Why I Don’t Think XCOM Will Suck

By Alec Meer on June 16th, 2010 at 7:01 am.

I could have gone for “Why I think XCOM won’t disappoint me” or “What I thought about the demo I saw in March”, but when in Rome… That said, it being or not being shit isn’t the issue here, is it? Not being the same genre is why people are heartbroken. Oh, I’m just asking for trouble with this post. I’m also being totally fucking honest with you.

I’ve told you what’s in it, and I’ve told you what the developers say it is. Here’s what I think about what I’ve seen so far.

I think a lot of things.

I honestly don’t know how XCOM will turn out. The developers have said – and not said – both things that sound promising, passionate and reverent, and things that sound like it’s just the IP wagon being rolled out and seeing how much money sticks to it. I don’t know which it is. It’s probably both. Certainly, XCOM didn’t have to be called XCOM, and there’s a very strong case to be made that it shouldn’t have been. It’s not as though the very broad subject matter – defeating an alien invasion – is inextricably linked to the name.

But XCOM is called XCOM. Mostly likely, 2K, the publisher, have asked 2K Marin/Australia, the developer to make them a first person shooter based on the slumbering X-COM franchise. They have done/are doing it. This is a thing that has happened, and a thing that will not be reversed. I would have loved a turn-based XCOM too. I’m holding out hope that there’ll be one, in fact – a Steam or XBLA or iPhone remake of the original game, still so timeless in everything except interface and tutorial. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about fan project Xenonauts, which has a chance of being the real heir apparent to X-COM’s strange and wonderful hybrid genre.

People have repeatedly asked me why I think it so inevitable that XCOM would be an FPS. It’s not just because XCOM has been comatose as an IP for years. It’s also because its entire genre has been effectively dead for almost as long. Yes, there have been a few attempts, some good, some bad, but no major publisher would dream of touching it. Small publishers and passionate indie devs are another matter, and that’s why we must treasure them. As to why call it XCOM when it’s not X-COM: look at the length of these comments threads about the game. Even a lot of the most furious people in them will probably buy XCOM, from curiosity, fondness and/or self-flagellation. A cynical move, then? Yes, certainly. It’s also the only reason we’re getting any game called XCOM.

It may go horribly wrong. It may be nothing at all like X-COM, despite the pretty-but-guarded line the developers gave me. But here’s why I’m hopeful. It’s not “here’s why XCOM will be DA BOMB, MAN, THE FUGGIN’ BOMB.” It’s not “here’s why XCOM is exactly like X-COM.” It’s here’s why I’m hopeful. In the post below this, you’ll also see why I’m very worried, and even upset.

Go list.

  • It’s about planning at least as much as it is about shooting. You research and build new weapons, you choose what to take with you, you make educated guesses about which mission to pursue next, based on what you think is there and whether you’re developed enough to counter it. So they say, anyway. That may not be Strategy, but it is strategy.
  • I do like the setting, even though it’s a jarring change from the future-Earth of X-COM. It makes sense for an alien invasion – the 50s was an era drowning in paranoia about both otherworldly menaces and Red Terror, so often conflated. Yes, 2K does a lot of period shooters, but I’d take pastel mid-century over brown near-future any day.And I don’t really need to see X-COM’s mega-gelled 80s hairstyles at 1920×1080.
  • Progress is based on research and information-gathering, not by finding keycards and pushing door unlock buttons. I won’t grind to a halt because I haven’t walked down the right corridor yet.
  • The backup agents aren’t as simple as they appear. I couldn’t squeeze any details out of the devs other than that there’s a lot more to see there, and there’ll be reasons to care about these square-jawed followers. I’m hoping for squad control, I’m hoping for managing inventories and abilities, I’m hoping for psionic devices that terrifyingly wrest them from my control, and I’m also hoping for optional co-op. I might be let down. I might not. I’m prepared to wait and see.
  • There is a base. I don’t know how much control you have over it, but it’s appealing to think you somewhere to go back to plan your next move – and that that move is not mandated by the game.
  • While I might miss the semi-omnipotence of isometric squad control in the ground missions, one place where I really do relish the first-person perspective is the base. I love the idea of exploring what I own (and hopefully have built/upgraded). It reminds me of Dungeon Keeper, and it reminds me of the fantastic base defence missions in X-COM.
  • This is 2K Australia more than it is 2K Marin. These guys were part of Irrational. These guys worked on games like Freedom Force and SWAT 4. They’re not just the guys who made Bioshock 2.
  • Even if it doesn’t feel at all like X-COM, think about this: gadgets, selecting a load-out and a strategy, small squads, non-linear level navigation and an enemy that hides, waits and ambushes. It could be SWAT 4 with aliens. That’d be awesome in its own right.
  • I dig the concept of the odds being stacked against you so much that you often have to run away. That ammo and health and gadgetry and your squad’s lives are limited. You’re not a super-soldier. You’re a guy fighting something he doesn’t understand and isn’t equipped to deal with. You have to use observation and caution to survive. There’s every chance that, robbed of the dread Hidden Movement screen, this won’t feel anything like the tension and terror of X-COM’s missions in practice, but even so, it’s a really intriguing hook for a shooter. I want to play that game, whether or not it’s like X-COM.
  • C’mon, that obelisk thing! Fighting something that can rip up the world – now that sounds fun.
  • It’s from the makers of Bioshock, a game that, despite a whole lot of compromises and unfilled promises, went to far greater lengths to try and be smart and different than most other mainstream shooters of the past few years. T
  • I haven’t played it, or seen anywhere near enough to know anything like for sure that it will let me down.

, .

155 Comments »

  1. poop says:

    someone who has seen the game in motion and personally spoken to developers still thinks that whether or not the game will be good is up in the air

    welp.

    • P7uen says:

      I think the key issue since the beginning of this whole affair is that despite anything that has happened, Alec is a hero.

    • Will says:

      @poop In one sentence, you have destroyed the entire premise of a preview play.

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      El_MUERkO says:

      SWAT 4 is one of my most favourite games ever, if they released a new expansion of it I’d buy it right now.

      Make SWAT 5 instead you fools!! Leave the dull shooter genre to crapier dev’s!!!

    • SpinalJack says:

      How do you know this is going to be dull?

  2. Mink says:

    I just realized something… Imagine that you are a little kid, making out your Christmas list. And you tell your parents, “I really, really, really want some Legos for Christmas. If you can only get me one thing, make it Legos.” And then you spend weeks and weeks and weeks telling your parents how that’s all you want for Christmas. You make them repeat it back to you over breakfast. “Mom. Dad. What do I want?”, you ask. “Legos,” they reply. But you want to make sure, so you bug them and bug them until finally the parents say, “Don’t worry! I think you’ll be VERY happy when Christmas comes!” And then they wink at you. So, when Christmas rolls around, you go running downstairs and tare open all the boxes. And what do you find? Some balsa wood, some metal sheets, some glue, a box of tools, a subscription to ‘Make’ magazine and your parents smiling. They say to you, “Hey! Check this out! This is EVEN BETTER than Legos! Aren’t you happy?” And then you freak out, yelling at them, “NO! THIS IS NOT FUCKING LEGOS! I WANTED F&^KING LEGOS! HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT? I MEAN, WHAT THE HELL? DID I NOT MAKE MYSELF CLEAR? ARE YOU MENTAL?!?” And then, of course, they are confused as to why you are disappointed.

