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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Slingshot DLC – Impressions

By on January 7th, 2013 2:27 pm

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Slingshot Content Pack

I’ve played the Slingshot content pack for XCOM: Enemy Unknown in the Classic difficulty level. Here are my impressions.

But first a small intro.

Available since Dec 4th 2012, Slingshot is the second DLC to be released for XCOM:EU, after the Elite Soldier Pack DLC, which brought new ways to customize your squad and lets you play with a special soldier inspired by the original X-COM: UFO Defense. Slingshot is, however, the first content pack to be released. Then, there’s a third DLC envisaged but no details were given about that one yet.

Now, the questions that you may be asking about Slingshot right now are:

1. What does it bring new?

2. Is it fun and challenging?

3. Is it worth it?

What does it bring new?

Now, I’m not going to spoil you with the details, because that’s part of the fun of playing the DLC. After all, this is a mini-campaign pack. But, I’m going to tell you about the content’s type and size, so that you may know what to expect.

When you buy Slingshot you get three new missions to play. For the ones familiarized with the game, these are council-type missions. The maps of each of these three missions are new. The first map is probably the most beautiful and distinct of the three, with a predominant Chinese-inspired motif.

The first mission is similar to many of the original “rescue” council missions, although slightly different in nature and better in my opinion. The second is a timed-type mission, also slightly different from the original “bomb defusal” missions. The third mission plays on-board of an alien ship, where you need to accomplish an objective besides killing everyone.

Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 1

XCOM:EU Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 1

In addition to these three new missions, you gain access to a new special soldier, which is a character who plays a role in the DLC’s mini-story.

You also get new customization options for your soldiers. There’s an alternative armor look for each type of armor (at least for the first available types) and there are also some head props and helmets now. Some of these are actually quite cool.

And, finally, you have the chance to have access to a very powerful piece of technology early on when you finish all the Slingshot missions.

Is it fun and challenging?

I liked the new missions.

The first one is quite small and quick to finish, but quite nerve-racking at the same time because you simply don’t know what to expect. The atmosphere is, therefore, quite tense, which is a very important aspect in X-COM games. Well done. Remember that I played with the Classic difficulty (with Ironman off).

The second mission is perhaps the most interesting of the three. It’s timed-type, so it should be one of my least favorite. Moreover, all enemies “pop” from thin air, which again should also make it my least favorite. But, the mission’s dynamics make it much more fun than the original defusal bomb council missions. This second mission is not large, and will not take you much time to finish it, but it’s quite tough to beat and should give you a good and fun challenge. I only finished this mission at second attempt.

XCOM:EU Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 2

XCOM:EU Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 2

By the way, you will have more chances to complete the Slingshot missions in case you fail any of them. But, and you must pay careful attention to this, you need to accept the Slingshot mini-campaign when you first get the chance to! Otherwise you won’t get a second chance to play it in that game. I discovered this the worst way possible. Had the perfect game and squad, but by unfortunate chance I hit the “normal” council missions instead of the Slingshot missions, and there was no confirmation button whatsoever. So, I couldn’t play the DLC because of one simple rogue click. What happened to the feedback perfect UI? Was the main guy behind it on vacation that day or something?

The third and final mission plays on-board of an alien ship (a big one), and unsurprisingly it’s the largest mission of the three. Although not the toughest, at least in my opinion. The fact that I failed the second mission also plays a role here. I’m sure that if you succeed in your second mission at first attempt, you probably won’t make it on the third at first, or at least there’s a big chance that you won’t. This third mission was OK, but I think it could have been much better because it didn’t feel novel enough, at least for people who explored all the main game’s content.

Is it worth it?

This is the hardest question to answer, because it depends a lot on your experience with the game. But, since you’re reading this I will assume that you liked to play XCOM:EU and are looking for another good excuse to fire another game. Well, the thing is, I think it’s worth it for some reasons but not for others, and not only because of cost, which is $6.99/€6.49 by the way.

