Wot I Think – XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Singleplayer)

By Alec Meer on October 8th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Oh dear, it turns out it’s a first-person shooter with quick-time events and checkpoints after all. Move along, nothing to see here.

No, no, rest assured Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown is, like its 1993 predecessor X-COM: UFO Defense aka UFO: Enemy Unknown, a rich brew of turn-based strategy, base management, a sort of roleplaying and the sudden, frequent, horrible death of people you’ve developed an unhealthy fixation with, as you and your changing squad of soldiers struggle to save the Earth from alien invasion. This remake, until fairly recently, seemed like an impossibility – large publishers had lost faith that big-budget strategy games could pay for their yachts, iPads and watches heavy enough to beat a donkey to death with, and the X-COM name was sullied by spin-offs that had about as much in common with it as Hulk Hogan has with Stephen Hawking. X-COM was over, surely.

X-COM is back. I’ve waited 15 years for this, and now I can wait no more. Here’s what I think. (Note – this write-up covers singleplayer only. Thoughts on multiplayer will follow at a later date).

I imagine you have three questions right now:

1) How faithful is Firaxis’ remake to the original X-COM?
2) Does it work as its own game, not just piece of nostalgia?
3) Hey, is Shakira single?

1) It’s complicated 2) Yes indeed 3) I’m afraid you’ll need to battle footballer Gerard Piqué for her affections.

This statement is probably a little too navel-gazing, but right now I’m circling around this write-up trying to find a way in. I’m acutely aware of the need to balance any commentary on XCOM between addressing the questions and concerns of long-time X-COM fans and treating it as a brand new 2012 videogame aimed at at least as many people who don’t know the original well or at all. This must be what an ideologically entrenched politician like Mitt Romney feels like when he tries to find words that will somehow appeal to two groups of people with fundamentally different attitudes towards society. Jim recently described XCOM as ‘the critical challenge of the year’, which only made me more fearful, damn his eyes.

So here’s the thing: were one to make a list of X-COM’s features and compare XCOM against them, it could only come up short. On paper, it would look like a disservice. I expect reams and reams of commentary from The Faithful about why this isn’t here or why does this happen or why does this not happen. Some of those gripes I share, but most I do not.

If you are inclined to feel that there is simply no good reason to not replicate all that made X-COM great, I am inclined to believe that you simply will not abide XCOM, with all its alterations, omissions and new explorations.

I am even more inclined to believe that you’d be denying yourself a perfectly good time and what is for me comfortably the most absorbing and thrilling strategy game I’ve played in years. (I do not use that silly word ‘thrilling’ lightly, but I’ll come back to that later.) I’ve been desperately worried about the game right up until the point that I played it. When I played it, I played it for some 50 hours and counting. I regret none of that time, I have missed showers, meals and Quality Time with girlfriend, cat and Dishonored in order to obtain it and I want to spend even more of it in XCOM instead of writing these damnable words.

Circling. XCOM is more like X-COM than any game save Terror For the Deep has ever been. It unashamedly wears an enormous, pulsing heart for its predecessor and inspiration on its kevlar sleeve: the tech tree, the rogue’s gallery of alien species, the amorality, the accumulating devastation of its environments, the knuckle-chewing tension inherent in each and every gunshot fired. At the same time, it’s a wildly different game – a new take on the same essential concept rather than a straight retread. In these confusing times where nostalgia threatens to overcome the desire for new experiences, I’m entirely glad of that. XCOM is a true 2012 game, not a 1993 game awkwardly wearing 2012 clothing.

There are numerous changes, but the essential one is not one likely to appear on that theoretical comparison list. Where X-COM’s turn-based ground missions were hide and seek, an often frightening hunt for murderous lurkers concealing themselves across dense environments, XCOM’s are more like a war. Unlike those desperate, chilling hunts across cornfields and through barns in X-COM, in XCOM where the aliens are is rarely in question. Their precise location is unknown and of course ever-changing, but their approximate position tends to be self-evident. They’re either already heading towards you, are clearly where the screaming and explosions are, or are turned up in the natural passage of your soldiers moving forwards, making the issue of the day how to get close enough to them to take them out without getting turned into thin red paste wearing a shocked expression.

It’s a game about slowly moving your frontline forwards, meticulously ordering a squad of six1 from cover to cover and making a stream of tactical decisions in order to overcome an enemy that always, always outnumbers them. You’re directing a SWAT team that needs to stick relatively close together (not too close mind, unless watching a grenade liquidate four people at once turns you on), carefully clean out an area and move on, not the spread-out search and destroy agents of 1993. It’s faster and more furious than its 90s ancestor, but it is no less strategic for it.

It works. It better than works. XCOM is muscular, tense, thoughtful, mutable turn-based strategy with the dramatic, explosive presentation of a contemporary all-action game. Also, the environments get unavoidably trashed on a grand-scale, in a fashion all too rarely seen in either strategy or action games: these are true battlegrounds. No matter how well you do in a mission, you’ll leave a bombsite behind you. Frankly, you’re probably doing more harm than good to the world.

Each bombsite begins as a place peppered with places of safety, but slowly turns into one filled with terrifyingly open, rubble-strewn spaces that you’ll struggle to cross in one turn, let alone be able to fire off a shot or go into overwatch after moving. A soldier not in cover is a dead soldier, unless he’s wearing the late-game stealth armour. Everything hinges on cover, a great deal of which is eroded or destroyed when pummelled by gunfire2 or targeted with explosives, and in addition to that the AI is pretty hot on flanking and flushing, so you need to move rather than camp at all times.

Any skirmish is a matter of man-management, tough decisions about whether to take the shots more likely hit to but less likely to kill, or to focus riskier fire on the most dangerous enemy, to creep closer to increase accuracy but putting your guy at greater risk, to try and save a downed colleague under a hail of green fire before they bleed out3, maybe to walk right up to an alien in the hope they can be stunned and captured alive4. Every move is a gamble. Every decision is critical. Your soldiers will miss more than they hit5, because they are merely frail, weak, terrified humans in a world whose technology and danger has suddenly increased a thousandfold, and each time they miss feels like the end of the world. Someone’s probably going to die now, and it’s entirely your fault (even though that soldier was the idiot who couldn’t shoot straight at something not 10 feet away).

It isn’t the end of the world, of course. The end of the world is very much on the horizon and approaching fast, but you have a great many tools to try and keep it at bay with. Foremost amongst those tools are your soldiers, who occupy a strange hybrid status of utterly disposable and incomparably precious. Ordering new/replacement soldiers is cheap, fast and easy, but a half-dozen rookies put together are no substitute for one lost Colonel or Major. For they are priceless. They matter more than your children ever could.

Where, in X-COM, a high-ranking soldier largely meant simply better stats, here it also6 means more Abilities – abilities which drastically alter the shape of the battle. Assault’s run and gun, which allows shooting or going into overwatch after two moves rather than one, is essential for getting a shot in before the enemy does, a Support that carries three medkits rather than one is pretty much the most important unit in the field, a Sniper’s crit-causing headshot will often one-shot armoured enemies and a Heavy who can take two shots per turn is often the only way to take out a Bezerker before it bearhugs one of your guys to death.

Despite the abilities, I did find that the ground missions can feel a little homongeous at times, with some similar-looking and somewhat confined settings, not a huge amount of verticality7, the more-or-less sure knowledge of where the enemies are and the constant requirement to hop methodically from cover to cover making a few feel like something to endure during the long wait for new types of equipment to be developed. But as new equipment, enemies and abilities are put on the table, new strategies blossom out of them.

A Support soldier’s area of effect-upgraded smoke grenades become a way to more safely move a group of soldiers in closer to a deadly Cyberdisc or Sectopod, an Assault soldier’s ability to take a free reaction shot whenever an enemy closes within four tiles becomes a reason to knowingly put him in danger so you can exploit it and, most of all, the late-game psychic abilities provide the foundation for new combinations of attack. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises there, but suffice to say any Professor Xes you have on staff are game-changers. As are the Professor Xes the enemy increasingly fields. What were your most effective, most treasured soldiers suddenly become huge risk factors.

I don’t miss time units, which had been perhaps my greatest source of concern before I played the thing, as there’s a flow and a greater opportunity to devise a multi-turn masterplan with the new one move, one action system. It means tough decisions rather than coin-counting, rather than basically spamming your guys in various directions to see what you turn up. I see it as different rather than a replacement – as a result, the original X-COM can and will still serve a purpose in my life in addition to this new exploration of its themes.

I do, though, really miss free aim, which seems to me to be a sacrifice made for a console-friendly, jump to target interface. It’s frustrating to not be able to get to an obscured alien even though you know full well the lizard-skinned bastard is crouching right behind a destructible bit of wall, or later on to not make your guys target an enemy you’ve mind-controlled, while the harsh8 limitations on grenades and rockets can leave me with the dull, intangible ache of a phantom limb. But these gripes are safely in the territory of “that’s a shame,” not “no sale”.

It looks great, too – not as openly cartoon as the original, but definitely a B-movie comicbook. The animations are dramatic and characterful, again the devastation feels extreme, the redesigned aliens do threaten to be as memorable as their predecessors and there’s a chunky, tangible solidity to environments and characters both. Again, that word ‘thrilling’ occurs: the look and the action-cam serve to accentuate, rather than replace, the tension/relief or distress cycle in each and every shot. Is it gonna hit is it gonna hit oh God it is hasn’t/OH GOD YES IT HAS. It’s a turn-based strategy game convincingly dressed as a third-person action game – but not a third-person action game pretending to be a turn-based strategy game. This is the real deal, but with presentation values the like of which TBS has never before seen.

My most serious reservations come up in reference to XCOM’s other game, the base mode. Again, it looks great – the much-hyped Ant Colony mode presenting what was formerly top-down squares as a buzzing cross-section of activity. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at that stuff after the first sight of it. Most of the rooms I went on to build I never even saw. There was no need to, but more damningly there was no sense of pride in construction at doing so. A base almost immediately sprawls beyond one screen, with a weirdly slow panning system to go see the rest of it, and almost none of the rooms do anything interactive. Once built, they add options to the crucial set of drop-down menus on the top of the screen, and in doing so shoot their own existence in the foot. There’s no need to ever look at them again. It seems like a waste of creation to me, and by contrast to X-COM I wasn’t imbued with the arrogant sense of being king of a private world built just for me.

Interception, meanwhile, is an almost bizarrely flat affair. While its radar-view simplicity was never X-COM’s strongest suit, here it’s reduced to even less. No choosing attack type or distance, just watching a 2D, side-on battle of shapes play out, with the option to click on one or some of the three buffs (attack, dodge, speed) you can research and build for weird costs (creating a dodge power-up requires Floater corpses, for instance). Interception also happens oddly infrequently, and most of your craft will be housed in never-seen hangars in other parts of the world. Never glimpsed, so never felt attached to. Interception feels incomplete, frankly, but it’s a critical part of the game, unless you want all the funding nations to walk out in a panicked huff.

However, the stuff in those drop-down menus on the base screen? That’s the good stuff. Oh baby, yes. There’s no skimping there, with the vast majority of the original game’s tech tree recreated, reimagined and then expanded still further. Big, generous handfuls of things to build, things to research and, newly, upgrades to existent gear and soldiers. With cash – gained from the increasingly untrusting nations who fund the XCOM project – and resources – collected from the battlefield – forever hard to get hold of in huge quantities, there’s a constant dilemma over what to do, buy or build.

You’ll always have long-term goals, but in the short-term your squad will field what you can afford, which of course hinges on how well you’ve played. Between not quite being able to build as many Plasma Rifles as you want and your best soldiers lying in the infirmary, recovering from grenades to the face and claws to the belly, you’re invariably making do with what’s available, hungering for something on the close horizon that might, finally, tip the odds in your favour.

