XCOM: Enemy Unknown: On Making Old Things New Again, Action Figures, and Perma-Death

  • 85 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Alex (2217 posts) -

If you want a prime example of how fickle (and sometimes needlessly dismissive) the video gaming audience can often be, look no further than 2K's upcoming multiheaded XCOM reboot attack. For a long while, we've known about 2K Marin's XCOM game, a shooter that blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game. We've known about this far longer than we've known about Firaxis' more traditionally strategy-focused XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Because of this, we spent a long time watching as fans of the original XCOM games groused and grumbled about the fact that 2K Marin's XCOM wasn't really XCOM enough for their tastes. They dared to do something different with a beloved franchise, and that wasn't cool--at least, of course, until 2K finally got around to announcing Enemy Unknown. Now, suddenly, there was a "real" XCOM game, so the fact that a purportedly less real XCOM game existed wasn't as big of a deal.

The XCOM you knew (and feared) is pretty much front and center in Enemy Unknown.

To correct a common misconception, it's worth noting that both of these XCOM reboots/re-imaginings have been in development for nearly the same amount of time. Firaxis has been hard at work on Enemy Unknown for more than three years, and the two teams, while not collaborating directly, have often communicated back and forth to give each other a sense of what the other is doing. Basically, if you think that 2K suddenly brought out Enemy Unknown as a response to some of the more rancorous criticism coming from Internet commenters, then you're officially not giving Firaxis nearly enough credit. A proper XCOM remake is not something you can just put together in 18 months. Otherwise, why wouldn't some other studio have done it already?

According to Enemy Unknown's lead designer Jake Solomon, the idea of working on an XCOM remake/reboot/re-imaginging/whatever you want to call it has been in his blood for years. He's a superfan of the original games, as are some of the other key leads on the project I spoke to. Everybody at Firaxis wanted to make this game. To put it in the words of Firaxis art director Greg Foertsch, "I was ready. I was so ready."

What's Old Is New Again

What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware. There are strategy games, some that use both real-time and turn-based mechanics, but none quite like what MicroProse and Mythos Games developed all those years prior.

In that regard, seeing a game like XCOM: Enemy Unknown played is a familiar experience that suddenly feels new, and fresh. As Foertsch described it, "We think the market's right for something like this. The consoles are older than the last generation had gotten, so the console market is maturing, and not only that, but the gamers are maturing. I think you'll find a lot of people that want something that's familiar, but twisted. And that's a new experience."

But exactly how twisted, and how familiar, is this experience?

XCOM: Upgraded

Seeing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I wasn't able to put my hands on a controller (we probably won't get any hands-on time for a few months yet), but in watching lead producer Garth DeAngelis play for a room full of writers with varying degrees of familiarity with the franchise, and hearing Solomon describe the concepts and motivations behind each design decision, it wasn't too difficult to imagine how all this stuff works. After all, it really does look a lot like XCOM.

This new Berzerker unit is one of several new enemies in Enemy Unknown. Don't worry though, there are plenty of old favorites.

The squad-based, turn-based combat system of old has obviously been transported to a 3D realm in Enemy Unknown, but that extra dimension hasn't drastically altered the idea of what XCOM is. Fundamentally, you're still positioning your soldiers in key areas to best take out hordes of alien monsters. The plot was barely described, but suffice it to say, there are aliens, we don't know what their deal is, but we do know that they're fond of abducting humans, and we're not especially cool with that. Hence all the volleys of gunfire and explosions.

The game maintains an isometric viewpoint, but adds a number of layers to the previous combat design. For starters, there are now cover points, which players can position their soldiers in to give them the best, safest vantage point to kill whatever alien scum happen to be hanging around. The battlefields will be hand-designed, but will still come up in random order, save for a few specific missions that are story-specific. The idea behind this, of course, is to ensure that the experience is different on subsequent playthroughs. So while the geometry and architecture are hand-built, the order in which you'll experience these levels is randomized, and odds are you won't see the same exact levels on subsequent playthroughs.

Combat maintains the turn-based design of old, but eliminates time units. Instead, on their turn, players can maneuver soldiers into a nearby zone and have them perform one of their attack abilities, or they can move them further away and skip out on combat for a turn. It's a simplified version of the risk/reward system of old, which some old school players may gripe about, but nonetheless looks perfectly sensible in practice.

For those who like their old things to remain unchanged, you'll be pleased to know that the fog of war remains just as prevalent in Enemy Unknown, and the concept of perma-death still exists.

Building Your Ant Farm

Of course, permanent death doesn't mean you'll just run out of soldiers at some point and the game is over--at least, not unless you're literally just terrible at managing your resources. Soldiers, like all other resources in the game, are a commodity that must be purchased. Once you do have a squad together, you can name them whatever you want, outfit them how you like, and through an RPG-lite system new to Enemy Unknown, you'll be able to upgrade and up-level them as the game goes along. Instead of crafting gigantic back stories for every procedurally generated grunt, this is how you're meant to grow attached to your squad. When you're highly leveled sniper suddenly ends up dead, that's going to really suck, because (at least theoretically) you've spent time building that character into something both useful and personal.

Perma-death is typically viewed nowadays as a rather harsh punishment in games, but in the context of XCOM, it was never a question of if it would make it into Enemy Unknown, but rather a question of how.

