The XCOM franchise has been my ‘constant’ for the past 20 years or so. From it’s original release as UFO: Enemy Unknown produced by Microprose in the mid 90s to it’s most recent incarnation as XCOM2 and the incredible War of the Chosen DLC, it remains one of my fondest and most replayable experiences even today. Don’t be disheartened by it’s turn-based nature; XCOM provides one of the most stress-inducing and adrenaline-fuelled experiences in gaming.
Having previously completed ‘vanilla’ XCOM2, I’ve since refused to attempt the huge expansion ‘War of the Chosen’ at anything other than the more difficult ‘Commander’ setting. I also choose to play XCOM in ‘Ironman’ mode. Rather than enlisting the help of Tony Stark, this setting simply prevents you reloading when things go wrong (which they inevitably will do). Every choice you make, every action, re-action and consequence is part of your playthrough. Just lost the one guy you have been focusing on maxing out through promotions and implants? Tough.
Earlier this year, I rebought XCOM2 with all of the DLC on Steam for a much more fluid and less glitchy experience than I was used to on the PS4. True enough, the game looks gorgeous, runs smoothly and contains a few interface additions that in hindsight, are criminally missing from the console counterparts.
The PC also made it a lot easier to customise my squad… which gave me an idea. Some say that politics should be kept away from gaming. But I thought it would be more fun to do completely the opposite…
Yes, I created a character pool inspired by the ‘Best of Brexit’, headed by none other than the PM herself, Theresa May.
Other personas that I threw into the mix included Jacob Rees-Mogg, Angela Merkel, and Nigel Farage. I then went a little further afield and included Donald Trump (obviously), Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, creating suitable uniforms and biographies for each. And of course, there was this guy…
And so, it was with a renewed vigour and determination that I began the campaign. My team of political professionals may not be able to ‘deliver Brexit’, but with a little luck from the RNG gods, they’ll be able to save the world from alien domination. And if they don’t… well at least it’ll be fun trying.
There was no need for me to read the briefing for our first mission, Operation Gatecrasher. It’s the one guaranteed, consistent part of every XCOM2 game. The mission that begins the counter-attack against the ADVENT forces. We are to blow an ADVENT landmark sky high as a sign of our intentions to end their reign over the human race. This is the one mission where we have no control over our squadmate selection or their loadout. Four ‘volunteers’ will be randomly chosen from our character pool…
Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Jeremy Corbyn were given the privilege of setting the standard. An unlikely combination perhaps, but hopefully they would leave their differences behind and focus on the job in-hand. If they were successful, promotions would be likely and they could begin to customise their skills and loadouts to their areas of expertise. As rookies however, for this mission they would be inexperienced and under-equipped, and succeeding without losses was far from guaranteed.
But succeed they did! The only casualty was Angela Merkel who unfortunately, was unable to move quick enough to dodge an ADVENT plasma shot. Despite this, the mission debriefing suggested that she struck up a somewhat unlikely bond with President Trump, and it was only right that we commemorated this friendship with a customised poster. I’m sure you’ll agree it perfectly captures the dynamic…
Trump got promoted to the position of ‘Specialist’ meaning he would be playing more of a supporting role which seemed slightly out-of-character. Meanwhile, the slim frame of Jeremy Corbyn was promoted to ‘Grenadier’. That’s right, Corbyn would be the person responsible for our heavy weaponry. Make up your own punchlines.
The next couple of missions went surprisingly well, but I was conscious of ensuring it wasn’t just the same key players relied upon. In XCOM, squadmates can become tired, injured and unavailable very easily. It might take weeks of in-game time to get them back to ‘match-fitness’, and so squad-depth can be essential. With that in mind, I introduced one or two new players to my out-field squad…
I soon found however that Jacob Rees-Mogg couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo. In his first mission, he let the team down by somehow managing to miss four incredibly easy shots. Fortunately, the rest of my squad were on fine form and were able to compensate for his total disregard for accuracy.
Against my better judgement, I decided to give Rees-Mogg a chance of redemption. Operation Spectal Cobra was underway, our first ‘Retaliation’ mission. ADVENT forces were openly attacking civilians and it was up to our Brexiteers to save as many as possible. Joining Rees-Mogg would be Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Theresa May. Trump would be sitting this one out due to tiredness.
To make matters worse, the Chosen ‘Hunter’ had decided to join the battlefield. The Chosen are made up of three incredibly strong adversaries and are part of XCOM2’s expansion package. The Hunter is armed with a super-accurate sniper rifle and is able to track our squad from across the map. In short, he would bring an added complexity to proceedings that would make our team wish for simpler times such as being back home discussing our exit from the European Union.
But my team rose to the occasion. Operation Spectral Cobra was a success… just, but Boris Johnson would need to spend several weeks recovering after finding himself on the hurty-end of the Hunter’s sniper rifle. Of course, there would have been no need for this had Rees-Mogg ensured that an earlier shot at point-blank range hit his intended target. It didn’t. It was a miracle that Boris survived, but the squad ensured that he made it safely back to the ship before bleeding out.
Despite Rees-Mogg proving once again his complete ineptitude on the battlefield he somehow and rather ironically, gained the favour of Theresa May. Whether it was blind faith, pure sympathy or misguided judgement, another partnership was formed. The pairing had even ranked up enough to each inherit their own nickname.
A couple of further missions went by and I felt the Brexiteers were ready for their first true test. I had discovered an alien base known as the ‘Blacksite’ location and it was our job to investigate. It was a mission that I was very familiar with. We could expect a strong ADVENT presence as well as the Chosen Hunter to join us once again. The timing seemed right; the partnerships of Trump/Merkel and May/Rees-Mogg could be utilised as everyone was fighting fit and ready for action. Additionally, I had unlocked an extra slot for my fireteam meaning that my Brexiteers would be joined by a fifth squadmate; a Skirmisher who would prove useful against the threat of the Chosen.
I had taken my A-Team, but the mission didn’t go as planned. In fact, it went horribly, catastrophically wrong. My team was massacred. It was a devastating blow for the campaign…
Donald ‘Hijack’ Trump.
Angela ‘Warden’ Merkel.
Jacob ‘Bulldog’ Rees-Mogg.
Theresa ‘Duchess’ May.
They had fought well, they had given humanity hope, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
I attempted another couple of missions, but without this core team the remnants of my squad weren’t strong enough to deal with the weight of the ADVENT forces. The heart of our XCOM troops had been broken, and humanity would face a future of tyranny.
That’s XCOM. Time to start a new game and try again…