That’s part of the glorious tension that underpins every aspect of XCOM. The world’s always against you – from the engineers who can’t get off their fat arses and build a new satellite in less than 20 days to the flighty countries that withdraw funding because the tiny amount of funding they did offer wasn’t enough to field an unstoppable defence, to the soldier who misses his shot and blows up a UFO flight computer you could have built vital kit with, to of course that implacable, infinite legion of fearless aliens. The defining moment of XCOM, one which I encountered all too regularly, is holding my head in my hands, muttering ‘Oh God no’ or more profane words to that effect.

Start on normal difficulty, just to learn the changed ropes. Then, for heaven’s sake, change to Classic and Iron Man mode. Yes, there’s joy to be had from gaining access to all the game’s many, many toys and having your most beloved soldiers go the distance to the oddly underwhelming conclusion (I won’t spoil, but there’s no Cydonia or giant eyeball – though more positively you do get to lionise your favourite unit in a new way), but if you want XCOM to squat in your brain like a dark parasite whispering terrible things to you, you need to experience loss and suffering. On Normal, the late game becomes something of a cakewalk. On Impossible, it’s basically a joke for masochists, though it will force you to use flanking in a whole new way. I tried it, failed the first mission four times, eventually made it to the second and then just laughed at the screen when it was all over by turn three. Some will love it, but I like a least a little pleasure with my pain.

Classic finds the Goldilocks balance, where the challenge is towering but eminently meetable. The optional Iron Man mode prevents reliance on savegames, so when someone dies that’s it. It’s horrible, to the extent that at one point I was exploring the game’s filesystem and using undelete tools to try and resurrect my best Heavy. Fortunately, I didn’t manage to, and as a result that devastating loss at the hand-like protrusions of a Cyberdisc becomes an enduring memory. Death and failure runs in X-COM’s blood, and XCOM does not flinch from doing the same.

I have a slew of smaller complaints which I feel a tad churlish in bringing up, but it is important not to let my barely-bridled excitement at having a true-blooded new X-COM game on my PC get the better of me. The PC UI and control systems feels a little off – not hugely, but a bit rough around the edges and caught between two stools. However, I felt a lot more comfortable with it than I did the more restrictive gamepad controls.

Then there’s the lack of setpiece events, compared to the original. Your base doesn’t get invaded, you only invade one alien base, you don’t go to Mars… Making up for this significantly is more variety in the general missions, such as bomb defusal and rescuing named NPCs, plus of course the Terror Missions that involve trying to evacuate as many civilians as possible even as the enemy aims its most fearsome beasties at your guys. I keep trying not to too constantly compare XCOM to X-COM, but it does follow so many of the same beats in terms of the event structure that these omissions were impossible not to notice, or indeed miss.

And there are bugs. It is not a buggy game as such, generally being a slick affair, but two big errors came up repeatedly in my many hours with the game. A camera issue in UFO missions that keeps seeing the view flick to the roof, sometimes meaning I couldn’t make soldiers go where I wanted them to go, while soldiers flying around in the late-game Archangel armour had a tendency to become stuck in place (again usually inside UFOs) forcing me to play with a reduced hand. I’m sure they’ll be patched in short order, but they did on occasion make things for difficult for me.

I’m also very disappointed that much of the soldier customisation – primarily armour colour, but a few more visual options too – has been partioned off into pre-order DLC (no doubt made available as an extra purchase later). This stuff doesn’t lend you any in-game advantage, but as your attachment to your soldiers is such a critical part of the experience, and the ability to tweak their appearance such a critical part of that, a copy of the game with that element missing will be so much lesser. It opens up a world of personal roleplaying and even a little strategic help – for instance, all my medics were given red armour so I’d know at a glance where they were in relation to the rest of the squad, rookies I’d dress in hot pink so I’d know not to freak out when they bought the farm, while any soldier that made it to Sergeant would be themed to look like the Transformer I’d nickname them after. I understand the commercial need behind pre-order incentives, but this particular element plays such a huge part in the personalisation of a game that’s all about personalisation. So I feel sort of bad about saying this, but do what you can to get a copy of the game with that stuff included, basically. Retail copies have it in there, so that might be the way to go even if it’s less convenient.

Oh yes, and that soldiers have American voices regardless of nationality is distracting. Especially as I believe localised voices were recorded for other territories anyway. Modders, to arms!

Those, then, are the grumbles, but they are not the story. The story is that I love XCOM, I’m so glad it was made and I expect to be playing it and replaying it for a long, long time to come. There are things, big and small, I would change or don’t see the reasoning for, but it all-told it does so much more than I ever thought possible, both in terms of resurrecting XCOM’s core values and making a turn-based strategy game with high-tech, 2012, thrilling presentation.

This isn’t a matter of a starving man grateful for the slimmest of pickings. XCOM is a bounteous strategy/roleplaying feast, and I’m not particularly dismayed that a couple of the side-dishes taste a bit suspect. It’s a triumph that XCOM even exists, so that it’s also bloody brilliant and thoroughly modern with it excites me to introverted core. X-COM’s tiny, precious world has seen many unwelcome invaders over the years, but trust me – this one comes in peace.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is out tomorrow in North America and on Friday on Europe, because retailers are asses.

Footnotes

1 You start with a squad of but four, but quickly can – and should – upgrade to five and then six if you have enough cash and a soldier of a suitably high rank. It is the most essential upgrade in the game.

2 Scenery destruction depends somewhat on the gun used. The entry-level, bullet-based weapons don’t do much damage to non-organic matter, but by the time you’re up to plasma weapons you can expect to see rocks and walls disintegrate. However, there is no free aim for weapons other than rocket launchers and grenades, so you cannot deliberately target specific parts of the environment in the hope of making a sheltering enemy more visible. As such, scenery destruction happens only when a shot misses, and even then only occasion. This does frustrate me, as I’d love to, say, have a Heavy remove a section of wall to open up a clear line of sight for a Sniper ally. I suspect free-aim will be the most called-for mod/patch, and I hope someone makes it happen. Between your guys and the aliens, however, rest assured that every mission will see loads of devastation.

3 Usually soldiers, and especially rookies, will flat-out die when wounded fatally, but there’s a chance they’ll go into a critical state from which they can be stabilised or revived if you can get someone with a medkit over to them within three turns. You can buy an upgrade in the Officer Training School which increases the odds of high-ranking soldiers going critical rather than perishing outright.

4 If an alien dies, its weapons explode and so can’t be taken back to be equipped. So Stuns aren’t there just to enable the interrogation of live aliens. With cash and components forever in short supply, capturing rather than killing thus becomes a vital, but forever risky, means of upgrading your soldiers’ equipment.

5 My preferred sniper would for some reason almost always miss a shot with 95% hit chance. This made me very cross indeed. But when, in the late game, with her plasma sniper rifle and upgraded SCOPE, she did hit with the sniper-standard Headshot ability, it would usually crit and thus insta-kill – activating her upgrade that then allowed her to take a second shot. Sometimes, this would roll to a third. She became incredible at thinning enemy ranks without having even left her starting position. Just so long as that first shot hit.

6 A smaller number of stats do remain, but don’t play an active role in things. A Sniper is always and only a Sniper; an Assault soldier can’t use a Sniper rifle no matter how good his/her stats; a higher-ranking soldier has better odds of hitting and more health points than a lower-ranking one does. You can add items that alter some of these, most pertinently the scope for accuracy and chitin under-armour vest made from downed Chrysalids for health, but other than that the stats self-manage. But there is one stat that does matter, and heavily so in the late game – Will. In the early game, this affects the likelihood of troops freaking out if they’re wounded, they spy a large pack of enemies or a comrade dies, but once psychic creatures enter the fray soldiers with low Will are prime for mind control and other mental attacks. Soldiers with high Will are more likely (but most certainly not guaranteed) to have the gift of psychic powers themselves.

7 Verticality is primarily of use to snipers, who gain bonuses if on higher terrain as well as often having a larger field of vision. Sniper-specific armour offers grappling hooks with which to reach different levels. Some maps – for instance, the forest setting used for assaulting crashed UFOs – have very little in the way of verticality, which can make using snipers a mildly frustrating matter of forever shuffling them forwards, while others positively depend on it. The larger scale UFOs have a second level which you’#ll want to get snipers up to asap, while Terror Missions often see aliens murdering civilians on the second floor, so you’ll need to hot foot it up there quickly. But, all told, there’s a lot less multi-height combat than in the original game. Again, this is about pushing a front-line forward more than it is scouring an environment.

8 Each soldier can carry one item in addition to their two weapons. So, it’s grenades or medkits or SCOPE or chitin or stungun or assorted other things, as apparently this internationally-funded military operation can’t afford belts or bags. On top of that, one grenade is the only and only grenade that soldier can carry, so use it wisely. However, an optional Support class ability lets them carry two items, and a Heavy one allows two grenades. The restrictions are frustrating and not a little illogical, but there are, I think, two good reasons for them. Firstly, there is terror in seeing an icon that could have saved someone’s arsed greyed out, forcing you to devise an emergency alternative tactic (or, y’know, die). Secondly, adding willy-nilly use of explosives to the aforementioned levels of inadvertent devastation would likely mean each level become a smoking wasteland within a couple of turns.

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295 Comments »

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  1. Dominic White says:

    If you really feel a burning need to play the original 90s X-Com with a lick of paint, I hear that Xenonauts is moving into beta tomorrow as well. In short, everyone wins tomorrow. Even those who have no interest in X-Com or Dishonored, as Retro City Rampage is also out for the silly arcade game crowd, and the new Culture novel is out for true nerds.

    Oh god. My wallet. My poor, poor wallet.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      Holy shit, there’s a new Culture novel?!

      Oh, no, wait. Both Matter and Surface Detail were pretty poor. Never mind.

      • psaldorn says:

        Well, I’ve enjoyed all of the Culture novels (Though for me Excession was the best of the lot). I’ve probably pre-ordered it.. unless I didn’t because of kindle. Crap.

        Definitely pre-ordered XCOM though :)

        The news about US early release disappoints me greatly. Have these companies learned NOTHING? Phased release = piracy.

        While I’m at it, there is no digital download version of PES 2013. It feels very 1997 this week. Not impressed.

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          Makariel says:

          I prefer Use of Weapons over Excession, but that’s a photo finish. Currently catching up with Surface Detail, hence the new book has to wait a little. Especially since I’m getting both XCom and Dishonored this Friday. No time to read a book! :)

        • Randomer says:

          Wow, I didn’t realize this was a series! I read Excession and loved most of it (disappointed by a few bit). Is it generally worth starting at the beginning of the series and working through them all, or should one read a select few?

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            phuzz says:

            It’s more a series of books set in the same universe, than serial story. Sometimes something from one book will be picked up later on, but for lack of anything better you could read them in publication order.

            While you’re at it, check out some of his non-scifi stuff written as plain Iain Banks.
            But when you get to ‘that bit’ in The Wasp Factory don’t come crying to me.

          • Carbonated Dan says:

            the Culture novels aren’t a series, they’re a collection of stories with a common setting
            that said, it is worth starting with the earlier releases, if only because that’s where the better books are

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            Makariel says:

            I’d recommend reading Use of Weapons next.

          • MaximKat says:

            It’s usually recommended to start with the 2nd one and leave the 1st one for later, but since you already know what’s what, you can just start from the beginning.

          • morningoil says:

            So none of you [struggled through] The Algebraist then? I didn’t think Matter and Surface Detail were IMB at his very very best by any means – but they were good, and both represented a dazzling improvement over that awful nadir. So yes, if you’re coming to them new, Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons is a pretty persuasive way to kick off – all tremendous. Actually Player of Games was the pinnacle for me – not necessarily the most interesting or the deepest, but one of the very few times since I stopped being a kid that I couldn’t bear to be away from a book, sneaking out of meetings early, hiding in cupboards …

          • MacTheGeek says:

            It really shouldn’t surprise me that a big chunk of RPS readers are also Iain M. Banks fans.

