Hands On (Safety Off): XCOM – Enemy Unknown

By Adam Smith on May 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

That would be a chrysalid and, on the right, a fleshvessel.

It’s Alec who normally brings you the latest on Firaxis’ XCOM remake so I expect you shall be somewhat confused to hear that I actually played it last week. Alec will probably never forgive me for taking what he saw as his rightful place but he was too busy being rained on in Greece to defend the Earth from invasion. I didn’t manage to protect anyone from the invasion either but I did cause a few soldiers to die trying. They might have specialisations and there might be less of them per squad, but the poor sods are as vulnerable as ever. This is how they died.

The first object of extraterrestrial origin has cracked our planet’s thin shell, or at least its concrete overlay, screaming from the skies and thumping through the surface of a city street. Onlookers are terrified, then curious, and soon either dead or dying. There’s something inside that thing, something with thoughts and feelings of its own. All signs point to those thoughts being bent toward the probing of brains and bottoms, all indications are that its feelings aren’t of picnics in a meadow, kissed by a light summer breeze.

Military intervention is called for and the poor chumps end up as dead as the civilians they were supposed to rescue. Time to gather Earth’s best and brightest, time to send in the elite, time to put a sad-eyed excuse of a man in charge of the last line of defense. A stirring sequence informed me that I was now Earth’s only hope, the commander of the newly formed XCOM Initiative. Yes, yes, I wanted to say, I’ve been doing this since the nineties. But, of course, they didn’t know that. They were going to show me the ropes.

My four man (three men and a lady to be precise) squad were on the ground, approaching the object, which was surrounded by wreckage and tendrils of smoke. My second in command, back at the base with me, told me to get them into cover and a glowing trail appeared on the screen, showing me exactly how to get them into cover. OK. Why not have them go into overwatch and keep an eye on the door of that building, he then suggested, overlaying more glowing waypoints describing precisely how to do that.

Move to the boundaries of what is permitted with the first phase of action, a circumference clearly marked around the operative, but do not go beyond it into the second marked zone. That would be dashing, which leaves a soldier incapable of firing, hunkering down for defense or, as I was about to perform, watching an area, finger on trigger, ready to fire.

It’s when we got inside the building, crashing through windows dramatically, that everything went pear-shaped. One soldier, a German, had survived but now his eyes were all glowy and weird, he was rasping and gurgling horrifying pleas for help. Some bloody sectoid was controlling his mind, that’s what I reckoned, but I dutifully followed the instructions, moved in close and tried to disarm him. He blew himself and one of my operatives to bits and there it was, cowering in the shadows, the little gray sod that had been ticking his brain stem. Helpful/obtrusive instructions continued to tell me what to do but only one of my squad survived, bringing the alien corpse back with him.

The war had begun and so had the game.

As you may have gathered, XCOM begins with a (skippable) tutorial and as I started playing it, I was imagining the cries of ‘Judas’ and the waving of the pitchforks, for not only was I being taught how to survive rather than learning for myself, I was also learning how to use the controller interface. That’s controller as in Xbox controller, as in moulded plastic device with buttons and sticks marking its surface as craters mark the moon or the hollow cheek of a pox victim.

The fact that I’m going to argue that it was a smooth, friendly method of administering my tactical desires – a controller for a Goddamn XCOM game for crying out loud – has me preparing for a Molotov cocktail bursting through my window at any moment. The joypad is the only system in place for external use at the moment though and it does everything that it needs to do, although the mouse and keyboard option is, I was assured, having effort lavished upon it. Shouting about the controller isn’t interesting, although it may be cathartic for a while, but what is interesting is looking at what inputs it was responsible for and picking apart the overall flow of a turn.

Working within a soldier’s capabilities is simple and effective. Prepared as I was for their lack, I didn’t miss time units. In fact, lethal as the aliens still are, I felt a greater sense of personal control and responsibility for my charges. No more turning a corner to be confronted by four floaters and realising that even a dash back around the corner will not take you far enough to escape should they advance. It’s easier to keep a squad together now, watching each others’ back, covering every angle, and when the unexpected happens a response is always possible though it may well be futile. It is possible to dash into the unknown without support, of course, and if that’s the case, you deserve a plasma facelift.

