by Danielle Harrison
previewed on PC
The rise and fall of X-COM
The X-COM franchise has earned its place in some of the biggest video game polls ever, often placing in the top ten in categories such as ‘Top 25 PC games of all time’ by IGN and ‘Best Video Games since ‘92’ by Pelit. Critically acclaimed UFO: Enemy Unknown (later released as X-COM: UFO Defence and X-com: Enemy Unknown), developed by Mythos Games in 1994, was the first of the X-COM series and it soon gathered a cult following.
In 1995 MicroProse took over and delivered the next game from the series X-COM: Terror from the Deep. The game was generally well received. Although the reception of the game was generally good, some older fans thought that it offered little more than the original and had merely made things more difficult. Mythos Games took over once again to develop X-COM: Apocalypse in 1997 and, unlike its predecessors, this game was not overly impressive. The following title, X-COM: Interceptor went back to MicroProse in 1998 and continued to let the whole series down, often being described as lackluster. Soon after, Hasbro Interactive bought out MicroProse, gaining all the rights to the X-Com series. They released a game titled X-COM: Enforcer which was worse than any of those before it. Two more titles were planned but when Hasbro were shut down in 2001 all current projects were scrapped. For the fans, it seemed all hope was lost.
Now, ten years later at E3 2010, 2K Marin announced the rebooting of the X-COM series and has dropped the hyphen, leaving the game as XCOM. Given the history of the franchise, it is understandable that fans are concerned and weary of what to expect.
On familiar ground
The player will assume the role of Special Agent William Carter and together with his team you will be pitted against a supernatural force, threatening extinction upon the human race. Every enemy will be essential in helping you win the battle against the otherworldly force as players will attack surgically, extracting all possible information on the alien technology in hope to turn their weapons against them. You will play on the front lines of the war - main street USA - and the setting will be in a 1950’s world with white picket fences and retro fashioned vehicles. It’s a rich, vibrant setting that embraces the thought of the American dream before smashing it to pieces with alien cliches and human extinction.
According to 2K Marin, your team of specialized government agents will not be nameless, expendable men. They will be individuals with distinct features and traits that you get to know and love, and if you lose a man in battle you will feel the full blow to the team as you did in the original X-COM game. The new battlescape feature adds much potential to the game, giving you the chance to see all possible tactical actions your agents could take. The gunplay and abilities should make the combat look strategy-like, but still understandable. Taken from the original, the X-COM base returns, and will be looked from first-person perspective. It is here that all your missions will be planned, right down to building your own weapon inventory and choosing which agents are the best to take out on the field. As in many games now, the decisions you make will affect how the game plays out. Taking on certain missions may mean that in future, other missions are no longer available.
From tactical strategy to first-person shooter?
Looking back at the original games and comparing them to the latest addition it is obvious how much time has passed and how big of a step technology has taken. The game has been changed from a tactical strategy game with very little input in visuals to a first person shooter that could easily stand beside games such as Bioshock, Half-Life or FEAR. However, better visuals do not always mean a better game. Initially fans were outraged to hear of the changes being made to the game, but 2K Marin assured that they would try to keep elements from the original game. Try to keep? Doesn’t sound very convincing to me. Christoph Hartmenn, President of 2K Games, stated that “strategy games are just not contemporary”. Just like Bioshock and other iconic FPS’s I can see XCOM coining its own world and continuing its story with more games in the series but let’s just hope 2K Games don’t disappoint the previous fans and lose them before they even start to create this new sequel.