            Like some others, I think Excession is the best of the bunch, but I just re-read The Player of Games recently, and got some things out of it that I hadn’t really noticed before.

          • ColOfNature says:

            I enjoyed The Algebraist. I’d like to see more set in that universe.

          • neems says:

            I don’t often log in here, but I felt a burning desire to contribute to the Culture discussion, even though all I’m doing is agreeing with everybody… I love Excession (I like everything to do with the Minds) but my absolute favourite is The Player of Games.

            Apparently the most popular Culture novel is Use of Weapons, as voted for by the fans. It’s certainly got the craziest structure.

          • running fungus says:

            Crazy about the Algebraist. While there are other novels I repeat, I seldom calendar-watch the way I do when I’m wondering if it’s been long enough yet that I can reread it again.

        • greg_ritter says:

          Oh man, thank you guys for introducing me to this series. It sound completely awesome.

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            gnodab says:

            and that’s why RPS comments are the best thing on the internet

        • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

          I find Excession the most interesting one, from a sci-fi perspective, but Use of Weapons is perhaps a more gripping story. Not read the latest ones though.

        • Elethio says:

          Wow thought I was the only person to read Banks, naturally “Use of Weapons” is my favorite, closely followed by “Walking on broken glass” – one of his fiction stories that is really a Sci Fi, Gasp what an ending, and what an imagination this guy has!

          Back to Xcom loving the new one, but its funny for many of the features I’m missing from the 1st Xcom It turns out that some are CODED INTO THE GAME ALREADY, but are simply “turned off” unless you know where to look in the code :-)
          Can’t help thinking that the people at Firaxis knew how to make this properly but where told to change it because certain features would not work well with a console, and the console gamers must not be allowed to feel that their version is sub-standard.
          Its commercial interests ruining a Fantastic game- making it merely “excellent” instead.

      • jmtd says:

        I thought Surface Detail was both an incredible return to form and charting some new and interesting territory for Banks, but each to their own. (“Stonemouth” broke the Banks mould too, IMHO.)

        • DigitalEccentric says:

          I liked Surface Detail, but the ‘secret’ the main girl was keeping was actually pretty naff, and it was the thing the blurb hooked most of the novel on (I liked the wider backdrop though, and all that entailed, plus the surprise at the end) I also liked Matter too but again, didn’t pan out quite like I was led to belive it would – was mean’t to focus on Special Circumstances and how they influence lesser worlds, but wasn’t really about that at all.

          Reading through Hydrogen Sonata at the moment – it deals with the idea of Subliming that Banks has talked so much about, as well as the forming of the Culture itself nearly 10,000 years ago. So far, so good on what I’ve read so far.

          • megalosaurus says:

            Agreed, the new IMB, Hydrogen Sonata, is pretty good so far. Very like Excession in some ways. Major galaxy shaking event and lots of Culture ships meddling.

            I do think IMB is at his best when he writes ships; and there is a childish delight to be had from seeing a giant starship swearing…

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          Dilapinated says:

          I agree, Surface Detail was an incredible return to form after Matter, which was a tad dull.

        • Arona Daal says:

          Look to Windward is my Favorite so far ,as it highlights a wide Range of Actors,from an Orbital Mind down to a bioengineered Translator. And it had an pretty good Ending.

          • jasonisme84 says:

            Plus look to windward has the “close to Gods, but on the far side” quote, which is just awesome.

      • Carr0t says:

        Eh, I actually really liked Matter and Surface Detail, but as has already been said by others Excession is by far my favourite. That might simply be because it was the first one I read, however. Most of my friends cite Use of Weapons as their favourite, but I never found it that good. It’s good, but certainly not the best.

      • WMain00 says:

        Matter was a bit of a disaster really. The story didn’t really seem to go anywhere and the characters felt woefully 2 dimensional.

        Surface Detail was excellent though. It was really dark and cast a different light on The Culture.

        • Josh W says:

          I quite liked matter, it was obviously in the old school scifi “have fun with aliens” school, with all the layers and filling out of the culture universe. You can see a lot of the work populating the world that starts to pay off in surface detail, although if you want you can just read that and skip the homework.

          Both algebraist and matter deal in what it would be like to have layered alien civilisations, and both use that to play off scifi clichés and literary references. There’s a lot of background humour there, and the sort of fun that rpg builders have.

      • Nallen says:

        I loved some of the concepts of Matter but the story just sort of went along and went along and then finished. Nothing like reading Excession.

      • Yosharian says:

        A poor Iain Banks book is still a fucking great book.

        • Ravenholme says:

          I very much agree.

          And I loved The Algebraist, personally.

        • Premium User Badge

          Hypocee says:

          Exactly, any recommendation/ranking needs to be taken with the proviso that you’re probably going to have a fine time with any Iain Banks book.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lacero says:

        The Fractal Prince is out now too. Very good so far.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Hydrogen Sonata! And it’s quite good, so far. Matter was sort of meh, but I thought Surface Detail was decent. Obviously Use of Weapons / Excession are better, but nevertheless.

        I actually think his non-Culture space stuff is better. The Algebraist is good but I saw the “surprise” coming from the beginning of the book. Against A Dark Background might be his best.

        • Premium User Badge

          LordQ says:

          this just confirms it… reading RPS does increase your IQ, though references to Banks’ Culture may be a Grey Area for some ;) was that comment a bit too excess ;)

          • Josh W says:

            I think RPS is experiencing a severe gravitas shortage anyway, so it should be fine.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      I’ve had my doubts about Xenonauts for some time, but the last couple builds have really brought me around. I would dare say I am excited for it at this point. I still fear I may die of old age before it gets released but that is the risk we all take with Alpha funding.

      Retrocity is another one I had almost forgotten about. Tuesday is going to be like Christmas.

    • buzzmong says:

      Xenonauts will most definitely not be going beta any time soon. There’s quite a bit of work still to do.

      It’s a great game, but if you have a good gander at their forums, especially the threads “Road to beta” and the V15/Holiday threads, you’ll see there’s quite a bit that Goldhawk want to put in before they reckon it’ll be feature complete and therefore a beta.

    • AstaSyneri says:

      I can’t ever remember a game that for its launch day (Friday, for friggin’s sake :( ) I asked my wife to take the three kids and just “be elsewhere”. Of course I said so nicely.

      I can’t wait to start the game on Classic Ironman, with an AAR already prepared (at least the first few chapters – you can read it at xcomfanatics), only needing the names plugged in for now.

      I bought two copies of the game, just to make sure (fortunately the game is pre-loaded already, the PS3 copy may take a while to come in from the US – even with express shipment).

      Today, I looked at the upcoming games list and I found no game that would interest me compared to XCOM. So I expect this one to keep me really, really busy.

      RPS – it has been great following your coverage of this game, it was almost as much fun as playing the game will be.
      I

    • Premium User Badge

      Smashbox says:

      Also out tomorrow: New albums from Tame Impala and Black Moth Super Rainbow!

  2. John Connor says:

    The only thing that disappoints me is that every soldier, regardless of nationality, has the same accent. It would have been better if they had less nationalities (could easily just have the nations on the Council) and proper voices for them than 95,000 nationalities with all the same voice.

    PS. Anyone outside the US (aka the Land of Arbitrary Delays) who wants to play this tomorrow, Google Spotflux. And before you ask, no; unless you try to buy something using Spotflux, Steam won’t ban you.

    • Kimau says:

      Yeah even if they had the same number of voices in the game but each variant had a different nationality. It’s this kind of stream roller US mono-culture approach which damages gaming internationally.

      • Lemming says:

        Well, in previous XCOMs they had no voice at all so….you know. It could be worse. I guess if you wanted to make it ‘authentic’ you could just turn off the speech audio.

    • Premium User Badge

      Riaktion says:

      I must admit the lack of accents on the troops bugged me too when I played the demo, it is really obvious too with the big flag denoting where they are apparently from on the back of your troops. I really hope someone can sort that.. maybe find the international voice files as suggested, and then reduce the nationalities down to just those maybe? I dunno, I’m grasping at straws without know how much work any of that would be heh..

      But yeah.. mildly annoying that one… and a strange omission. I am guessing they think we’ll get over it… which I think I will, it doesn’t actually affect the game mechanics does it? So….

      The whole lack of free fire on terrain is mildly disappointing too.. I share Alec’s sentiments there, especially after Silent Storm. That said, again won’t be a big prob just a shame… although being able to target mind controlled Aliens would be a plus point.

      Who knows, maybe they can at least tweak that last one very easily in a patch… unless it would cause an unforeseen balance issue perhaps?

      If the other bits get added in somehow too… then that would be wonderful.

      • Premium User Badge

        Hypocee says:

        I’m inclined to call it at least half consolitis as well as budget and what-have-you. I was tight-focused on Brink’s development, and they made big, big sacrifices (e.g. a gender) to fit just eight voices, admittedly with more extensive bark trees, into their console versions. It seems ludicrous to us on PC, but you have to look at how much of a console’s piddling RAM allotment the decompressed audio takes up (because if you don’t cache it it could otherwise be pulling from an optical medium!)

      • sebmojo says:

        Free fire on terrain with unlimited ammunition would make wholesale demolition the optimal tactic once your guns got big enough. Which would be very dull.

        As it is it’s a difficult tradeoff – do you use your very limited explosive resource to take out aliens, or terrain?

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          So. About that whole unlimited ammunition/removal of clips and inventory management thing…

          I’m not gonna let that one go, sorry.

          • Kdansky says:

            They replaced the complete tedium of bullet-counting and clip micro-management with the tactical choice of reload timing.

            Which frankly, is two birds with one stone. Ammo limitations might be realistic and flavourful, but they never had actual strategic value in the first game, because you always had enough ammo.

    • mouton says:

      It is even more jarring when we remember we are speaking about Firaxis, who did record different national voices for their civs many times.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Only once actually, the Civ leaders never said a word before Civ V. And each has about 5 lines, so hardly as much as the soldiers in XCOM.

        Still, a definite disappointment, but a mild one, hardly a deal-breaker for me.

        • gritz says:

          In Civ 4, each unit had several bits of nation-specific dialogue.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Re Spotflux/VPN usage: Steam’s official position on this for early unlocking from outside the US ONLY is pretty vague, but their SSA suggests that it’s still a bannable offence. Whether or not they’d actually bother to ban you is another thing entirely.

      Anyone able to provide more concrete info on this?

      • John Connor says:

        I’ve been using VPNs to play games on Steam for ages and I haven’t been banned. There are no documented cases of people being banned for playing games via VPN. The only bans have been for buying games, and even then they usually don’t lose access to their games, just the store.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          That’s interesting, thanks. Obviously I’m hesitant because I don’t want to risk all my games, but what you’re saying seems to match the general consensus. Anyone else want to chime in?

          Edit: also (tech dumb question coming up), once the EU release date passes, can I then play without running, for example, Spotflux, and retain all my save games etc?

          • Iceman346 says:

            I have used a VPN service to unlock games earlier than the EU release multiple times (DNF, Kingdoms of Amalur, Skyrim, Borderlands 2 just to name a few titles of the top of my head) and so far I have no problems.

            Official policy still is that VPN usage is not permitted but as long as you don’t try to exploit it to get lower prices Valve does not seem to ban people.

            After unlocking the game you can also use offline mode. When the game is officially released just go back online and everything should be the way it was, savegames and all.

    • JackShandy says:

      If they have made versions of the game for other languages then it should be easy to mod. And we’ll get them speaking in their native tongue instead of accented English, too. Bonus.

    • hjarg says:

      Thanks for the Spotflux tip!
      Sure saved me few days of waiting and reading about the Americans enjoying it!
      XCOM tomorrow evening, here i come!