It’s possible to switch between soldiers without moving them first, just like in olden times, and it’s also possible to switch between movement commands and combat instructions using the triggers. If there are aliens in sight pushing the shoulder buttons will, somewhat appropriately, zoom over a squaddie’s shoulder using those new immersive graphics to show you an approximation of the line of sight to each enemy, with percentages floating above their head to show the chances of hitting from that range, with skills, weapon type and cover all taken into account.

The many cutscenes were jarring at first, if only because they suggest a much more scripted game. That’s not the case though – find some sectoids and you’ll see them picking at the organs of a fallen civilian and then reacting to your presence, hissing and crawling, more feral than ever. You’d be forgiven for thinking those sectoids will always be there, ready for their close up like a less frightening Norma Desmond, but when you stumble across the next group they’ll react in the same way. Every alien enjoys an introduction but their placement is still randomised, even if the maps are not.

Assurances were given that there will be many maps for each type of event, whether a terror mission or a UFO crash site, and that their order will be randomly determined, as will placement and number of aliens. So the first abductee you attempt to rescue won’t necessarily be in the courtyard, with handily placed cover-providing fountain, where I lost two more of my squaddies.

One of them was a victim of friendly fire.

The good news is that grenades and rocket launchers have a free aim function, allowing for environmental destruction for reasons either strategic or exuberant. Want to see if you can bring a wall down on a berserker’s bloated face? Lob a grenade at the base of the building and see what happens. I’ll tell you what will happen, it will collapse, cover destroyed, inhabitants exposed or crushed. How about firing a rocket between a group of sectoids, hoping to kill ‘em all with splash damage? That’s where the bad news comes in, which is really good news considering it wouldn’t be XCOM without an abundance of death and disaster. I tried that, you see, the careful placement of a rocket.

Turns out my heavy weapons chap wasn’t quite as accurate as I’d hoped so his payload ended up hitting a wall, a wall which one of his squadmates was cowering behind. She died immediately, which is more than can be said for the heavy weapons guy who bled out after taking a plasma shot to the gut on a later mission. In one of the quintessential XCOM experiences, I had to watch him die because I hadn’t researched medikits yet.

I played three tactical missions after the tutorial, all early game, all sectoids and the new, creepily camp thin men. It wasn’t enough to know whether the soldier specialisation is going to add nuance or provide more of a distraction, mainly because I was too busy trying to survive, hugging cover as if it were a once lost friend, not paying enough attention to which soldier could perform which action, not quite having them in the right place at the right time.

I think it’s going to be effective though and it certainly doesn’t seem to make a puzzle of the missions; a sniper isn’t the square peg needed to slot into the square hole that is a particular alien type or anything like that. You’ll still have to work with what you’ve got, sometimes scraping the barrel and sending fresh-faced recruits into battles they’re ill-prepared for but still capable of surviving, with the right command, with a heap of luck and determination.

The only concrete example I can offer is that promotion allowed my heavy weapons guy to use a rocket launcher. Bullshit, you might think, why can’t anyone else use a rocket launcher? Why not just buy one? There’s a reason. As with every change I’ve come across, either through reading interviews or talking to the team myself, it’s clear a great deal of thought has gone into every addition, every change and every subtraction. It’s possible to disagree with them of course, but it’d be wrong to suggest a lot of brainpower and imagination hasn’t been expended to make those decisions.

So, these new XCOM folks don’t have to buy weaponry, they don’t need to manufacture the basics or buy them from the local discount arms dealer. There are, presumably, hundreds of rocket launchers just waiting to be taken into the field but a squaddie must be promoted before he/she is able to use them. Promotions are granted when aliens are killed, although staying alive after the job’s done is sometimes the hard part.

As Alec has noted, the squaddies do, optionally, bark out the occasional ‘tag ‘em and bag ‘em’. It’s meatheaded and somewhat inappropriate. When actually playing the game those vocalised fist bumps are even more out of place since everything else, from the terrified, twitchy look on the soldiers’ faces as they leave the Skyranger to the surprisingly intense body horror and gore, is much more in keeping with the dread and suspense of the original.

