’s because it is.
While Slingshot does a great job of balancing risk versus reward, the three missions themselves do little to contribute anything fresh in terms of gameplay. The new maps are a welcome change of pace from the usual map rotation, but they’re all awkwardly similar to existing maps. Graveyard fight, subway line and battleship? All of these have been done before in a game which is already light in terms of map options. Likewise, the objectives of the first two missions will feel repetitive to anyone who’s played through the game already (unarmed VIP rescue and a reversal of the standard ‘bomb defusal’ council mission). The final mission, however, provides enough variance and intensity that gamers on any difficulty level will go in all-hands-on-deck, glued to the edge of their seat until the mission concludes.
Once all is said and done, Zhang’s Triad betrayal will have earned the player not only a buffed-up lieutenant, but the opportunity to research things like the Fusion Lance and Blaster Launcher very early. Considering you can complete the DLC around the time the first terror mission strikes, this gives the player a huge advantage for future combat scenarios – leaving the rest of the game feeling fairly unbalanced. Granted, without research credits and a vast staffing of scientists, placing priority on these technologies will set the player further behind on armor or beam weaponry. Once they’re caught up, players will have certainly earned the right to even the field – or at this point, even getting ahead – in terms of technology.
The squad abruptly forgets tactical formation for cutscene purposes.
Purchasing Slingshot will also unlock new cosmetic options in XCOM, giving players a few more helmet and hair options for both genders, as well as another armor design style. Customization was always one of the most entertaining parts of the series, as naming and modelling soldiers after friends and coworkers produced a connection between the player and the game, and made events really sting when missions went wrong. The inclusion of Zhang, a pre-built and uncustomizable soldier, feels forced and unnatural in comparison. He’s a buffed Lieutenant Heavy, and gamers will feel like they’re wasting something for not including him in the squad.
Unfortunately for those partially through playthroughs, the Slingshot DLC will only function in new save games. For the first week of launch, it had the added bonus of making any old savegames unplayable – though this has since been fixed by the team at Firaxis. While some may be annoyed that they can’t bring pre-DLC games up to speed, the context of timing in the Slingshot Package makes sense – playing it later on in the game just wouldn’t be logical.
At the end of the day, Slingshot doesn’t significantly add much value or variety to a traditional XCOM playthrough. It’s a nice challenge for those going through on Classic or Impossible (and especially with Ironman), but this DLC package is probably reserved for the more hardcore fans of the series, who are hungry for any bit of fresh content.
While the full game itself is a testament to the survival of turn-based strategy games, Slingshot stumbles in providing without much worthwhile content or gameplay variance – which ultimately prevents this DLC from being worth the $7 price tag. This DLC should be reserved for fans who are absolutely craving fresh content – casual players won’t lose much by giving it a pass.
If more DLC comes out of the same caliber, gamers may want to wait until the separate first-person shooter title arrives to continue their journey in the series. Firaxis hasn’t announced any future DLC for the title, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see more content in the coming months.
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The XCOM: Enemy Unknown “Slingshot” DLC is available now.