An XCOM resurgence has been a long time coming; I think we can all agree. 2K’s original announcement of the FPS XCOM may have been welcome, but since it seemed to be in a similar vein as to what EA did with Syndicate, I doubt anyone was overly anticipating that particular game. Imagine our surprise though when, not only did 2K announce another XCOM, but it was a tactical –squad-based XCOM being made by one of the kings of strategy – Firaxis. Now that’s more like it.
|Whether you want to get up close and personal, or watch from above - you choose
It’s odd that despite being announced second, XCOM: Enemy Unknown
actually has had more information and assets released for it. Looking at the currently available screenshots, you can see a mixture of different elements and concepts, and you have to wonder what it all means. Luckily, that’s where we come in - In a secret location on top of a hill in Greenwich, London, right next to something that looked like an Observatory, we managed to get a first look at this title, and we can you a brief overview of the game as it stands now.
has two main layers – the combat or tactical layer, and then the strategic layer. Looking at it, it’s almost a perfect recreation of what the original game was like – that’s not saying it IS a perfect recreation, Firaxis has gone on record to say that they have changed things – but it’s still pretty close. You have your four-man squad, each of them has a specialisation, and you have a limited amount of move/action points with which to work with. Firaxis are really trying to recapture that feeling of walking into the unknown that the original did so well – enemies are triggered when you come near them, compelling you to tread carefully until you find out where they are.
When you do find a bunch though, it’s all action – the environment plays a really big part in the combat dynamics in this game. A sniper guy, for example, can use a grappling hook to climb up on top of otherwise unreachable rooftops or heights. Cover, like cars etc… can be destroyed, with you next to them as well. You can climb ladders and then drop down to rain death on your enemy, and there are a wide variety of special tactics and powers you can make use off. Different enemy of types (of which with seen two so far) also require different tactics, and it’s worth noting that this time around you’re not penalised as much for running out of action points – we’re not quite sure on the specifics yet, but we get the impression that you’ll always be able to get into cover, even if you’re technically short on the points you need.
Next up is the strategic layer – once the fight is over, you collect your men, your gear and then head back to base. You could also call it the management layer – here you can manage your squad, research technology, build new weapons and armour and find and select new missions, depending on which ‘room’ you go to. Any loot (not actual loot, but you do get some rewards for successfully completing missions) that you get can be processed here to help benefit your team. The whole interface is presented as an interactive diorama (Which is kind of neat, actually), and expanding and developing your base is also part of the management system. Obviously, as your base expands, so does the diorama.
We’d say the three key pillars of XCOM
’s gameplay are persistence, randomisation and management. If one or several of your guys die in battle, that’s it, they’re dead – you’ll need fill up your squad with new recruits and train them up all over again. They’ve even added in some light role-playing in the sense that you can customise each of the squad members – their names, sex, race, etc... what they look like. Then as they experience and level up, you choose their specialisations and what they are useful for. The scenarios in XCOM
’s main map ‘room’ of the base appear randomly, so the story is more in your head than provided by the game.
From the original XCOM, to Jagged Alliance, to Valkyria Chronicles… there are plenty of different sources that you could make up this game’s DNA from. Obviously, the original XCOM game is the main source, but it being 2012 means that you’re going to find other games buried in there as well. For once, we’re looking at a reboot and not really worrying how the old guard are going to take to this – there are some little things that will probably ruffle some feathers, but in all honesty this is definitely a game to look forward to, regardless of whether you’re an XCOM fan or not. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is coming to PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 sometime in the Fall of 2012.
Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing where you can go in terms of progression for your squad.
|Also referred to as the 'Ant Farm'