Xs For Eyes: XCOM’s Creepy, Cringe-Inducing War

By Nathan Grayson on August 25th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

I’m about to say something pretty profound here, so let me clear my vocal passages of any and all disgusting bilious substances that might’ve congealed while I was allowing them to hibernate for occasions like these. Ahem. OK then, here goes: War is kind of not great. Some cultures even go so far as to consider it “a bit of a shame, sometimes.” And from the sound of things, XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘s going to be one of those wars. Millions of people will come away feeling slightly unwell, and some might even have to miss work the next day. It’s going to be gruesome, folks. See the unbridled carnage in a new trailer after the break.

OK, in all seriousness, that looks pretty excellent. I was a bit worried when Firaxis first unveiled the emperor of extraterrestrial strategy’s colorful new clothes, but this trailer still makes the invasion seem pretty horrifying in its own way. Obviously, things are far less abstract now, but those enemy designs are pretty unsettling, and some of those trooper deaths are downright brutal.

So then, between a promising main game, unobtrusive multiplayer, and its own unique atmosphere, Enemy Unknown’s looking seriously impressive. I’m sort of amazed, actually. No, it’s not a spruced up take on the original X-Com, but if you want that, go play, you know, the original X-Com (or Xenonauts). Instead, Firaxis may actually pull off the incredibly precarious balance between reverent treatment of a legendary franchise and blazing its own trail. Has that actually happened, well, ever? Regardless, I want to believe.

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115 Comments »

  1. pakoito says:

    Isn’t there a 3rd Xcom clone? I swear I saw it in the same booth as Jagged Alliance at Gamescom.

  2. PearlChoco says:

    It will be interesting to compare sale numbers of both this game and the XCOM FPS.

    Our PC gaming future might depend on it.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’ll probably get this, but I’m looking forward to the shooter far more regardless of what they call it. Unique premise/setting, commanding a squad, hopefully some dynamic aspects to the campaign, etc.

      • noom says:

        I’m far more excited about this XCOM, but it would be a shame to overlook the retro-themed FPS one; does look like an interesting game in its own right.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Yeah, now that we’re getting several X-Com style games, I don’t mind the XCOM FPS at all.

          • Dominic White says:

            Yeah, I rather dig the 1950s aesthetic and completely oddball interdimensional aliens of the action spinoff. With this, Xenonauts and that in the works, you’d have to be a special kind of pedant to still be unhappy.

        • Silvermarch says:

          Yeah, I am pretty interested in the FPS Xcom for the enemies and setting, but there are some gameplay choices the developers made I am not too happy about.

        • Navagon says:

          Agreed. Especially in light of the fact that the game has undergone a major rethink and is not quite as simplistic as originally intended. That, coupled with this proper XCom game has removed any possibility for misgivings about it. I really do think that 2K will deliver the goods with these.

      • buzzmong says:

        I was looking forward to the new fps version based on the original reveal details, with it having a heavy focus on actual investigation work and a “get in, get the photos/evidence/tech, get out” aim for a good chunk of the game, rather than by the looks of the last video (before they delayed it by a long time) a pretty poor squad shooter.

  3. Drake Sigar says:

    Oh the humanity!

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – most anticipated game of the year.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Buzko says:

    Is it just me, or did the voice in the trailer sound like Peter Cullen?

  5. Hoaxfish says:

    Instead, Firaxis may actually pull off the incredibly precarious balance between reverent treatment of a legendary franchise and blazing its own trail. Has that actually happened, well, ever?

    Prince of Persia?

    • Xocrates says:

      I don’t think putting an old name in a game of the same general genre counts as “reverent treatment”.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Sands of Time seems a pretty good attempt to reflect the core of the original game, with a strong focus on acrobatics, spikey traps, Persian palaces, and being a prince… even the time-manipulation is arguably related to the time-limit present in the original.

        Sure, there are some differences… being 3D, and magical undead-like enemies (oh wait, skeletons, and the magc-mirror you from the original).

        The rest of the trilogy may have changed further, and the subsequent re-reboot push it even further… but the initial entry seems very much about updating the original (and maybe making it good, which can arguably rule out Prince of Persia 3D)

        • Xocrates says:

          Here’s the thing, I didn’t play the PoP games enough to go into a full argument. However I do feel the need to point out that I wouldn’t consider a game to be “reverent” to another unless they’re immediately recognizable, which goes much further than thematic similarities.

          This lands “updates” like sands of time very much in YMMV territory. I did not recognize the original in Sands of Time mostly due to matters of pacing – in one you fight 30 enemies at a time and run up walls and in the other you, well, don’t.

