So, I've decided: I'm OK with the new X-Com. Or XCOM, I guess. From what I've been able to read I can tell that there is at least potential in the design they have. They're taking some of the elements, that idea that you gain more junk if you risk your crew's lives and stay there to clean up (with a different emphasis on risk vs. reward in this version), commanding a base, and gaining advantages through what the aliens leave behind. The aesthetics of the game, the idyllic 50's with the dark corruption tearing it up is also really appealing to me.
I understand why people are pissed, though, and I'm going to encapsulate what I don't like about this project this way: they used the name X-Com. In a sense, they're riding on the notoriety of the original property without coming closer to the the original gameplay style than would be considered appropriate by many. It's really, really easy for any of us to point to the original and say that there's not much in similarity but for aliens invading and a few callbacks to old strategic elements.
But... but... but. The original X-Com, by Julian " Laser Squad " Gollop and the rest. I love it. It's fun to play even after all this time. Arbitrary Water recently experienced the game for the first time and seems to have fallen in love too, so people who are willing to deal with an older game's quirks can still find something to sink their teeth into. The game has tons of flaws to be sure, which is why people always wanted a sequel. The first new game was, in some significant ways, a mere reskinning. It was more challenging, there were slight differences, the story was different and the environments had changed, but it didn't push things forward. You still had the painful inventory screen, there were weird bugs with some equipment and actions, the interface was twitchy, the aliens were often a bit too brutal to prepare for adequately, and the consequences of some actions only became apparent after it was too late to take them back. The third game improved on many of these things, but I think, from what I managed to play, that it missed something by changing the strategic overview part of the formula, and altering the action to a more Baldur's Gate style of timed movement.
One thing some people seem to have forgotten is that 2K's XCOM isn't the first attempt to take the same franchise in new (and uncomfortable for us X-Com fans) directions. First there was a space fighter simulator, then a 3rd-person shooter, both of which weren't well received. I think the strange thing is that companies seem to think the X-Com label is either more popular that it really is, or that they misinterpret the fandom as directed toward franchise, when it's really connected to the gameplay itself.
When I look at it this way, it becomes clear to me that 2K's use of the franchise name is just another reminder that I will have to wait a bit longer for a proper, more slicky designed X-Com that I want, not any sort of declaration of war. From what I've seen so far, the team that seems like they will get the victory parade is Goldhawk Interactive, developer of Xenonauts.
Xenonauts seems to be modified clone of the original X-Com, which I think is just the thing that's needed. It has a map screen, where you send interceptors. It has a base you build up with different sections for research, storage, defense. You have to earn money, and you do that by capturing alien tech and pleasing contributors with shooting down bad guys over their territory. In the game description they cannily describe it as though it's a new concept, which I think was the smart, if cheeky, thing to do, because I think a modernized version of the original game needs to be tested to see how much of the bluster is just us old guys and young converts who love the game, or if there really is a big enough group to justify a bigger production of, yes, a turn-based strategy game. Here's hoping that Goldhawk, or someone down the road, will be able to put this thing together. With the noise over 2K's excellent-looking but unfortunately-named shooter, maybe Xenonauts will get more attention than it already would have gotten. As long as people give both games a chance, that's fine by me.
I understand that there have been some other attempts over the years to try to reproduce the old X-Com formula, although I've lost track of many of their names. Has anyone had a chance to try out those, or other games that try to scratch the same itch?