Abducted By X-Com : A Fanatic’s Blog

On April 14th, the gaming community was shocked when two Official Xbox Magazine covers showed up revealing 2K Marin’s new project-a revival of a 17 year old PC strategy game that graces every ‘Top Games of All Time’ list – X-Com : Ufo Defense.  Apparently, losing the hyphen, was not the only change the game has undergone.  The blogs and forums of every gaming community lit up like the Rockefeller Christmas tree with both franchise lovers and change haters spewing their opinions—and here I get to place mine.  I already produce the ‘Weekly Byte’, my PC News forum here, and to save it from being overrun with XCOM news and editorials, I have decided to dedicated those pieces to this space.  As more news comes out, I will post the facts and my take on things here;because as of this writing, I believe that XCOM and 2K Marin are not getting a fair shake.


E3 Previews hit like a Sectoid shot from a potato cannon last night, and XCOM is rapidly becoming the game to watch at E3, for fans and newcomers alike.  I must say, I like the descriptions much more than the gameplay video we’ve seen so far.  It would seem these tarballs(bad timing 2K, have you not watched the gulf coast) are the enemy.  While I can understand the way these aliens will relate to the story and how they will take over human hosts, I’m not sure if I like the idea of them being an overly common enemy.  It’s interesting, just watching gameplay, especially with the shotgun equipped and the 50’s setting, there is a large Bioshock feel to the game, and I hope that doesn’t become a negative aspect of the game.  The descriptions, as I’ve said, are amazing.  You will be at your base between missions, there will be no more nameless, faceless soldiers disposed of like used kleenex—-lose someone on a mission, and it’s a character you will know and feel for more than in the strategy classics.  All of your decisions will play out in the story in real-time, as we mentioned before, and I think this will make XCOM be just as addicting to playthru a second, third and fourth time as it was with the original UFO Defense.  Consecutive playthrus were always different, and it wasn’t the success or failure of a particular mission that changed the game, rather how you did on an over-arcing aspect.  For example, pull out of a mission in the original because your troops are getting slaughtered, and you still might have netted a corpse or two for autopsy, some elerium and weapons for study, and who knows what else.  2K is playing this up big time in the new XCOM–anytime you feel overwhelmed and you want to bail, you head back to your car and it’s vamoos!  Of course, as before, any evidence or items you’ve collected go with you, making strategy all the more important here, and discarding the ‘kill everything that crosses your path’ mentality.  It will be interesting to see what game options this ‘live to fight another day’ strategy will open up-not to mention how it will affect replays.  The more I see, the more I like.  My only concern is that there are more enemies than just gulf coast tarballs.


OK, so it’s been a while since I beamed down here.  We’ve seen the OXM preview come and go, and I had thought there would be more info leaking though, but such is not the case.  SO here’s what I surmise from the new information, pre-E3.  Do any of you remember the extremely cool, and extremely misrepresented trailer for Mass Effect, where Sheppard stands before a map of galaxies hearing distress calls ring out from different systems?  Sheppard makes his choice, sets course to aid one planet, and hears the people of the planet he won’t be getting to scream and fade away in a hail of gunfire;unable to be rescued in time.  This is what XCOM is shaping up to be, if we believe all of the details.  Yes, it will be an FPS.  Yes, it is a far stretch from the original.  BUT, at the risk of being burned at the stake by PC purists and console haters alike, I say this sounds like an amazing evolution in the universe.  As I have mentioned, and hope to be able to report on with previews and reviews in the coming months, other companies are taking up XCOM’s mantle in the form of more faithful, strategy games paying homage to the original.  2K’s iteration, however, will hopefully recreate the 50’s UFO alarmist environment as well as they painted Rapture.  In addition, those choices you make, as previously stated, will affect the game’s reality in real time—sounds to me like it will have the same draw from replayability as the original, if 2K can pull this off.  Consider, also, that your gameplay between missions will factor in your research and development in a secret FBI bunker, bringing in the strategy of not only where your next attack will be, but how you will go about it and what tech you will have at your disposal, and I am beginning to be more reassured that this is not just a bland shooter with the ‘XCOM’ name slapped on it, but rather a well researched and carried out successor that could be a force to be reckoned with.  Part of the game’s research will take place during the missions, a la Bioshock’s camera research system.  So not only will you have the ability to customize your approach between missions, but your actions during them will prove just as crucial to being able to enable whatever strategy you may be planning.  I know I am in the minority, but I am definitely loving what I am hearing so far.  I anxiously await what E3 will drop from the skies in the XCOM universe, but in the meantime, check out this summary of the story and announcement posted on NEOGAF.