It’d be a shame to switch off the voices completely because when soldiers panic, their will sapped by the death bolts crackling through the air or the sheer horror of seeing a chrysalid and what it does to a man, when they panic they really do panic. Screaming, sobbing, pleading for evacuation – they’re as doomed and vulnerable as ever an elite squad has been. And it’s not just the fear in their voices, it’s the burning trees that provide the only light at a midnight UFO recovery and the intestines looping from the ruptured remains of a civilian caught up in the whole nasty mess.

Even if everything else were identical, which it isn’t, tactically this XCOM takes an entirely different approach, more like a tabletop game. It offers plenty of choice, plenty of opportunities for shock, surprise and horror, and, most important of all, plenty of ways to die. I’ll have more on my very brief experience with the strategic side of the game and its single base tomorrow, as well as an interview where I discuss what I’ve seen, including the new look chrysalids, and try to get to the bottom of base invasions. Will there be aliens knocking at my door?

XCOM is out October 12th, or the 9th if you’re in the land of before time, the US of A.

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99 Comments »

  1. Dominic White says:

    I’m going to say something highly controversial here:

    For turn-based games, I’d rather use a gamepad. Wireless, optionally. Let me stretch out on a big sofa with a coffee table and plot each turn at my leisure. After all, what am I losing out on? You don’t need an accurate pointer, or fast twitch responses, so why not play it with a gamepad?

    • caddyB says:

      Although I don’t have a gameboxmachineconsole or a controller, I can see the appeal. Especially if you’re playing on the highest difficulties or my favorite kind, play by email versus other humans ( or aliens masquerading as humans, which is the same thing as far as playing turn based strategies is controlled [ unless they're much more intelligent than we are, in which case it doesn't take very long to lose anyway ] ).

      It might be nicer if you’re playing on a big television screen, hopefully the whole theater of war easily visible without scrolling. And you plot while taking a sip of your coffee and eating donuts, because why not?

      Would feel like a real imaginary commander or god or whatever.

      • Dominic White says:

        It should be noted that there are HUNDREDS of turn-based strategy games and strategy RPGs available on consoles. I recently dusted off my PS2 to play this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIq7eeRj0Io – which is a pretty heavyweight/hardcore hex-based strategy game with grognard-pleasing detail, so it’s not like heavyweight strategy is unheard of round consoleville.

        If there’s no time pressure, then there’s no reason not to pick the most comfortable control device and playing area.

        • BillyIII says:

          Looks like a clone of Crimson Fields (which itself is a clone of Battle Isle). :)

    • PoulWrist says:

      Because moving a cursor around to click on things is much nicer than cycling around with a gamepad next/prev item button? If you want to flatten out on a couch and don’t need twitch reflexes, buy a wireless mouse.

      • Dominic White says:

        If you’d rather trade comfort for fractionally faster clicking in a turn-based game, then you’re far more serious about your games than I am. Or most people, for that matter.

        • Pemptus says:

          Clicking *is* more comfortable. Slogging through consoley menu screens irritates me. Am I super serious about games? I dunno, I just like precise control.

        • Vander says:

          Its a question of taste, and setup. I have a very confortable desk chair, a huge desk, good sound system, etc… I am as much confortable in that that in my couch. Perhaps even more, since i have no mini-refrigerator near my couch. ^^ And i prefer the sitting position, more “active”, for videogames in general, with the exception of multiplayer games on the same screen.

          Beside, mouse and keyboard are faster, and i dont like “wasting time”.

          But well, who care? If the two interface are well designed, you choose what suit you better.

          On X-COM in general, i am very interested, but the only thing that bother me is the fewer number of soldier that you can take on a mission. But it bother me A LOT.

        • PoulWrist says:

          I probably am, but even so, I can’t imagine to prefer having to widdle through 7 other options, completely made-up number, either way from the starting point, before getting to the desired option.
          I’m sure they’ll make a very streamlined and userfriendly interface, they’ll have to, for the consoles, but it will never cease to be annoying when you know you could’ve just flicked your wrist a centimeter and done it in a heartbeat.