          • mckertis says:

            a)
            >>reverent treatment of a legendary franchise

            You dont actually know what “franchise” means.

            And
            b)

            >>I don’t think putting an old name in a game of the same general genre counts as “reverent treatment”.

            I’m not sure you could get more of a “reverent treatment” than Prince of Persia, as it is a reboot by the actual creator of the original.

          • Xocrates says:

            a) I was under the impression that PoP 2 was similar to the original, and youtube seems to support that idea. 3D also seems similar in style. My point remains.

            b) That doesn’t actually mean anything. Aside from the fact that there are plenty of creators who hate their work and do so out of contractual obligation, I see no evidence of Sands of Time being more than a game with involvement from the creator of PoP to which the PoP title was applied.

            But, like I said, YMMV

    • Cinnamon says:

      Jordan Mechner was a senior figure in the development of Sands of Time and everything after that has not really been spot on.

      • Urthman says:

        Nonsense. Sands of Time had the best writing (thanks to Mechner), but all the Prince of Persia games since then have been good games, many of them significantly better than Sands of Time in one respect or another (all of them have better combat).

        • Cinnamon says:

          I suppose that the other games have been adequate games and have done some things that some people found worthwhile. But Sands of Time is the only one that is really exceptional and has the the feeling of getting it right.

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      mechtroid says:

      Metroid Prime, Fallout 3, need I go on?

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Perhaps DE: HR

    • bill says:

      Yeah. Sands of Time and Metroid 3 would be good examples.

    • Bhazor says:

      Metroid Prime.

  6. IshtarGate says:

    “Do not be careless with the lives of your troops, commander.”

    If I don’t get to put at least a fucking driving helmet on my troops, I quit this position, sir.

  7. ten_six says:

    dishonored comes out on the same day……dang!

  8. asshibbitty says:

    It looks like a retrospective of sci-fi games from the last decade, all over the place. The logo reads as XOOM.

  9. TheWhippetLord says:

    I swear that the creature in that screenshot used to teach me history at school.

  10. mcwill says:

    Right from the outset, “The scene here is one of utter chaos”, I could feel my heartbeat raising. And the mech thing was awesome on toast.

    Then it all got a bit cartoony and silly, but for a few moments there, this seemed like quite a tense thing. Be interesting to see how the balance pans out.

    • b0rsuk says:

      If excitement and adrenaline is what you expect from a turn-based strategy game :(.

      • JuJuCam says:

        Many people get excitement and adrenaline out of the original X-COM.

  11. hosndosn says:

    The game just looks so uninteresting, gameplay-wise, though. It seems they’re adding quite literally nothing in terms of deeper gameplay, it’s a polish job, removing half the stuff from the original and replacing it with… cinematic camera angles? The way this trailer celebrates perma-death as some kind of all-changing hyper-innovation by polishing it up with tons of tacky 90s comic aesthetics is exactly what bothers me about the direction of this game.

    Remember that X-Com: Apocalypse already introduced a working real-time mode in, like, 1997 plus a new interesting theme of bio-aliens, full destruction-physics including collapsing high rises and a cityscape rather than world-map. Not saying it’s better than the original (although in many ways it is) but in the evolution of X-Com, the new XCOM seems like a step backwards. It’s so odd nobody seems to have a problem with that. It seems to do “turn-based” as an oddly isolated catering to the original fanbase that seems almost misguided while focusing all the other energy towards desperate attempts at making that genre work with modern audiences (by removing depth and adding shiny graphics, mostly). And a competitive multiplayer mode, wut-lol-cute but… eh.

    I’d love to be proven wrong but after an estimated 5 quatrobillion previews, videos and interviews, I haven’t heard of a single gameplay option that actually makes me excited to try it out in-game.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but… the FPS XCOM looks innovative as fuck in comparison.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      wow, talk about a biased post. Generic statements like they removed all the depth is laughable.

      • b0rsuk says:

        Calling someone’s opinion ‘laughable’ without pointing out a single incorrect thing is better ?

        • Hug_dealer says:

          i did point it out.

          He claimed they removed depth, but added nothing to increase it.

          Which they have done plenty, units now level up and gain perks which give them special skills. You also work with a smaller squad that means any losses are an even bigger blow to your mission.

          Everyone who has even touched the game has seen that the game is deep, tactical, and hard. You can and will lose in this. I’ll repeat, every person who has written a preview has mentioned the difficulty level, and how fragile and easy it is to lose squadmates. Which directly contradicts what the OP said. Which the OP has apparently not done his homework, so why would i make an elaborate post detailing his failings, when all he will say is NUH-UH.

      • bill says:

        It’s not a “biased” post. It’s his opinion.

