XCOM: Chimera Squad Review

A tactical squad ready for a mission

Finally, XCOM won. The alien militarists, on their nth attempt, got hit in the face so hard that they decided to back off from Earth. The aborigines and the remaining wrestlers with telepathic snakes on the last evacuation shuttle had to learn to live together. They even started to make something work, until a disaster happened that no one expected at all. The new world brought the 80s.

As everyone knows, the 80s are impossible without urban romance, neon lights, and electronic music rescued from bulky synthesizers. And the 80s are also impossible without their own New York with gangs, vacant lots, graffiti, and riots, which two renegade cops are supposed to tame. The first one must definitely be white, and the second one – black.

The post-war mega-nursery of instability and lawlessness is vividly called “City 31”, and the duo of lawless ones has grown into a whole squad. “Chimera” was unlucky twice. First, the deal with an advertising campaign for a famous fashion brand called The United Colors of XCOM fell through. Then, on the very first combat mission, a monstrous failure occurred, giving rise to urban riots, a massive exhausting special operation, and someone’s cunning plan with unknown goals.

An intense battle scenario with aliens

Within four walls

XCOM: Chimera Squad went in the opposite direction of the “ideological sequel” XCOM called Phoenix Point. PP has expanded like a pregnant fish – more factions, more squads, more missions, more, more, more, more of everything in the world. “Chimera” condensed the entire war into one city, confined firefights to bars and cramped apartments, and refused to give careless gamers as much cannon fodder as they wanted.

The first major innovation of the game is location assault. The team of pompous riot police does not know and, in principle, does not want to act covertly, preferring to walk in plain sight and make the first kills before the banquet even begins. The careful moves of previous installments, where we tried to carefully determine where everyone was standing and from which angle it was best to approach, have given way to a tactical screen where we choose “entry points”. For example, we can all burst through the same wide door together. Or two operatives can break back through the same door, while the remaining pair creates a hole in the wall and ends up on the enemy flank.

Then, while the enemy dummies panic, we get the opportunity to take one shot each from all available guns. The wonderful bonus round is only slightly marred by the fact that some enemies immediately fire back and that sometimes we are subjected to random penalties.

Chimera Squad randomly assigns privileges and punishments to entry points. Well, for variety. It’s fun when your last soldier, who flew in through the window, guarantees a critical hit. When the guaranteed crit goes in the opposite direction, though, there is less joy, but oh well. Next time, commander, you’ll think about who and where to deploy.

A group of soldiers in a strategic formation

After a successful (or not so successful) opening of the celebration of justice, there is a tactical shootout with psionic dances and grenade throwing. As I mentioned before, the locations have shrunk to the size of a single hall (or even just a couple of living rooms), so there is very little room for maneuver. Moreover, nowadays all the decorations are carefully arranged in advance, and the random generator only changes the “starting bonuses” and shuffles the sets of enemy units.

This tightness finally turns the battles into Rubik’s cubes that need to be not only solved, but solved in as few moves and unnecessary movements as possible. Otherwise, the cube will quickly deliver an extra dose of critical blows that are incompatible with the squad’s survival and successful completion of the assigned mission.

It is not allowed for a soldier to die completely, that’s a game over. Did they describe them as real characters with real names, surnames, nicknames, and past adventures for nothing? No-no-no, the heroes need resuscitation, and then rehabilitation. Soldiers who have lost consciousness due to an overdose of foreign bodies in their organism must be stabilized with an electric shock within three moves, after which they can pretend to be ragged until the end of the fight, and then also take advantage of the local sacred rule of “not hitting someone who is down”.

A high-stakes encounter with alien forces

It is no less interesting to unlock new levels than to clear the standard XCOM fields. However, the further into the forest, the more variables in the equations, and the more often the game stumbles with its random penalties and enemy groupings. Depending on the mood of the Chimera Squad client, the gamer periodically risks encountering either a tooth-crushingly difficult episode or a boring easy task. Towards the end of the story, I honestly became too lazy to spend an extra hour grinding through “unsuccessful” combinations. I simply restarted the entire mission, not because I couldn’t complete it, but because I didn’t want to indulge in masochism. Let XCOM just generate a reasonable level for me, and when I want it tougher, I’ll switch to a new difficulty.

The latest noticeable attraction of Chimera Squad’s combat is primarily intended for veterans of the series. For you newcomers, some snake-like lady with a gun is just another new character. However, experienced players will shed a few partisan tears at first, and then a rainbow will pour out of their ears. Because every seasoned gamer occasionally wanted soldiers with interesting abilities like “tongue-pulling a target and then strangling it a la python” to be on our side, and for them to be able to perform the same tricks as the alien invaders. Here, it is possible.

A tense standoff with otherworldly foes


In general, it’s nice to see that the XCOM team has found ways to truly diversify the gameplay of the game. Of course, the developers didn’t complicate the mechanics too much this time. After all, CS is primarily dedicated to leveling the playing field, uncovering hidden pitfalls, and eliminating the vestiges that have accumulated in the series over several decades.

Nevertheless, I think all the new features should be kept in the game and further developed. I would like the series – or some parallel project, it doesn’t matter – to continue developing the theme of preparatory work and police special operations. I want the room assault to evolve into a separate stage, with personnel selection, finding loopholes, operational preparation, random modifiers of combat conditions, and other elements of excitement.

There is definitely something special about small locations with instant shootouts. The main thing is to keep everything in moderation. I must admit, towards the end of the Chimera Squad campaign, I still wanted to go out to a larger location once or twice and play old hide-and-seek. Just for the sake of variety.

Soldiers in the heat of combat

And finally, one last thing worth warning about before I confidently recommend XCOM: Chimera Squad for purchase. The game has a lot of bugs. Most of them are minor cosmetic issues like characters’ models floating half a meter above the floor or glitchy textures, but there are also some really unpleasant things.

For example, occasionally the game lies about the turn order. Nowadays, the soldiers don’t strictly act in a team-based sequence (where the blue team attacks the stationary red team first, and then vice versa), but rather in a mixed order. Consequently, a good player will try to eliminate the necessary targets at the right time. However, no matter how skilled a strategist is, they won’t be able to correctly calculate their actions if, in one beautiful second, the XCOM client suddenly changes the turn order, moves the red units up the “initiative roster,” and then pretends that it was always like that and there’s nothing to be concerned about.

I have also encountered blatantly flawed damage calculations from thrown grenades, strange quirks with armor, and other blood-spoiling details. It’s not surprising that at another beautiful moment, I stumbled upon a royal bug: the “Chimera” client turned out to be prone to crashing to the desktop. It’s not frequent, but it happens everywhere – from the menu, from the research screen, right in the middle of a mission…

XCOM screenshot


Now, here’s a confident recommendation. With one caveat.

I’m not sure if XCOM: Chimera Squad is worth its standard price. Fixed locations and a straightforward approach to all gameplay elements won’t stretch the 500 hours of replayability. I recommend getting the game on sale.

Overall, the experiment of reimagining XCOM was successful. The breach mechanic fit well into the overall tactical puzzle. The dense (compared to other games in the series) story and familiar setting didn’t bring anything special, but they did their job of framing the redesigned menus and gameplay. Chimera Squad should definitely be enough for a couple of full and engaging campaigns.

But for now, we have to wait for the release of a game where all the successful developments will be fleshed out, and then we’ll get entertainment that scores at least 90 out of 100 instead of 69.

XCOM: Chimera Squad
Turn-Based, Strategy
2K Games
Firaxis Games
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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