E3 2011: XCOM

It's not the turn-based tactical combat game of the old games, but this year's new E3 demo gets a lot closer to getting the classic XCOM "vibe."

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QUICKTAKE: Back with a second test run at reimagining the classic XCOM game, developer 2K Marin promises an experience more true to the spirit of the originals. Like the prototype shown at last year's E3, the game remains a shooter, but now includes the tactical element of commanding two AI teammates in the field. A greater emphasis has also been placed on the RPG-like elements of assembling and developing your squad to fend off the aliens. It's not the turn-based tactical combat game of the old games, but what I saw came a lot closer to getting the XCOM "vibe." THE DEMO: Beginning in the XCOM HQ, we got introduced to the player's character, special agent William Carter. Touring the facility, we moved on to the ready room to get a look at the squad system. AI teammates will take on roles based on classes. On display here were Master at Arms--a support class who provides ammo resupply, Commando--the heavy weapons specialist of the group, and Tactician--a class we didn't get to see in action, but likely provides new attack options in combat. In the second part of the demo, Carter took a rescue mission with a Master at Arms and Commando alongside. One of the important elements of the game is capturing alien technology and figuring out how to use it in defense of the earth. The home of one of the leading researchers aiding the effort, Dr. Alan Weir, has come under alien attack and Carter's team is sent in to save him. The ensuing battles showed the squad command system. In a fight, the two pieces are telling teammates where to go and what skills to use, and then supplementing that with precision shots to defeat a superior alien force. DETAILS: Although the format of the in-mission action has changed, the two-part approach of the game harkened back to the old XCOM. The options for developing the different squad members via skill trees showed a good range of choices that could allow for going down different routes of specialization. Though it was not detailed in much depth, the base also serves as the hub for telling the story both on a large-scale level of how the invasion is impacting the country and at the human level of your fellow XCOM division members. In the main ready room, the XCOM division chief offers a variety of potential missions put together from emergency service calls and strategically important targets. Many of the latter will involve securing the fictional element "elerium," the heavy metal that alien tech depends on.

XCOM

Once out in the field, I got my first glimpse at the new aliens. They're no longer just black blobs with electricity arcing over them (although those enemies still exist). Described as living tech, the aliens, also known as "the outsiders," take a variety of forms. The infiltrator class encountered in the demo possessed a doppelganger-like ability to take the form of humans they killed. But once exposed, they revert to their raw state of electrified black matter, in humanoid form. The outsiders aim to not just take over the earth, but convert it into a more hospital planet for their kind. A black, electrical ooze covers occupied territory, and in areas they are attempting to terraform, massive black pillars erupt from the ground. A trusty assault rifle--one that appeared to be augmented with alien tech--proved to be the best tool at Carter's disposal to help stem the tide of the alien invasion. Aiming through the sights provided much more accuracy than hip-fire. Cover also played an important role, both for Carter and his squad. Commanding the two teammates was a simple matter of aiming at a spot in the environment and clicking a button. As is the case in other games that use this system, it appeared there was some adjustment going on to help the AI members know where to get behind cover. Once in position, combat settles into a rhythm of shooting, punctuated by issuing orders to the rest of the team both to get the directly and indirectly involved in the fighting. A risk-reward relationship to capturing alien technology adds another wrinkle to the action. Alien tech can be turned around and put right into service on the current mission, but that uses it up. It can, instead, be brought back to HQ to help further research. Tie that all back into the squad development system and it's starting to sound a lot more like XCOM than before. Watch the Shacknews E3 2011 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 9, 2011 9:20 AM

    Garnett Lee posted a new article, E3 2011: XCOM.

    It's not the turn-based tactical combat game of the old games, but this year's new E3 demo gets a lot closer to getting the classic XCOM "vibe."

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      June 9, 2011 9:34 AM

      Pre-emptive *Nick Breckon Sigh* Idle Thumbs 47, 37:30

      (watches video)...