The "ant farm" is where you'll do all your research, engineering, and soldier training. It kinda reminds me of one of those old, gigantic G.I. Joe playsets.

"It's different," said Foertsch. "It makes it harder. It's a pillar of XCOM. There was never a question about whether we should take it out. It was always a part of the design."

Should squad members die (it seems likely that at least a few will, after all), you can purchase new ones, alongside other various things in the game's hub world, which the Firaxis guys affectionately referred to as the "ant farm." This is also where you'll do things like engineer new weapons, and research alien technologies. Again, it's all about resource management, as you'll have to be careful not to blow too much scratch on one thing or another. It's all about balance, and tuning your resources to your play style.

The other thing about the ant farm is that it just looks cool. I remarked to DeAngelis and Foertsch that it kind of reminded me of one of those old action figure playsets, like Castle Greyskull or the Real Ghostbusters' firehouse. According to those guys, that's not an altogether surprising comparison.

A Squad of Digital Action Figures

When I asked Foertsch what some of the inspirations for Enemy Unknown's art style were (apart from the obvious XCOM-related trappings), he immediately compared the character designs to classic action figure designs. In his words:

"When we did this pre-vis [an early video Firaxis showed to 2K before the project was greenlit], we basically used most of the company as a focus group, so they didn't know what I was working on. No one knew. So we showed them the pre-vis, like I had these meetings with the whole company for two days. Like people could just come in for 15 minutes, sit down, and just let me have it. Rip me apart. So they came in, and one of the guys...because I think there was a little bit of confusion with people, he was like, 'So, wait, you're making soldiers like Call of Duty?' And I was like, "No..." And his response was, 'Well, you know, they sort of look like action figures.' And that was it. 'You're right. You're absolutely right.' And while I'd been working on this for several months, I had not actually articulated that. And at that moment, I was like, 'That's what they are.' That was that moment that set us down this path."

It went a step further when Firaxis actually hired a few new employees with a deep-seated love of miniatures. The idea of your characters effectively becoming your toys that you play with might sound childish to some, but in truth, any video game character is really just a toy that you play with--some just have stronger narratives than others. In this case, the idea is to give you these fully customizable toys that can create varying types of explosive alien death. Kind of hard to find much fault with that.

Making XCOM Console-Viable

One serious question I see brought up again and again by fans is how, exactly, XCOM can be easily transported to consoles. The answer? It can't be. Not easily, at least. One thing that's helped is that development between the console and PC versions of the game has occurred in parallel.

The turn-based strategy gameplay certainly gives off the vibe of old school XCOM--just with more dimensions, and more detailed soldiers.

"I think it would have been a lot harder if we didn't treat them as separate things," said Foertsch. "Like, okay, here's the Xbox game, now port it to the PC? That would have been a problem. But that we've always treated them as parallel paths, especially from an interface standpoint, and that has actually made it a lot easier."

"It's been a challenge, but for me, especially from a production point of view," remarked DeAngelis. "I like putting constraints on things so we can get stuff done. To go to the design team and be like, 'Here's your controller. Tell me what we need from XCOM to map onto this controller.' So they really had to think about what was most important, and they really made it happen in an elegant way. I think we actually did some playtests, even just with some casual console players, without a tutorial, just handed them a controller and with just general gamer IQ, they were able to move around really quick and get into [combat.]"

The Great Unknown

There are still questions to be answered regarding XCOM: Enemy Unknown. While Firaxis claims that many of the battles will take place in multi-leveled scenery, the only level we've really seen thus far is the gas station section pictured above, which only has ground and rooftop levels. Similarly, we've seen little of what the research and engineering sections of the game will produce for the player. It's safe to assume that it will be a lot of special weaponry and gadgetry, but how all of it plays into the flow of combat remains to be seen.

Environments are, of course, destructible. Quite destructible, actually.

And then there is the subject of personality, or perhaps a slight lack thereof. The units look pretty great, in that over-exaggerated action figure-y way, but the vocals assigned to each character are of that bargain basement action hero variety that all-too-often permeates any game with guns and things to be shot. I heard at least a few kill-celebrating one-liners cheesy enough to make even the Gears of War team blush. With any luck, that's just temporary audio. Please, let that be temporary audio.

Those questions aside however, I feel safe in saying that Firaxis' vision of XCOM doesn't fall too far from the vision of XCOM that every superfan has had dancing in their heads at varying points over the course of the last 18 years. In a strange way, I'm perhaps the poster-child for the kind of player Firaxis is reaching out to most with this game. I enjoy XCOM, and am familiar with it, but also haven't touched the first game in a bit more than a decade. I am someone who gets XCOM, but is far enough out of touch with it that I might as well be a new player, coming to the series for the first time. As someone both familiar with the series, and rediscovering it anew, Enemy Unknown is a game I very much want to play. Supposedly I, and everyone else, will get to do just that later this year.

In the meantime, feel free to check out this developer-narrated video look at XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and see for yourself how Firaxis has blended old and new into something that, certainly in this day and age, looks quite unique.