    • unangbangkay says:

      I hereby vow to start work on a “accents mod” for national-flavor and/or language VOs, once I figure out how mods work and if that sort of thing is even possible (since I think you can arbitrarily customize nationality, which would make it hard to say “this character uses THIS voice”).

      Also maybe a “scared voices” mod to replace some of the gung-ho voice clips with terrified voice clips (think “Set ‘em up knock ‘em down!” to “I-I think I got him!”).

      Who’s with me?!

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Will there also be an “uguahghaghsaglrbg Ahhhhnold” option?

        On a more serious note, I’ve always wanted to try out being a voice talent for shows, characters, games. Sadly no people that I know work in that area or would be willing to star an unknown and have a studio for the recording.

  3. Thirdstar says:

    I read the first few paragraphs and pretty much just stopped reading, because frankly all I really wanted confirmation about is that the game doesn’t suck. So thank you RPS for point 2 in that list.

    I’ll re-read maybe a day after the 12th so as not to spoil and mid or late game details.

    P.S. Curse you digital oceans, thou has surely cock-blocked me again.

    P.P.S. I could totally take Gerard Piqué, just saying.

    • Baines says:

      It’s kind of weird, but while the short version of the WIT is positive, the long version did a fair job of reducing my interest in the game.

      I don’t like pre-order DLC, or DLC that takes something that could easily have been put in the game for little or no extra cost (like alternate colors and skins, as seen here). But the comment really hits for XCOM because I *would* color-code my troops.

      Alec was fine despite his various “grumbles”, but it overall just makes me more cautious. Being cautious already kept me from pre-ordering, and at this point pretty much means I might as well wait longer to see what more players think, and if I’m already waiting then I might as well wait a few more months for a sale. (Christmas sales are only a couple of months away…)

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        Agreed completely, if perhaps for different reasons. While the WIT painted a rosy picture, I’d almost hazard to say the game portrayed has more in common with the great tactical RPGs of yore (Final Fantasy Tactics comes to mind, for example) than it does the X-Com I am currently playing.

        The more I read of the review, the more certain I was that XCOM was never intended for me. Fair enough, I probably represent a pretty small niche of gamers. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to support their efforts, I don’t have enough money to buy games that don’t tickle my fancies…

        Maybe on sale, maybe I’ll break down and buy it off GMG. But right now I’m less excited for it than I was the day the demo came out, and I was much less excited that day than the day previous to it. Such a bad demo, oh lord.

        Looking forward to seeing what the RPS hive thinks after a couple weeks, though.

  4. Sheng-ji says:

    I think this was a very fairly written review (from my perspective of not having played the game yet beyond the demo and the demo customisation mod).

    I think no matter what a persons preconception of this game is, they will get the information they need from it and it reflects well on both Alec and RPS in general.

    2 massive reviews on one day and only one or two accusations of corruption so far means you must be doing something right!

  5. xcopy says:

    Oh boy, I cannot wait! Set laser to: excited.

    Also: Staring eyes tag?

  6. President Weasel says:

    I’ll buy that for a dollar! Or £29.99, I think it was on Steam, since I just bought it after reading the first tenth or so of this gigantic wall o’ text.
    In a world where some people are saying “hey, we own this old ‘X-COM’ name, make a generic shooter and slap the name on it” and some other people are saying “hey, we have the rights to make an X-COM game, so let’s make a modern X-COM game that feels really X-COMmy” I believe it is my duty to give money to the latter, on day 1. If enough people do that, it might make publishers sit up and take notice. Or at least, it might help the career of the producer who tried to make a game that felt like X-COM.

    Or maybe it will achieve nothing at all, but I will still get to sit in my pants playing something that feels like X-COM when I should be going outside.

    • pelham.tovey says:

      I have the opposite view: the ‘XCOM 1960s Shooter’ was, by virtue of being mechanically unrelated to X-COM, completely liberated from any weight of nostalgia. It could have been (/yet be…) a uniquely stylish shooter evoking the mood of XCOM without having to borrow its form.
      Similarly, I’m primed to criticise Enemy Unknown because it seems that a talented bunch of people who genuinely care have made a…respectable near-miss. Neither game is ‘XCOM’ in a mechanical sense but only one of them is attempting to be a brain-stroking strategy game like the original, so every perceived shortcoming is magnified by the fact that UFO: Enemy Unknown is still a really engaging game even now!

      • JoeGuy says:

        Isn’t some of that criticism misplaced if the game isn’t just a carbon copy of the original with a 2012 paint job and a busty blonde in the front? You can judge it from an objective level, but at some point, people need to realize there is just a difference between being faithful in a modern reboot and being whole-hog copy and pasters. Some of those ‘failings’ are merely changes. I know I’d like a larger squad up to 8, for at least certain tailor made missions anyway, but that is objective taste, my taste; not a failing of the game. Because its a new game. There is a difference.

    • mckertis says:

      >> and some other people are saying “hey, we have the rights to make an X-COM game, so let’s make a modern X-COM game that feels really X-COMmy”

      Except its really not. Its pretty much Warhammer : The Board Game : The Video Game.
      They dont even model the shot trajectory, how more boardgame-ish can you get in a 2012 “tactics” title ?
      The trend of videogames of today being unable to replicate features of games 20 years ago continues.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Perhaps some people would replace “being unable to” with “finding it unneccesary to”.

        • Xardas Kane says:

          And not fun in any way. Sometimes less is more I’m told.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Come now, this isn’t a matter of necessity, it’s a design choice, a philosophy. I’d go so far as to argue it’s a design philosophy that is “trendy” or “in fashion” at the moment.

          Just like in boardgames, where there is sort of the old style of wargame design with hundreds of pages of rules and complex information management, and the new style of elegant minimalism with a single rule sheet and a handful of counters. They both result in fascinating, wonderful games, but the latter is definitely in vogue right now – whether that is in order to appeal to a wider market or because designers are genuinely excited for that philosophy isn’t really important.

          To me – and I wager, many of the others being labeled as blindly nostalgic – what is key to making X-Com so enthralling is the crushing weight of detail, and the rich tapestry of tension that these details weave. Removing free aim, as a specific example, does not make the game bad, but it makes the game different, focuses it on direct combat with enemies – streamlines, simplifies.

          Again, I don’t think it’s a worse game for the choice; but I’m quite confident that it’s a game I’m less interested in playing because of it..

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Hmm. Really interesting and well-put reply, thanks. Personally, I approve of streamlining existing ideas, and I was always crap at Warhammer anyway.

            I guess I might feel a bit more like you if I’d ever managed to get my copy of UFO to run…

  7. Kucd says:

    Xenonauts and this. Good time to be a XCOM enthusiast.

    Xenonauts is awesome though, it’s everything XCom of old was and improves in every area that needed improvement so if this game falls short for some of us there’s always Xenonauts which, I dare say, is 100% faithful to the originals.

    • mouton says:

      I played the demo and I haven’t seen how it improved, bar minor details like interception. It looked to me almost like a reskin of the old game, with even the tech tree being the same. As a sequel, I find TFTD and Apocalypse to be vastly superior to xenonauts.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Frankly, I would be perfectly happy if someone just took X-COM, fixed the bugs, and slapped a modern UI on it. No more 640×480 with buttons taking up half the screen.

        Beyond that, the fact that they’re adding more features is just a bonus.

        I’m still sad that they’re going for a rectangular map rather than a globe. Or more specifically, that they’re treating the world like a cylinder rather than a sphere, since you could still simulate correct earth geometry even on a flat map. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s the single glaring design flaw I’ve seen so far, and the one thing that makes the original better in that area.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Gerard Pique and Shakira? Really? How the blazes did that happen?

    • Moni says:

      1. Gerard Pique is handsome.
      2. Gerard Pique is charming.
      3. Gerard Pique is wealthy.
      4. Gerard Pique has a very good agent.

      • Premium User Badge

        lowprices says:

        I am curious what role Gerard Pique’s Agent plays in the courtship of Shakira.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lambchops says:

          Maybe it’s Agent 47? Perhaps Pique employed him to take out anyone with the temerity to suggest that Shakira’s hips do, in fact, occasionally utter untruths.

        • Baboonanza says:

          That a matter between Shakira and Pique. And Pique’s agent.

        • Moni says:

          i’m under the impression that footballers end up with the women they do because their publicists decide it would strengthen their brand.

          I might have read that somewhere, or it was from an episode of The Simpsons.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          You think celebrities just run into each other in bars? Or just like, call each other?

          No, they’re like, “hey agent, call her agent, see if she’s going to be at X celebrity event with anyone. And assess whether or not a relationship with her would be overall beneficial to my career, and assess whether I would be an acceptable asset to her career and her record company’s bottom line.”

          • MacTheGeek says:

            Hey, if you’re the kind of guy who pays attention to shapely bottom lines, Shakira’s assets are easy to assess.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lambchops says:

        A good agent, eh? I knew there was something I was missing!

      • Captain Joyless says:

        And he’s TEN YEARS her junior! It’s crazy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      They were brought together by their mutual love of Scrabble, obviously.

  9. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    I cannot wait! It is preloading on steam now.

  10. Randomer says:

    Wow. Looks like it has come a long way since the initial “60s and FBI agents” trailer. Glad they could bring it closer to the original and assuage some of the fans’ anxiety.

    • iucounu says:

      You’re confusing two different games. The 60s FBI game – an FPS – is still, apparently, in development (though recently it seems like they may be having problems.)

      • Nihilist says:

        Tactical Game beats First Person Shooter. I had to get old to see this again. Good times.

    • Thirdstar says:

      This comment is pinging my sarcasm meter but I’m still not sure about it.

  11. JoeGuy says:

    Very cool Alec, I knew we’d get tonnes of enthusiasm but all the appropriate caveats too.

    I was completely sure we’d be getting a great game after reading/watching all the coverage and and am really happy such a hie-hard like yourself feels there is only some niggles that you wished stayed or got ironed out.

    My 2 cents though, it’s a shame the Base View isn’t more catered to PC monitors/scrolling but I’m hopeful that’s just a case of demand leading to supply in a future patch and I’m fairly sure Jake said Interceptors reliance was a little nerfed because of the satellites so I’ll have to see how that works out.

    Well I’m off to read far less in-dept reviews and come back here in bit for the informed discussion I’m sure will brew soon enough.

    • mckertis says:

      “I knew we’d get tonnes of enthusiasm but all the appropriate caveats too. ”

      Yes, only somehow the caveats appeared AFTER people called them out on “omitting” all the negatives including crappy PC controls, and AFTER apologetic article.

      • Alec Meer says:

        Listen up, Captain Conspiracy Capitals, the reason we – and almost all game hacks – are very wary about twisting the knife too hard in preview coverage is that we’re playing unfinished code and can’t be at all sure that problems will persist in the release build. There can be and are huge changes between builds. Once the demo came out, it was fair game to worry about issues which were now clearly remaining and were concerning some people.

        Also, in a very real way, the stuff that caused people to go crazy apeshit simply did not make me go crazy apeshit, because I was having an awesome time playing the thing and I do not hate and fear existence.

        • Premium User Badge

          frymaster says:

          oh. I thought he was implying this WIT had been edited to add stuff after the fact. Who honestly expects comprehensive criticism from a non-comprehensive preview?

        • Captain Joyless says:

          I’m going to double-down on his conspiracy theory and point out that you also have strong motivation to be a productive generator of hype and interest in games, or else you wouldn’t get access to prerelease code (plus the cocaine and hookers you alluded to in a different thread.)

          That said, I don’t see anything wrong with that arrangement. Only those with a congenitally missing cynicism detector are getting fooled here.

      • sebmojo says:

        “Comments by Captain Joyless blocked by you”

        Are there any sweeter words in this world?

  12. battles_atlas says:

    I’m just interrupting my reading of this review to say how excited I am at the introduction of properly formatted footnotes to the RPS arsenal.