    • Mink says:

      Damn. I can’t edit. Sorry about the swear word.

      ~mink~

    • Eightball says:

      How do you know this is going to be better than the originals?

    • Item! says:

      Lego damn you! A piece or brick of Lego. A box of Lego. You would ask your parents for Lego. Some Lego.

      A thousand curses on your superfluous “s”.

    • Lack_26 says:

      @Item!, I was thinking the exact same thing though reading that entire post.

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      James G says:

      Pedant time:

      According to the company, Lego should only be used as a noun when referring to the company, in all other cases it is an adjective, IE. Lego bricks.

      They used to have an explanation on their website, but I can’t seem to find it now.

    • Item! says:

      @ James G;

      It is mentioned under their “fair play” page about trademark usage etc: (http://www.lego.com/eng/info/fairplay.asp)

      “Proper Use of the LEGO Trademark on a Web Site
      If the LEGO trademark is used at all, it should always be used as an adjective, not as a noun. For example, say “MODELS BUILT OF LEGO BRICKS”. Never say “MODELS BUILT OF LEGOs.”

    • Solario says:

      It’s a bit more like:

      You wanted your parents to buy you Lego bricks, when you were five. You grow up. Your parents tell you that there are something new called Lego, and ask if you want it for your birthday. You hesitantly say yes, because why would you care about Lego except for the sake of nostalgia? Then you remember all the good times you had with Lego. You talk with your parents about it a few times, but really you are mostly thinking about Lego and not listening to what they are actually saying. Something about -ook. Whatever. Then comes Christmas, you unwrap your present to find a fantastic book about Lego. You are immediately disappointed, despite the fact that you love books, but you were really expecting actual Lego.

      It sucks that you were expecting something else, but it’s not going to happen, so you should just judge something on its intrinsic value instead of cultural baggage. The time now is not built for Lego. Either dig your old Lego out again or just accept it.

    • Alexandros says:

      Let’s try this analogy. You had Lego bricks as a kid and you used them to make all kinds of different things: Cars, houses, dinosaurs, whatever. You had lots of fun playing and then you tell your parents that you want the new Lego brivks which are even better than the old ones. So they go out and buy you a ready-made car, a house and a dinosaur for you to play with. “Look, this is a lot better!”, they say, “it’s much simpler and it’s ready-made for you to play! No need to bother with building, you can have instant fun!”. Then you are dissapointed and sad, because your parents failed to realize that half the fun was in the building.

    • poop says:

      the lego analogy would work a lot better if you make a bunch of cool dinosaurs with your lego and you ask for more lego for christmas and instead your parents get you dollar store cheap solid plastic toy dinosaurs

      and then your friend says JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU GIVE THE DINOSAURS A TRY OK and GETTING CHEAP DINOSAURS IS BETTER THAN NONE AT ALL and you know deep down that [i]it just isn’t the same[/i]

    • erhebung says:

      So much passion. Whoever is behind Xenonauts is going to make a ton of money.

    • jalf says:

      @erhebung:

      perhaps I’ve missed something, but why are we all so excited about Xenonauts?
      Why do we believe it’ll be more successful than all the other X-COM clones that have been made (and failed)?

      Is it just that there’s virtually no information about it yet, so we haven’t yet seen anything to worry about? Or is there some concrete evidence that it’s going to be good that I’ve missed?

      I’m starting to wonder, because as far as I know, it’s little more than a name so far. And yet everyone are praising it as the one true revival of X-COM.

    • Michael says:

      It’s more like, if every Christmas you get socks. And you really like the socks. And you often buy yourself some socks. And you read magazines about socks. And go on the Internet and argue fiercely with other sock lovers about which socks are the best. And you watch videos of socks on YouTube. And go to sock conferences. And you even had a go at making your own socks.

      Then Christmas comes and you see your present from your parents. And the wrapping paper is pictures of LEGO bricks. And you remember when you used to love LEGO as much as you now love socks. And you think, hey, maybe mum and dad have bought me some LEGO for old time’s sake – that’d be sweet. Excitedly you unwrap you present to reveal … a very nice pair of socks. And you throw them in you parents faces and storm out of the house because deep down you realise you never really liked socks that much. You just went along with it because they were trendy and because no-one sold LEGO any more. Now you start to think that actually socks are shit and that maybe you’ve been wasting your life. So you go to the pub and discover alcoholism.

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      AndrewC says:

      You try wearing Lego.

    • Jeremy says:

      Always Legos. Always.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      I miss my Lego now :(

    • Uhm says:

      It’s like shouting at your parents for not getting you Lego and realising you’re 30 years old now.

    • erhebung says:

      @jalf

      There seems to be a very positive vibe around Xenonauts, but… to be honest, that last post was a sort of exasperated gasp, it just didn’t come over as… exasperated-sounding as I thought it might. :-/ Xenonauts might be a failure, but if it is a good game, there are plenty of people on these threads who’d go for it, I think, eagerly.

    • Deston says:

      I just spent ages putting away all the bloody Lego, now I have to go back upstairs and tip it all out again so I can find the right pieces to build a 50′s retro sci-fi style plasma rifle.

      Screw you all and your suggestive Lego analogies! >:(

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      This thread is why I love RPS.

      Also, great articles Mr. Meer.

  3. Eightball says:

    Thank you, Alec Meer. I’m an angry pessimist about XCOM and probably will just be angry when it comes out, but this two part even-handed treatment of what you’ve seen is way better than what all the people defending that one trailer have posted combined. I remain pessimistic because most of the things you wrote about XCOM sucking we know are facts (like being an fps, not squad based, questionable setting) while what may redeem it is mostly up in the air (because 2K Marin refuses to actually say anything about what’s in the game).

  4. Thiefsie says:

    Even handed opinion that is most likely much more knowledgeable at this stage than any of us. Well done.

    An amount of faith remains with me that this game will be worthwhile. Maybe not what we want, but still worthwhile.

  5. Auspex says:

    Goodbye review code!

    • Alexandros says:

      Doesn’t matter. Most people would rather read an honest, objective review later than a glorified advertisement early.

    • Neut says:

      “objective review”

      I lol’d

    • Starky says:

      That must count as an oxymoron, right?

  6. Zogtee says:

    So, it doesn’t look like XCOM, it doesn’t play like XCOM, and it doesn’t feel like XCOM. Why do people still insist that this is XCOM?

    “Not being the same is why people are heartbroken”

    No you. I don’t want it to be the same as the original XCOM. I want it to pick up where XCOM left off. Everyone goes on about how much they love and respect the original game, but at the same time no one is interested in doing something that actually relates to it. I know, it’s not marketable these days (like generic shooters are), but fuck me, at this point I’d be content with a basic XBLA update, even if it’s just the first one with newish graphics.

    • Archonsod says:

      Pick up where X-Com left off?

      You mean you want a sequel to Enforcer? o.O

    • Zogtee says:

      Did I say that? I didn’t say that, but let me clarify my previous statement. I want it to pick up where the *strategy* games left off.

    • Web Cole says:

      Did you even read the article?

    • ShaunCG says:

      You want it to pick up where X-COM: Play By Email left off?

    • jalf says:

      Did I say that? I didn’t say that, but let me clarify my previous statement. I want it to pick up where the *strategy* games left off.

      So you want it to be the same.