Staff
#1 Posted by Alex (2217 posts) -

If you want a prime example of how fickle (and sometimes needlessly dismissive) the video gaming audience can often be, look no further than 2K's upcoming multiheaded XCOM reboot attack. For a long while, we've known about 2K Marin's XCOM game, a shooter that blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game. We've known about this far longer than we've known about Firaxis' more traditionally strategy-focused XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Because of this, we spent a long time watching as fans of the original XCOM games groused and grumbled about the fact that 2K Marin's XCOM wasn't really XCOM enough for their tastes. They dared to do something different with a beloved franchise, and that wasn't cool--at least, of course, until 2K finally got around to announcing Enemy Unknown. Now, suddenly, there was a "real" XCOM game, so the fact that a purportedly less real XCOM game existed wasn't as big of a deal.

The XCOM you knew (and feared) is pretty much front and center in Enemy Unknown.

To correct a common misconception, it's worth noting that both of these XCOM reboots/re-imaginings have been in development for nearly the same amount of time. Firaxis has been hard at work on Enemy Unknown for more than three years, and the two teams, while not collaborating directly, have often communicated back and forth to give each other a sense of what the other is doing. Basically, if you think that 2K suddenly brought out Enemy Unknown as a response to some of the more rancorous criticism coming from Internet commenters, then you're officially not giving Firaxis nearly enough credit. A proper XCOM remake is not something you can just put together in 18 months. Otherwise, why wouldn't some other studio have done it already?

According to Enemy Unknown's lead designer Jake Solomon, the idea of working on an XCOM remake/reboot/re-imaginging/whatever you want to call it has been in his blood for years. He's a superfan of the original games, as are some of the other key leads on the project I spoke to. Everybody at Firaxis wanted to make this game. To put it in the words of Firaxis art director Greg Foertsch, "I was ready. I was so ready."

What's Old Is New Again

What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware. There are strategy games, some that use both real-time and turn-based mechanics, but none quite like what MicroProse and Mythos Games developed all those years prior.

In that regard, seeing a game like XCOM: Enemy Unknown played is a familiar experience that suddenly feels new, and fresh. As Foertsch described it, "We think the market's right for something like this. The consoles are older than the last generation had gotten, so the console market is maturing, and not only that, but the gamers are maturing. I think you'll find a lot of people that want something that's familiar, but twisted. And that's a new experience."

But exactly how twisted, and how familiar, is this experience?

XCOM: Upgraded

Seeing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I wasn't able to put my hands on a controller (we probably won't get any hands-on time for a few months yet), but in watching lead producer Garth DeAngelis play for a room full of writers with varying degrees of familiarity with the franchise, and hearing Solomon describe the concepts and motivations behind each design decision, it wasn't too difficult to imagine how all this stuff works. After all, it really does look a lot like XCOM.

This new Berzerker unit is one of several new enemies in Enemy Unknown. Don't worry though, there are plenty of old favorites.

The squad-based, turn-based combat system of old has obviously been transported to a 3D realm in Enemy Unknown, but that extra dimension hasn't drastically altered the idea of what XCOM is. Fundamentally, you're still positioning your soldiers in key areas to best take out hordes of alien monsters. The plot was barely described, but suffice it to say, there are aliens, we don't know what their deal is, but we do know that they're fond of abducting humans, and we're not especially cool with that. Hence all the volleys of gunfire and explosions.

The game maintains an isometric viewpoint, but adds a number of layers to the previous combat design. For starters, there are now cover points, which players can position their soldiers in to give them the best, safest vantage point to kill whatever alien scum happen to be hanging around. The battlefields will be hand-designed, but will still come up in random order, save for a few specific missions that are story-specific. The idea behind this, of course, is to ensure that the experience is different on subsequent playthroughs. So while the geometry and architecture are hand-built, the order in which you'll experience these levels is randomized, and odds are you won't see the same exact levels on subsequent playthroughs.

Combat maintains the turn-based design of old, but eliminates time units. Instead, on their turn, players can maneuver soldiers into a nearby zone and have them perform one of their attack abilities, or they can move them further away and skip out on combat for a turn. It's a simplified version of the risk/reward system of old, which some old school players may gripe about, but nonetheless looks perfectly sensible in practice.

For those who like their old things to remain unchanged, you'll be pleased to know that the fog of war remains just as prevalent in Enemy Unknown, and the concept of perma-death still exists.

Building Your Ant Farm

Of course, permanent death doesn't mean you'll just run out of soldiers at some point and the game is over--at least, not unless you're literally just terrible at managing your resources. Soldiers, like all other resources in the game, are a commodity that must be purchased. Once you do have a squad together, you can name them whatever you want, outfit them how you like, and through an RPG-lite system new to Enemy Unknown, you'll be able to upgrade and up-level them as the game goes along. Instead of crafting gigantic back stories for every procedurally generated grunt, this is how you're meant to grow attached to your squad. When you're highly leveled sniper suddenly ends up dead, that's going to really suck, because (at least theoretically) you've spent time building that character into something both useful and personal.

Perma-death is typically viewed nowadays as a rather harsh punishment in games, but in the context of XCOM, it was never a question of if it would make it into Enemy Unknown, but rather a question of how.

The "ant farm" is where you'll do all your research, engineering, and soldier training. It kinda reminds me of one of those old, gigantic G.I. Joe playsets.