          But I don’t see how I trade comfort either way. With the wireless mouse on the couch, I have the comfort. With my wired mouse in hand in my huge leather office armchair with leanback function and memoryfoam filling, I have all the comfort in the world for playing games. Maybe you should buy a better chair if you feel that you are more comfortable sitting on a couch :p I’m considering getting rid of my couch altogether cause the space could be used up more efficiently by different seating arrangement.

        • The_Great_Skratsby says:

          Comfort is fairly subjective. Leaning back with a nice up of tea in one hand and mouse in the other is more comfortable when playing strategy games, as far as I’m concerned. Go figure really.

          It’s just nice to have options.

        • Izzan says:

          I wouldn`t say i`m “serious” about gaming but i can not fathom the appeal of a console-controller over the mouse and keyboard for any type of game. I do use a joystick for flight sims. I`m not uncomfortable sitting at my big desk, lounging in my big chair and pondering the next move. Using a controller for feel a bit like using the tab key to navigate through windows.
          Not to mention the fact that developers then begin the whole “streamlining” process to deal with the sub-par controller, ultimately resulting in less menus, less UIs, fewer options and i would argue, less depth. Not all the time maybe, but that`s how i see it.
          Keep your lite-strategy and give me depth and mouse control!

          • Hematite says:

            For the sake of commenting, I find a controller more convenient for flying the choppers in Arma II, where the triggers and shoulder buttons quite nicely map to the flight controls.

            I’m quite open to using a controller in most games – the analogue sticks have some good uses and there are 12 buttons available before you have to start thinking about menus and modifier keys, which is fine most of the time.

            The thing I really hate is when games end up being designed expecting an analogue stick for view control – it really reinforces the horrible corridor shooter mentality where the game only happens within your field of view because looking around is so imprecise and slow compared to mouse movement.

          • smiuywh says:

            http://home.paulschou.net/tools/xlate/
            I think this only benefits the FPS, which can now stand as its own game, rather than always being not-this.

        • MaXimillion says:

          While I do get the appeal of using a controller, implying that a proper mouse and keyboard (hotkeys are quite important) interface is only fractionally faster is just plain wrong.

      • Malk_Content says:

        I’m not sure which console turn based games you’ve been playing lately, but as a heavy player of them I can’t remember ever having to use a “prev/next” command. They have always been there as an option, but alongside the ability to directly select what you want. Then again this is from playing mainly NiS games and they’ve been doing those sorts of games for a very long time.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yup, prev/next commands exist in NIS games, but you can just select things by hoving over them with a cursor.
          Having played games with such menus for quite some hours, I can say that menus are fine to navigate with a controller, at least when they’re designed for it. Having hotkeys for things does make it quicker than purely mouse control (which if given the option of doing I will always use, regardless of hotkey availability, simply because then it only takes one hand).

    • Wrench says:

      Hi,
      I agree, a game controller can be more relaxing for TBS, but ive split the difference and bought a wireless controller for my PC.. But not sure if it will work on this game when its released.

      This was a nice article to read, I really like the sound of the way the game is turning out..
      Great new visuals too.. Flying armour looks very good, with leg stabilisers.. Nice touch!
      + is that a newly designed Crysalid we see, about to gut a civie???

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      It’s not so much the mouse that is important in turn based games, it is the keyboard shortcuts. A controller only has like 12 buttons on it, most of which are already assigned for basic functions. I just hope the controller focused development doesn’t mean they’ll overlook keyboard shortcuts. I’ve been playing Warlock: Masters and it’s lack of keyboard shortcuts is pretty jarring.

    • Mavvvy says:

      Funnily enough the first time I got to play x-com was on my playstation years ago, can’t say I had any issues. Only recently purchased the pc version so I could have all the sound files for the “Two sides” mod/remake.

    • sinister agent says:

      Makes sense to me. You may already be aware of it, but there’s a programme called xpadder (and probably some others like it) that will let you use a controller to emulate any mouse/keyboard functions – you can set it up however you want. Bit fiddly at first, but once it’s set up, it’s rather excellent.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I’m just the opposite. I’ve been playing Gladius on my PS2 and I’ve been tearing my hair out with frustration about how backwards the controls and general design are and wishing that it was on PC with decent classic PC design. I played Laser Squad with joystick back in the day but that was only because I didn’t have a mouse.

    • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

      And I’ll happily go further down the multiple-axis’d rabbit-hole to happily say I don’t need a sofa and TV to make that (sensible) decision.

      The sooner all the born-again mouse/keyboard zealots understand that their brains are clogged up with pointless amnesia over the 30-year connection between joypad-gamepad-wagglesticks and the home computer / PC, the better.

      I like mouse/keyboard. I like joypads. I don’t like the sanctimonious ‘m+k only’ pricks with misinformed opinions as to their pole-position place in videogames – PC or otherwise.

      If you seriously haven’t found a game that’s a better fit with a controller/joypad than mouse and keyboard, then most likely you haven’t properly invested the 15ish minutes it takes to *enjoy* using a decent one.

      Either that, or you can’t bring yourself to un-upturn your nose to look at the buttons.

      • ffordesoon says:

        THANK YOU.

        Every time I see the “Bah, gamepads!” crowd start in with their nonsense, I just want to go, “So you play Super Meat Boy with the keyboard, then?”

        I’ll also go ahead and say that I kind of agree with Dominic. Mouse and keyboard is great, but the need to cycle through options actually gives me a feeling of, uh, “tacticality”? I don’t really know how to explain it. The deliberate pace of it is maybe what I’m talking about. I know it’s entirely psychological, but the mouse is all, er, wobbly.

        (This may, of course, be because I have all the strength of a stiff breeze, or perhaps because my desktop is not on top of an actual desk. But.)

        This is all ignoring the fact that you can, in any sensible PC interface, use the gamepad and the mouse and the keyboard interchangeably, depending on how you feel at that moment.

    • Unaco says:

      It’s a PC & Console release… So I’ll be expecting M&KB support, along with Game Pad support.

      You can still relax and control things with a M&KB, just like you can still play ‘twitch’ games with a pad.

    • Lemming says:

      It’s not about twitch responses and accuracy, It’s about convenience and a feeling of control. Idle flicking through menus and inventories while scanning around the battle map with the mouse pointer buzzing around the screen is part of the itch that gets scratched with these games, so you feel like everything is to hand at a moment’s notice.

      You aren’t any less relaxed doing that on your computer than you are on a couch with a joypad (I’m ignoring the fact that I can never play anything lounging on a couch, even with my console. I find I automatically start sitting towards the edge of the couch to concentrate).

      With a joypad you’re only going to be doing one thing at a time, and you’re going to have to be methodical about it while your brain is probably four selections/actions ahead.

      You’re right there is no rush, but efficiency is always better.

      • ffordesoon says:

        But I am less relaxed doing that with a mouse. I’d imagine Dominic is too. If you’re more relaxed with one, fantastic, but I personally find the gamepad more relaxing for these sorts of games.

        As I said above, though, it could just be that my desk isn’t ergonomic at all. In fact, I’m actually sure of that, having just done a little test.

        But.

    • astorax says:

      As others have said, for me it’s a precision thing. I hate the thumbsticks with a passion. Can’t aim for crap compared to a mouse. I don’t want to have to fight with my control scheme to get a precision click to occur. Selecting a soldier might be easy, but getting the rocket placement where I want it? Nu uh. Gimme a mouse please. :)

    • RegisteredUser says:

      It may be one thing to play something like Final Fantasy that way where the most sophisticated thing is clicking one of three buttons on a fixed POV battlefield with a gamepad, but I would have nightmares playing something like 3D Silent Storn with a gamepad when I want to rotate the view, sort my inventory, purchase/sell stuff and so on, and so forth.
      If you are efficient and OCD and impatient, being forced into a crippled interface type vs something that is needlepoint precise and can move 100% across the whole screen in < 0.5 seconds means you will get severe migraines.

      Mouse/KB is just vastly quicker and superior.
      I'm fine with playing Streetfighters, Zelda clones and racing games with a gamepad, if that makes you happy. :P

      Just leave FPS, TPS, TBS, Sims and RPGs(and whatever else I forgot) alone!