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          lowprices says:

          Technically, all opinions are biased. So you’re both right.

    • EnvyUK says:

      I completely agree hosndosn, the game is simply off my radar at this point. I’ve been following it from the first news and it’s just gone further away from what I’d like the more I learn about it. Not going to kick up a big fuss, even though I love the X-Com franchise, I’ll just not be purchasing this.

      • Zorn says:

        I was following the independent http://www.xenonauts.com/
        project, which really reminded me of the look and feel
        of X-Com. As for Fireaxis’ version, I stumbled about a
        video, I think on GiantBomb, where the devs talked
        about the game and explained some of their decisions,
        which really turned me down. They sounded much like
        the PR-types how tell fans of old-school games that
        they where just in this style, because of the limitations
        of their time.

    • Dog Pants says:

      When I heard they were taking away time units I half wrote this off as a nod to the original in theme only, and the console style controls only added to my concern that they were dumbing it down. However, I played it yesterday. The tension of leapfrogging your troops forward while leaving covering guns on overwatch, knowing that overextending a little could lead to catastrophe, that#s still there. The time units have gone, and it feels smoother for it. Yes, you lose the micromanagement, but that could be seen as a boon when you’re not fiddling about making sure you have enough units to go where you want then go on overwatch. It might not be to everyone’s tastes but I found it responsive, and if you want the old school version there’s still the also very good Xenonauts.
      My other concern wasn’t quite as easily dismissed, however. While I believe I was playing the PC version, it was mapped to X-box controls, and it seemed needlessly long-winded to perform any action more complicated that moving. I was told that the PC interface was more context sensitive and intuitive, but even if it isn’t the interface wouldn’t put me off – winkling out a sneaking Sectoid with a grenade or rocket brought back that smug satisfaction of getting one over on those bastard aliens, and that’s ultimately what I was looking for.

    • mckertis says:

      >>X-Com: Apocalypse already introduced a working real-time mode in, like, 1997

      Yeah, that is true. It was also godawful.

      • Lemming says:

        Yep. They seem to be taking their cue from UFO and TFTD here, which is fine by me as I hated Apocalypse and couldn’t understand what anyone saw in it.

      • Asurmen says:

        The real time mode or the game itself? How were they awful?

    • Slinkyboy says:

      You’ll like the game. I was with AJ when he interviewed the main man, Jake Solomon. Jake said the game will have many options that the hardcore players will want to disable, like the fancy camera angles and the cinematic death animations. All those options are for players who are new to the TBS scene and you can disable them. So he didn’t forget about us, the old school X-COM lovers. I’m just talking about UFO Defense. I don’t like the rest.

  12. ScorpionWasp says:

    Wait… the men in black are actually aliens???

  13. ScorpionWasp says:

    In any case. This thing is too… frantic. Laser beams flying everywhere all the time; if I didn’t know what the gameplay was supposed to be like, I’d think this is an arcade game. The older X-com used to have more subtlety. It was about the moments of nervous tension until you finally spotted that one creature and it took you out with a single precise shot.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      the trailer was done in real time, its a turn based game. i go you go i go you go.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      I hear what you are saying- at the end of that trailer, there are multi-colored laser beams flying in every direction… that looked like a bit much- but I think they are just pushing the game’s cinematic qualities for the sake of the trailer. I think (hope) that when you play, the pace will be more subtle and nervous, or at least it will be player-driven. I have seen some gameplay previews where this appears to be the case. As an long-time X-Com vet, I’m pretty excited about this- I think they are pushing the brand/genre in a really neat new direction.

      As to your comment about nervous tension… I always did like countering the stealthy, deadly precision of the aliens in X Com Enemy Unknown with a scorched earth policy involving laser rifles and auto cannons with incendiary ammo. Take a shot at me from behind a wall? I’ll knock down your wall. Try to sneak up on me from the orchard? I’ll Burn the orchard to the ground. Kill one of my men? I’ll flatten the house you’re hiding in, and maybe the one next door for good measure. It’s the human way. I’m looking forward to trying out similar tactics in this new game, although it sounds like there will be pesky civilians running around to worry about.

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      I tend to agree. Every article I’ve seen on this so far has raised my expectations and anticipation for this game, except for this one. This trailer is just too arcadey and bombastic for my tastes and, from what I’ve seen and read about the game, doesn’t really reflect the actual gameplay (or at least I hope it doesn’t).

      It looks to me as though they’ve taken all the sweeping camera angles and super-duper death animations, which in the end are just graphical fripperies (and I think I read somewhere that you can even turn them off) and just edited them together into one big OTT cinema-like trailer.

      Still very excited about the game mind you, just not as much as before I saw this.