"It's different," said Foertsch. "It makes it harder. It's a pillar of XCOM. There was never a question about whether we should take it out. It was always a part of the design."

Should squad members die (it seems likely that at least a few will, after all), you can purchase new ones, alongside other various things in the game's hub world, which the Firaxis guys affectionately referred to as the "ant farm." This is also where you'll do things like engineer new weapons, and research alien technologies. Again, it's all about resource management, as you'll have to be careful not to blow too much scratch on one thing or another. It's all about balance, and tuning your resources to your play style.

The other thing about the ant farm is that it just looks cool. I remarked to DeAngelis and Foertsch that it kind of reminded me of one of those old action figure playsets, like Castle Greyskull or the Real Ghostbusters' firehouse. According to those guys, that's not an altogether surprising comparison.

A Squad of Digital Action Figures

When I asked Foertsch what some of the inspirations for Enemy Unknown's art style were (apart from the obvious XCOM-related trappings), he immediately compared the character designs to classic action figure designs. In his words:

"When we did this pre-vis [an early video Firaxis showed to 2K before the project was greenlit], we basically used most of the company as a focus group, so they didn't know what I was working on. No one knew. So we showed them the pre-vis, like I had these meetings with the whole company for two days. Like people could just come in for 15 minutes, sit down, and just let me have it. Rip me apart. So they came in, and one of the guys...because I think there was a little bit of confusion with people, he was like, 'So, wait, you're making soldiers like Call of Duty?' And I was like, "No..." And his response was, 'Well, you know, they sort of look like action figures.' And that was it. 'You're right. You're absolutely right.' And while I'd been working on this for several months, I had not actually articulated that. And at that moment, I was like, 'That's what they are.' That was that moment that set us down this path."

It went a step further when Firaxis actually hired a few new employees with a deep-seated love of miniatures. The idea of your characters effectively becoming your toys that you play with might sound childish to some, but in truth, any video game character is really just a toy that you play with--some just have stronger narratives than others. In this case, the idea is to give you these fully customizable toys that can create varying types of explosive alien death. Kind of hard to find much fault with that.

Making XCOM Console-Viable

One serious question I see brought up again and again by fans is how, exactly, XCOM can be easily transported to consoles. The answer? It can't be. Not easily, at least. One thing that's helped is that development between the console and PC versions of the game has occurred in parallel.

The turn-based strategy gameplay certainly gives off the vibe of old school XCOM--just with more dimensions, and more detailed soldiers.

"I think it would have been a lot harder if we didn't treat them as separate things," said Foertsch. "Like, okay, here's the Xbox game, now port it to the PC? That would have been a problem. But that we've always treated them as parallel paths, especially from an interface standpoint, and that has actually made it a lot easier."

"It's been a challenge, but for me, especially from a production point of view," remarked DeAngelis. "I like putting constraints on things so we can get stuff done. To go to the design team and be like, 'Here's your controller. Tell me what we need from XCOM to map onto this controller.' So they really had to think about what was most important, and they really made it happen in an elegant way. I think we actually did some playtests, even just with some casual console players, without a tutorial, just handed them a controller and with just general gamer IQ, they were able to move around really quick and get into [combat.]"

The Great Unknown

There are still questions to be answered regarding XCOM: Enemy Unknown. While Firaxis claims that many of the battles will take place in multi-leveled scenery, the only level we've really seen thus far is the gas station section pictured above, which only has ground and rooftop levels. Similarly, we've seen little of what the research and engineering sections of the game will produce for the player. It's safe to assume that it will be a lot of special weaponry and gadgetry, but how all of it plays into the flow of combat remains to be seen.

Environments are, of course, destructible. Quite destructible, actually.

And then there is the subject of personality, or perhaps a slight lack thereof. The units look pretty great, in that over-exaggerated action figure-y way, but the vocals assigned to each character are of that bargain basement action hero variety that all-too-often permeates any game with guns and things to be shot. I heard at least a few kill-celebrating one-liners cheesy enough to make even the Gears of War team blush. With any luck, that's just temporary audio. Please, let that be temporary audio.

Those questions aside however, I feel safe in saying that Firaxis' vision of XCOM doesn't fall too far from the vision of XCOM that every superfan has had dancing in their heads at varying points over the course of the last 18 years. In a strange way, I'm perhaps the poster-child for the kind of player Firaxis is reaching out to most with this game. I enjoy XCOM, and am familiar with it, but also haven't touched the first game in a bit more than a decade. I am someone who gets XCOM, but is far enough out of touch with it that I might as well be a new player, coming to the series for the first time. As someone both familiar with the series, and rediscovering it anew, Enemy Unknown is a game I very much want to play. Supposedly I, and everyone else, will get to do just that later this year.

In the meantime, feel free to check out this developer-narrated video look at XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and see for yourself how Firaxis has blended old and new into something that, certainly in this day and age, looks quite unique.

Staff
#2 Edited by Sergeant_Stubby (59 posts) -

looks interesting....

EDIT: Finally got the damn quest..

#3 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

As long as this game isn't loaded with $DLC then it will be a day one purchase.

#4 Posted by Marz (5655 posts) -

good stuff, can't wait till it comes out.

#5 Posted by Cubidog1 (228 posts) -

Just might buy this when it comes out. Seems very interesting as I never played any of the origional XCOM games.