    • Polysynchronicity says:

      I think he means he wants the next step in the chain from grand strategy (Geoscape) to squad strategy (missions). Which is presumably making decisions as one FPS dude.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Why would we want it to be the same? That’s stupid. We want X-Com improved on, with new toys. Y’know, a sequel. That’s always been the problem with the franchise, though. Everything either changed way too much, and fails to feel like XCOM, it is just a reskin of the first one.

  7. Psychopomp says:

    I have one bone to pick with all of this.

    “It’s not just because XCOM has been comatose as an IP for years. It’s also because its entire genre has been effectively dead for almost as long. Yes, there have been a few attempts, some good, some bad, but no major publisher would dream of touching it.”

    I’m sorry,Nintendo, Squeenix, THQ,
    and even 2K themselves, aren’t major publishers?

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      c-Row says:

      Not on a platform that actually matters to most of the RPS crowd.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Those are portable games, apart from Civilisation, which I think most would agree is a special case.

      I would love to see X-COM on my (3)DS, though, that’d be fun. That said, I own the original, I should get around to playing that, see what all the fuss is about.

      The new game looks cool too.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Psychopomp

      Indeed. Does the name “Civilization” really have so much more weight than the name “X-Com” that the former can be made as a TBS but the latter must be an FPS to sell? I mean, really?

    • Bret says:

      It kinda does, sadly.

      Now, we get X-Com as a continuous series since it started and Civ lapsed with some crappy half assed sequels dulling the good memories, things would be reversed. I mean, geeze. Continuous brand recognition means everything from a marketing prospective. Look at…

      Resident Evil. Crappy tank controls are permitted there out of legacy. Anyone else would be reamed for them (even if they improved a lot, IE RE4).

      Mario’s still a chart topper in 2D platformers while other similar games don’t sell.

      Legacy means everything in the business. And the hypothetical consumer doesn’t remember as far back as would be ideal.

    • Malagate says:

      Eh? Sorry but Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, WH40K squad command and Civ 5 are not the same as X-Com. Sure, they’re turn based, and all of those you list are based on old IP’s, but none of them are even like X-Com.

      Is there any part of Fire Emblem that involves management? Are there any psychological effects of combat in Final Fantasy Tactics? Can you look around your battle barge and defend it from Chaos in Squad Command? None of these games even approach X-Com, fact is they’re simple enough to be accessible to a bigger audience and have a much shallower learning/difficulty curve (took me bloody ages to not get totally wiped out in X-Com: Terror from the deep).

      Also I’m of the opinion that the legacy of X-Com is what killed off it’s turn based strategy form. If they had followed a road similar to the sequals of Fire Emblem, FFTA, etc, and just give fairly cosmetic changes to the core game then they’d probably be on X-Com 10 by now and there would be no such thing as Enforcer.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Psychopomp

      Wow is that…an in-game pic of a guy with donkey ears on that FFT wikipedia page? :-/ Final Fantasy games are weird.

    • The Hammer says:

      @Vinraith: I’d say so. In popularity terms, Civilisation has a mainstream legacy. Pretty much every gamer knows of Civilization (and of Sid Meier. Are the developers of XCOM as well known? How many column inches in magazines and even newspapers does XCOM get?), and regard it as the thinking man’s strategy game. Not as many have heard of XCOM, and spending so much money on high production values for a genre that many might sulk at and say “Well, I’m not interested if I have to sit and wait for it to play out and faff around with turns” would likely be unwise. 2K is a big company that’s looking to make big profits with big games. ‘s unfortunate for the die-hard fans.

      I should probably say though, that I’m one of the people such a transformation appeals to. I think I played the original XCOM once, and found it tremendously difficult to get into (I know that’s part of the appeal to its fans) but alien invasions of a similar theme in an intriguing setting with accessible gameplay sounds like something I’d be interested in, especially as the design values so far have to me been pretty damn impressive.

    • Soundofvictory says:

      Yea, sure those are all turn based strategy games. The main difference is that they are relatively big mainstream franchises that have had a steady flow of releases over the past decade or so. There was a Fire Emblem game on the Cube, and a few on the DS. Everyone knows Final Fantasy. Civilization… is Civilization. etc.

      The point is: probably the main reason more of these games are coming out is that the previous iterations in the series’ sold relatively well and recently enough that those numbers are still relevant.

      X-Com is a leetle different. The last game in the series was in 2001 and was widely considered crap by fans. I’m betting it had very poor sales numbers.

      Franchises that do well and are consistent get sequels, franchises that may have some nostalgia to them but are predicted not to sell well get either nothing or ‘reboots.’

      Example of this: Front Mission. Excellent turn-based strategy games from Square. The most recent one from… 2004 on the Ps2 did not sell as well. So now… we get Front Mission: Evolved, which is a TPS.

    • _Nocturnal says:

      You guys got me thinking…

      Civilization FPS! Why hasn’t anyone tried it?

    • BeamSplashX says:

      @Soundofvictory:

      Front Mission 5 actually came out in 2005 and fixed all the problems from 4. Sadly, Square-Enix made the same idiotic mistake a lot of Japanese companies do and assumed that it wouldn’t sell due the the reception of the preceding game. Regardless, I think the shift to TPS isn’t so odd- the second Front Mission game was an action-sidescoller-RPG, and the Japan-only Front Mission Online for PC and PS2 was an action game (though I heard nothing of how it plays).

  8. Auspex says:

    Lego is better than balsa and glue though.

  9. robrob says:

    Cheers Alec, these have been an interesting couple of articles. Based on what you’ve said, it looks like it could well end up being an interesting variation on the traditional shooter – things like having a base to return to sound particularly interesting and was something that made the opening of Deus Ex so endearing. I suppose the real test is to ask yourself, “if it didn’t have the X-COM name, would I be interested in it?” Not being particularly fond of Bioshock I can’t imagine I would be.

  10. Gareth says:

    I think I know what you’re going for, but it doesn’t quite work: the LEGO-alternative might have been a disappointment, initially, but I’m betting that most children would be pretty quick to embrace the new possibilties the balsa wood, metal sheets, and magazine subscription offered; and they’d be happy and fulfilled and no doubt a lot smarter and more creative than kids who’d just been given LEGO.

    Now, that clearly doesn’t necessarily apply to this new XCOM FPS, directly; but it might: by thinking outside of the box, by going against expectations, by moving us out of our comfort zone, perhaps the new game will utterly blow our minds.

    I adore the first two games. I remember spending far, far, far too much time playing TFTD. And I also remember being frustrated by it very frequently: those cruise ship missions, for example, could last an age. Overall, though, it left a lasting impression on me: I still love playing turn-based strategy.

    But I also adored stuff like Doom. And when I first saw the shotgun in the trailer I thought: “ha, this could be like some deliberately retro Doom meets UFO hybrid”, and suddenly I was a kid again, as I remember talking to a friend once about what it would be like to see through the eyes of the soldiers we were controlling on the isometric map. All our soldiers were renamed to sound like characters from Aliens or The X-Files, and while we loved the “mechanics” of the original X-COM titles, we also used to use our imagination to go beyond it (I’m back to LEGO & balsa wood here).

    Puttiing it another way, if you went back in time to 1996 (or whenever it was released) and asked me, a 15 year old science fiction nerd, if I’d like to play an X-COM-esque game where I could actually see through the eyes of the soldiers I was moving around the grid, if I could shoot at aliens in a similar way to the way I shot at stuff in Doom, I’m almost certain I’d have said “bring it on”. And then if someone had told me I could also be a bit like Mulder in The X-Files, hunting around “alien crime scenes” looking for evidence and following leads (I’m guessing some will be set at night; I’m guessing there’ll be flashlights – !), and then heading back to “base” to investigate ways to use that evidence in crazily proactive ways against the bad-guys (District 9 and the weapon testing scene just came to mind; and Mulder’s office – I’m hoping there’s a noticeboard, and you can pin stuff to it), I’d have been, like, “woooaaah!”.