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        June 9, 2011 9:43 AM

        Well, this looks a lot better than last year's video. Looks a lot deeper than "Bioshock with black alien goo".

        I'll say it now to 2K in general: don't shoot yourself in the foot by going GFWL ( http://www.shacknews.com/article/62072/bioshock-2-pc-drm-plans ) and disc-unlock multiplayer DLC ( http://www.shacknews.com/article/62780/bioshock-2-mp-dlc-already ). Not that us PC gamers matter in the XCOM marketing plan, right?

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        June 9, 2011 6:04 PM

        100% chance that XCOM has a Breckon's Delight sequence in it.

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          June 9, 2011 6:27 PM

          Which is...

          A: A sequence resembling Stronghold Crusader Extreme level 1?

          B: Resident Evil 5 turret sequence?

          C: Call of Juarez turret sequence?

          D: Borderlands end boss?

          E: Other?

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            June 10, 2011 2:13 AM

            A turret sequence. It was an amazing combination of his disgust with endless turret sequences in games that don't need them as well as a tangental historical sperg on why they wouldn't have even had that type of turret in a wild west timeframe. I think is was Call to Juarez or Red Dead. I don't remember the episode either but it was glorious.

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      June 9, 2011 9:42 AM

      Still not feeling it.

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      June 9, 2011 9:53 AM

      Maybe I'm just an oldschool hater and nothing will make me happy, but I really dislike seeing descriptions like:
      "2K Marin promises an experience more true to the spirit of the originals"
      "the two-part approach of the game harkened back to the old XCOM"
      "it's starting to sound a lot more like XCOM than before"
      I get that they wanted to make a new game, I also get that they had that license sitting around doing nothing, but quit trying to pass it of as some sort of homage or pushing the idea that it has anything to do with the old X-COM.

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      June 9, 2011 9:59 AM

      This will fail in such a profound and magnificent fashion that it will be almost poetic.

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      June 9, 2011 10:28 AM

      Oh how I wish for this game to bomb spectacularly. It is an abomination and no amount of shameful patronizing is going to change that. Kill it with fire.

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        June 10, 2011 8:13 AM

        I'm there with you, buddy. 2K hasnt been utilizing their IP properly recently it is quite sad. Mafia 2 was super crap I wish I can sell mine back even if it is free. Civ 5 also seems to be a few step back compared to the Civ 4 and now this?

        I just hope that Darkness 2 will be at least better...

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      June 9, 2011 10:51 AM

      In a real X-COM game you would have 10 men and half would die in the first few seconds of encountering aliens. Then you continue the mission because losing only half is better than what happened last time. Then you see chrysalids and you abort but only one guy makes it to the dropship, that's ok because it's better than what happened last time.

      In this game you have 3 guys and you shoot the aliens. I don't think it is close to the same vibe.

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        June 9, 2011 11:38 AM

        lol this guy gets it.

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        June 9, 2011 11:41 AM

        I always play through X-Com games without losing anyone. If someone dies, I reload. AITOO?

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          June 9, 2011 11:52 AM

          It's not a proper Terror mission unless a Chrysalid turns your scout, who drops a primed grenade and blows both himself and the attacker into tiny bits.

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            June 9, 2011 12:06 PM

            Heh, have you played Apocalypse? The Entropy Launcher...homing missile that upon impact starts to corrode the armor and when that's gone, the agent's weapon, ammo and any grenades present until they explode. While the agent is obviously unarmed.

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              June 11, 2011 11:09 AM

              You can just drop the armour when that happens and countinue to fight without armour.

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        June 9, 2011 11:50 AM

        Oh my so very true.

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        June 9, 2011 1:24 PM

        Maximum Truth.

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        June 9, 2011 1:46 PM

        They could put in a "red shirt" mode. "Captain, I found something!... *BZZZT* AAAAHHH!!!"

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        June 9, 2011 9:02 PM

        Well put. Used to have long discussions as a kid with others about the beginning of missions

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        June 9, 2011 9:45 PM

        Haha, the best was that your soldiers were an actual resource that oft-times needed to act as cannon fodder to get the job done.