  2. jezcentral says:

    But does the Chrysallid still have the “Dry Hump Of Doom” ™?

  3. Khab says:

    Ok, now you’ve done it – I’m slowly starting to come around and getting excited about this one. Although I’m happy we’ll get Xenonauts too.

    • catmorbid says:

      I was about to say exactly the same thing. I am glad that the two seem very different though.

      • wcanyon says:

        Right. It’s nice that these are very different takes on the same material. Love it.

  4. Drayk says:

    This preview + Alec interview all seems to good to be true. I don’t want to get to excited about this game, but It really looks it’s going to be what I hope for a modern Xcom game.

  5. aircool says:

    Here’s what I want you to do, nip around that corner into the tight pack of aliens and drop this high explosive.

    Er, why is the timer set at zero?

    You won’t need to worry about that… it’s, um, broken.

    Roll on 9th Oct. This game is sounding very good.

  6. stahlwerk says:

    That chrysalid looks positively horrifying.

    Which is perfect.

    Edit: On another note, could you try to describe what happens in those screenshots, maybe via Alt-Text, or here in the comments, Adam?
    I take it you already have researched jet packs in the latter ones?

    • Adam Smith says:

      The screenshots are as provided so unfortunately don’t reflect the parts I actually played – I’ve seen flight and chyrsalids in action but haven’t actually played with them myself yet.

      Next article will go into some detail of what I saw in the videos of the later game stuff!

    • Eep says:

      It looks near identical to something I made in Spore.

      • JFS says:

        … but it doesn’t really look like a Chryssalid of old, or does it? I mean, the sectoids and the floater are somewhat recognizable, but this? It sure has changed a lot. Looks like something out of Dark Sun, with added LED. Hm.

        • Prokroustis says:

          As long as it still has over9000 movement points the new looks can be excused..

        • blind_boy_grunt says:

          it always takes me some seconds and/or a google search to remind me which sun adjective belonged to which lore, fading suns, (book of the) new sun, dark suns. Although i like all three. ot out.

  7. fuggles says:

    NOD called, they want their cyborg reapers back.

  8. bitbot says:

    Am I reading this correctly, you can’t bring more than 4 soldiers to a mission?

    • Hanban says:

      You will be able to have six soldiers on field in total, I think.

    • Arathain says:

      To begin with it’s only four. As the game progresses you’ll add the capacity to bring a couple more, maximum of 6.

      • mike2R says:

        Well since this seems to be a thread for heresy (with people even admitting a preference for controllers), I’m going to say “good” to that.

        One of my complaints with the original was that you just had too many soldiers to control. It just took too long and got too fiddley. Another of my complaints were the multiple bases, each with their separate teams and manufacturing and inventories, which just got irritating for me.

        Suffice it to say I’m seriously looking forward to Firaxis’s take on it :)

  9. lowprices says:

    A tutorial? Hooray! Got the original Xcom in a steam sale and couldn’t get anywhere, because I hadn’t the foggiest clue how to go about anything, primarily because Xcom is a 90′s pc game, and you can sum their attitude to tutorials up with the phrase “Fuck off and real the manual, scumbag.”

    • radioactivez0r says:

      I don’t mean this to sound snide, but…did you read it?

      • lowprices says:

        Not snide at all, it’s a valid counterpoint to my grumbling. I didn’t. I bought quite a few games in the aforementioned steam sale, and I decided I’d rather play a game that was willing to explain it’s controls to me than one that treats me with icy disdain if I haven’t completed the pre-course reading. I keep meaning to go back and learn, as I like the sound of Xcom, but I have an enormous backlog of games and most will take a hell of a lot less effort to get into.

    • arccos says:

      That, and the low resolution keeps many of the buttons from being recognizable. If you were disappointed with the inscrutability of XCom, I would recommend the After series, specifically starting with the second one. I think that’s Aftershock?

      Real time with pause, but it plays out pretty nicely. It also has an interesting difficulty curve, going up and down depending on how well you’re doing and how far along the baddies are.

      Only problem is you can’t delegate battles in any way I can see. So you have to play them all.