    • Premium User Badge

      Faldrath says:

      I really liked them as well. Good way to address some of the issues without disrupting the flow of the main text.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I, also, thought they were a good move. I’d be happy to see them in future articles.

    • nindustrial says:

      Seconded

    • LionsPhil says:

      I love the concept of a typographical arsenal. Rows and rows of em-dashes on racks, and the perilous experimental area with the perspex walls and clean-room suits where the interrobang is stored.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I’ve never liked footnotes. It’s disorienting to have to jump to the bottom and then re-find your place. Sure, I get you can click on the number, and hopefully pressing the back button on your browser will pull you to where you left the main body of text.

      Here’s the thing, though. Presumably you’re supposed to read each footnote when the number comes up – if you leave ‘em all to the end, you’ll have to grasp for the context that each point is addressing again. So if the contents of a given footnote are important enough to warrant inclusion, why make the readers jump through a hoop? As if just arranging all the words in the sequence they were intended to be read wasn’t the most elegant and intuitive solution? Why bring all this extra mouse manipulation, eye-ball swiveling, and general brain function into the equation?

      And anyway, aren’t they a holdover from writing on paper, when, reviewing the draft, you found you wanted to pen in an additional thought but didn’t have the physical space to put it where it belonged?

      At the very least I reckon RPS ought to take a leaf out of Grantland’s book. There’s a whole strip of charcoal side-bar to my right that these asides could be slipped into, and then at least the distance between footnote and parent-thought wouldn’t be so much of a distraction. Or perhaps little dialogue boxes that pop-up on mouse-over; those also work.

      Apologies for tone. This is supposed to be feedback, not a rant (I guess it’s both, though).

      • mike2R says:

        Bit late, but anyway.

        Middle click on the first footnote you come to, you now have the same page open in a new tab, but at the position of the footnote. Keep this tab open when you’ve done reading it and gone back to your place in the first tab. When the next footnote you come to, switch back to the footnote tab and read it. :)

        Now people who don’t hyperlink their footnotes… And especially people who don’t hyperlink their footnotes and split their article across multiple pages with the footnotes at the end of the last page…

  13. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    Seems like a good game, though with some changes I don’t like, mostly related to the strategic layer and the lack of free aim and, based on the demo, an obnoxious interface.

    Think I’ll give it a spin when it reaches a less preposterous price and with the DLC crap included.

    • Major Disaster says:

      In the UK You can get it for around £21 off Greenman Gaming (with code on the site) inc dlc + free copy of Civ5.

      They have issued the steam keys for preloading.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        Aye, but I’m stuck with GMG in Euro prices which bumps it to 50€ which is close to double.

        Edit: ignore this nonsense! While it’s still more expensive in Euro I forgot the code so that evens it out quite a lot.

        Still, I’ll wait anyways as I’m not home in the weekend and they chose to not actually release the game here in a timely manner. Same with Dishonored. Both games I want but no reason to buy them when I can’t play them.

      • Maritz says:

        oooh, thanks for that fella. That’s a good deal that I wasn’t aware of.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        I remembered that I have a 15% discount on GamersGate and I can access the UK shop there so it ended up at 50£ for this and Dishonored compared to 85€ which is about 35% less according to my estimate.

      • Lemming says:

        I believe the more expensive Steam pre-order version comes with Civ V as well, as it’s appeared in my games library. Bit annoying as I had no intention of buying it as I much prefer Civ IV: Bts, just the way it is.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          My GamersGate copy came with Civ 5 as well, though I already have it.

          • Blueberrypear says:

            I would love you were I to be the chosen recipient of such gift

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            I’m sorry to say that it’s already gone. :(

  14. jmtd says:

    I think my biggest concern will be the lack of variety with tactical mission maps, but I hope that will be partly rectified by DLC (so, I’m also hoping that there is some post release DLC more substantial than just colour coding your soldiers) and partially by modding. But the latter is really anyone’s guess. Is it a mod-friendly game? Will it attract a large enough PC audience?

    Either way, it’s on my Christmas list.

  15. kataras says:

    Goddamit, how am I supposed to do anything productive this week…? Half will be spent anticipating, half playing XCOM and DIshonoured all the time.

  16. Nihilist says:

    A little bit early and I haven’t even played more than the demo, but I would pay golden pieces of…gold for a classic PC Addon including a slightly revised PC control scheme (free aiming and such), random maps, all the right accents and a big pink bow around it. Yes, I would do that.

  17. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    “XCOM is more like X-COM than any game save Terror For the Deep has ever been”
    Aw, everyone has it in for Apocalypse.

    But a great read, and a compelling write up nonetheless. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Apocalypse is great! But XCOM is more like X-COM than Apocalypse is.

      • kyrieee says:

        Isn’t it Terror From the Deep and not for?

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Eh, Apocalypse did have time units – it’s just that nobody used them.

        The big change is obviously the Geoscape vs city-mode. But everything tactical, Apocalypse is vastly more like original X-COM than this XCOM is.

        Cmon, classes? Can’t customize load-out? No final assault on the alien stronghold?

    • Premium User Badge

      Makariel says:

      I liked Apocalypse when I played it. But I only played through once, unlike Enemy Unknown and Terror from the Deep, which I played over and over and over. There was just something about that game that never quite excited me the way the other two did.

      • mouton says:

        I played it a few times. The environments were much richer than in previous two games and I had insane fun burning huge shiny corporate complexes to the ground. And, uh, lose all their funding in the process. Unless they were already alien-controlled – in that case, LOAD INCENDIARY.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          I tend to raid Cult of Sirius and the slums a lot for drugs and guns and then sell them for sweet, sweet profit.

          But the Senate has been blown up plenty of times as well.

          • clive dunn says:

            Haha me too. I ended up feeling bad for the Cult of Sirius, I would just raid them for fun, felt a bit like bullying. I remember towards the end just sending a couple of very tooled up guys to turn them over.
            I loved X-com Apoc more than all the rest. Thought the AI was good, the game felt streamlined and a more accurate representation of Gollops vision. I’m bewildered by people describing it as a failure.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            Yea, they had it rough. And they were always the least alien infiltrated organization in the damn city due to having basically no time to order new furniture before I was lobbing new incendiaries at them.

    • zaphod42 says:

      Apocalypse is fun, but IMO the new xcom and xenonauts are both more xcom games than apocalypse was.

      I mean, most people play apocalypse in real time, right? Its just SO different.

      Whereas TFTD was really more of an expansion pack than a sequel, TFTD is practically just MORE of the original, its unarguably the same experience.

      • mouton says:

        I played Apocalypse turn-based. Why would I do it any other way? I only switched to real-time in certain circumstances, but it usually felt like cheating.

        And, having played Xenonauts demo, I prefer some evolution in my games. Xenonauts is basically X-COM reskin and I’d rather play something slightly more fresh.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          Real time mode WAS sort of cheating. It immediately made the best tactic “firing squad” – block off entire corridors with shoulder-to-shoulder agents. Two rows of agents (front row kneeling) if you have enough.

          Then make a bunch of noise or otherwise lure agents into your firing squad. The game would also scout with facehuggers, and you wanted to kill those asap anyway. Best with firing squad, especially early when there was no good way to stop them.

          Overall, turn-based was superior.

  18. derbefrier says:

    Damnit I just bought Dishonored yesterday now I have to buy this. Thats it, I need a vacation. I still have barely scratched the surface of Borderlands 2. Too many video games not enough time in the day..

    • JoeGuy says:

      …and Far Cry 3 is looking better and better from what I’ve seen. I wish study schedules, the whole social life thing and exams would take account of our anticipated games releases :(

  19. Frank says:

    Yes: do want free aim.

  20. Low Life says:

    I hate you Alec, you didn’t make my decision over next weekend’s game any easier. Dishonored or XCOM, XCOM or Dishonored.. Damn you, first world, with your silly problems.

  21. DeFrank says:

    Gerard Piqué is OP

  22. Baardago says:

    … Shakira, Alec?

    … really?

  23. wotsit says:

    “In these confusing times where nostalgia threatens to overcome the desire for new experiences, I’m entirely glad of that. XCOM is a true 2012 game, not a 1993 game awkwardly wearing 2012 clothing. ”

    You know, I enjoyed John’s opinion piece about the problems with nostalgia that he believed were driving the current slew of Kickstarter projects, but here you’re using that opinion piece as an automatic assumption to support a dodgy narrative in which the brave defenders of innovation are genuinely threatened by the overwhelming hordes of ‘nostalgia’-driven games (which isn’t true, obviously) and need to be applauded simply for making the effort in the first place.

    There’s a danger of ‘nostalgia’ becoming a hand-wringing state-of-the-industry cliche (pace, entitlement) if you over-use it like that, a frame-of-reference that ends up clouding the issue of the actual benefits, problems, and suitability of a developer making big alterations to a franchise or genre’s core concepts, because you’re too busy worrying about the basically modish question of whether it counts as a ‘proper’ modern game or if it’s guilty of looking back at ideas that were popular in the past but have since gone out of vogue.

    Onward doesn’t always mean forward; I suppose I feel a bit as if you’d represent the game better by not getting tied into knots about whether a game is up-to-date with the current direction of the industry or not.

    • Nihilist says:

      Nostalgia or no Nostalgia, really, what does it matter? What counts are games that are fun to play. After all these articles about XCOM I have no doubt, that this is a game that’s fun to play.

      • zaphod42 says:

        That was entirely wotsit’s point though, that games are fun or they aren’t, and we shouldn’t just put them down for being old fashioned / nostalgic or not old fashioned, we should judge them as neutrally as possible.

    • Alec Meer says:

      But in the context of a remake of XCOM, nostalgia was an enormous, unavoidable issue.

      • Premium User Badge

        Continuity says:

        Unavoidable issue but not an automatic problem. Sometimes old design is better than new design, thats something that all this “nostalgia” wailing seems to ignore.

      • wotsit says:

        I guess I’d argue that an in-depth comparison with the original much-beloved game(s) is definitely massive and unavoidable (complete with analysis of the various changes and updates and omissions, whether they’re justified, whether they’re in the spirit of the original, even whether they evolve beyond problems with the original that are ignored or dismissed by die-hard fans) but that invoking this larger issue of nostalgia (and all of the associated baggage from John’s article about whether or not it ends up holding gaming back or causing stagnation) merely as a piece of easy assumptive shorthand isn’t, and that it even actively hurts the criticism, since it suggests the critic isn’t judging all of said changes as neutrally as possible, going primarily by how they work as part of the game (or if you prefer, yeah, how much fun the final product is), etc, but is viewing them according to a value-system that’s automatically inclined to praise new games for being ‘true 2012 games’ with a particular modern, forward-looking (and, logically speaking, a mainstream) sensibility. It becomes an explicitly Walkerist reading of the game, if you like, rather than a review that’s disinterested and focused on the thing itself as much as is humanly possible.

        A lot of words – a lot of parentheses – for a basically minor and simple issue, but yeah.

    • Zael says:

      I think the discussion over nostalgia threatening innovation is pretty apt here. I’ve been pretty interested in every thing Jake Solomon has said because it’s clear that he’s a big fan of the original and he’s put a lot of thought into why changes were made to it in his new game. Listening to the Three Moves Ahead podcast, you can really see that Jake has tried all of the mechanics of the old XCOM while creating X-COM and for each mechanic they took out (squad-size, one base, free aim) he has an explanation. Whether or not you agree with the explanation is up to you, but the fact that he’s thought about it before making a decision is heartening (especially since it’s clear that some of the things they removed has pained him somewhat).

      But then approaching it from the other side. When people who are unhappy with the changes comment, I see none of the same level of thought put into their criticisms. All we get is “They took out x, therefore it sucks”. I think it’s that nostalgia filled drivel that Alec and John are talking about here. A concise argument about why, say, 16 man squads > 6 man squads is perfectly fine, but just throwing your toys out of the pram because a mechanic isn’t exactly the same is childish and warrants as much thought as was put into the comment originally.

