by Justin Snyder
previewed on X360
The Birth of XCOM
With Bioshock, 2K Marin gained a reputation for being able to create a unique, intelligent shooter that tells a story. It is this experience that they are bringing to the table to craft a new game in a series that has long been considered abandoned. I am, of course, talking about the new XCOMgame which we were shown at E3 back in June.
Set in the America of the 1950’s, 2K takes us back to a time of innocence and purity and post-war hope for lasting peace. Set quite some time before the original games, the game tells the story of the birth of XCOM, a government organization specializing in dealing with the unknown. Taking police reports and random sightings, the men behind XCOMare tasked to piece together information on what looks to be a pending alien invasion. The player takes on the role of Special Agent William Carter, head and founder of XCOM. It was Carter who discovered the mysterious alien artifact that made the government aware of the presence of extraterrestrials on our planet.
A government airplane hangar provides the backdrop for XCOM’s main base. Relevant information comes together in the operations room where it is displayed on a big map. Different points on the map represent various missions that are available for you to partake in. Many missions are combat oriented but some are - at least on paper – of a less aggressive nature. You could, for instance, go on a mission to collect Illirium, the organization’s main resource. However, choosing to do so might mean that the mission to rescue a Californian civilian who called 911 to report an alien sighting becomes unavailable. Choices, choices…
Our presenter at E3 opted to save the civilian. Before heading out, he showed us the lab where Mal, XCOM’s chief researcher and weapons developer, does his testing and research. The artifact is a constant source of information that, together with the research that the player does in the field, yields constant improvements and innovations in a multitude of areas. New technologies are quickly implemented in new weapons and gadgets for use in the fight against the aliens. In the demo, Mal has just developed the Blobatov, an incendiary grenade that is particularly useful against ‘Blob aliens’. Our presenter took the grenade along with a Lightning Gun which is another experimental weapon developed through reverse engineering alien technology.
This introduction showcases how 2K Marin is taking elements from previous X-Com titles and are integrating them into a new, unique experience. While I personally haven't played any of the X-Com games myself, it is easy to see that the fundamentals are there, at least in part. Especially the goings-on in the base have a bit of a strategic element to it. Ultimately though, these elements do not detract from the game feeling like a shooter with a mission hub.
With the introduction to the mission hub and managerial parts of the game out of the way, the presenter continued on to the civilian rescue mission. On arrival, we saw a typical Californian neighborhood, suburbia as far as the eye can see. A paper map was pulled up that showed the mission location circled and a notepad with the objectives written down. I've always loved when developers take things like that out of the menus and make it more tangible, more immersive.