It’s worth it because the missions, although small and “easy” – I finished all of them while still with Carapace armor and with no Plasma guns – are still quite interesting, detailed and fun to play. Let’s face it, they are much better than your average “search-and-rescue” or “bomb defusal” original council missions.

The style is also different from what you’re used to, which is quite refreshing. Well, at least more in the first mission. However, the second and third missions are very similar to the original maps styles, with some occasional Chinese writings sprinkled here and there in the second missions’ case.

XCOM:EU Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 3

XCOM:EU Slingshot Content Pack - Mission 3

But, and in my personal view, this DLC isn’t worth it for other reasons. For instance, when you end the third mission – and if you do the things by the book – you will get access to an enormous reward (loot). So, when I finished the DLC, I stopped playing. Yes, that’s right. I saw no point in continuing playing because the new super technology combined with the immense reward makes it too easy, at least for me. Of course, if you’re still taking your firsts strides in XCOM:EU you will probably enjoy this “loot” boost, since this may be your chance to finally play a good Classic difficulty game and make it to the end.

But, Slingshot definitely has its qualities. The new missions are well designed and are fun to play, and the new character brings some extra flavor. But, the missions are kind of short, too few and easy (at least in Classic difficulty). Of course the concept of difficulty is always subjective here.


I don’t recommend the Slingshot DLC for people who didn’t play the main game yet. The best is for you to play the main game for a good while and then decide or not to buy this DLC, if you’re still hungry for more and don’t mind the price that is.

If you already logged many dozens or even hundreds of hours playing XCOM:EU, then Slingshot will probably not be enough to satisfy your appetite. It is a fun ride no doubt, but like in a small roller coaster, the trip is usually too short and you need to go again for more. The problem is that the 2nd ride is never as good as the first and the best would be that the roller coaster would be bigger in the first place.

In all, Slingshot is a nice experience. It’s a well crafted DLC and it provides good and fun moments. But, probably the best strategy is for you to wait for a sale, and then buy it combined with the new DLC when it comes out perhaps. Then you’ll have much more to chew on.

You can buy and download the XCOM: Enemy Unknown Slingshot Pack from GamersGate, GreenManGaming, SteamGameStop or Amazon. If you’re new to XCOM:EU, you have our review here.

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  1. SQW says:

    I like how the first picture gives you a scale of an invasion as opposed to localised ‘terrorist attacks’ of existing council missions. If Firaxis have to burden us with scripted missions, they might as well give us proper context.

    God, just thinking about the council missions and the trigger events turn me off replaying the game. =(

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, the picture is great. It’s part of a nice little cut-scene on the third mission. You can see the Skyranger going for the Alien ship. Cutscenes are really important. Doesn’t matter how long, but they surely help a lot with immersion.

  2. Adam Solo says:

    By the way, 2K and Firaxis released a 3rd patch for XCOM:EU (all platforms) today.

    The major features include the “Second Wave” options, now available without the need to use a mod. And, apparently, the “teleport bug” and “defeat screen when beating the game” issues have been addressed, but not completely fixed.

    Check here for the full announcement.

  3. Dark Helmet says:

    Unfortunately, this game still bombs – read all of the responses to the patch thread and apparently nothing has been fixed. At least for me 3 months later the ‘shooting through walls/objects’ bug still exist, shooting while facing the wrong direction bug still exist. I’m not a developer or programmer so not sure exactly what “minimizes” means but nothing in that first post read “fixed.”

    Firaxis sure did a great job marketing the game though. I’m not the first person to run out and buy something on release but I wasted no time plunking down 60 big ones for this crap. Oh well.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, the “minimizes” thing seems to be a new one.

      Sure, there are some game annoyances still. Personally I’m quite disappointed that they didn’t fix the “teleporting bug” to the fullest yet, or at least everything leads to think that way. This can really hurt your Impossible/Ironman attempts. But, I don’t usually see this in Classic difficulty.

      As for the “shooting through walls” and “shooting while facing wrong direction”, while not exactly nice, it happens rarely to really bother you. Not really a big deal as they are clearly graphical glitchs. Probably something they didn’t got right with the unreal engine.

