XCOM Impressions

Stuffwelike Demos XCOM

Last year at E3 2010, 2K Games announced the return to the world of XCOM, a tactical sci-fi gaming series from the 90’s. The story revolves around an alien invasion, and the agency known as XCOM that is in charge of learning the technologies of the extraterrestrials and using them to take down the force from which they came. For the new XCOM, 2K Marin has decided to turn the top-down, turn-based tactics game into a first-person shooter with tactical elements. And instead of being set in the present, like in the original games, this game takes place in the 1950s, a time when there was a greater “fear of the unknown” (2K Rep). Despite these changes, the goal of the game is still the same: capture and utilize alien technology to repel the massive alien invasion.

Today, I got to sit in on a demonstration of XCOM, and here are the details:

You play as Agent William Carter of the XCOM organization. The demo begins with Agent Williams viewing a 8mm roll of film, depicting images of an alien invasion in a small suburban town (it essentially was what they showed at last year’s E3). As the film ends, Williams gets up from his desk in his office and exits into the main investigation room of XCOM. This is the “hub world” of XCOM, the area where you will conduct your technological research, select your next investigation, and upgrade your character, agents, and weapons.

Upon exit, Williams is greeted by a fellow agent, and the game enters a dialogue situation incredibly similar to the dialogue from Fallout 3. The difference, though, is that Williams has a voice, so your dialogue choice is followed by a voice response.

After selecting his two agent partners, Williams is presented with a map of the United States where large dark circles, representing areas of invasion, are displayed. The invasion areas are your quests. I thought this was pretty cool, because this shows that XCOM isn’t a completely linear game. I can choose the main story mission, or I can choose one of the many side missions to gain experience and alien tech.

Our demo continues with a mission set in Georgia, where Williams is instructed to find and extract a university professor who must be saved from an invasion. Williams and his two agents fly in by helicopter to a small deserted town. They stumble upon an Army base where Williams is tackled by a soldier who has been possessed by an alien. This was great because we get a close-up look at the alien form. Picture a high-res Metal Andross from Star Fox 64, that makes the sound of a Decepticon. Williams throws the alien off and his agents finish it off with their guns that look similar to Ghostbuster guns.

Upon exit from the Army base, Williams is confronted with more aliens that have spawned out of a massive Rift-like tear in the sky. It is at this point that we got our first glimpse of the tactical part of XCOM. The player can pull up the “Tactical View” (which pauses the game similar to Mass Effect 2), where different abilities, such as shield, disrupt, and stun, are displayed for Williams and his agents. More abilities can be unlocked with the more alien research you do in the XCOM base.

The fight continues as Williams and Co. enter the university to extract the professor. When faced with a large alien gun, Williams pulls out his Ghostbuster gun and “captures” the alien gun technology. After capturing alien tech, the player can take it back to the XCOM base upon completion of the level, or can use it against the aliens before the level is over. The latter, though, is less beneficial in the long run of the game.

At the end of the demo, after defeating an orb-like alien “Titan” ship, Williams chases the professor through a portal that takes them to an unknown alien ship yard, where massive alien vessels soar through space.

Hm… what are you going to do now, Williams?

I thoroughly enjoyed this demo, and can’t wait to see more!

XCOM will be released in March of 2012 on the PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, and PC.

Stay tuned for our video interview with an XCOM developer, and to www.stuffwelike.com/e3 for more E3 coverage.

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Author: Seth Hansen

Seth is a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge. After receiving his BA in Film, he is deeply immersed in starting his career in film art and creative writing. In his spare time, Seth writes, watches movies, plays video games, and spends time with his wonderful family.

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