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Daily iPad App: XCOM: Enemy Unknown is great, if you've got the hardware

Firaxis recently announced that it was bringing a complete version of last year's console title XCOM: Enemy Unknown to iOS. The game is now available, at a premium price of US$20.00. That's costly for a mobile game, but the truth is that this is no "mobile" game as you might think of one. It's a full-featured experience that brings the old classic XCOM tactical, turn-based gameplay into the latest generation of graphics and gameplay design.

The premise of the game is that you (yes, you) are the "commander" of XCOM, an internationally funded military research organization dedicated to fighting an alien threat. The game spans the entire organization: During fights, you direct soldiers in battle, and outside of combat, you direct funding and try to place satellites in the sky to protect the countries of the world as best you can.

The game's balance is just brilliant. Research you do in the metagame opens up new combat options in the various skirmishes you'll fight, and winning fights (or capturing aliens) can kick your research into gear, which helps secure more tools and more funding. The game's graphics are excellent, and the grid-based combat experience used in the PC version has been translated to the touchscreen with care by 2K China.

The one big issue with XCOM, however, is that because of its scope, it's a monster to run on Apple's touchscreen hardware. The iTunes listing says the game is best experienced on the iPad 4 and up, and they aren't kidding. I had some issues with slowdowns and crashes while running it on my iPad 2. Hopefully, future patches will fix optimization issues and the game will run better, but you shouldn't even think about playing this on anything older than an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4S.

All of that said, however, XCOM is as premium an experience as they come on the App Store. This is a game designed for PCs and consoles, and we got it on iOS in a feature-full version, for half the price (the title is still $39.99 on Steam, though I expect that price to drop very soon). If you've got the hardware, this game is a must-play, both because it's so excellent, and just to support this kind of quality iOS release.

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