#6 Posted by EtherealSlayer (82 posts) -

Looks better than I had hoped so far!

#7 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6229 posts) -

Everything about this article makes me want to play this more. God bless you, Firaxis, for getting it right.

Moderator
#8 Posted by Woodroez (344 posts) -

Anyone else see the face in the screenshot of the base? Creepin' me out, duders.

#9 Posted by Danda (76 posts) -

Looks promising, but maybe too flashy. We will see...

#10 Posted by NicksCorner (417 posts) -

I am so glad. This is great news for the franchise. Perhaps Ive been living under a rock, but I only knew about the shooter being in development. This game looks much more promising.

#11 Posted by Pibo47 (3166 posts) -

No Psyonic? :(

#12 Edited by ChaosDent (234 posts) -

I hope it isn't saddled with too much story. Narrative is often the enemy of interesting, open gameplay and one of the best qualities of well designed strategy games is the incredible quantity of situations you can find yourself in. Otherwise it does look great.

#13 Posted by Foggen (863 posts) -

I don't really think the ruminations on fan fickleness at the beginning were germane or warranted. Fans of X-Com (which I am not) are fans because they're into tactical strategy games, not because the notion of fighting off an alien invasion is particularly novel. So when the FPS was presented as the X-Com game everyone's wanted all these years it's very understandable that they'd be pissed. For people to stop being pissed when they learned that this game exists isn't fickleness, it's changing opinion based on the new information that the X-Com tactical strategy franchise is not being abandoned. They feel like they were the victims of a bait-and-switch, only to have the bait returned in exactly the way it was offered.

#14 Posted by Alex (2217 posts) -

@Foggen: Personally disagree. I don't think there was really a bait-and-switch at all. I think, much as many people did with the recent Syndicate reboot, fans saw something that was different than what they expected, and immediately proceeded to shit on it because it didn't meet their precise expectations. Now, all of the sudden, this other thing exists that does meet their expectations, and now they're willing to take 2K Marin's XCOM at face value?

I don't even really know if 2K Marin's game is all that great, but I prefer to judge it on its own merits as opposed to the fact that it is/isn't exactly like an old thing that I liked. Doing that almost led me to skip out on Syndicate, which I actually quite like now that I've played some of it.

Staff
#15 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Looks like the Dragon Age: Origins follow up I've been wanting. I love me some tactical gameplay.

#16 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -
@Foggen

I don't really think the ruminations on fan fickleness at the beginning were germane or warranted. Fans of X-Com (which I am not) are fans because they're into tactical strategy games, not because the notion of fighting off an alien invasion is particularly novel. So when the FPS was presented as the X-Com game everyone's wanted all these years it's very understandable that they'd be pissed. For people to stop being pissed when they learned that this game exists isn't fickleness, it's changing opinion based on the new information that the X-Com tactical strategy franchise is not being abandoned. They feel like they were the victims of a bait-and-switch, only to have the bait returned in exactly the way it was offered.

It is but it isn't. I understand their position, but it's only fair to be sad not to get a real XCOM classic experience, not to shit talk what might be a great game for what it is. I feel the way they do about Mass Effect 2. I get it, really. But I think people need to stop being so negative because they don't get what they want. I think ME2 is awesome in a vacuum but I was super disappointed by it because I wanted a sequel that kept to the original formula with additive philosophy not simplification.
#17 Posted by sporkwaffles (13 posts) -

The parallel path console and PC thing is great, and something more developers need to do. Even if the engine itself is ported from PC to console or vice versa, the idea of a console UI for the console versions and a PC UI for the PC versions is fantastic.

#18 Posted by buckybit (1455 posts) -

I will read this - promise - ... but after playing the game.

#19 Posted by umbaglo (58 posts) -
What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware.

Not even the UFO series (Aftermath, Aftershock, Afterlight)?

#20 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3103 posts) -

@Foggen said:

I don't really think the ruminations on fan fickleness at the beginning were germane or warranted. Fans of X-Com (which I am not) are fans because they're into tactical strategy games, not because the notion of fighting off an alien invasion is particularly novel. So when the FPS was presented as the X-Com game everyone's wanted all these years it's very understandable that they'd be pissed. For people to stop being pissed when they learned that this game exists isn't fickleness, it's changing opinion based on the new information that the X-Com tactical strategy franchise is not being abandoned. They feel like they were the victims of a bait-and-switch, only to have the bait returned in exactly the way it was offered.

Gotta agree with this. Having a beloved franchise totally retooled is going to upset any fans of the original, especially when they change it from a pretty intense strategy game to an FPS. Maybe the Firaxis game will be awful and the 2K game will be amazing, but for now all anyone has to go on is what we've been shown, and this one is the game that looks like X-Com in more than name only.

#21 Posted by David_T (25 posts) -
A proper XCOM remake is not something you can just put together in 18 months. Otherwise, why wouldn't some other studio have done it already?

Well, Alex, there's something called IP rights...

#22 Edited by Mumrik (1078 posts) -

Those are some oddly sized screenshots. One of them is 52 megapixels!

@umbaglo said:

What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware.

Not even the UFO series (Aftermath, Aftershock, Afterlight)?

Or Silent Storm?