      • Hug_dealer says:

        Isnt that exactly what trailers are supposed to do. They take snippets and cool parts and combine them together in order to boost interest.

        Atleast the trailer is in game stuff, and not the stupid cgi trailers that show your characters doing things that you cant actually do in the game.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        Geez, trailers are essentially meaningless, people. Just the publisher, doing their work, trying to trick Joe FPS Player into trying the game out. Remember what the Civ 4 trailer looked like? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuiM7Ycbm-k

      • Donkeyfumbler says:

        I appreciate trailers are there to boost interest and maybe appeal to a different demographic than might normally check out a turn based strategy but they have to be careful not to put off their core audience – the ones who are most likely to buy the game – at the same time.

        I think most people’s chief concern has always been whether the game has been “dumbed-down” – i.e. made more arcadey and less strategic and trailers like this are only going to accentuate those concerns when up to now Jake Solomon and co have been doing quite a good job of re-assuring people.

        I was toying with pre-ordering if I saw a decent offer but after this I’m definitely going to wait for reviews before stumping up the cash, so in that sense the trailer has had exactly the opposite effect on me than it was supposed to.

        • ItalianPodge says:

          I always found it a bit silly that in the space of time it took a soldier to run 50m another soldier could just about manage a 3 shot burst. OK, it works from a gameplay perspective but I really hope to see automatic weapons that fire at realistic rates and this trailer certainly seems to show that.

          Not sure how more gun fire means less depth, personally I think it would make staying in cover and finding good firing positions more important.

  14. Laurentius says:

    This trailer looks awful: cartoony aliens, colorful beams everywhere, bombastic drums and music. Is this game even turn based? It doesn’t look like one. This is going worse and worse with every new info available about this game. I don’t get, these guys of Firaxis said they played original UFO many times, so where is the sense of threat, where is disquieting music? No, big boom-boom and laser beams and explosions everywhere, just awful.

    • Wednesday says:

      Did you ever watch X-Com’s intro? Hell, “cartoony”? Did you even play it?

      X-Com looked like an early 90s SatAm animation.

      • Laurentius says:

        Yes, intro but in game soldiers weren’t jumping out of aircraft and shooting minigun in slo-mo. Unfortunately this trailer doesn’t present intro but in game footage.

    • JFS says:

      This looks way too cheesy and over-colourful. Some scenes looked like something taken out of a superfast-paced RTS game, Starcraft on Steroids, not like creepy turn-based strategy. I don’t like it, but I will wait and see what the game is like.

  15. b0rsuk says:

    It looks like a ‘strategy’ game for people with short attention span. Everything has to be shiny, cinematic, and thrilling. Where can I find a TBS game which values careful planning, complexity and interesting mechanics ? Unity of Command is just one game…

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “Everything has to be shiny, cinematic, and thrilling.”

      All of that is just presentational, nothing that would automatically make the gameplay worse.

      • Wednesday says:

        This. Sanity. Yes.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          Sometimes I can’t believe how retarded the RPS comments are. Like literally, I almost can’t believe it’s not trolling.

          If you guys are writing off this incredibly promising game because of this trailer, you are a fucking idiot. And apparently you haven’t seen the opening cinematic to, I dunno, every great turn-based game, ever, including the original XCOM.

          It’s a cinematic trailer. Not a gameplay trailer. Get a fucking grip and educate yourself instead of mindlessly hating on everything.

          • b0rsuk says:

            Should you even advertise a turn-based strategy with a trailer ? It doesn’t show how the game plays. It makes it look like a dumb casual game. Are they afraid to show any complexity to players ? Maybe there isn’t any ?

    • aircool says:

      My attention span is decades wide. I’ve played the original at least once every year since release. Apoc was such a massive disappointment for the series, whereas this game looks like it’s doing the original justice.

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        Ugh, I’ve just flashed-back to my sole attempt at apoc’s turn-based mode. It did not last long. :(

    • Andrew says:

      You’ve just answered your own question.

  16. Demiath says:

    This trailer is very Gears of War-ish (albeit with some TF2-with-aliens aesthetics) in its almost comically action-oriented presentation and probably the least promising bit of preview content released so far. At least there are no sexualized nuns in it…

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Comical, action-oriented presentation, you say?

      • TruthinessVonDee says:

        That music is killer

      • Corporate Dog says:

        I remember when that game came out. I used to grief other players by camping at the spawn points. Best FPS EVER.

  17. Azradesh says:

    What happened to make everyone so negative, it’s getting ridiculous. Nothing is good enough anymore, it’s just whine, whine, whine! The game isn’t even out yet people! You haven’t played it!