    So, yeah, I don’t think it will suck, necessarily. It might be inspirational and immersive, it might be a huge, refreshing wake-up call. Star Trek rebooted, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was considerably more interesting than previous attempts to extend the franchise.

    What I would like, though, is a decent port of the original to the DS, as I think it would be wicked.

    • erhebung says:

      Ack. That was supposed to be a reply to a comment up top.

    • MultiVaC says:

      What if we also told your 1996 self that you were never going to have anything like the original X-Com games again? What if they said that they weren’t making an X-Com game with a Doom-type perspective and gameplay because it was an innovative, new idea; they were doing it because in the future, EVERY game would be like Doom, and the heads of the giant, faceless mega-corporation who will own the rights to X-Com would refuse to fund a game that wasn’t? And that the whole idea of being like Mulder in the X-Files would likely just be window dressing for a game where you mostly just shot everything (I’m not necessarily saying that I know XCOM will be a mindless shooter, but there’s a damn good chance that it will. And I’m pretty sure that the XCOM trailer has more bullets fired in two minutes than Mulder fired throughout the entire series)?

      I’m sure my 1996 self would think also it was an awesome idea to play one of the soldiers in X-Com as if it were Doom would be an awesome idea. If I were to go back in time, I would tell him to be careful what he wished for.

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      drewski says:

      @ Gareth – that’s more or less my attitude too. And hey, if they can port the original Jagged Alliance to the DS, there’s no reason they can’t port X-COM, I suspect.

    • PHeMoX says:

      Reboots either work or they don’t simple as that.

      Even with sequels I often wished to see something more like the original game. Especially when they decide to ‘go for a different style’.

      Best example of how not to do a sequel style-wise to date is probably Battlezone and Battlezone 2. The first was awesome, had that great cold war theme going on.. the sequel had nothing of that and was far too much about aliens and that ruined it for me.

      An example of how to do a sequel the right way probably would be Homeworld. Homeworld 2 had very much the same style and just got a little better at what we got, also prettier.

      That’s how I like sequels.

      A similar story is true for reboots or remakes. If they choose for a new style or even gameplay genre you can just bet on some fans of the original being upset about that.

  11. Vinraith says:

    Thank you for this, Alec. I don’t see how anyone can justifiably fault you for something as genuinely honest and forthright as this (though I’m sure some will), and this kind of writing is a pleasant reminder of why I subscribe and indeed why I read this site. My only point of real disagreement aligns with Psychopomp’s above, so I won’t rehash that here. I did want to comment on these:

    It’s about planning at least as much as it is about shooting.

    The backup agents aren’t as simple as they appear.

    it’s appealing to think you somewhere to go back to plan your next move – and that that move is not mandated by the game.

    If these turn out to be true, and I trust that you believe they will, the whole exercise may not be a waste after all. I confess that the cross-platform nature of the release, coupled with the hedging in that interview, make me very uncertain about these aspects of the game. Your own confidence carries some weight, I hope they prove you right.

    I’m always going to be disappointed that it isn’t a TBS. I’m always going to think it’s a peculiar misuse of the name “XCOM.” It’d be nice if, despite these things, it turned out to be a worthwhile game. Maybe you’re right and it will. You make a compelling argument for giving it the benefit of the doubt, anyway.

    • Alexandros says:

      “Thank you for this, Alec. I don’t see how anyone can justifiably fault you for something as genuinely honest and forthright as this (though I’m sure some will)”

      Not really. These articles and the new Eurogamer preview are both fine, the previous ones weren’t. Noone hates Alec or bitches for no reason, unless we consider all criticism to be “bitching”.

    • Vinraith says:

      Noone hates Alec or bitches for no reason,

      Speak for yourself Alexandros, I see several other folks doing exactly that in this thread.

  12. JoeDuck says:

    I seemed to understand that the events during the mission follow some kind of crescendo… Could it be procedurally generated? L4D AI Director, 2k Marin style?
    If I get a procedurally generated environment in XCOM or Torchlight style, a meaningful strategy layer, a mysterious investigation and coop for the missions, I think we’ll be getting quite a lot of good things in a neat package. Much better than many FPS today.
    I’m interested, I like the period and I do not care if they use the holy grail of names, the series was dead anyway. I’d argue that given the state of things, this game improves the chances of a turn based XCOM being made again.
    Oh, and about the outrage about RPS’s coverage of this game… I have to bash on you guys. To wait all this time before selling out and to sell out to 2K of all people is just bad business. Specially at the prices Ubi$oft and Activi$ion are paying these days. You need better agents, you are losing money.

    • Eightball says:

      JoeDuck: “I’d argue that given the state of things, this game improves the chances of a turn based XCOM being made again.”

      Really? If it’s a success, they’ll just make XCOM 2 ala Bioshock 2. If it’s a flop, they’ll blame the marketing use of XCOM then never make another XCOM game of any kind.

    • JoeDuck says:

      Yes, really.
      The chances of a revival of a dead franchise to make a game in a dead genre that was already niche are virtually nil.
      However, the chances of making a revival old style game in a franchise that is alive and selling are not nil.
      They are very small, but not nil.

    • Vinraith says:

      I actually think you’re more likely to see a turn based X-Com game down the road if this thing flops. If XCOM the shooter is a success the value of the IP will skyrocket and it’ll never leave AAA publisher/developer hands. Now, if this tanks and 2k sells the “useless” name rights, on the other hand, you might see the X-Com name back in the hands of a smaller publisher/developer that would be willing to take a chance on a turn based game.

    • JoeDuck says:

      A smaller publisher like say, for example, Cyanide?
      We already have had a bunch of UFO clones by smaller developers and they have been… disappointing.
      With or without 2K’s XCOM, the field remains open, anyone can make a turn based tactical combat game. But no one has done it well, not as an indie, nor as an small publisher.
      I stand by my previous statement, this actually increases the chance of a real XCOM TBS.

  13. mink says:

    You sir, are insane.

    And you missed my point entirely. In the analogy, the parents think they know better than the kid. But, a kid wants want a kid wants. Don’t feed a kid broccoli and then expect him to eventually understand that it’s better for their health than birthday cake. It just doesn’t work that way.

    ~mink~

    • erhebung says:

      Mmm, possibly. Or maybe I didn’t always get what I wanted for Christmas? Once, an inherited BBC Micro instead of a NES. But, I’m far happier I played Elite for hours on end rather than, say, a Mario platformer.

      I agree with you, generally: don’t feed kid’s healthy stuff expecting them to know it’s better for them than sweet stuff. Of course. But responsible parents will still insist that their children eat some vegetables, whether they expect them to understand or not.

    • erhebung says:

      Which isn’t me saying I think the developers know better than “us”, necessarily. Although… they do get paid to do this stuff. We just, you know, consume.

    • Bret says:

      Of course, we should factor in if the stores have any legos left.

      I mean, Legos beat balsa bloody for sheer fun.

      But if the closest to Legos you can get is Megablocks, then you’d be better off with balsa.

