This isn't a numbered game in the series and -- as its lower price hints -- it doesn't have the scope or depth of one, either. But that doesn't mean XCOM: Chimera Squad isn't worth a look for fans of turn-based tactics. Its designers used this game-between-games to try out some interesting new ideas for the series, some of which don't work, but many of which do. First, the bad news. You don't get to customize and name recruits (the cast is full of named characters, each with their own backstory and unique abilities/skill trees), and the franchise's renowned permanent death feature has been removed. If a character dies, it's game over. You don't get to continue on without them. If a hero is seriously injured, you need to stabilize them before they bleed out, then have them undergo rehab back at base to recover from any wounds with lasting effects. The breaching feature, meanwhile, is a mixed bag. Bursting into rooms without seeing enemy locations reduces strategy to a degree, but it also keeps the game moving quickly, ensuring you're always in the action rather than spending time moving around empty battlefields.
But what this mini-XCOM really gets right is pacing. Not just within missions -- some of which last just a handful of turns if you're efficient -- but also back at the base. Less important story details play out over broadcasts in the background so that you can devote your attention to other activities as you listen. And while there's a nice range of base tasks to keep you occupied, they are – much like the missions -- snack-sized, and rarely keep you from jumping back into the action before too long. The story also marks a bold shift forward, giving us a closer look at how society has shifted since the alien invasion, drawing parallels between tolerance of aliens/hybrids and our own real-world racial and cultural issues. By the end of this game, veteran players are likely to have a much better understanding of this fictional universe. There's no denying XCOM: Chimera Squad feels like an experiment, and you shouldn't expect to see everything here incorporated into the next series game, but hopefully Firaxis will keep the bits that work.