    • reply
      June 9, 2011 10:53 AM

      [deleted]

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        June 9, 2011 11:43 AM

        It does, but shouldn't be named XCOM.

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          June 9, 2011 12:09 PM

          [deleted]

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            June 9, 2011 12:47 PM

            It's not like people were happy with Far Cry 2 being called Far Cry 2 when it had nothing to do with the original. Same goes for the new Brothers in Arms game.

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              June 9, 2011 1:26 PM

              Poor analogy. At least Far Cry and Far Cry 2 were both FPS games set in similar time periods. XCOM and the older XCOM games are different genres and from completely different time periods. The only theme that's similar is that there's aliens invading, but you have that in so many thousands of games from multiple genres already out that that's not a viable reason to just tack it onto the XCOM series. It's kind of like Valve coming out with Half Life 3: The RTS, and being set in the 1200's impaling your enemies with swords and arrows instead of bullets and a crowbar.

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              June 9, 2011 6:16 PM

              As long as people keep saying this I will keep on pointing out that far cry 2 was just about extracting the best part of far cry (killing merc compounds with tactics) and developing a game in which you did that forever and ever with a large selection of weapons and environments to do it in.

              Trigens are gay, merc compounds are awesome. Therefore, Far Cry 2 is awesome.

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                June 12, 2011 10:17 PM

                Even the part where you keep getting malaria? That part got really old for me after the first 5 minutes of my vision being blurred.

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                  June 12, 2011 10:42 PM

                  Yeah, it was a really interesting mechanic. Just this thing entirely separate from anything else going on that could come at the worst time and fuck your shit up. It was cool for me, but obviously not cool for everyone, nor is Far Cry 2 in general a game for everybody.

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          June 9, 2011 1:59 PM

          here is the thing with that, there are already four x-com games

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            June 9, 2011 3:27 PM

            I'm not understanding the point you're making here.

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              June 9, 2011 3:29 PM

              Two of them are entirely different from the original (a third-person shooter and a space sim), which, I guess, doesn't make this one a special case.

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                June 9, 2011 3:33 PM

                Ask any X-COM fan if they like Enforcer and they will punch you in the throat. Seriously just because they exist doesn't mean they are ok.

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                  June 9, 2011 6:05 PM

                  At least you are killing fucking Sectoids, Snakemen and Mutons there, so you can make a case that this is going on in the same universe. This new XCOM is a reboot, so the universe is different, which is ok, but at the same time it's not a turn based tactical game, like the first 3 games, so at this point it has absolutely nothing to do with X-COM. It's not a reboot anymore, it's a new thing altogether. So they should change the name, goddamit.

                  And there were 5 X-COM games, btw.

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                June 9, 2011 6:07 PM

                Yeah but nobody likes those x-com games.

    • reply
      June 9, 2011 10:57 AM

      oh you guys

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      June 9, 2011 10:59 AM

      The game looks absolutely spectacular, and I eagerly await seeing the haters eat their words. Solid looking gunplay, and a surprising amount of tactical depth too.

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        June 9, 2011 11:02 AM

        it's getting a lot of positive buzz at E3 as far as I can tell. I haven't seen anyone say anything bad about it. I mean it's not that one x-com game that everyone wants it to be an exact copy of but whatever.

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          June 9, 2011 2:00 PM

          I went in as a blank slate, having never played the originals for any substantial amount of time and only seeing the one teaser trailer from last year's E3, and I was blown away. The setting was great, and I really like how you have to manage your other agents as assets both on the battlefield and back at base. Plus, the strategic elements seem like they could make for some fun gameplay, since deciding whether to use a weapon right away or keep it for research seems like it could have some pretty heavy effects on weaponry, abilities, etc., that you'll have access to. I told dahanese to pick the best demo they were showing for me to watch, and she did!

          Also, Duke MP owns.

