As part of 2K’s trio of ‘Collections’ released in the past week on Nintendo Switch, XCOM 2 Collection. joins BioShock and Borderlands in bringing some of the publisher’s biggest franchises to the console. And of the three, XCOM 2 certainly seems like it’s the best suited for the platform. As a turn based tactics game, in fact what many consider to be one of the premier franchises in that genre, it’s the perfect candidate to drop in and out of a couple of turns on short breaks in handheld mode – assuming, of course, the Switch can handle the 2016 release. After all, the previous console ports were renowned for not performing up-to-snuff with the original PC version. So, how does the Switch fare?
The XCOM 2 Collection bundles together 2016’s XCOM 2, the expansion XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, and four of the DLC packs (Resistance Warrior customisation pack, Anarchy’s Children, Alien Hunters and Shen’s Last Gift). Appearing as one icon on the Switch home screen, you can pick from its splash page to enter either the base XCOM 2, or the War of the Chosen expanded version, and from there you can activate whichever modifiers and DLC content you before heading into a campaign.
XCOM 2 is set decades after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘s reboot to the franchise continuity, where humanity has surrendered to the aliens known as the ‘Elders’, who administer Earth through an outwardly benevolent organisation known as ‘ADVENT’. However, the XCOM unit has survived as a resistance to alien rule, and manages to free their commander (you) from their clutches, as you set about leading their efforts to fight against ADVENT and free Earth.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the best tactics games in years when it came out in 2012, and XCOM 2 improved upon it in just about every way. As Commander of XCOM, your time is mainly spent commanding units on missions from an isometric view, taking advantage of their initial concealment and then springing attacks on enemies and securing objectives. Some missions are timed, but all of them will test your grey matter as you adapt to changing circumstances, and try to plan ahead of your enemy to prevent the permanent death of your units. To make things even tougher, you can even turn on ‘Ironman’ mode, which rewrites your save file after every action, making it impossible to hedge your bets and reload an earlier save. You also have to develop and build your base, the Avenger, to recruit new units and develop new technologies to help your efforts. One of the best parts of XCOM is how replayable it is, and War of the Chosen adds a wealth of content to the game that make replays feel really unique. The expansion adds three factions, the Reapers, Templars and Skirmishers, as well as new enemies like the zombie-esque Lost, and The Chosen – more characteristic villains who can invade levels to kidnap units, and whose strongholds must be sought out to defeat them. The added ‘bonds’ that soldiers can also develop with each other lends greater depth to managing your teams. It’s a huge amount of content, that you don’t need to have previous experience with the franchise to dive into (although it would have been nice to see Enemy Unknown included as a part of this collection).
As for how all this performs on the Switch, the answer is unfortunately ‘not great’. It just works, which is about the same that could be said for the Xbox and PS4 versions, and for many this may be impressive enough. First up, visual quality takes a hit, with low-quality textures, plenty of pop-in and a lower resolution than seen on other platforms, although in general it is on the surface comparable to the PS4 version. From a distance, the overhead view helps hide some of the more glaring downgrades, although at your base the blurry textures are harder to ignore. The frame-rate is all over the shop, regularly losing frames when performing simple actions like running, or even hitting single digits when your squad gathers at the summary screen at the end of a mission. Effects like fire and smoke are missing, meaning that the falling statue in Operation Gatecrasher now very obviously clips into the ground like a tumbling sarcophagus. Wait times between turns can also take a weirdly long time intermittently, making it unclear if its the game is just taking its time to plan out the aliens’ moves, or its some kind of hitch.
Taken on it’s own, it’s all a bit disappointing, although none of these issues by any means make the game unplayable, just not the ideal way to play XCOM 2 if you have a gaming-capable PC, which remains the best way to experience it. It’s actually relatively in line with the performance of the console ports, despite their on-paper greater specifications, although this might just speak more to the issues those ports always had. When playing handheld, it’s all a little more excusable, as the novelty of having XCOM 2 on the go is unquestionably pretty cool, and the visual issues become more forgivable, and a little less noticeable. Using the Switch’s controls, however, never presents much of a problem as opposed to a mouse & keyboard, as the analogue sticks and button mapping work well and make sense.
XCOM 2 Collection packs in a lot of great content that absolutely still holds up 4 years on from its original release, that still has the potential to devour your time with multiple playthroughs, modifiers and challenges. While the effort is admirable, it makes quite a few sacrifices to get it all functional and working on Switch’s hardware, and while the gameplay is relatively intact, the performance still leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see XCOM 2 running in handheld mode, making it a viable way to play if you have to get your tactical action fix on the go, even if it’s a somewhat choppy one.
XCOM 2 Collection was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch with a review copy provided by 2K.
-Deep, involving and rewarding tactical gameplay -War of the Chosen deepens the experience even further, making for one of the best tactics games ever -Hours of gameplay and huge amount of replayability
-Only *just* runs on Nintendo Switch -Visual quality takes a huge hit, with missing effects, low frame-rates and glitches -Can run sluggishly