XCOM E3 2011 preview
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2011-06-10 Xbox 360 FPS M (Mature) 2K Games / 2K Marin

Creative Director and Producer Jordan Thomas lead us through this follow-up on XCOM.

XCOM has been off the radar for about a year, and we had an explanation as to why that was. Since 2K Marin had just finished Bioshock 2, the team found that the first crack at XCOM was too much in their comfort zone and that they weren't pushing the game hard enough in the tactical aspect. The fans within the 2K Marin team decided the game needed new mechanics and significant changes to the design in order to bring back the same feel that the old XCOM games conveyed.

XCOM has an all new origin story in its own timeline (something along the lines of Battlestar Galactica or Batman Begins). That means that while the original games are a source of inspiration, the team also deviated in a few key ways. The game takes place in 1962 in the United States and the reason for that was to tell the story of the first man on the ground, what was the omniscient character of the original series like as a human being, and how that can be translated mechanically. You play as Special Agent William Carter who is facing an alien threat of which there is no precedent.

We step into Agent Carter's shoes as the demo begins with a video, we review this case file, a piece of evidence that has been submitted from somewhere in suburban United States. Here we see footage of the streets of a peaceful neighborhood, panning into a house where we approach a woman in the kitchen. With a close-up, we see her face is changing into something new. All of a sudden, the peaceful outside turns into chaos, and we see what looks like flying saucers in the sky. An alien invasion comes along and history begins to diverge.

The agents working in Operations (our base) are the best of the best, deployed from all over the country. Our job is more field-oriented, and we're going to recruit a squad, capture the enemy and turn their own weapons against them.

Forming a squad is a lot like forming a party in an RPG. RPG changes to the game are obvious, not just in this aspect, but in the sense that we can interact with other agents, get to know them, understand the emotional impact of the situation on their lives. In a slight Final Fantasy Tactics comparison, we are shown that each agent has a set of skills and powers, and we can choose from those available by picking who will suit the mission and complement the party best.

Operations has a campaign map showing several available missions. Some are optional, but you can also choose them strategically so that you can obtain new technology that may help you on the next mission. You can either take that technology with you or bring it back and use it for research. On the map, you can also dispatch agents to go on another mission on their own. In this demo, our mission was to track down Dr. Weir. Bringing him back alive (or any other person) will add him to the base. After recruiting our squad and picking some available technology to use, we can head out on this extraction mission.

During the actual field demo, we notice a minimalistic HUD with only party HP on the bottom left. We find a human looking morphing alien unit called an Infiltrator. These Outsiders are made of living technology.

The Tactical View menu is simple and opens up as two brackets on each side of the screen with icons along it. At the bottom, the cost for using each skill is displayed in Time Units. Time Units refill over time. Skills can be mapped to the D-Pad for quick use. We can also look around in bullet time with the tactical menu open.

This living technology is highly aggressive and is attempting to terraform our world and turn it into theirs, so we see it spreading over surfaces. As the agents attempt to reach Dr. Weir's house, the Outsiders attack. They have a shield, which we can't breach and must take down. A skill that disrupts alien technology always helps, and the agents get their break. Later on, we also see how we can capture alien technology and use it immediately for our advantage: an alien turret is captured and later placed to be used against its own creators.

A Titan appears in the sky, and it can't be attacked while in prism form. Titans attack in order to terraform the world, but they can be captured and used as well, just like any other piece of technology. As for your party members, if you lost one before they would suffer permanent death. This has also been changed and you can now go back and revive incapacitated allies.

After some frantic combat, we reach Dr. Weir just in time to see him being pulled through a portal. Agent Carter follows, and our demo ends as his view pans out to show a series of fragmented ship-like structures pulling themselves together in orderly fashion. Definitely a cliffhanger, but we'll have to wait for the game's release in March 2012 to find out more.