  10. DrScuttles says:

    This is all starting to come together very nicely. To the point that I was going to make a snide remark about how they should have rebooted UFO as an FPS. Then I realised that I’d actually forgotten that they were.

    Unless I’ve just been out of the loop and the FPS has been cancelled, who else had totally forgotten about it in light of how impressive this game is looking?

    • Baboonanza says:

      It’s almost as if the FPS reboot was a troll to get people even more excited about a more TBS X-COM!

      • DrScuttles says:

        Damn good marketing if that’s the case. Certainly worked for me.

        • pilouuuu says:

          I had totally forgot about the FPS, which is a good thing indeed.

    • Arathain says:

      I think this only benefits the FPS, which can now stand as its own game, rather than always being not-this. In that light it looks kind of neat.

  11. JackDandy says:

    This all sounds really, really nice. Looking forward to it.

  12. Bhazor says:

    I hope they sort out the voice work.

    In particular I want their voices to mirror their character somewhat. I want to see raw recruits emerge from the drop ship all “shit talk and bro fists”, yelping at first contact and return at the end a gibbering sob bundle. While the veterans are much more sobre emerging with a professional call sign, calmly calling targets and returning at the end more angry at their incompetent leader rather than scared of the victorious aliens. I want young medics horrified at the sight of the injuries with barely suppressed gagging whilst a veteran medic gently soothes whats left of the soldier and brings them back from death with nothing but an elastoplast.

    Basically Relic should be doing the voice work.

    • Arathain says:

      “Basically Relic should be doing the voice work.”

      I think this about… oo, just about every game I play that has voice work that isn’t Relic. Currently Diablo 3. I mean, Blizzard are staggeringly rich. Couldn’t they just have hired whoever directs Relic’s voice work? Because they’ve recorded a ton of voice, and it sounds like they tried to do it on the cheap. Gah.

    • Thirdstar says:

      You realise that if that were to happen I would have to name the sniper Cyrus, the heavy weapons guy Avitus, the flight pack guy Thaddeus and the jack-of-all-trades Tarkus.

    • karthink says:

      This would be fantastic. Probably the best way to put your voice-work budget to good use.

    • Silvermarch says:

      Yeah, I agree. Relic did some of the best videogame voice works in the last couple of years.

  13. Strangerator says:

    I’m curious as to how the soldier advancement works… do they each have variable stats or are they all kind of same-y based on which class they are? How many “levels” of experience are there?

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Yeah it would be nice to see individuals advancing in semi-randomised ways, or influenced by how you use them. Then each character would be more unqiue. Some heavy’s stronger/faster than others etc.

  14. wodin says:

    I played XCom on PSOne and it was fine with a pad, not sure what the problem is. Infact I had a gamepad on a PC before the PS one came out.

    I like that it plays like a table top game. I hope it’s moddable!

  15. Silver says:

    any recommendations for any (not)known turn-based strategy out there?
    I’ve played original JA series, as well new one. (BIA)

    never tried any x-com tho. which one to try ?

    • Hug_dealer says:

      if you are a graphics fan, you will find it hard to get back into the old xcoms.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Laser Squad Nemesis has a great play by email community that seems to hang on no matter how old the game gets.

    • ichigo2862 says:

      I found X-COM3 Apocalypse a nice chunk to bite into, tried a bit of Terror From the Deep but the undersea graphics were a bit difficult to decipher in my last session. I’ll have to come back to it. Sad to say I’ve never gotten to try the first one in the series.

    • Solanaceae says:

      Play Silent Storm + Silent Storm: Sentinels if you haven’t already

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Shadow Watch is also something worth at least mentioning.

  16. Hug_dealer says:

    take my money now!!!!!!!!!!!.

    Its a good year for TBS. This, Fallen enchantress, xenonauts, UFO 2, Banner Saga, and any other others i forget at the moment.

  17. mckertis says:

    PC Gaming since 1873 ?

    • JB says:

      Welcome to RPS!

    • theleif says:

      The site was originally planned to be ordained in December 1872, but their server park near Banbury got hit by a meteor, so they had to delay the launch a couple of months.
      True story.