      • Premium User Badge

        Faldrath says:

        Yes, the thing about nostalgia isn’t that nostalgia is bad per se. There’s nothing wrong with cherishing the past. It becomes a problem when we get so fixated in the past that we forget to see the present; alternatively, it becomes a problem when it makes us endeavor to build the future as the past we loved and wish we could recapture – that’s a fool’s errand.

      • pelham.tovey says:

        Hang on, let’s not start conflating change with innovation and reiteration with stagnation, even John’s article didn’t do that. Change for change’s sake can be a homogenising force that rejects old ideas out of hand because they don’t meet today’s demographics; and reiteration can be a diversifying force by stubbornly holding onto outmoded but uncommon ideas. Firaxis are undeniably exploiting nostalgia in order to generate market awareness and that is the problem: trading on a name, an image, a fond memory in order to tease money out of your audience (viz. Kickstarter). I sincerely believe this game was designed to be as engaging as possible, but let’s not ignore for a moment that had this been titled ‘Sid Meier’s Squad Shooter HD’ and Firaxis had some faith in their audience, this discussion wouldn’t be happening.

        • Zael says:

          No the name isn’t just there to bring in XCOM fans. The name is there because this game is very clearly an XCOM game. Removing time units and reducing squad sizes are changes, but they’re not big enough to remove the game entirely from the original. They’re perfectly entitled to call this game X-COM, because that’s what it is.

  24. Ubik2000 says:

    Hard as it is for me to justify paying full price for a PC game with the holiday Steam sales mere weeks away, I may crack for this. Amazon has it up for pre-order (for a few more hours, presumably) with a $15 dollar credit, which helps. It comes with the squad customizer and special edition stuff too.

    My question: does a retail copy register on Steam?

    • jonfitt says:

      It does, but consider this. The $15 dollar credit only makes it the same price as the Amazon digital copy. Also while the Amazon digital copy is $5 cheaper than Steam, Amazon may well charge you the legally due sales tax, which wipes out most of the difference.
      So for ~$1.50 you get the TF2 items. Up to you.

  25. Pod says:

    Alex, please email Gaben and ask him why he allows publishers to do such silly delaying. Why not just release today? Sod the brick and mortar stores.

    Unless they’re using those 4 days to record different nation voices…

  26. Lowbrow says:

    Has Alex been reading Infinite Jest? Never expected an Xcom review to channel DFW.

  27. HothMonster says:

    With you reviewing this and Adam doing dishonored, I really have to wonder what sweet sweet pre-release code Jim got his hands on. …It’s hotline miami isn’t it?

  28. Iconik says:

    I’m so happy this is out. Got so, so tired of hearing about it, reading about it, and looking at it on this site for MONTHS.

    We can move on now, right?

    And let’s leave political commentary out of my video games.

  29. Buemba says:

    Sounds awesome and I doubt I’ll manage to go through the day without pre-ordering it, but this part worries me a bit:

    “Where X-COM’s turn-based ground missions were hide and seek, an often frightening hunt for murderous lurkers concealing themselves across dense environments, XCOM’s are more like a war. Unlike those desperate, chilling hunts across cornfields and through barns in X-COM, in XCOM where the aliens are is rarely in question. Their precise location is unknown and of course ever-changing, but their approximate position tends to be self-evident. ”

    For me horror was the defining characteristic of X-COM, and most likely the reason why I never got into most X-COM esque games like Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. Catching small glimpses of the enemies just outside your field of view or hearing them in the dark in the original game was genuinely frightening.

    • Lowbrow says:

      You should listen to the 3 Moves Ahead Xcom podcast. He goes over why they made the decision to move away from the pure terror of the earlier game’s combat.

  30. zaphod42 says:

    I’m really excited for this, I’m the biggest XCOM fan ever. I pre-ordered the day it was available.

    Hrm, No free aim? Only 1 alien base?!?! No Cydonia?!

    Okay, that’s HUGELY dissapointing. :(

    But… I got over no time units, and no inventory… I guess maybe I’ll learn to accept this too.

    If not, I already bought Xenonauts :)

    • clive dunn says:

      I can see Cydonia being a DLC. Similar to Apocalypse, it’ll be a multi base romp across Mars. Well, that’s what I’d do if I were Firaxis.

  31. Zenicetus says:

    Overall, a good WIT (and the footnotes are great!). However, since this is supposed to be a PC-focused gaming site, it was disappointing not to hear more about whatever continuing wobbliness is in the PC version of the user interface, aside from that glancing mention.

    For example, does the final release have the same inconsistency in single vs. double clicks on control icons? Can we single click for Next Turn now? Also, for a more old-school approach, how well does the game play if all the camera-swinging views are disabled to remain in top-down view? Do we get enough tactical info that way, or is it required to swing down into the VATS-alike view to get all the info on chance to hit, alien HP remaining, and so on?

    Regarding Free Aim… I’ll miss that, as a tactic for opening holes in walls. But as long as there are enough other tactical options, as well as just taking advantage of whatever destruction is caused at random, I don’t think it’s game-breaking. I also don’t think it would be a good idea to add it via mods, if that’s even possible. The problem is the alien AI. If the aliens don’t know how to use free aim because it isn’t part of the original game engine, then it just becomes a player exploit that would make things easier.

  32. hosndosn says:

    “new explorations”

    Where are they, though? I’d happily sacrifice my time units, inventory management, base invasions and 12 gazillion other little things they removed, if they replaced it with something substantial and deep. But even in the most apologetic descriptions, all I see are cosmetic additions. More animations, easier access for stupid impatient new players… But what new is there in terms of depth? There’s a multiplayer… which is cool and all but in the end could only really fix AI (by having human players), which doesn’t even seem to be a problem of the singleplayer.

    This is my problem with the game. Having the phrase “afraid of change” thrown at me when, in fact, I kinda feel the opposite. XCOM merely jumped the lowest hurdle for way-late sequels (which, sadly, is quite an accomplishment). But that doesn’t make it quite the perfect-score-getting gem reviewers are making it out to be.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I must agree very strongly with this. I don’t see a whole lot of new ground being covered by this game, or innovation of any kind. Can someone point out what I’m missing?

      What I do see is certain elements of the X-Com formula (namely the squad management and combat) being focused on and put center stage, and an overhaul of the game design philosophy to better match the modern board game-informed school of thought (streamlined rules, elegant design, focused subject matter, broader abstraction). That in and of itself is a valid goal, but not an especially ambitious one.

      • JackShandy says:

        Modern board game-informed school of thought?

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          I’m sorry, I didn’t put those words together very carefully, did I?

          What I’m referring to is the inarguable charm of recent tabletop games like Small World, Carcassonne, Agricola, etc. I talk about the “modern style of board game” because it seems to me that, in contrast with the board games of my youth, these games favor abstract concepts to allow simple, clear rules. (Obviously there have always been simple board games, and I need a better set of terms here – “minimalist German school”? “Rio Grande style”?)

          Further, I often seem to hear video game designers talking about these sorts of board games with great fondness, or discussing how they create board games on the side as design exercises.

          Now, put one and two together, and I have this sense that one branch of game design (which happens to include many AAA designers) is very interested in studying and emulating this style of highly abstract, minimalist game logic; these games are clever, accessible, and fresh, after all. We are even seeing video games which are just virtual tabletop games, with graphics representing tokens and cardboard standups and dice.

          To the point, in a game like XCOM, I don’t think they’re “dumbing the game down” so much as they are genuinely fascinated by the design aesthetic of these modern board games, leading to abstractions such as “choose to help Miami or Paris” and “choose one of these special abilities”. In contrast I would place X-Com on the branch of game design growing out of the simulation-heavy wargames of the 80’s (such as BattleTech and Star Fleet Battles, with their detailed information tracking and sprawling rules).

          Does that make any sense? Am I making shit up? Who knows.

          • JackShandy says:

            Yeah, I agree. I think videogame designers have always been inspired by tabletop games (look at the influence D&D had), but I only just got into board games a few years back, so it feels almost like a new movement to me as well.

    • saginatio says:

      IMHO, if you consider only tactical turn based computer games, then
      1) a few (2 in this case) actions during a turn, in place of TU
      2) “active skill” based development of characters, in place of stat increase
      3) focus on destructible cover, in order to force high dynamism instead of “entrenching”
      are pretty innovative. I would say that those features are not making it worse or better, they just make it different.
      Though, lack of manual-aim is a great loss.

    • MentatYP says:

      But what new is there in terms of depth?

      Not being able to play the game for another few hours when it finally unlocks means I can’t say from personal experience, but from what I’ve read the soldier abilities open up a whole new level of strategy. Different mission types will require different combinations of soldiers because of the abilities you selected for each of them. Soldiers have much more interesting specializations beyond just accuracy and psi ability, which should make for a more thoughtful approach to loading up the Skyranger.

      The fact that you have to take aliens back alive to salvage weapons as well as interrogation adds another element of challenge not present in the original game. Sounds like you’ll need to be more strategic in deciding what to build as well since supplies are harder to come by.

      Initially I was very concerned about the squad size reduction, but the more I read the more I understand what they’re trying to do–reduce the tedium of combing a map with 14 soldiers. I agree that that aspect of the original game got to be very tedious at times, so I can see how this could be a very welcome change. I’ll reserve judgment on the success of this attempt as well as other modifications until I get my hands on the game, but I believe the changes have managed to both streamline and expand the experience at the same time albeit in different areas.

      Still can’t get over the lack of base defense missions though. That, one mission at a time, and no free aim are big blows IMO.

  33. flowsnake says:

    Start on normal difficulty, just to learn the changed ropes. Then, for heaven’s sake, change to Classic and Iron Man mode.

    Does this mean you can change the difficulty during a game without restarting?

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, but the downside of that is that if you’ve managed to rank up a few soldiers and research more stuff without too much issue on Normal, you could be said to have an unfair advantage if you then switch up to Classic. Best to start afresh, really.

  34. buzzmong says:

    Sounds like it’s worth a play, I’ll wait for it to drop in price though as I think a number of the criticisms will grate badly with me as it stands, but I’ll keep abreast of the patch notes to see what happens. Firaxis tend to be pretty good at post launch support and fixing things.

    That, and if I wait long enough, I’ll be able to get the probable Gotee or Gold edition with most if not all the inevitable DLC.

  35. Robin says:

    Dear Mr. Julian Gollop,

    please (resurrect Mythos Games and) make a new X-COM game, because you’re the only one who gets it.

    Thanks.

    A desperate fan(boy)

    P.S.
    Apocalypse is way more “X-COM” than XCOM. And as of today it is still the only game that tries to meaningfully expand the formula in all its aspects.

    • Lemming says:

      Well, let’s just say Apocalypse divides opinion, because regardless how this version turns out, XCOM died after TFTD for me. I hated Apocalypse.

      My friend bought it and we excitedly installing it, ran it and the smiles turned to frowns, then turned to ‘meh’ very quickly. Everything looks made of plasticine and I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on to start with, which just goes to show how much they changed it. I didn’t want to play in a futuristic city, I wanted the old near future/present day setting and design with a shinier engine. In short, I wanted what this seems to be providing far more than Apocalypse did.

      • Robin says:

        You just hated the setting and the tone (aka the graphics) and stopped watching at that point, because Apocalypse has the same game design philospy and fundamental mechanics of UFO. This game on the other hand doesn’t.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          That may be, but is of little help if you already turned away in disgust. Even the best of ideas need to be actually playable / enjoyably playable.

          I, too, thought that Enemy Unknown and TFTD were/are the only 2 true X-COM games.

  36. karthink says:

    All of us keeping track of this game know the mechanical differences between it and X-COM: No time units, soldier classes and reduced soldier count, etc. None of this really concerned me, I was more interested in whether the game captures the feel of X-COM, this mixture of dread and control and helplessness and power. On those lines, this here is something I’ve not seen mentioned before:

    “Where X-COM’s turn-based ground missions were hide and seek, an often frightening hunt for murderous lurkers concealing themselves across dense environments, XCOM’s are more like a war… It’s a game about slowly moving your frontline forwards.”