    • Eightball says:

      This analogy (which I don’t think was especially helpful at the start) is really silly now.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I have no idea what any of you are talking about.

    • Koozer says:

      Who else is incredibly annoyed with those Santander (Abbey national!) ads with their not-quite-right lego bricks? They’re not tall enough damnit.

    • Premium User Badge

      phlebas says:

      When I was much younger my parents gave me an assembly programming package for the Spectrum and I got them to return it and get a flashier game designer/maker instead. I have regretted it ever since.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Put me in the optimistic crowd. From what I have seen so far, this looks excellent. I love that shooters are picking up RPG/strategy elements. Simplified, sure, but like kobzon says above, it feels like the dumbing down era is ending in some ways.

  15. Anthony Damiani says:

    Bottom line: I loved X-Com, and I don’t like shooters.

    There are lots of shooters these days and very few strategy games. We don’t need another shooter. And while I accept that a TBS X-com was unlikely, a pause-able realtime X-Com on the Freedom-Force model would have been fantastic. But no publisher will touch it because it won’t sell on the consoles.

    Taking one of the most beloved strategy games of all-time and changing the setting, the art style, the genre, and essentially everything about it? Am I supposed to be excited about this in any way on the basis of its connections to its predecessor?

    Judged on its own, it might be pretty cool, but they’re putting a great big tag on it inviting, even /demanding/ that I compare it to the original.

    I’m steadily moving towards “this is a disaster.”

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, I don’t agree with setting it on a planet. I’ll miss those cute little cockpit touches and the taunts over the radio. And those blobs don’t really strike fear into me the way an Ethereal crewed battleship did. I guess at least with the NPC’s there’s a chance the witty banter might be retained.

  16. Muzman says:

    The name thing: How about Zed-Com or something? It’s worth noting that Bioshock still had ‘shock’ in the title and the ‘spiritual successor’ label was plastered all over it. That was plenty for ticking off shock fans. What’s in a name? Plenty apparently.

  17. toni says:

    bioshock promised survival elements as well. “you will always be searching for ammo, they said”. And what I did was wade in ammo and resources, so much you had to dump or leave them at the spot. I will be damned if they dare do that with their audience in mind.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      What? You did?

      Clearly you are a far better shot than I am.

    • Wilson says:

      @toni – Heh, one of the big moments I remember from Bioshock was after a fight of some kind I think, where I was collecting the loot and I got a message pop up saying: “Your wallet is full.”

      Seriously? My wallet is full? I can’t use my, I don’t know, pockets, or something? It was hilarious and pretty bad at the same time. Though I suppose it must have been a pretty hefty wallet to fit $200 or so in smallish notes.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      That made me roll my eyes, too.

      I never found item scarcity, whether it be money, ammunition or the magic powering stuff to be a problem in Bioshock, at least on Normal difficulty, and I don’t consider myself an especially gifted FPS player. I also found that I was pretty happy with my plasmids after about half the game and spent the latter part merely getting better versions of stuff I already had.

      I also didn’t use a Vitachamber once. Which isn’t to say I didn’t die, but I reloaded rather than magically reappear.

  18. catmorbid says:

    I actually find XCOM one of the most interesting and promising games in a while, at least in the shooter genre. Bioshock was too meh, and the sequel even more, but this one sounds kind of fresh.

    What I absolutely fucking hate about it is desecrating the holy name of X-Com and arousing the hatred of all those who love X-Com. I mean, they could’ve easily named it anything, and reviewers could’ve then said “hey, this kind of reminds me of the old x-com games, cool! Good thing they made a new IP instead of ruining the old one, eh?”

    Assholes. I hate them for that. And I’m sorry to say, that this will negatively impact my opinion about the game, no matter what. Trying not to be biased might just not work here. Oh well, we’ll see. Maybe my anger will perish, and xenonauts will deliver.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Same here. I’m really looking forward to this. I also really dig the idea of having to run away, of starting the game out-manoeuvred and out-gunned. That’s the bit that feels most X-COM to me.

      I’m also a bit miffed about them basically nicking the name, but then again, I probably wouldn’t have heard of this game that I’m now really looking forward to if they hadn’t.

      It maybe cynical, but there’s no denying that it works.

  19. Kadeton says:

    That’s actually a really good analogy. All the fussing about how this isn’t X-COM is well represented by the tantrum of a petulant child who can’t consider the possibility that what he’s been given might be awesome even though it wasn’t exactly what he asked for.

    • Alexandros says:

      So what happens if the kid doesn’t liek this new toy? Would you be happy if your parents gave you a Barbie doll instead of Lego if this particular doll was the coolest at the time?

    • The Hammer says:

      Is this game particularly feminised?

    • Alexandros says:

      Is the concept of an analogy so difficult to grasp? Apparently so. Feel free to substitue the Barbie doll with a bottle of beer if you want, the point of my post was “kid gets something different from what he wanted”. Ok? Ok.

    • The Hammer says:

      Well no, because the products you compare to each other are widely, widely different to each other. I know what an analogy is, and I know yours is an inaccurate one.

  20. Min3mat says:

    I searched for xcom in the app store on my iPhone
    there were hits
    my heart started beating faster
    they were cheats! Not the games!
    :’(
    truely I would pay £5+ for a xcom on
    my iPhone with a control system that worked

  21. Anonymous says:

    Credulous dunderhead!

  22. Premium User Badge

    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I have not played any of the original X-COM/UFO games, so I’m not going to attempt any comparisons or apology.

    I was excited by the XCOM trailer. The trailer was almost exclusively in-game footage (not just in-engine). The aliens looked and behaved quite…alien. I got a definite sense of threat.

    But the trailer and early previews really give me no solid indications of how the game will play, so I’m not going to extrapolate from it or project my own hopes or fears onto them. I’m excited by the potential, and will wait to see what comes of it.

  23. Hobbes says:

    Does this make us cruelly-neglected children, or pesky brats who set ourselves up for disappointment?

  24. Marar Patrunjica says:

    # C’mon, that obelisk thing! Fighting something that can rip up the world – now that sounds fun.

    Personally, that was one of the main reasons I don’t like it very much, they took a powerful icon from one of the best movies ever made and turned it into a lame enemy. Is there nothing sacred anymore?

  25. DXN says:

    Great arguments, Alec, and exactly the sort of thing that makes RPS great. Personally I have nothing in particular invested in the X-COM ‘brand’, so I’m just happy that this seems like an original, polished shooter with a bunch of extra elements to make it more interesting and a fun-looking setting (I am a sucker for 50s Americana). There’s plenty of potential for it to be great, and if it isn’t, well, there’s always other games to play.

  26. Bullwinkle says:

    We’re taking orders from the Danes, now? Bloody hell.

  27. MultiVaC says:

    A pretty good look at both sides, really. Unfortunately I’m really leaning toward the “will disappoint” side. Most of the disappointing points come from the stuff we’ve actually seen, while most of the encouraging things come from sort of ambiguous “wink/nudge” assurances from the developers, without any details or direct answers to questions. From my experience these hints they drop almost always turn out to be a way of appeasing the worried fans who aren’t actually the target audience at all, and the “deeper gameplay elements” they talk about (but never actually show) end up scaled back dramatically or are just token gimmicks in the first place.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    “I liked Bioshock, but I felt zero interest in playing Bioshock 2.”

    You should try it. It was actually a really good game, once you got past the “ok, Rapture again 10 years later even though it was flooding and falling apart rapidly in the first game…” problem.