  18. Mut says:

    “Assurances were given that there will be many maps for each type of event, whether a terror mission or a UFO crash site, and that their order will be randomly determined, as will placement and number of aliens.”

    Wait, so have randomly generated maps been ditched for pre-made ones now? Because that would be more than a little disappointing.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      yes they are premade, but placement for aliens is entirely random. Some buildings will be empty sometimes, sometimes the combat will take place in entirely different areas against different aliens.

      Your first mission might have them with hostages in one building, another could be an entirely different building, or they could be out in the open, and so on. So your tactics will never be the same. You wont simply get your sniper on that high point. That high point might not be anywhere near the action.

      This also allows them to design better maps than what randomly designed ones can make.

    • wodin says:

      It’s been obvious from the first screenhsots they weren’t random generated maps.

    • Hematite says:

      I really liked the randomly selected large tiles approach from XCOM The First, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since they seem to have a good instinct for what’s fun.

      Xenonauts looks like it will be the faithful modernising a lot of fans have been hanging out for, so I can cope with this one being fun in some innovative and unfaithful ways (that sounds more like a veiled reference to adultery than I intended).

  19. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    As a cast-iron, life-long XCOM obsessive, I am inordinately excited by this. Obviously I’m a Xenonauts preorder monkey, but this is the one. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE

  20. optimusprimeminister says:

    All I have to say is that if this game isn’t brutally difficult it won’t hold up the ever so frustrating X-com tradition.

    • Squirly says:

      *ahem* Actually, the first one had a bug which would reset the difficulty to easy every time you loaded up your game again, regardless of what difficulty you started it up with. This bug was never noticed and people complained about how easy the game was. As a result, TFTD came out with a ramped up difficulty for easy and absolutely INSANE difficulty on the higher levels.

      (The more you know…)

  21. neonordnance says:

    Ok, sounds like a decent game. But unfortunately, it’s only slightly more “X-Com” than the FPS abomination.

    You can’t strip out so many important elements of the (perfect!) original without losing the essence. How can we call it X-Com when it doesn’t have:
    -Time Units
    -More than 6 soldiers per mission (are you kidding me?!)
    -Purchasing weapons (what’s the point of funds then? they just cut out 30-40% of the base side of the game)

    It may very well be a good game. But it’s NOT X-Com.

    • RodeoClown says:

      …as declared by a guy who hasn’t played the game.

      Once it’s released, people might listen to your arguments, but you’re declaring something to be true based purely on your preconceived notions. It may very well not feel anything like X-COM, but if the guys who have played it seem to be convinced, then there must be something going for it.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      As an Xcom vet. played em all included the stupid ones.

      None of what you listed even comes to mind when i think of xcom.

      Time units were ok, but not essential to the series. 6 soldiers per mission means i have to do my best to keep my men alive, rather than throwing recruits out to take the brunt of the assault. Purchasing weapons. well you still have to research new weapons.

      • Hematite says:

        I’m with you, and have a generally positive feeling about the changes.

        I did like being able to send out three fire teams to sweep the map while the fourth watched the UFO door until everyone was back for the assault though. 4-6 guys doesn’t sound like enough to control or search a decently sized map so I guess they’ll have to change the mission dynamics somehow – smaller maps, or better information on where to find the bad guys.

        P.S., is Enforcer really that bad? I made it through the Wing Commander one ok, but I’ve never been brave enough to fire Enforcer up.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          I really hope we don’t have to sweep in tire maps for 1 stupid alien like the originals . that’s 1 of the things that reminds me of x com . not in a good way though

    • ichigo2862 says:

      Based on my experience with XCOM Apocalypse, I found the RTS mode of that game far superior to the turn based, in terms of long term playability. Inching across the map hunting for that last alien/cultist was a nightmare in turn-based.

  22. Ministry says:

    Nice writeup. This is easily my most anticipated game coming out this year(hopefully). I am also a big fan of Firaxis games and I have faith that they will do XCOM justice with this game.

  23. kud13 says:

    Chrysalids are in? sold.

    now, just need to wait for someone to mod base defences in and we’re golden.