With 2K having quite the line-up at E3, it may a bit too easy to over-look what may be their strongest title. While I haven’t actually played XCOM, the E3 demo was far more intriguing than The Darkness 2, Duke Nukem, or even BioShock: Infinite.
For those who’ve not heard of the game, XCOM is a sci-fi shooter with 1950’s throwback themes. Presenting itself much like you’d expect BioShock to look above ground as Rapture was being built, the player finds him or herself in a culture of hoop skirts, bowler hats and smoking indoors.
XCOM is actually a reboot of games made by Mythos Games. 2K has since taken on to rebooting the game, and rebranding it as XCOM, as opposed to X-COM. You know, because there is a big difference? Anyhow, the game sets itself to take concepts from the original series and take it to the Nth degree.
The concept is pretty simple. Earth is being attacked by an unknown alien objective with unknown intentions — a force comprised of humanoid like soldiers, aliens posing as humans, turrets, and much more yet to be seen. It’s up to the player to effectively manage teams to combat alien forces. This is done through research, effective ground tactics and maintaining base operations. Players learn from alien technology by capturing alien resources.
The research strategy is easily one of the most intriguing parts of the game. As the player commands a team of three, including himself and two ghost busters like characters, the player must tread the fine line of using alien technology in the field and knowing when it’s best to save alien technology for research and power upgrades.
Gamers who defeat alien forces capture the aliens using a tactical pausing screen, much like the one found in the Mass Effect series. It’s from this screen that the player may choose to capture a fallen enemy — such as humanoids, turrets, and warships — or reposition the other members and plan strategies; use powers like shielding, energy blasts and whatever else the player has earned through research; and more.
The game presents itself in an eerie way, but still somehow manages to have style and extremely impressive. Most impressively, at the tech demo, the producer captured a spherical warship and used it later to take out an all-sides opposition in a shooting gallery. The massive ship, about the size of a floating dump truck. Just as the ship shot its lazer cannons, rubble started flying everywhere, and the environment reflected the chaos ensued.
Rubble and fallen structures may seem reasonable in and of itself, but seeing as the player can deploy captured technology when they feel fit, this scene is implied to not be scripted during the final product. If the game really does reflect real time destruction throughout the game in a dynamic way, this is truly impressive and something noteworthy.
XCOM may really be 2K’s best product at E3, but it’s a shame that many may be distracted by larger 2K titles and title by other developers as well. In it’s current form, it seems straight forward enough to tickle our familiar nerd fancies of The Twilight Zone and Ghostbusters, but it’s what isn’t known that is just as tempting. Hopefully the end product meets the potential of this ambitious reboot, because I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out.