#23 Posted by Alex (2217 posts) -

@David_T: Yes, I'm well aware. My point was more that if it were such an easy thing to do, 2K no doubt would have hired some merc developer to do it ages ago.

Staff
#24 Posted by myslead (929 posts) -

so excited

#25 Posted by CrimsonNoir (402 posts) -

Well I'm excited, more excited than any other game I can think of at the moment. It may have something to do with FPS fatigue, but I love my tactical turn base games.

#26 Posted by sanchopanza (247 posts) -

@Buzzkill said:

As long as this game isn't loaded with $DLC then it will be a day one purchase.

I don't really mind that cos' I can just ignore dlc (and I do for most games).

Will be a day 1 purchase as long as its not a complete disaster.

#27 Posted by vinsanityv22 (1064 posts) -

Even though I was around, playing games, 18 years ago, I NEVER would touch a game like X-Com on the PC. I was playing NES and Master System games back then. So I gotta ask, Alex - is, perhaps, Valkyria Chronicles an appropriate frame of reference for any of this? It sort of looks like it to me, which is definitely enough to get me interested in this. Also aliens :)

#28 Posted by HalfDane1975 (165 posts) -

I want this yesterday :D .

#29 Posted by radioactivez0r (851 posts) -

@Alex: I think you are oversimplifying it. X-Com was really cool, and a publisher coming out and saying "HEY WE ARE MAKING A NEW X-COM GAME! HUH? HUH?" and then following up with "It's an FPS" in a world where it seems every other day we get a new FPS was bound to be met with some derision. There are a lot of modern gamers who live off that stuff and it seemed like more of a appeal to the lowest common denominator. Maybe it simply wasn't the best way to introduce it, and announcing another, radically different approach to the same beloved franchise could look a lot more like "But we have this too for you guys!" than "Also, there's this thing for a difference audience." So, in conclusion, PR fail. I hope they both rock.

#30 Posted by xaveri (154 posts) -

I'm excitet but worried about the PC Version. I really hope they give PC controls the attention they deserve. Most games developed these days say that the PC version is done separate but in reality it rarely is.

#31 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11799 posts) -

@umbaglo said:

What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware.

Not even the UFO series (Aftermath, Aftershock, Afterlight)?

The UFO series are basically designed like they are someone's half-assed approximation of what X-COM is after watching an hour or so of UFO Defense. Also, they're kind of bad in their own right as well.

#32 Edited by SparroHawc (27 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater said:

@umbaglo said:

What's really fascinating about Enemy Unknown is how closely it hews to the design and pace of the original XCOM--a game made 18 years ago, by the way. And yet, looking at it up close, I found myself unable to really think up other recent examples of games like XCOM that exist on modern hardware.

Not even the UFO series (Aftermath, Aftershock, Afterlight)?

The UFO series are basically designed like they are someone's half-assed approximation of what X-COM is after watching an hour or so of UFO Defense. Also, they're kind of bad in their own right as well.

To clarify, the UFO series isn't turn-based, the aliens aren't really deadly, your bases aren't customizable, the environments are entirely static (no destructible terrain), and a lot of the depth of XCOM is missing from it. The original XCOM was terrifying from the outset; your first exposure to the game usually consisted of stepping outside of the troop transport and discovering that you are outgunned in the most painful way possible - getting shot to pieces by alien scum - and then slowly learning that you have to use varied tactics, use your squad as a team, and adapt to the aliens' abilities as you come across them if you want to survive.

The first UFO game's first few missions are against enemies that can only barely be considered 'armed'. You have to work at it to lose. There's no challenge, no risk/reward, no tension, and no fun. It consists of clicking on your unit, clicking on where you want them to go, then clicking on the monsters they see to shoot them. It's almost more MMO than tactical strategy. Even the pacing is awful.

I played a half hour of the first UFO game until I realized the first time I lost a soldier that I didn't care about them, I didn't care about the story, and the gameplay was too lackluster to hold my interest. I went back and played more XCOM: UFO Defense instead, and actually enjoyed myself. I could see the UFO series being okay on their own, but when compared to XCOM it simply didn't stack up. I haven't played a UFO game since then.

#33 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

"For a long while, we've known about 2K Marin's XCOM game, a shooter that blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game."

Oh puh-lease. It's got hacking, only they renamed it "research", and you can tell your other soldiers who to attack/when to use their powers. Whoop-de-do. It's Mass Effect with a Bioshock aesthetic. And last I checked, that's not X-COM.

"I enjoy XCOM, and am familiar with it, but also haven't touched the first game in a bit more than a decade. I am someone who gets XCOM,"

You get a game you haven't played in over a decade? Uh, okay.

#34 Edited by UitDeToekomst (717 posts) -

when this game was first announced, it was the closest i ever came to pooping myself since about age 3. all the press for it that i've seen thus far, this article included, has not made my enthusiasm wane in the least. i've played all of the semi-recent clone/update games, and they have paled in comparison to the original. this one seems to be the closest in spirit of any of them, has the X-Com license, and is being made by one of my favorite studios. i haven't been this excited for a game, well, ever.

#35 Posted by Danial79 (44 posts) -

SO. AWESOME! I was playing the original X-COM for a good 10 years on and off, so I'd probably class it as my all-time favourite, and to see what they're doing with this one gave me shivers. I can't wait!