      But in any case, and even considering the annoyances (some bigger than others), I don’t think it makes any sense to label this game as “crap”. It’s an excellent game by almost every standard. And, it’s the generalized consensus to consider it to be one of the top games of 2012. Of course, I don’t know about all platforms, I only played in the PC.

      • Dark Helmet says:

        “Crap” was probably too harsh. My disappointment is based on many missions, for example recently on a Supply Ship, where I had an ‘elite’ sniper and a Heavy scouting ahead from the roof. The rest of the team was moving deliberate and slow from the back and lower sides. I lost my sniper and heavy to 3 Elite Berserkers because I thought both soldiers were in great cover. Ironically I saw the Berserkers closing in but thought, “who cares, there’s a wall between us” but also it is kinda weird I can see the enemy through obvious cover. Nope. 2 critical hits from basically point blank range later and both soldiers were gone with minimal damage to the Berserkers.

        This happens on many missions along with the goofy shooting from my back bug. Granted the aiming one way with projectile coming out the other way can be chalked up as a graphical issue it still ruins the immersive nature of the game. The shooting through walls bug destroys the tactical aspect of the game making me not want to play anymore because a core element of the game, cover, is now unnecessarily unpredictable or does not really exist.

        Another bug that still exist I forgot to mention, is where I try to place a movement spot for a soldier from a lower floor to higher ground. I can spend upwards of 20 seconds spinning the camera to get the pointer to stay on the second floor. This commonly happens inside ships where the spaces are narrow. Again it just ruins the experience for me because I spin the camera through a wall to see the spot, spin back to make sure that is actually a solid wall (as I mentioned the word “walls” in this game is used loosely), spin again to make the movement spot stick, then click to confirm. Jeesh!

        In my mind, if you develop a tactic-based game, why not make sure those elements essential to tactics above all are working. The rest of it is just icing.

        • SQW says:

          1. Their fixed the roof/2nd level view bug in patch 2.

          2. Cover does NOT make you immune; it only reduces hit chances and even sectoids have 30% chance of hitting you through full cover.

          3. Shoot-through-wall only ever happen during reaction fire and it happens rarely to say the least. It’s no LOS, no shot so are you saying you can regularly seeing through solid wall during your phase?

          Combat, teleporting bug aside, is probably the the most solid aspect of the game.

  4. zigzag says:

    @Adam Have you had a chance to try any of the Second Wave options, either in the latest patch or by modifying the data files? They seem like they will add a lot more replayability to the game, but I haven’t tried them yet. (Starting a new campaign is a massive undertaking!)

    • Adam Solo says:

      I haven’t tried any of the Second Wave options yet. Now that they are official (since they were already in the game, although not finished) it’s a good time to try some of them. As you say, they should add a lot to replayability. And some of them sound really good.

      What troubles me is the “teleporting bug” issue. I played several Classic games and I was in my way in a very good I/I session, but got frustrated with the teleporting bug (it happens mostly in Impossible games). As it seems, this is not fully addressed yet, and some people in the forums are even saying that it may have gotten worse now.

      Oh well, I guess the best would be to wait a few more weeks until Firaxis can deal with this properly.

  5. Dark Helmet says:

    I can confirm the tele bug has not been fixed – got surprised by a Sectopod on one mission and a disc on another today, even after the #3 patch.

    And to reply to SQW’s comments, I could have been clearer – the issue I was referring to was not ‘cover’ per se, like a graveyard tombstone or bench, but a solid wall such as the ship’s hull or an obviously closed doorway. My soldiers are being cleared out while standing on top of or next to a clearly solid hull by xrays from the opposite side. As with the tele bug this also happened again today, fortunately I did not lose any valuable assets. This is what I mean by ruining the core element of the game, which is combat tactics. Now I am diligent saving each mission at regular intervals so I can go back when the game mechanics fail which still seems to be often.

  6. Mark says:

    Ok, I know the graphics are shinier than the original X-Com, but I have a question for all of you who have the game.