  29. Anonymousity says:

    @P7uen
    A truer word has never been said, as high as Alec was in my own personal esteem, he is now that much higher.

  30. Alexandros says:

    I was one of the people who bashed both you, Alec, and Jim for your stance on the matter and you especially for the over-enthousiastic tone of the previous preview and the “did you really think it would be a shooter” line. Quite frankly, you deserved it based on the things that you wrote then.

    However, the new preview on Eurogamer is much better and it actually tries to voice some concerns as well as some reservations on whether the developers are going to come through on all their promises. As such, the article was much more impartial and ‘journalistic’, providing both useful info and an objective opinion. Definately an improvement, well done.

    I also read both “why I think/don’t think xcom will suck” pieces and they were an interesting read. I hope that the commenters who labeled all of us as Angry Internet Men did so as well. Maybe now they will understand that it’s not blind hatred and negativism that drives us to protest against these games, but our love for both gaming and the X-Com name.

    Anyway, I don’t care for this game, even if it turns out to be good. I will not buy it out of principal, because I don’t want to support the direction that mainstream gaming seems to be heading in. I don’t want every single genre to turn into a shooter and I will voice my difference of opinion every chance I get. These kinds of protest is also for the benefit of even those guys that call us ‘haters’, even if they don’t realize it yet.

    They might realize it soon enough, when the companies decide that the future is in casual gaming and motion controllers and they find themselves suddenly being on the other side.

  31. Mojo says:

    > Not being the same is why people are heartbroken.

    You know, that’s the kind of condescending “I’m cool because I’m not a fanboy” talk that won’t really fly for me. I don’t want a game to “be the same”, 10 years later. How dull the fuck do you think we are? I mean is that seriously what you think? We’re “afraid of change?” You’re buying that?

    I want better graphics, I want a 3D engine. I want modern physics, especially destructible environments. I’m really seeing a potential for FPS elements. I don’t mind a theme change either. Make those aliens look different, set it in the 50ies, today, 500 years from now.

    But do that. Here’s a crazy thought: What if XCOM didn’t change enough? The original game had some pretty bold new ideas everywhere. Some revolutionary game mechanics and even graphical gimmicks (3D globe with day/night cycle, for starters). Compared to today’s games, especially Bioshock 2, where is that “change”, that innovation, for today’s standards? That “take photos for research” mechanic is ripped straight from Bioshock. It’s so obviously recycled gameplay, it’s not even funny. The shooter part looks as generic and boring as it gets. The black blobs aren’t quite as original as they make them out to be, “the Blob” is an alien cliche, just like big-headed grays. The style is 1:1 TEAM FORTRESS 2, ffs. TF2 isn’t cell-shaded or hyper-comical… it is exactly the same level of stylization as XCOM. The “stay or run away” mechanic is all that’s left of tactical gameplay?

    You interviewed them and on all important questions you got no answer. And now you’re filling all the things we do not know with best-case scenarios? They found their game to be at a representative state. To give people a feel of the most important elements. Call me a pessimist but I think there is no base-management. There are no destructible walls. And there are no deep, tactical squad-based fights. They would tell you about that if they even planned it, wouldn’t they? I’m basing this on previews of the game, designed by the developers to give the world a good idea of how the game plays. So kill me for making “assumptions”.

    I want to see change. I want to see batshit insane innovations and ideas. Where is the change, where is the innovation?!

    • Alec Meer says:

      There’s a piece below this one you should look at. Reading is fun!

    • ShaunCG says:

      Balanced opinions, yes?

    • Mojo says:

      I honestly thought it was a double post because of the identical 2 paragraphs, so I posted in the upper one. I’ll admit that. Reading two identical paragraphs is no fun. :(

      I couldn’t find anything that would contradict what I wrote here. I don’t really see why you should do the “fair and balanced” thing on a game that doesn’t take any risks and will probably get marketed into stratosphere anyway. Why do you feel so protective of those guys’ work? Just because the 50ies setting looks stylish? That’s literally the only thing interesting about the game I could find.

    • Alec Meer says:

      You say “being protective” but you should say “not pre-judging something I haven’t yet played.”

  32. Xercies says:

    Am I the only one thinking this is part of a renesscence of gaming, with tis plus Deus ex 3 looking good and i’m looking at Theif 4 with better eyes it could be that the 90s could come back.

    For me i couldn’t give a rats ass that they used the XCom name, i never played it and i don’t particularly want to. Yes I said that. But from the previews it looks like this could be an interesting shooter really if they get all these elments right, we won’t have the same shooter we usually do there doing something different, there doing to shooters what the 90s and ealry 00s did to shooters. Making them different. And with deus ex 3 looking quite good i am actually very hopeful that they will stick to this and we will have some decent games.

    Very hopeful of this.

    • Mojo says:

      “For me i couldn’t give a rats ass that they used the XCom name, i never played it and i don’t particularly want to.”

      Well, that’s kinda the point of anyone who actually has played it. You are the target group, which is kinda a spit in the face for, you know, the only people who actually got excited when they heard about an XCom sequel.

  33. Premium User Badge

    Rhygadon says:

    Hey Alec — I just wanted to say thanks for these. This is the kind of games journalism that can’t be found anywhere but at RPS: formally inventive, frank, high-information-density, personal, and written in a way that assumes and demands an attentive reader. Plus, balancing civility and goodwill with the need to say that which must be said.

    No real point here, just: Thanks!

  34. jalf says:

    It’s not as though the very broad subject matter – defeating an alien invasion – is inextricably linked to the name

    I hate to nitpick, but I think it is pretty much linked to the game..

    X-COM = eXtra-terrestrial COMbat unit, remember? That sure sounds like “defeating an alien invasion” to me.

    ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      That’s an entirely superficial analysis of the game, though. X-COM wasn’t great because you fought aliens, it was great because of the mix of paranoia, strategic planning, tactical combat etc. The fact it happened to be aliens causing the threat was largely incidental – you could make a good game with the fundmentals of X-COM from a guerilla war scenario, for example.

    • ZamFear says:

      @jalf: You have it backwards. All poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles. Yes, X-Com is about alien invasion. The point being made is that an alien invasion doesn’t have to be X-Com.

    • jalf says:

      If you look closely, you may note a semicolon followed immediately by a closing parenthesis.

      I leave the interpretation of this in your capable hands.

  35. Dante says:

    I definitely agree with Alec that the 50′s setting is far cooler than the 80s future of the original X-COM. Not matter what happens with it, and what rose tinted spectacles people wear, it’s always going to win on that count.

    I also think he’s hit the nail on the head by suggesting it might be more ‘SWAT 4 meets X-COM’ than a straight X-COM sequel, which sounds like a fantastic idea in it’s own right.

  36. Aganazer says:

    The only thing wrong with this game is the name.

  37. Iain says:

    gaming is dead

    kill 2K burn them with blob grenades

    BLOBS BLOBS BLOBS BBLOBS BALODBS BLSO NS KS GKSNF VB,SREZGRTFDZDNGTDHDFGF

  38. Levictus says:

    I’d say you can forgot about the kind of innovation that you seem to be talking about. The only kind of innovation we will see is marketing and “financial innovation”. All the big publishers have pretty good formula by which they can sell huge amount of products and they have sufficient branding and marketing power to keep the vast majority of consumers coming for more. Just look at all those Madden games and stuff, that’s pretty much what the majority of gamers are like. People like to talk about how Halo and stuff is hardcore, BS! It’s casual shooter for American teens!

