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By the end of the limited attack, locations are a burned out, rubble filled mess as witnessed during an assault near a gas station. Here’s a tip: When a soldier says “It’s going to blow,” get him away from any smoldering vehicle.

Another piece of advice: Don’t get too attached to the soldiers in your squad, as the fights are brutal and one of the best and most experienced might fall in a hail of alien plasma at any time.

The loss of a trooper can be quite frustrating and emotional. I commanded the tough Sgt. Joseph Zad through five missions before stupidly placing him in enemy crossfire. He fell and bled out because I forgot to load up on medi-kits before the mission.

Zad died and was gone forever, but his memory lived on. Players can access a memorial at headquarters and see fallen troops’ names displayed as bagpipes play.

What must never be forgotten during all of the action, however, is the smothering presence of the Council (succeed in missions and collect cash and help or rate poorly at the end of each month and risk disapproval) and protecting the 16 countries (monitored at Headquarters’ situation room) that contribute resources to the XCOM initiative.

You eventually will lose the support of some countries as leaders panic (they can’t all be protected), so watch the monitors and carefully choose which countries to abandon and which to focus on.

If this sounds like a ton of work, it’s a gleefully guilty pleasure.

Don’t fret. A fantastic tutorial teaches commanders many of the finer points of the game, including controlling attack airships to crush hostiles’ air power as well as the finer points of finding cover and alien species.

By the way, the game will get quite difficult due to those nasty aliens. The ultraviolent group brings with them every UFO cliche, down to cattle mutilations and telepathic possession, while tapping into nightmares spun from such pop-culture sources as “Independence Day,” “Mars Attacks,” “Falling Skies” and “Signs.”

They often entrench themselves just far enough off-screen to ambush (a near haunted house effect hidden in a “fog of war”) and will leave once-proud warriors in a pool of blood in locations ranging from Canada to Mexico.

The game holds a Mature rating for good reason as plenty of multicolored fluids are spilled by both sides of the conflict.

For those in need of more stress, a multiplayer option pits player versus player in a deathmatch with squads of humans or aliens available to use. Picking weapons during loadouts uses a point system so neither opponent is unfairly loaded with the best technology XCOM or extraterrestrial has to offer.

Perhaps what’s most appreciated from XCOM: Enemy Unknown is that it’s not just another first-person frag fest or third-person collection epic, both of which proliferate game libraries these days. Instead, it provides a blended experience where patience, strategy and forethought clearly lead to success that trumps the temporary satisfaction of button-mashing brutality and gory headshots.