#36 Posted by Aegeri (110 posts) -

@MordeaniisChaos said:

@Foggen

I don't really think the ruminations on fan fickleness at the beginning were germane or warranted. Fans of X-Com (which I am not) are fans because they're into tactical strategy games, not because the notion of fighting off an alien invasion is particularly novel. So when the FPS was presented as the X-Com game everyone's wanted all these years it's very understandable that they'd be pissed. For people to stop being pissed when they learned that this game exists isn't fickleness, it's changing opinion based on the new information that the X-Com tactical strategy franchise is not being abandoned. They feel like they were the victims of a bait-and-switch, only to have the bait returned in exactly the way it was offered.

It is but it isn't. I understand their position, but it's only fair to be sad not to get a real XCOM classic experience, not to shit talk what might be a great game for what it is.

There is nothing that indicates 2k Marins Bioshock Mass Effect FPS will be a great game at the moment (severely confused design and multiple reinventions of the entire game give considerable evidence of major developer problems). It's good at using all the standard chestnuts of modern FPS game design, but honestly from what has been shown even on its own merits it doesn't seem that great. The fact is, as an FPS it has to do something above and beyond for me to pick it up. I've not bought Rage, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Syndicate or Darkness 2. Is there anything wrong with these FPS games? No. Absolutely nothing. They are all excellent FPS games. They are also FPS games - a genre that has been so overdone over the past few years I am sick of it. I've missed entirely excellent games solely because they are another FPS.

On the other hand, there is a distinct lack of deep tactical turn based games in XCOMs genre - especially on consoles like the 360/PS3. So when I'm thinking "What game will I purchase and use an increasingly limited amount of time on?" XCOM EU (this turn based game) is automatically it. It's something different from my game library full of FPS games, third person shooters and RPGs.

Really the entire point is if we needed yet another FPS, which looked entirely generic, was retooled to be another generic looking game (With chest high walls and glowing laser wielding aliens) and has disappeared into redevelopment again. Maybe if they do something genuinely special when they next show it (but I have my doubts) it could be worth it. But honestly, one wonders why on earth the FPS was EVER announced before the turn based game.

#37 Posted by RazloTPD (16 posts) -

Good morning, shopkeep! One 'X-Com: Enemy Unknown' if you please. What's that? Fall 2012 you say? Very well, i'll wait.

#38 Posted by heavyplay (299 posts) -

@vinsanityv22 said:

Even though I was around, playing games, 18 years ago, I NEVER would touch a game like X-Com on the PC. I was playing NES and Master System games back then. So I gotta ask, Alex - is, perhaps, Valkyria Chronicles an appropriate frame of reference for any of this? It sort of looks like it to me, which is definitely enough to get me interested in this. Also aliens :)

Nice call on Valkyria Chronicles. That's probably the best approximation of how this game is going to pan out.

#39 Posted by Zeg (90 posts) -

They say it in the video and it's mentioned in this article too, but they didn't exactly 'add' cover to the game. They added a cover mechanic, which is really a simplification.

I'm not necessarily saying it's a bad thing, because the original was indeed something of a mess of very specific knowledge about how different tiles would change line of sight and such, but I'm not sure claiming that it makes the new game more 'tactical' is entirely true. Tactical in a somewhat different way certainly, as it appears that ideas such as suppression exist now.

If all the mechanics come together right, I'm sure this game will be fine though still not the dream game everyone wishes for. (Also similarly, as soon as Sim City 5 was rumoured, I had just the same worries. The age of actually complex games is over?)

#40 Posted by kycinematic (141 posts) -

@Pibo47: About half way in the video theres some kinda mind-link type thing going on with the sectoids. Who knows maybe there's crazier psyonic stuff but they just weren't talking about it today?

#41 Posted by Foggen (863 posts) -
@Alex I don't mean that there was an actual bait and switch, just that there was a similar emotional process. They were given reason to believe that what they weren't getting what they hoped for, then were surprised to discover that they were. It stands to reason they'd be happier about the situation at the end.
#42 Posted by Aegeri (110 posts) -

@kycinematic said:

@Pibo47: About half way in the video theres some kinda mind-link type thing going on with the sectoids. Who knows maybe there's crazier psyonic stuff but they just weren't talking about it today?

Sectoids do have psionic effects. In this case they sort of "Mind Meld", which boosts their stats considerably. The cost for this is that if one dies, they all bite it apparently. Interesting mechanic, but psionics will certainly be a part of the game I feel.

#43 Edited by RockyRaccoon37 (462 posts) -

@gladspooky said:

"For a long while, we've known about 2K Marin'sXCOM game, a shooter that blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game."

Oh puh-lease. It's got hacking, only they renamed it "research", and you can tell your other soldiers who to attack/when to use their powers. Whoop-de-do. It's Mass Effect with a Bioshock aesthetic. And last I checked, that's not X-COM.

"I enjoy XCOM, and am familiar with it, but also haven't touched the first game in a bit more than a decade. I am someone who gets XCOM,"

You get a game you haven't played in over a decade? Uh, okay.

Not to jump to Alex's defense here, but you're an abrasive moron. Take a chill pill.