    On the ground, the dynamic of the game is apparently completely different. The rest of the review reinforces that it is immensely enjoyable, but plays very differently from X-COM. Which is fine, we already have X-COM (and will have Xenonauts). So it’s great that XCOM is brilliant while being its own thing.

  37. Sidewinder says:

    Well, I guess we’ll all find out how much we like it soon enough. But there’s one question I have yet to hear answered- though I suppose it’s possible I just missed it in the flood of information we’ve been given: why did they drop the hyphen? I seriously doubt the reason is even close to important, but still- why?

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I think the people making the 1950’s style shooter have the licence for the name.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Good question. The answer is, they didn’t. The line that goes through the middle of COM is the hyphen. They wanted to still have it but also make this version distinguishable. Or something like that

      • horus_lupercal says:

        That’s it Sanguine.

        2K Marin are making the shooter and they’re part of 2K which has made this reimagining.

  38. Laurentius says:

    I for long thought how big disservice is to call this abomination as a UFO remake, but after playing demo and reading WIT, not any more. These game have almost nothing in common except major theme and turn based combat. X-Com tactical combat, well I already knew how artificial and nonsensical (tailored for multiplayer mode) it will be in comparison to 18 years old game but how about strategic layer? Actually this is no more. Players don’t fight alien invasions with their resources; it’s more like Starcraft 2 with randomized missions. Right now, your “genius” scientists can tell you upfront exactly how long it will take to discover alien tech! , why bother discovering it since they seem to know it already?, oh and only one discovery at time? , so your are not that genius? No more fighting alien scouts, research ships, base supply or even retaliation against your base, just semi linear, incoherent, story driven line of missions. It’s so dumbed down that even mentions of UFO in this WIT seems unfair.

    • iucounu says:

      I’m going to go ahead and trust the recommendation of the UFO superfan who has actually played through the game.

      • Laurentius says:

        Yeah, superfan who in the end actually didn’t like 90% of its features and is happy to see them go with nothing to replace them, because that’s what X-Com is.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      So what you’re saying is that fans of the originals who like this are wrong and/or stupid. Good to know.

      • Laurentius says:

        No, I am just saying these games have almost nothing in common, I liked Starcraft2 and I certainly like Master of Orion2, both have aliens and space ships but the first one isn’t remake of the latter.

        • horus_lupercal says:

          Almost nothing in common you say? Well let’s see what they kept –

          Turn based combat – check
          Resource Management – Check
          Base Building – Check
          Permadeath – Check
          Destructible environments – Check
          The need to stun aliens to further the game – Check
          Research – Check
          Manufacturing items – Check
          The same enemies – Check with proviso (No Reaper or Silicoid but there are new aliens)

          I’m not saying the game is perfect because i haven’t played it, neither have you, and no game is perfect but to claim it has nothing in common with the original is hyperbole.

          “Interceptions are random and artificial, there isn’t anything like UFO”

          Let’s see… your satellites, or base radar, detect a UFO if it appears in your radius so you dispatch an interceptor to hopefully shoot it down. Sounds like the original to me. In regard to yuor comments of an alien strategy in the original I’d be interested to know how many hours you’ve put in to know that you won’t detect supply ships heading to the alien base.

          There are some valid concerns about the game but there were flaws in the original too.

          • Laurentius says:

            Your list is rather nonsensical because you could make similar list to prove that Starcraft2 and Master of Orion 2 have a lot in common but fact is that mechanic behind these code words is completely different here and there.

    • Tomn says:

      Are you, uh, entirely aware that the strategic layer as presented in the demo is not actually representative of how the strategic layer works out in the full game? Did you even read this review, where RPS talks about shooting down UFOs and sending out transports like the good old days?

      Also, the idea that the game was “tailored for multiplayer mode” seems kinda silly. I’ve been checking out the game casually and was until now only vaguely aware that MAYBE there’s a multiplayer mode – almost all the words I’ve read are discussing stuff in the single-player mode, which doesn’t seem in line with the idea that multiplayer dominated design.

      P’raps you should actually play the entire game before declaring that you know all there is to know about it? Though who knows, maybe you’ll start up a fascinating new craze of reviewing games based solely on their demos, which ought to have some pretty funny results.

      • Laurentius says:

        Did you read WIT ? Interceptions are random and artificial, there isn’t anything like UFO with alien strategy behind their movements , where you could track alien, see them setting up bases, disrupt their supply ships, or even when they discover your base you could shoot down their incoming Battleship to prevent your base being attacked. If you destroy terror ship on its mission terror mission wouldn’t trigger

      • Tomn says:

        Would you mind pointing out where exactly in the article it says that interceptions are “random and artificial”? The most he says is that they’re oddly infrequent, and that there’s only one base assault. Granted, the fact that there’s only one base assault suggests that if there is a background strategic layer, it operates differently from the original’s model. Yet this doesn’t by itself preclude the possibility of a strategic layer operating on different rules, so how exactly are you backing up your statements? You seem to be making some rather wild assumptions on the basis of very little information here.

        • Laurentius says:

          In no coverage of X-COM (here on RPS and other places), these strategic layer is ever mentioned, because it is actually non existent. Intercepting mission is just another mission that game holds in its mission line, that is randomly rotated and trigger when some perquisites are met (satellites and interceptors). You don’t believe me, fine but game mission structure is something very similar to Warhammer 40k and very distant from UFO.

        • Tomn says:

          No, seriously, where are you getting your information? You’re claiming as a positive fact that there isn’t any kind of strategic layer and that it’s all binary choices – where are you getting this info? Specifically, what is your proof of this – “Intercepting mission is just another mission that game holds in its mission line, that is randomly rotated and trigger when some perquisites are met (satellites and interceptors).”? I have literally not run across anything that even suggests that, and in fact text both in this WIT and elsewhere suggests that ISN’T how it works, so what do you have backing up that statement other than belief?

          [CITATION NEEDED]

          Edit: Like, a quote and a link. Don’t just throw statements at me.

  39. RegisteredUser says:

    What if I just want her butty, er, body?

    *wonders if the choice of “navel-gazing” terminology had anything to do with the girl’s frequent wardrobe selections*

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I suspect that’s what Pique’d his attention. :)

  40. RegisteredUser says:

    I hope they get a good and big flood of complaints about false promises regarding making a PC game.

    Not having free-aim and getting a console interface despite over 9000 interviews ensuring that they KNOW the PC people are anxious not to be treated as second class citizens AGAIN (on the remake of one of THE biggest gifts to gaming, no less, born on the very PC platform) is just the kind of well-f*ck-you-we-really-don’t-care-no-matter-how-much-we-lie-about-it that makes me want to never hand out a cent to these kind of game developers ever again.

    That’s how I feel about “what a shame” vs “no sale”.
    Getting constantly faked out and then kicked in the groin becomes really, really, REALLY god damn old at some point.
    The PC has become the Charlie Brown of ye olde Lucy football punt.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      This complaint is one I’ll never understand. The PC version of the game is comfortably the best one, which even console reviewers have said. It also has a separate interface. Free aim is not enabled on consoles but mysteriously missing from the PC version. These are facts. You can argue that the PC interface is not sufficiently adapted to the platform, because that is a matter of opinion. You can’t argue that the interface is demonstrably different from the console release, because there are differences.

      If those differences are not sufficient for you, fair enough, but your complaint seems to be that Firaxis “lied” because the game is designed with consoles and PC in mind, when that has never been in doubt. You are not asking to not get treated as a second-class citzen, but rather for console players to get treated as second-class citizens. Which they arguably are, given that the PC version looks better and has more features. But because those features are cosmetic and do not actively tip the game’s balance in favor of PC players, you’re saying PC players are treated as “second-class citizens?”

      It seems to me that what you want from the PC version is for it to be a different – and, in your opinion, better – game than it is on consoles. That’s not equality, that’s preferential treatment. The game is what it is. You can like it or not like it. But the idea that PC players have somehow suffered in comparison to console players because PC players did not get a version of the game that makes console players weep with envy at our free-aiming, time-unit-and-sixteen-man-squad-having ways is, I think, ridiculous. That Firaxis “lied” or was in any way “deceptive” because it did not provide these things is downright idiotic.

      And, to be clear, I think things like mod support on release and larger squads and blah would have been grand. But I don’t want my version of the game to be substantially better than the version console players get on a core mechanical level, because that’s unfair to them. Personally, I could even do without the cosmetic tweaks; those are just a nice bonus. There’s a difference between a PC version of a multiplatform game and a game made specifically for the PC. This was always going to be the former. We knew that almost from the moment the game was announced. Where’s the dishonesty?

      • RegisteredUser says:

        ” That’s not equality, that’s preferential treatment. ”

        This is what you don’t understand: Although I don’t care what happens to other versions, as I don’t own that hardware, what SHOULD be done is that you make the game for _each_ platform.
        Back when, this meant you took a “high-end” arcade cartridge game with many many megabytes of sprites, and then you looked at what you had to chop off and convert down to fit it on a SNES cartridge. Maybe a level was left out, animation steps, etc. But the original existed on the strongest piece of hardware, and without anything being “less”.

        What I want now, is that if you have a 2012 environment on PC, you should develop for that. Including UI design, fidelity, etc. If you also want to sell it on consoles? You have to take their specs and optimize to them, and make sure you cram as much in as you can, and suit the interface to that.

        That’s not preferential, that’s adaptive, and that is actually how it should be done: ideal for the given environment. (And as for the “but thats so much more work and effort” jack-in-the-box: from what I’ve seen a lot of development starts with a far higher fidelity standpoint to begin with when modeling textures, models, artwort, sound, etc, and then is converted “down”(poly count, resolution, compressed or not etc). With that logic you may have to adjust targets to more than 1, but you could fairly easily do so.)

        Keeping the PC at a level of 5-8 years ago and forcing interfaces on you that aren’t “born” on the PC, at times not even in the slightest changed from what was supposed to be for an entirely different device SHOULD make _anyone_ angry and it SHOULD lead to loud demands that if you own and bought a PC, you want the games marketed to you be FOR the PC.
        Because whether they also exist for 50 other things or not, YOU own a PC and you want a PC game.
        That’s the deal: you accept to actually pay in time/money units and they actually offer a product for YOU.
        Not something they hit long enough with a hammer to make the square console peg fit into the round PC or w/e.

  41. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    a bit rough around the edges and caught between two stools

    Was I really the only one in this comment thread childish enough to giggle at that? :/

    More relevantly: god I wish I had money right now :( even a demo more anaemic than a Quinns strategy game made me want want want.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      SOunds like an 11 word summary of “the binding of Isaac’

  42. wodin says:

    I’m more excited by what modders will do, aslong as it is moddable.

  43. popej says:

    “5 My preferred sniper would for some reason almost always miss a shot with 95% hit chance. This made me very cross indeed. But when, in the late game, with her plasma sniper rifle and upgraded SCOPE, she did hit with the sniper-standard Headshot ability, it would usually crit and thus insta-kill – activating her upgrade that then allowed her to take a second shot. Sometimes, this would roll to a third. She became incredible at thinning enemy ranks without having even left her starting position. Just so long as that first shot hit.”

    Arrgh this is annoying and harks back to Civ IV when you’d get (for example) a 50% chance for your stack to win a fight but you’d still lose it about 10 times in a row before getting lucky with a re-load/roll.

    Also, no ‘free aim’. You’re shitting me!?

    Bloody Firaxis!

    Game sounds awesome, I’m physically drooling now.