    Does the new X-Com have any feature/s that make it tactically deeper and more interesting than the old X-Com? I’m not talking about things that make it simpler or easier to use compared to the old way, but features that make for a deeper, richer, more thought provoking tactical experience.

    Ive been thinking about getting it, but if the answer is no then I think I might pass. If I want to shoot aliens with shiny graphics then I’ll just play Crysis. The original X-Com still runs fine on DosBox.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I think these are very subjective questions that I’m sure may lead to as much subjective answers. It really depends a lot on what one considers “deeper” to be. And, “more interesting” is just too general and subjective to reply anything conclusive. The best for the latter case is to read a couple of reviews. “Richer” is also very subjective. It may include aesthetics (not just graphics) or it may not.

      I tend to think of “deeper” as having more options and more meaningful choices. Not simply more freedom. And sometimes I think this is a grey area for many people.

      I think the original X-COM offered more freedom. In fact, it’s quite closer to being a simulator than this new installment. As so, you have much more freedom in the way you do stuff (e.g. inventory management freedom, pick up stuff, free aim, time units, bring more soldiers).

      And those are probably the typical complaints that many X-COM long time fans point to XCOM:EU. I’ll try to be brief as I already wrote about this stuff in my review.

      Inventory management freedom

      If I remember correctly, in the OG you can equip everybody as you like. In XCOM:EU you have 4 distinct classes and can only equip certain weapons on certain soldiers and are “forced” to specialize. Which system do you prefer?

      Pick up/drop stuff from/to the ground

      This one I don’t like how they did it in XCOM:EU. In the OG you could pick up equipment dropped by other soldiers, or after they die. Grenades, medikits, weapons, etc. In XCOM:EU you cannot. So, if your only soldier that had the medikit dies, you can’t pick it up with another soldier. Do you swallow that the field medic (support class) is the only one capable to use a medi? If so, you accept it, if not then you’re in trouble. But, anybody can use a medikit, but ONLY if they bring it when the mission starts. This one is very questionable.

      Free aim

      There’s free aim in OG but not exactly in XCOM:EU. This one is somewhat of a pity also. It would be very useful and fun to spend a turn to shoot at a wall so that a buddy could shoot down the uncovered alien. The problem I see is that this would ruin Firaxis’ cover system, as it would probably make the game too easy and exploitable/predictable perhaps. But, you can still use two types of grenades and three types of rockets to achieve the same objective, that is, destroy cover and then another soldier can shoot at the alien. So, there’s free aim, but not for all weapons.

      Time units

      I wrote about this one extensively on my review, so I’ll skip the details on this one. But for the sake of the comment flow I’ll just conclude that I don’t miss TUs. I think the new movement system eased the experience for the same outcome.

      Bring more soldiers

      I also wrote about this one in my review. In short, in the OG you could send what, 14 soldiers? In XCOM:EU you can send up to 6 and start with only 4. I think 4 is perhaps too few but I don’t have a problem with not having more than 6 in combat because in the OG that was perhaps the number I always took in late games.

      Cover system & Line of sight

      Some people complain that the XCOM:EU cover system is bad because we can fire through crates and other obstacles while that was far more realistic in the OG. I confess that I was only upset of couple of times when I was almost 100% sure that my sniper should see an alien and the game said it could not. Snipers have a special ability (that you can pick) that allows them to fire at any alien that the other soldiers see. But, you must have line of sight to shoot even in those cases. And, there was much more to talk about the XCOM:EU cover system and line of sight, but simply put, or you accept them or you don’t. I think it’s fun as it is now. However, I would prefer that the aliens would come to you and shoot if they have a spare action and not do a “dance sequence” where they always take cover before you’re able to take a shot. This could be discussed for hours. In the end what matters is if the gaming experience is fun or not. I think it is.

      Game designers make decisions, and some of these decisions are restrictions imposed on gameplay to make the experience more fluid and rewarding. I think the OG has more simulation freedom while XCOM:EU imposes more restrictions in favor of specialization in order to make you opt in your choices and not simply let you have all the freedom to do what you like.

      Note that the OG, X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown), is one of my favorite games of all time. And, I also like XCOM:EU a lot.