First off those of us not in the gaming press (that includes you cheery) know dick and all about the X-COM being helmed by 2K Marin, outside of the few facts that you oh-so concisely summarized here. In a similar fashion I could describe the original X-COM games as "you build a team, you tell your team what to do, you research some shit and you shoot some aliens. Whoop-dee-durrpadurrrrrr."

#44 Posted by Jeffk38uk (716 posts) -

I for one will enjoy both X-com games.

#45 Posted by John1912 (1892 posts) -

Hope this is good. Been enjoying Jagged Alliance. I just hope the turn base is done well. Thats something that really needs to be updated and done properly. Needs to be MUCH more quick and snappy, without being dumbed down into shit.

I kinda want to pull out some old Xcom games, but fuck, they just didnt age well. Waiting 5 mins while the PC runs around one at a time in the fog only to come out and own my face just doesnt have the appeal it once did lol. So will be interesting to see how this turns out. Really hope it does well!

#46 Posted by Zelnox (390 posts) -

4 stars? Barring bugs and disappointment, I'm getting this day 1.

#47 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

@RockyRaccoon37 said:

@gladspooky said:

"For a long while, we've known about 2K Marin'sXCOM game, a shooter that blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game."

Oh puh-lease. It's got hacking, only they renamed it "research", and you can tell your other soldiers who to attack/when to use their powers. Whoop-de-do. It's Mass Effect with a Bioshock aesthetic. And last I checked, that's not X-COM.

"I enjoy XCOM, and am familiar with it, but also haven't touched the first game in a bit more than a decade. I am someone who gets XCOM,"

You get a game you haven't played in over a decade? Uh, okay.

Not to jump to Alex's defense here, but you're an abrasive moron. Take a chill pill.

First off those of us not in the gaming press (that includes you cheery) know dick and all about the X-COM being helmed by 2K Marin, outside of the few facts that you oh-so concisely summarized here. In a similar fashion I could describe the original X-COM games as "you build a team, you tell your team what to do, you research some shit and you shoot some aliens. Whoop-dee-durrpadurrrrrr."

Well, obviously Alex knows something everyone else doesn't, since he's the one who says 2K Marin's XCOM "blends the universe and some of the more strategic elements of the classic PC game." Unless he thinks X-COM was some sort of SOCOM offshoot, I don't see it.

#48 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@Aegeri: Any assumption of how good that game is without having played it is fuckin null and void, and the only ACTUAL information we have is pretty promising. You're assuming so much it's laughable. They exist, there's no point bitching about it because they both exist and if their both of quality make and they both do well they will encourage similar games. Your dislike of the FPS genre at this point is meaningless in the grand scale of things, because plenty of people are more than happy to play a bunch of first person shooters.

#49 Posted by crusader8463 (14422 posts) -

I don't care who or how many people I need to blow to get the money I'm buying this game the moment it comes out and I know I'm going to love it. This game is almost exactly the game I would make if I had a chance to make my dream game.

#50 Edited by Aegeri (110 posts) -

@MordeaniisChaos said:

@Aegeri: Any assumption of how good that game is without having played it is fuckin null and void, and the only ACTUAL information we have is pretty promising. You're assuming so much it's laughable. They exist, there's no point bitching about it because they both exist and if their both of quality make and they both do well they will encourage similar games. Your dislike of the FPS genre at this point is meaningless in the grand scale of things, because plenty of people are more than happy to play a bunch of first person shooters.

Firstly, no it's actually not because there are more than enough indications of what the game would have been like if it was still on course to be released this month (have you seen the 22 minute developer playthrough for example?). Most importantly, that it won't be anything like the original it is "based" on. For example, there is no "perma death" of your allies on missions and they fall "unconscious" just like characters in ME do. It has no common lore, doesn't use the originals aliens and doesn't have anything to do with it gameplay wise. Actually, it looks very much like a poor mans mass effect, which is where I take issue with the game looking "promising". Do you honestly think if there isn't a big problem/backlash against the game and how utterly generic of a ME ripoff it is, that it would have been delayed again? It was completely redesigned from 2010, didn't do any better last year and has disappeared again this year. Of course, I hope that means they are adding more XCOM back into the game (so it won't just be XCOM in name only) - but that remains to be seen.

As for your last statement, given several prominent FPS games haven't sold so well over the last year (Bulletstorm for example), there is almost certainly an "FPS fatigue" setting in. Having lived through the 90s fad of RTS games, I am being distinctly reminded of what that felt like towards the end of that. As some interesting facts, the facebook page for XCOM had a whole 2000 "likes" and was mostly a warzone of fan bitching. Now it has around 100,000 likes and is filled with productive discussion about the turn based game. The official forums are essentially the same thing: Almost dead and now actually containing productive discussion - even if some of that is the great "TU" battle*. Sure this is only facebook/forums, but it's a pretty interesting indication of what got peoples goodwill in general and what didn't.

Anyone who thinks the FPS game was not being largely being ignored save for an aggressive fan backlash against it is kidding themselves. There is a reason it's gone back into redevelopment again, because all signs that 2k were getting is that its reception was not going to be positive. Unless you think they've delayed and redesigned the game three times now for their own amusement.

*For the record, I happen to like the changes they are making to the original games formula in XCOM a lot. Especially the implementation of the cover and suppressive fire mechanics.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.