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            June 9, 2011 6:07 PM

            You get out of here with your facts

            /pitchfork

            /rabble

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        June 9, 2011 6:09 PM

        Don't be a faggot.

        No one hates this game, I have said, others have said, pretty much everyone has said, that the problem isn't the game but the messaging. When you look at this you don't see anything that recalls for you the excitement of playing X-Com 1 or 2. It's not even the same genre of game. And that's the point. Cause this is an X-Com game for people who never played or cared about X-Com. That's all anyone is pointing out, and doing so in very clear language.

        We can all argue about games, but lets not be faggots about it, because where you're taking this is not an argument about a game it's about these people you've invented that you're calling haters. Where's the fun in that? I'd much rather theorycraft some game design.

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          June 9, 2011 6:35 PM

          I am always saddened when people just pretend 50% of the past games don't exist because it makes your argument not work. I get what you are saying it's just odd. 1 and 2 are rad but they aren't they only games.

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            June 9, 2011 6:55 PM

            No matter how many other games they made under the brand, whether Apocalypse, Interceptor or Enforcer, the game that started the franchise is always going to be THE X-Com. And there's no legitimate way for you to be confused about the bemusement your non-X-Com XCOM game has generated.

            If you say "Oh guys, we're bringing back X-Com!" I'm not excited and thinking of fucking Interceptor or whatever, I'm excited cause of UFO Defense! That was a good game, and I'll be happy to have more.

            More importantly, I will have more. There are a number of X-Com clones out there and Xenonauts is pretty much guaranteed to be one of the best ones. Just as important to note is that this XCOM game of yours looks interesting and I will continue to follow its development. So my point there is that there's no hostility in saying this isn't an X-Com game. It's just.... not an X-Com game, and maybe I'm a little disappointed cause I think it could be, but it's not the end of the world or anything and it's not to disparage the work being done in Australia and other 2K studios. So what are you and the other guy I replied to hissing at?

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              June 9, 2011 7:11 PM

              I'm not hissing! I love the original. I also am happy we are making this. But I don't mind twists on games like that - never have. Which is why the others I'm talking about were fine to exist for me.

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            June 9, 2011 7:26 PM

            As pointed out elsewhere in the thread, even Enforcer and Interceptor worked within the established fiction of the X-COM universe. I don't think it's about ignoring 50% (well 40% really) of the past games, it's about having an IP many people are sentimental about retconned into something unrecognizable. Personally I'd be a lot better with it if the marketing stopped using phrases like "true to the roots of the franchise" and similar. Take it in a different direction, but don't insult everyone's memory of one of the best turn based strategy games of all time while you do it.

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              June 9, 2011 7:38 PM

              Serious question (pretend I'm not me) - what about people who disagree with your point if view? Who like those games but maybe have a different opinion?

              I think I'm just going to give up on this know because I know where your head is, I just think it's a shame in many ways. If that makes sense. I'm not being super eloquent and am fucking exhausted.

              Also if you are not being serious and fucking with me again apologies for me bring serious.

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                June 9, 2011 7:45 PM

                Didn't you just make a post about how certain reactions and perspectives to XCOM are illegitimate because people are ignoring 50% of the games in the series?

                If this is about agreeing that everyone has an opinion than we can do that right now and the thread is over. But it's not about agreeing on that, or discussing the game, it's finding the presentation of a contrary opinion itself offensive and then locking horns about it till it becomes boring and there's a better thread to post in. How tedious.

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                  June 9, 2011 8:01 PM

                  I wouldn't say illegitimate. I think I was going for the whole "not like x" when there are a bunch others not like x. I probably wasn't super eloquent there either if it came off as you said.