      Hope that this comment/wall of text is useful to you and everybody else that is still on the fence to buy or not.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks for the extremely comprehensive reply Adam. I did find it useful, and I appreciate the effort you went to. I know it sounds like I didn’t read your very good review, but I did (honest). Unfortunately my impression was that it seemed like pretty much everything had been simplified in comparison to the old X-Com. So I thought I would ask if *anything at all* had improved in terms of depth and tactical options. Sorry for failing to clarify exactly what I was after here, but I find that its a very difficult concept to accurately convey in words, but I think you almost nailed it with….

        “I tend to think of “deeper” as having more options and more meaningful choices. Not simply more freedom. And sometimes I think this is a grey area for many people.”

        Yeah that’s pretty much it, except that I would go so far as to say that I am also looking for freedom too, as much of it as I can get. Games that limit your choices in the name of fun “gameplay” often don’t cut it for me because I usually find that I want to play the game *my* way and have fun my way, but due to hard-coded design limitations that *they* thought would be fun, I cant. So for me at least, freedom = fun. Or at least more opportunity to find fun.

        “Inventory management freedom”
        “Pick up/drop stuff from/to the ground”
        “Free aim”
        “Bring more soldiers”
        “Cover system & Line of sight”

        I know they did all this for “gameplay” reasons, but the original X-Com *had* good gameplay with significantly more depth and freedom, so it clearly isn’t a mutually exclusive thing. You can have freedom, realism, depth *AND* good gameplay, the original proved that beyond any doubt. I think that dumbing things down in the name of fun and gameplay is a somewhat lazy approach. It *is* possible to have depth, realism and fun, all at the same time, and many of the truly great games, the ones that we look back on and remember from 20 years ago have that.

        “Time units”

        Once again, it seems like they did this to make things easier, but I really don’t care about easy. I don’t care if I have to do a bit of simple math in my head if it means that my troops behave more like real soldiers and less like pretty, animated chess pieces. Immersion is very important, and if the mechanics break that, then the game soon becomes impossible to believe and once belief has been broken, then it becomes almost unplayable.

        “I think the OG has more simulation freedom while XCOM:EU imposes more restrictions in favor of specialization in order to make you opt in your choices and not simply let you have all the freedom to do what you like.”

        Yes, I get that, but I think that many of the limited choices they leave you with are rather simplistic, extremely unrealistic and often strain credibility well beyond the breaking point (like not being able to pick things off the ground for example). Nothing kills a game for me faster than having my immersion constantly broken by ridiculous design decisions in the name of “gameplay”. If I want abstract strategy, I’ll play chess. A game like X-com *must* have a certain amount of role-playing involved and that’s difficult to do if you have to struggle to rationalize why your men cant do trivial stuff like pick equipment off the ground. You cant just throw any illogical choice in there and call it a tactical decision, it has to make *some* kind of sense within your chosen genre or IMO you have utterly failed as a designer.

        Once again, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think I will hold on to my wallet until your review for Xenonauts comes out.


        • Adam Solo says:

          Have you tried the demo? It’s just a tutorial but give it a shot. As a fan of the series you owe that to yourself. Try it and let me know.

          Also, take into account that I played the PC version.

        • Mark says:

          @ Adam,

          No, I’m pretty close to my bandwidth limit for this month. I might give the demo a try when it replenishes in a couple of weeks. But unfortunately, from what I’ve heard, I think its unlikely I’ll find anything that will change my mind.

          I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong though. I didn’t think I’d like Distant Worlds either, but – with all the expansions – I loved it, so I guess anything is possible.

          Yeah, If I get anything, it’ll be the PC version too.

        • Adam Solo says:


          “its unlikely I’ll find anything that will change my mind”
          “I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong”

          :) Well, I did my best. And, in those terms I guess the only way for you to change your mind is to really play it for yourself, at a friend’s or by trying the demo. I completely understand your reserves though, as it’s still a lot of cash. But, consider that you’ll be missing a hell of a ride ;)

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