    I’m begining to think that you guys would rather whine about games on the internet then play them anymore.

    • Premium User Badge

      Napalm Sushi says:

      Not to mention how many accusations of excessively “cartoony”, “comical” or “silly” aesthetics are flying around, along with phrases like “the older X-Com used to have more subtlety”.

      Might I remind people that this was the first thing a new player of X-Com: UFO Defence saw upon starting the .exe.

      Yeah. That’s the ultimate definition of subtlety and seriousness for you right there.

      It’s a game about gruff special forces troopers fighting off a global invasion by technologically superior psychic aliens, folks. Is their choice of visual style really so inappropriate?

      • aircool says:

        Anyone who says that the original didn’t have a comic look about it obviously never saw the snakemen or mutons.

        I sometimes wonder if anyone played other games that were around when the original UFO was released, just for some perspective, y’know?

        If you want to play UFO, go play UFO. If you want something that brings the IP up to date, XCOM looks like the way to go.

    • Caiman says:

      You’ll notice it’s often the same handful of people waging an all-out war to get their negative opinion across You’ll also notice the quality of their observations about what the game is to be rather reflective of the value of those opinions.

      • Azradesh says:

        It’s not just this game, it seems to be every game that isn’t indie.

    • b0rsuk says:

      They made a turn-based strategy look like a dumb action game.

      • Azradesh says:

        If you’ve read anything about it then you know that’s not the case.

    • betamax_w says:

      But if they stopped expressing opinions that some people generally disagree with (Modern Internet Translation- ‘Whining’), what would all the plea-for-sanity junkies and ersatz errant troll hunters do with their days?

      Apropos of the topic, I’m looking forward to seeing what Firaxis do with the game for good or ill. I’ll buy it because I only trust my own hands-on interpretation and then I’ll decide whether it’s a brave new world or last month’s turkey. The important thing to remember is that if they screw it up, I can go back and play UFO as if it never happened.

    • Laurentius says:

      Because it’s surprising that with so little time to launch Firaxis time and time again show players how many core features from the original they have change so far and how little they’ve kept. Time units are gone, I’ve never encounter and mention of old psychological elements of battle marked by morale and bravery, generic leveling of your soldiers, no base management, no financial development etc. like they are afraid to show how much they’ve dumbed down these elements. Right now there are two established elements that connects original to this game: there will be turn based combat after all and Sectoids.

      • Azradesh says:

        There is base management. What’s so special about time units? There is a moral system. No idea how the finance works, I think someone would need to play the whole game to tell if the finance system is any good. It’s not something you could really fit in a shortish amount of play time.

        Have you read RPS’ previews of this game?

  18. aircool says:

    Now, to say I’m a fan of the original is an understatement. I taught myself how to hack the savegames and the like using DOS Debug FFS.

    This new game… well…

    It just looks bloody AWESOME!

    There were many things that made the original great. However, the original is incredibly clunky by todays standards. It’s great that Xenonauts is updating the original, but XCOM is shaping up to be a true successor.

    • Laurentius says:

      I’m re-playing it right now, and i don’t find it clunky.

      • Asurmen says:

        Probably because you’ve played it enough times to get over its issues, but playing this for the first time back in the early 90s, even my 8/9 year old brain knew the UI was a mess and made the gameplay not very smooth.

  19. RodeoClown says:

    Well, it looks like they managed to update the reaper without it looking like an unbalanced, two-legged capybara!

    Hooray for mechanical reapers!

    • betamax_w says:

      I think that is, in fact, a dreaded Sectopod, if you mean the big, angry, missile-shrugging-off alien at the start of the clip. Which suggests my old mates the Ethereals may be back also.

  20. Anathem says:

    “No, it’s not a spruced up take on the original X-Com”

    From everything I’ve heard about this game, it is EXACTLY that and from the reports I’ve seen, a really, really good one.

  21. Mirqy says:

    “War is kind of not great.” Citation needed.

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    I want to believe.

  23. irongamer says:

    Can you lose your guys in this game? I thought there was a previous article or dev chat that said you can’t really lose troops like the original. Maybe I read it wrong or my memory fails me, but if that is true this trailer seems silly if you are not really able to lose troops.

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    Christian Dannie Storgaard says:

    War. War never changes.

  25. Weed says:

    Game play video through 2K. This link is not the English language site, that one is not streaming anymore. Click the “continue” button on this link, then enter age info to see the 1 hour gameplay video. play starts at the 8 minute mark.

    http://pl.twitch.tv/2k/b/330155062

    I have a lot of hopes and expectations for this game. This is the first video of gameplay that I have seen that has me really excited about what will get delivered.