    So yeah, I guess we need to get used to publishers/corporations exploiting our childhood. Because if you don’t agree with their right to making money you are communist!!!!!!

  39. Opeenion says:

    Personally, I can with all honesty say that Bioshock was a depressingly over-consolified crap shooter(enemy health bars, tremendously little ammo, everything felt very klutzy-consoly and savepoints making you essentially immortal etc pp) and that what I’ve seen of XCOM so far looks like a bit too much Ghostbusters done with alien blobs, BUT I think there is tremendous potential to make this a good game IF ONLY IT WERE TARGETTING A PC PLATFORM instead of a console.

    I mean that in terms of mental maturity, attention span, allowable complexity, hardware requirements and sophistication, control, overall depth and this-is-not-just-a-hit-and-run spirit. If they approach it with a PC platform, adult-and-IQ-over-80 audience mindset, it could be good.

    Anyone who has played “true” made-for-PC games vs I’m-really-just-a-console-game-with-a-sad-cross-port-excuse-of-cash-in-attempt will know where my fears and anxieties lie and understand why.

    • ZamFear says:

      @Opeenion :
      Except that everything you cite as evidence of BioShock’s consolization was taken directly from its spiritual ancestor, the PC-only game System Shock 2.

  40. Matt Nothing says:

    I played “true” PC games around the era of the original X-com/UFO (Civ 2, Master Of Orion etc.) up to stuff like Hidden and Dangerous the first Half Life, AVP etc. before I ditched the graphics arm-race that PC gaming was becoming and spent a good 9-10 “wilderness years” playing mostly console games (with some indie PC stuff and Civ IV on the side).

    Got my first decent gaming PC in almost a decade earlier this year and I’ve been enjoying easing myself back into PC gaming.

    But… I think you’re completely out to lunch.

    I think that a lot of what you blame on consolisation is just the concessions the industry has had to make to attract an audience big enough to fund the additional costs of making games that take advantage of modern hardware (and that some of these changes have been for the better).

    And I think you’re attitude to gaming reeks of elitism and double standards.

    • Matt Nothing says:

      Why hasn’t this come out as a reply?

      Goddamnit.

    • Wilson says:

      @Matt Nothing – I can see where you’re coming from. The increasing cost of making a game is a real concern to me, because it does naturally reduce how willing people are to take risks. I’ve got my hopes pinned on smaller independent developers who are willing to make games with less graphical requirements and take more chances on new gameplay.

      I would be interested in a survey to find out how important people consider graphics to be. Personally it isn’t a big concern for me (though I can marvel at shiny graphics as much as the next man, it isn’t a necessity), and I expect a decent percentage of people reading RPS would be the same. But I’d like to have the opinions of the majority, just to see how much stock people really do put in graphics.

    • Opeenion says:

      I have played (and, many a game, beaten) everything from NES, SNES, Mega-Drive, Neo-Geo, PSX1+2, Xbox, Xbox360, Arcade Machines, C64, Atari 2600, and basically everything from the x386 to the now Core-i5.

      There is a distinct shit-ness to almost every console and badly made or ported PC title that isn’t catering to the true nature of it’s platform.
      An RGP on the consoles should only take the form of something like Final Fantasy, but things like Baldurs Gate or Fallout 1+2 are clear cut PC games.
      Beat-em-ups and jump-and-run and racing used to be primo console titles, but at some point the big console makers went googoogaga in their head and started thinking “Hey, let’s call our PLAYstation a PC” and for some reason it all went downhill.
      Now there are people who think playing call of duty modern warfare 2 with a gamepad is really what playing a shooter is about and I get to boil over with frustration when titles that would unlock a good bit of a bigger chunk of their potential if only they could run on a platform with a modular hardware base, anytime saving and infinite amounts of controller options are made “console exclusive”.

      This isn’t because games are in any way better on consoles; they are -for those cases where it’s just such an unnatural fit – usually worse. It’s because it’s all about the money and the easy-on.

      People are just too daft for PCs many a time. This patch, that DirectX, nothing ever works and everythign always crashes and lawd, it is complicated.
      Here I pop in the disc and it just works. Well, while the box isn’t frying, overheating, making fun circles of death and bricking itself, but hey. That’s the price you pay for wanting to also be a PC I guess.

      But I digress.
      Bottom line is, yes, I do blame the dumbing down of handling and playstiles in games 99% on the existance of consoles and the console crowd, but mostly in their consequence, rather than JUST the existane.
      Had consoles stuck to console games and PC gotten PC games AND well ported console games, as it should be for the deserved PC elitist supremacy world I aim for (we have the ports to connect literally ANYTHING to use as input device, we have the libraries to run ANYTHING if we just write the interfaces, we have the connections to output to literally anything a/v wise, etc, you kinda get the idea..), then the console market wouldn’t have such a spillover effect on PC gaming and titles being either ruined or stolen accordingly.

      Yes, there has also PC-purely been a tendency towards a bit more “Hey, let’s actually explain how to play this game” instead of “programming was enough of a chore, let them figure it out” development the last decade, but I feel like it’s only been since the time of consoles that games start spending 50 minutes on explaining how shadows can hide stuff, walking into camera arcs makes cameras see you, and that running is louder than sneaking. Things that make you shout ORLY? loudly at whichever chosen screen, basically.

      There are really, really great and fun CONSOLE console games. And there are still really good and proper PC titles, too. I just can’t help but feel that the fact that over 50% of all currently installed games exist also as console versions has kept a lot of their potential for the PC behind and sometimes even mauled what could have been a supreme game into mediocrity.

      Similiarly quite frankly I also miss someone stepping up and actually making good brawlers/slashers that work on the PC as they are meant to, and not as an emulated, forever unfixed bugs 1.0 version afterthought-port.

      Again..it’s likely just because things go where the money goes, and nowadays “meh, just good enough to play I guess” really IS good enough to many/most.

      Yes, I want PC supremacy. I want the PC as gaming platform to come first and foremost for almost every game.
      But I also think that when it comes to real-life multiplayer as in “in the same room with friends” stuff and “press A to punch, B to kick, just mash the rest and that’s it” level complexity, the consoles have a justified existance for that very other, social kind of pastime.
      Just stop pretending you’re a PC.
      You’re small and unobtrusive because you’re good for quickies and uncomplicated fun. I like to use you, and you like to be used. We both know it isn’t more than that though.
      But the one I will marry, despite all her complications and high maintenance, my one, my true love, is and always will be the PC gaming platform.

      WEDDING BELLS!

    • Matt Nothing says:

      I just don’t get where you’re coming from.

      You know people still make games like Arma 2, Hearts Of Iron, Silent Hunter, Europa Universalis, Total War series, Shattered Horizon, Civilization.

      “True” PC games in your terms, and each one could last you years. Not every game can be made to those mid 90s design philosophies or the industry would collapse – the audience for those kind of games isn’t big enough.

  41. laikapants says:

    Good show. I’m personally rather hopeful for XCOM, albeit as a new X-Com fan. I also rather like the blob aliens, though I am under the presumption that not all the aliens will be amorphous things. At the very least, all these articles got me to plunk down the $15 for the X-Com complete pack last night. I am absolute rubbish at it (everyone died…to Sectoids!) but I can see what all the fuss is about.