              • reply
                June 9, 2011 8:29 PM

                People who disagree with my point of view how? Have a different opinion how?
                Don't get me wrong, as a game it looks interesting (it certainly looks way better than "The Goo-Files", or "Goobusters" or whatever you want to call last year's video). I'll always reserve final judgement on a game until it's actually out.
                It's not that it's not like "x" when there are others not like x, it's about being "z" but still trying to pass yourself off as "true to the roots of x" when it looks about as far removed from "x" as you can get. I don't think even Enforcer or Interceptor tried to claim they were being true to the other X-COM games.
                I am being serious, but I'm really trying to not be a jerk about it. I called X-COM "one of the best turn based strategy games of all time" because it is. That doesn't mean I think this new XCOM is shit, I just wish marketing would stop preying on people's nostalgia by claiming it has anything to do with X-COM when what we've seen doesn't look that way at all.

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          June 9, 2011 7:58 PM

          I agree Mr Kow, my only problem with XCom is that it seems to have nothing to do with the original X-Com games beyond the inclusion of aliens. Perhaps I'm being overly cynical but I feel like it was called XCom for the nostalgia of an X-Com game as opposed to being related to the original X-Com universe or a continuation of the X-Com story (such as it was). I should say that I think that XCom looks very interesting and I think I'll have a blast playing it but the marketing for this game makes no sense to me.

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          June 10, 2011 1:35 AM

          But that same charge of faggotry could be leveled at those who are unwilling to accept sequels, or successors, to games that don't adhere 100% to the gameplay mechanics of the original game. For example, look at all of the mockery of the NMA forums in Shack threads leading up to the FO3 release.

          While I completely understand people enjoying older games (I still enjoy them myself!), I personally have never understood the way that some people latch on to genres being the only defining feature of a game. Is genre important? Certainly! But to go "X GAME is only really X GAME if it is played in this particular fashion!!!" just confuses me. Part of the nature of gaming is that games, genres, and franchises evolve. As much as we love the classic games, I don't think people would still be playing Zelda games if they were top-down, cumbersome semi-RPG titles. I don't see why a game like XCOM should be any different. If Ghost Recon can be fun as a turn-based action-strategy game, I don't see why XCOM can't be fun as a strategic FPS.


          /twocents

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            June 10, 2011 2:06 AM

            Also, between your post and the tons of other posts I've seen here from people unhappy with the reboot, I'm gonna check out the original X-COM this weekend. Although, from everything people have said about the game over the years, I have a feeling I might smash my keyboard to pieces in rage after being repeatedly raped by aliens. Should be interesting!

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              June 10, 2011 2:14 AM

              It's a hard game. There's a thread on the SA games forum offering good advice. Also read the ingame encyclopaedia it's useful.

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            June 10, 2011 2:12 AM

            But I was largely pro fo3 and am very pro fonv.

            Also pro DXHR.

            I am also pro this game, because I am pro Good Things.

            The only thing I am not pro is this being x-com.

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            June 10, 2011 8:28 AM

            "But that same charge of faggotry could be leveled at those who are unwilling to accept sequels, or successors, to games that don't adhere 100% to the gameplay mechanics of the original game."
            But to go "X GAME is only really X GAME if it is played in this particular fashion!!!"


            Again, the majority of the negativity is not stemming from the fact that it isn't 100% faithful to the first games of the series. It's the fact that they're using the brand when it has no connection whatsoever to that series. It's not an issue of changing the gameplay as in your Ghost Recon example. It's more like if they took the Ghost Recon name and slapped it on a puzzle platformer that was set on the moon where you play as a race of hitherto undiscovered moon men. It might be an awesome puzzle platformer, but you'd be wondering why the Ghost Recon name is attached to it and why marketing keeps telling you that it's "faithful to the spirit of earlier Ghost Recon games".

            I don't necessarily have a problem with reboots, but even reboots still have something to do with the thing they're rebooting.

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      June 9, 2011 11:02 AM

      Still not interested. Don't need yet another shooter.

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        June 9, 2011 11:23 AM

        Also, if anyone can recommend a good turn based tactical game, please do. I am still filling this niche with Blood Bowl Legendary Edition.

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      June 9, 2011 11:37 AM

      Goo based Aliens...... really??? "The outsiders?" .... very technical sounding indeed.

