The new content bound for XCOM: Enemy Unknown next week drops players in three new maps set in China, fighting to save and then work with a renounced member of the Triad.
The Slingshot Content Pack, which goes on sale Dec. 4 for $6.99 (or 560 Microsoft Points), took us about two hours to nearly complete in a recent hands-on demo. The pack drops three new council missions into the game's existing storyline and gameplay, weaving a new sort of mini-narrative into the game's existing, over-arching storyline.
Players who don't want to know the details of this new pack should probably stop reading here. What can be said without spoilers is that the pack's additions, while welcome, seem mostly cosmetic. There are no new major enemies or weapons to be found. The maps, with perhaps one exception, are essentially giving a fresh coat of paint to the sort of settings players will have already worked through. Players do get a new soldier, one who starts with higher than normal stats, to control.
The first mission, "Friends in Low Places," drops the player into a Chinese cemetery to rescue Zhang, a member of the Triad looking to hand over some new tech to XCOM and join sides with the group. This is a regular escort mission.
Once completed, players are given access to Zhang as a soldier. The former Triad member comes with his own voice pack and higher starting stats, but is still subject to all of the rules of XCOM engagements: In other words, he can die, and will stay dead.
Mission two, "Confounding Light," has players attacking a train station in China. This mission has players setting transponders on multiple locations of the train before activating the train, all while holding off an encroaching army of aliens. The player has 10 turns to plant the four transponders and get the train moving.
The final mission drops players onto an in-flight alien battleship. This is only the second time the game has players fighting aboard a flying alien ship, and the setting is stunning. One of the largest maps in the game, Battleship, features distant views of southwest China's Chongqing as seen from the sky. The city's skyline, glimpsed below the ship as you fight your way through, is the most dramatic visual addition offered in the pack. The object of this level is to crash the ship, thereby capturing a lot of technology.
Unfortunately, there are no current plans to bring any of these additions to the multiplayer side of the game.
That pack does also include a slew of new headgear as a little bonus. The new headgear includes battle helmets, berets, baseball caps, even cornrows and will be a welcome addition to fans of the game who like to spend time customizing the look of their team.
While I was able to tear through nearly all of the pack's three levels (I ran out of time about two thirds of the way through the last mission) in about two hours, the pack missions aren't playable back-to-back typically. Because they each arrive as transmissions from the funding council, gamers will have to be playing the regular game and wait for them to pop up as selectable missions over the course of play.
They will show up in order, but you'll still have to wait for a funding missions to arrive in the course of your game.
This is the first of two promised add-on content packs for the Windows PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 game.