    • Matt Nothing says:

      Being rubbish at it when you start is half the fun – I remember when fleeing a terror sites with half my squad dead but a few snatched alien artifacts to research felt like a good outcome!

      I wish I could erase all my memories of the first game and play it again fresh.

    • laikapants says:

      @ Matt Nothing:

      Hah, yeah I can definitely see that. Though part of my being rubbish was due to two things:

      1) Not realizing there was an entire half of the map below my transport. This is where at least one Sectoid bugger kept killing my men. (I don’t know if you’ve listened to the Mind’s Eye recordings of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but there’s one bit where the narrator shouts something about ‘A SHOT IN THE DARK!’ and it pops up into my head every single time one of my men mysteriously dies.)

      2) Having barely any clue as to what the various buttons did. Lots of trial and error and terror.

      After work I shall scrap my Osaka, Japan base ( I had just got done gandering at the Shogun 2 post) and rebuild on top of my real life home in Atlanta, with a super secret tunnel to the CDC. The CDC seem like they would be useful to have on hand for alien diseases.

  42. Kevbo says:

    I agree with you that even though this won’t be like x-com, it could turn into a neat different shooter if they really emphasize the points you made above. I would really like that they keep your squad mates real in that if they die, that’s it. You have to train a new squad mate for the next mission and assign skills and weapons etc. Also really hope they make some levels very challenging so that you have to run and come back when you have better technology. Finally really hope it isn’t scripted and really has an enemy that stalks you and attacks at different times. If so then I’m interested and will just forget the name of the game and enjoy its gameplay (hopeful wish).

  43. Chris says:

    Good job, Alec. I’m amazed no-one has pointed to Fallout 3 as the reason this is being made yet. Isometric game->(pseudo) FPS proved very popular there, and FWIW I really enjoyed it. If this can live up to the promise in the same way F3 did, I’ll get it.

    - Chris.

  44. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    I couldn’t have been more into ufo and tftd as a kid. Still play ufo regularly. That said, I really don’t see the need to slavishly adhere to this ancient, anachronistic design. Xcom looks intriguing. I was also a massive fallout fan, and in my opinion 3 was pretty swish.
    Lovely work Mr. Meer. Also, RPS comments are very bitchy these days. Calm down gents, this is a civilised arena, maintained by probably the most dedicated and talented writers on the subject. My two-pence. I-thank-you.

  45. Splynter says:

    Much (too much?) has already been said about the nature of the game and its genre and lack of true relations to the original game. Considering the original one of my favourites of all time, I am a little disappointed about the shift to an FPS but there isn’t anything that can be done about that now. As a fan of FPS games in their own right I’m curious about the actual shooting mechanics and what people want to see from them.

    Bioshock wasn’t a game I enjoyed immensely. I tried to finish it, but it just never held my attention. There was something about the controls that seemed off. Aiming and shooting just felt like a disconnected experience for me; there was something missing in the visual and aural feedback that didn’t give me the feeling of ‘being there” that is so important in a genre that tries to put you in the shoes of your avatar. Unfortunately, the trailer seems to indicate that this will handle in the same way: competently but not quite there.

    Personally, I’d like to see the shooting take a tactical turn. I’m talking look-lean (something that has almost died out in FPS games because of consoles and their lack of buttons…) aiming down the sights, high accuracy bonuses for lower stances, and a need to consider firing characteristics and recoil. Sound should be very important, with stealth necessary to escape alive. Please, please no regenerative health… Even if this game can’t be a thinking man’s TBS, at least it could be a thinking man’s FPS.

  46. Bob Dobbs says:

    People aren’t heartbroken because it’s not the same. Let’s repeat that. People are NOT heartbroken because it’s not the same. People are !@#$ing ANNOYED because 2K keeps telling them it IS the same (“what we’re retaining is the core elements that made X-COM X-COM,” etc.), and instead of calling them on it, YOU tell us that it’s “awesome” and we should “believe,” and, even now, after two posts that I 99% agree with, in which you flat out state that XCOM DOES NOT have the core elements that made X-COM X-COM, you STILL want to claim that it’s about planning as much as it is about shooting because there’s a mission briefing and we get different weapons. There’s more planning than that going on INSIDE the average FPS mission, Alec. That’s not strategy. Let’s not even get into your preview, where you say “isn’t a strategy game, but it is a game about strategy.” Yeah, whatever. It’s a shooter where you can choose to take mission one, mission two, or mission three. Just give me the facts and stop telling me to believe. Or maybe I should just assume that all your non-RPS stuff is going to be full of shit and just not read it. Is it an editorial issue? Do you have to write that way for other sites?

    Look, your “Why I think XCOM Will Suck” post, as others have pointed out, is just a bunch of stuff about why it’s not X-COM. I’ll say it again: The problem is not that XCOM isn’t X-COM. The problem is that it’s being marketed as though it is. It’s being marketed as if strategy is a meaningless word. It’s being marketed as if the thing that made X-COM X-COM was atmosphere and the fact that you had some sort of base. Of course people get upset about that. How the hell are we ever supposed to get another game like X-COM if we cheerfully redefine strategy to fit some shooter with a marketing campaign stapled to it?

  47. Tuco says:

    I really can’t say you convinced me.
    I don’t dislike this game just as a IP [cuddling], by the way; I actually think it’s going to suck badly, cause they are people behind Bioshock, which I fiercely hated.

  48. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    Ditto; Bioshock 2 was great. The plot isn’t as good as the original, to my mind, but the improval in games mechanics (that is, being able to shoot and fire plasmids at the same time) and the great “defend the little sister” sections (where you’ve have a few moment to run around deploying your traps) means it’s great fun; I raced through it in a few day and was tempted to replay it again straight away before I looked at my to-play pile. It’s only €15 at DVD.co.uk/BlahDVD at the moment.

    P.

  49. Samuel Bass says:

    Saddens me to see the smartest gaming site I read on a regular basis have their comment threads of late be overrun by (admittedly more coherent) versions of the entitled mouth frothers who made Fallout 3 such a joy to look forward to. Getting whipped into a tizzy in pre-judgment of a game as yet unplayed helps nobody, but does lower the quality of the discourse significantly.

    Worth noting that I’m a X-Com fanboy of the first order – I grew up with Rebelstar, Laser Squad and Chaos, have X-Com AND Terror From the Deep installed at work (and will at home once I get around to figuring out x86 emulation on a Mac), and force my uninitiated designers to play until the magic takes hold of them…and it always, always does. I even bought Rebelstar: Tactical Command for my GBA, such is my Gollop worship.

    Given that, I certainly have my concerns about XCOM – I want something tactical, squad based, non-linear and deeply unnerving – but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until I’ve played the damn thing.

  50. Gritz says:

    Also not convinced.

    Your hope for this game is based on the hint of strategic elements, base management and squad level tactics. But if these were ever going to be core elements of the game, don’t you think they’d have been represented somehow in any of the press-releases, screenshots or trailers? 2k Marin said it themselves: they make first person shooters, why should we believe they’re capable or even interested in doing more than that?

    This is how the media gets played: bait and switch. Build up anticipation by suggesting without promising, and when your mediocre product eventually comes out, the same media that has spent the last year painting itself into a corner with glowing previews suddenly has a strong incentive to look favorably when review time rolls around. It’s like Spore all over again.

    We can get sycophantic “hope” for AAA titles and well massaged press-release write-ups at any other gaming site. We come to RPS for clear headed critique and a healthy dose of skepticism. Open your eyes and do what you do best.