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      June 9, 2011 12:04 PM

      In the Prey 2 thread anyone wondering why it was called Prey got a lot of grief. Apparently what whether reappropriating a name is kosher or not depends on how much i one liked the original

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        June 9, 2011 3:13 PM

        Prey isn't a beloved game with an interesting setting and great original game play.

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          June 9, 2011 3:26 PM

          Prey had an interesting setting. I'll give you the other two.

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          June 9, 2011 6:06 PM

          Except it did? The sphere as an idea is actually cool schlocky sci fi fun, and portals? Portal came out two years after Prey.

          That the game didn't execute on those ideas well, sure, but they were great ideas.

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      June 9, 2011 1:11 PM

      In my opinion, X-Com and Jagged Alliance WERE their turn-based tactical combat systems. I'm not at all interested in these remakes.

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        June 10, 2011 8:35 AM

        On a related note, did you see the Jagged Alliance remake? At least it is still a strategy game but then they throw away the turn based and now using semi real time with plan and go...Not sure how I feel about that but I saw the gameplay and to be honest, I'd rather play the original with the 1.13 mod. It looks stupid looking at your merc (or the enemy) shoot at each other but it didnt hit anything at all and they keep doing that for at least 5-10 seconds before one of them died.

        As for X-Com, yeah, I really dont think this move to FPS will make me happy either. I'll probably play the original again since I missed some of those a while back. I think the move to FPS is to make the game accessible to console users, but the move basically crapping all other PC users that grow up with the original X-com and turn based games in general...

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      June 9, 2011 1:56 PM

      I think it looks lame as hell, no matter how they call it.

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      June 9, 2011 2:07 PM

      Hey, it might be good. But I'd rather have a game that grew out of X-Com's mechanics than its story.

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        June 9, 2011 3:24 PM

        Actually a game that grew out of x-coms story would be ok as well. This is neither.

    • reply
      June 9, 2011 5:44 PM

      Thread Hijack: For those of you looking to harken back to a more traditional XCOM style game, http://www.xenonauts.com

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      June 9, 2011 6:07 PM

      meh

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      June 9, 2011 6:37 PM

      I hope it is hard. Progression is not interesting without challenge.

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      June 9, 2011 6:43 PM

      That does look good! I look forward to turning the tables on reassembling aliens by using their own technology against them.

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      June 9, 2011 6:51 PM

      It looks cool, but i can't believe that it'll have even a quarter of the depth of the original and that makes me sad. Also the shooting looks too much like a mix of brothers in arms with cod instead of BiA and rainbow six.

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      June 9, 2011 9:57 PM

      The vibe would be more suitable if it was more like SWAT 4. Where the goal is taking the suspects/aliens alive and avoid killing if possible. Also collecting evidence/technology from the scene. You can still direct your team and use tools to plan your approach. More games should reward for not doing Murder Death Kill.

      Interestingly enough Irrational made SWAT 4.

      Still looks interesting in its own way.

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      June 9, 2011 10:03 PM

      Am I supposed to hate this game or what? Everything I see for it makes it look pretty fucking awesome.

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        June 9, 2011 10:12 PM

        You're supposed to hate it because it has the same name as a game that came out in 1994

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          June 9, 2011 10:55 PM

          Not the same name at all. That game had a dash in the title.

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        June 10, 2011 1:39 AM

        No you are not supposed to hate the game.

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      June 10, 2011 1:51 AM

      I wanna make a 2D action platformer featuring an anthropomorphic Ford Model-T with a heart of gold as a main character. Then I'm gonna purchase the Freespace name and make it a "reboot"

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      June 10, 2011 8:33 AM

      http://cf.shacknews.com/images/20110609/js_xcom_angela_mission_18431.jpg
      Thank god the aliens only seem to be attacking the continental United States. I'm surprised they have such a sophisticated understanding of political boundaries and that their plans are so focused.

      • reply
        June 11, 2011 11:16 AM

        Maybe aliens invading to make a hospital planet dont like free healthcare?

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