So, with two magazine covers and a lousy screenshot, XCOM has emerged from the gaming vault it was locked in.  The Microprose title debuted in 1993, had two sequels along with a space shooter, FPS game and even an email game, and then disappeared into gamings’ abyss, ne’er to be heard from again.  Or so we thought.  Rumors always abounded, but nothing could be confirmed.  In 2005 Atari transferred several IPs to Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. and X-COM was transferred with them on June 12, 2005.  Rumors still popped up from time to time, but it wasn’t until now that we had anything credible to go on.  I must admit, I think the way the game was revealed, and the screenshot shown, are the worst way to announce a reboot of a beloved franchise.  I can understand the necessity to withold details to save the exclusivity of the OXM issue, but to make such a drastic change to such a well-known franchise without giving gamers the details to answer at least some of their questions was a move just begging the forum trolls to call for a lynching.  You don’t pull a steak away from a rabid dog unless you have an equally tempting offering in the other hand to satiate him.  Let’s not forget that screenshot–one that reveals absolutely nothing about the game, and more importantly, does nothing to reassure fans of the original that the game will be handled well as an FPS.  Sure, it will be more widely marketable;turn-based strategy game are very few and far between these days-relics that are clung to by only the most hardcore strategy fans that have not migrated over to consoles.  Not to mention, strategy games are not the best sellers on consoles, so one can certainly understand, from a business perspective, why this decision was made.

I have to come out and say that I do not agree with all of the haters.  Quoting myself, on our own news bit on X-Com’s reveal, I stated that if 2K could do for XCOM what Bioshock did for System Shock 2 AND someone could remake the original strategy game, I would be happy as a clam.  Well, I was right in my statement–two strategy titles are inbound for Q4 2010, and both companies saw 2K’s breaking of their silence as the perfect oppotunity to break their own and capitalize on the desire for a faithful XCOM game.  Goldhawk Interactive will be developing Xenonauts, and Chaos Concept will create a sequel for their XCOM-style strategy game UFO Extraterrestrials.  Now, to be fair, we have nothing more than 2k’s confirmation and 3 pieces of art to surmise what their FPS take on XCOM will include.  There is room in the description to believe that strategy could, still, play a large role in the game;either between missions, or as an overarcing game mechanic.  Not to mention, how many of us that have played XCOM didn’t fantasize about playing the game in co-op?  I can’t think of a better way to capture the strategy and tension of the combat missions than to do so over the internet as player’s cooperated to clear an alien base or terror site.  Taking the game into the first person may not be the worst thing, it opens up many new avenues to take the franchise.  Did that not work for another isometric favorite of ours?  A little game called Fallout?  Don’t get me wrong, nothing would have made me happier than to hear that there would have been a new game, true to the original.  But, I’m not lighting my torches and sharpening my pitchfork just yet.  We need to see more details, and give 2K Marin a fair chance.  More will be revealed in the May 5th issue of OXM, and I will bet all the sectoid corpses in my storehouse that more will show up at E3.  It already seems the indie floodgates are opening, and I’m sure more will follow.  For now I am content with a resurgence of interest in my absolute, number one, favorite game of all time.

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