This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.XCOM: Enemy Unknown seems like it was built for iPad. The touch-screen controls on the iOS port are so good that the game feels like it was lovingly crafted specifically for touch devices from the get-go.
These controls are easily the highlight of the iOS version of XCOM (which also runs on the iPhone, by the way). With a redesigned HUD full of chunky buttons, completing actions in the game is a cinch. I actually prefer the touch scheme to wielding a controller. It's a simpler, more intuitive process, and the meat of the game is every bit as good as its console and PC counterparts. Soldiers run where you tap; a pinch zooms the camera in and out. A pair of buttons in the corner switch between floors on a map, making it easy to rain fire down on street-level Sectoids from the safety of a rooftop. Another set of buttons let you rotate the camera at will. It all feels very natural, and never for a moment did I stop and question how to perform an intended action.
The only downside to the controls is that sometimes it's hard to select a specific spot when moving a unit; sometimes it'll select the spot right next to where you intended. You still have to confirm your actions though, so you won't have to worry about accidentally dashing into the arms of a Muton Berserker.
Apart from multiplayer, which is coming later, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the full experience on iOS. It's all there: base construction, research management, UFO combat and, of course, the nail-biting ground confrontations – everything. If you missed out on the console and PC versions, the iOS port is an excellent option and heartily recommended if you have the 3.2GB of free space necessary. Outside of pared down graphics and a noticeably lower kill camera frequency, this is the XCOM: Enemy Unknown that we all know and love.
At $20, it's a hard sell for those who have already played Firaxis' brilliant reboot on another platform. For everyone else, 20 bucks gets you one of the best games of 2012 in a slick, portable package.
This review is based on an iOS download of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, provided by 2K Games. It's available June 20 on iTunes for $20.