  44. warci says:

    Wow rps, you guys are really losing it. First an article complaining kickstarter projects are recycled old game styles expanded upon and now you’re praising the pants of X-com light? This ‘highly streamlined’ (aka: dumbed-down, console-ised, simpler, casualised,…) remake of a 10 year old fondly remembered classic is everything that’s wrong with gaming these days, and something this site often laments!!! I know you guys want to stay good friends with fireaxis, but seriously: journalistic integrity on a gaming site is indeed a rare thing.

    • Alec Meer says:

      You’d get me such a great score in Bitter Internet Comment Bingo.

    • derbefrier says:

      Is it me or is it impossible for a gaming journalist to enjoy a game without being accused of being corrupt anymore. It seems like every single review no matter what site there’s always some douche making these accusations simply because he disagrees with the journalists opinion.

      • Alec Meer says:

        Interestingly, there’s an equally ferocious accusation made if we don’t like something as much as the commenter does – that we have some manner of vendetta against the game company, or they haven’t bribed us like all the companies apparently have. Hilariously, in near-adjacent Diablo III articles we had people accusing us of corruption because we also had D3 ads and for irrationally hating Blizzard because we said we didn’t like the story and DRM.

        There’s a subset of commenters who can apparently only think in absolutes, and seem to think we/critics think and behave similarly. So if we’re not overwhelmingly down on something they have issues with, regardless of what gripes we’ve also made, there must be A Sinister Reason for it, and the same if we’re down on something they love. The concept of enjoying something despite flaws or not enjoying something despite successes isn’t conceivable to them.

        I can’t imagine it’s much fun living a life so defensive and so filled with suspicion, but perhaps they get something fulfilling out of the conflict and resentment that I can’t conceive of myself.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          On plenty of occaisions I’ve seen a reviewer accused of being both in bed with the publisher and biased against them in the comments section of the same article. It’s almost as if rabid fan-boys/haters aren’t forming coherant well thought-out arguments.

        • Premium User Badge

          ts061282 says:

          a life so defensive and so filled with suspicion, but perhaps they get something fulfilling out of the conflict

          Yeah. It’s called objective truth.

          Journalism should be more science than art, although you wouldn’t know it reading RPS the last year.

          ..and I think that’s BINGO.

          • iucounu says:

            Please give an account of ‘objective truth’ as it pertains to the hitherto stubbornly subjective occupation of conveying your personal experience of a game?

            It’s impossible to ‘objectively review’ something. You choose to mention x, you choose not to mention y. There’s no such thing as ‘objective journalism’. You choose to report x, you put it on the front page or the top of the headlines – you make editorial decisions and value judgements all the time, unavoidably. Reasonable people can disagree about those.

            20-odd years ago I used to read Zzap!64. God, I loved it. A typical Zzap!64 review consisted of a page describing, with as much objectivity as possible, the plot and gameplay. Then there were these little boxouts with two paragraphs from each reviewer, a thumbs-up or -down from each, and a bunch of percentage scores. 78% Addictiveness. 23% Lastability. It was the ‘scientific’ approach to reviewing, but you know what? Compare it to what goes on here, and much as I loved that magazine: it absolutely blows.

            I follow certain critics because I think I share their taste in games. And taste isn’t objective, is it? Not reducible to tick-boxes or slogans. If RPS likes a game, it’s pretty rare that I fundamentally disagree. When I do, it’s for interesting reasons. That’s what keeps me coming back every day. If this is them doing their jobs wrong, I don’t really care.

          • Eddy9000 says:

            @ts06534095809386039863

            You’ve just proven with that comment that you know nothing about journalism, and should just go home.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            The concept of objective truth is meaningless nonsense when applied to videogames. Object truth would tell you: What the game is called; how many levels it has; what’s on the option screen; who wrote it; how many lines of code it has; how much space it takes up; what colour the ingame text is. Nothing of any real interest, and nothing you couldn’t get from a myriad of sources.

            What you read a review for is opinion. Anyone telling you they can write an objective review of a game is either a liar or an idiot. Either way, what they write can be safely ignored.

          • dE says:

            Odd, I thought he was playing bullshit bingo, hence the Bingo.

          • JackShandy says:

            (Psst guys

            He was making a joke)

          • Premium User Badge

            ts061282 says:

            Journalism must aspire to empiricism, otherwise it is only creative nonfiction. Style and disclosure do not substitute for vigilance against susceptible subjectivity.

            Games Journalist.

          • JackShandy says:

            Wow, I guess I was wrong.

          • Premium User Badge

            blind_boy_grunt says:

            you do know kieron gillen was part of the original hivemind? If not, google for his new games journalism rant. Knowing that a guy like him as been instrumental in building this site will disgust you so much you’ll never want to visit rps again. It’s not a year ago when the rotting started, this site has been bad from the beginning. All subjective and scoreless and filthy.

          • Premium User Badge

            ts061282 says:

            I’m not saying the writing here isn’t good. I’m not necessarily saying it’s not journalism. I do think that’s funny.

            I know of Kieron Gillen’s tenure here and mourn its passing, but his ‘manifesto’ is talking specifics whereas I’m referencing an ideal. An ideal the OP seems to be openly disregarding…

            And empiricism doesn’t mean numerical ratings. That’s a simplistic interpretation.

      • warci says:

        My apologies, i was overly harsh, but still, you guys were way too close to the development of this game and fireaxis in general to not get sucked in by the hype. in a few months when ‘ooh teh shiny graffixcs’ have worn off you’ll see it for what it is: an even lamer sellout than the fps version. i’ll wait for xenonauts

        • Alec Meer says:

          No, I just spoke to a guy on the phone a few times. That’s my job, after all. Honestly, corruption allegations are the first resort of the lazy mind. And ‘I’m sorry but…’ and variants are the second.

        • Tomn says:

          Have you ever heard of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”? If the remake is such absolute poison to you and you absolutely cannot bear the loss of time units and fiddling with ammo clips, fine, but do try to remember that some of us don’t really think that stuff ultimately mattered that much. We’re not going to “finally see that it was crap all along” if we genuinely enjoy it for what it is.

          What you like, others may hate. What you hate, others may like. And that’s fine! We all have opinions of our own, and particular itches we prefer having scratched. Just don’t fall into the trap of either assuming that you necessarily represent a majority of players (most grognards tend to be niche groups for what are pretty obvious reasons if you observe them after a while) or of assuming that your own particular tastes and interests are, necessarily, proof of intellectual superiority and that anything not to your taste is intellectually inferior.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          i find it absolutely hilarious that you are someone who has not even played the game. Has entirely written it off. Who is also a complete expert on another game that has not even released yet is an awesome game with no issues.

          Then you are hilarious enough to put your tin foil have on and claim to know just how involved said journalists are with a company, and that they cannot be subjective.

          You are as naive as it can get. Enjoy Xenonauts, i hope its great, but xenonauts has nothing to do with how good Xcom is. Which you have no idea how good it is, having not played it, and not being willing to even experience it before writing it off, which gives you clout.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            This is a major problem with discussions about games on sites like this. Publicity about games starts long before release and coverage usually falls sharply after release. This means that discussions in comments tend to be about games none of those involved have actually played and arguments tend to revolve around speculation, rather than experience.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        I’ve bought the game on the strength of Alecs WiT, knowing that there are some things in it that I don’t like at all that he does like.

        That does not lead me to question his integrity, only his taste in games which is an entirely different kettle of fish. I think it’s important that we keep those two distinct.

        The few times I read a review where I vehemently disagree, and this is not one of those times, like the Dragon Age 2 review on PC Gamer I don’t think the reviewer is corrupt. I just think Rich McCormick has a terrible, terrible taste in games.

        • warci says:

          I completely agree a lot more people will love the game in its simplified form, that’s exactly why they made it this way. It’s just that i’m amazed that a site that’s generally geared toward niche/hardcore games and evangalises against the current trend of cash cow dumbed downed games actually promotes this product.
          To each his own, and i don’t care if you agree or not, but i definitly don’t. And i can do so because hey: it’s a comments section down here! And you are quite wrong, i’m 32 and played the original many many hours on my amiga back in the day when the game was released.
          Imho games like civ, settlers etc have become really lazy like fifa clones over the years, but xcom sofar is pretty shameless: the list of new things consists mostly of stuff they left out + a swishy kill-cam. Way to go, progress!

          • Hug_dealer says:

            BLAH BLAH BLAH, I havent event played the game, but i know for certain it is dumbed down and simplified, because i said so, and blah blah blah, i am right because i have evidence to back it up, and i posted it all for you to see that i made my opinion based on facts and presented them to you. Which is why none of you should blah blah blah blah.

            Did i sum up your post correctly?

            If you have issues, rather than looking like a tool, and using the term “tool” is putting it lightly, then give us some reasonable arguments backed up with evidence.

            If you cannot do that, then you are full of it. Prove to us it was dumbed down, compare the 2 tactically, compare the things removed from the new game, compare the new things added in the new one. Abilities and cover are 2 huge additions that add to the complexity of the game for example. What things that were removed or changed have removed complexity and dumbed it down?

            Please, do prove us wrong and yourself right if you can. The toughest part of you being able to do that is this. YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE NEW XCOM. Therefore all you do say to us will be based on opinion, not on having played the game. Watching videos of gameplay does not count either. I can watch a game of chess and claim its fucking easy.

          • warci says:

            sure, i didn’t play the game, but it was so extensively covered everywhere j’m pretty sure i have some idea as to what’s going on. i just believe the old game could be made even better by adding some new stuff, expand some things which were a bit lacking. Like being able to build base ground defenses or REALLY improve the flight sequences, as those were really crappy. but hey, enjoy the game, good for you. but the developer should really shut up about being true fo the original and specially catering for pc enthousiast when the game is basically made for an ipad. i can only take so many marketing lies

          • Hug_dealer says:

            i take that as you admitting defeat.

            Good on you sir.

            The only things mentioned were base defenses and interceptors. Well played proving they dumbed down the game.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            You know what? Here are my issues with this game: the UI, lack of base defense, lack of time units, lack of inventory, lack of more free form strategic layer instead of canned missions, over reliance on cover, lack of free aim and probably a lot of stuff I forget.

            I’m worried as all hell that I’ll not like the game, especially after trying the demo.

            But you know, I have read enough of Alec talking about video games to have a pretty decent idea of how he looks at a game. So I’m banking on that he’s right in saying that the game is interesting enough on its own and not just as an X-COM game. I might lose out on that gamble. But if I do it’s sure as shit not Alec who is to blame. Aside from being a bit too quiet on the UI RPS have been very thorough in their coverage of this game.

            No, you know what? I don’t even know what the hell I’m responding to at this point. I haven’t the faintest what you’re talking about. I’ll leave it at this.

            Alec, if you read this: I wont be pissed at you if I don’t like the game.

          • Tomn says:

            You’re going to find life pretty frustrating if you assume that everything that doesn’t go exactly the way you think it ought to go is the result of malice and treachery. You say “Oh, they removed those features, they can’t possibly claim to be true to the original so therefore they’re evil liars out to trick us all!” More likely? THEY think something more like “Well, we removed those features, but we don’t think those were core to the spirit of the original. We believe the core of the original laid in the attachment you formed with your soldiers and the pain you felt when they died, the sense of discovery as you slowly unravel the mystery behind the aliens and learn how to bring the fight back to them, and the sheer pants-shitting horror the first time you meant something like the Chryssalids.”

            They’re not liars, they just have different definitions of what they’re talking about. And I have to say, your set of definitions seems so strict as to be a straitjacket.

          • specksynder says:

            Your cynicism is as misdirected as it is tedious. Most things you can buy with your money qualify as cash grabs, all with high hopes of becoming cash cows.

    • Premium User Badge

      blind_boy_grunt says:

      what really concerns me is that he calls it a 10 year old game. Which makes me think he is what 16,17 years old with no sense of time/scale for that part of “gaming history” and has only heard about x-com after hearing about xcom and thinks now hating is the cool thing to do. At least that is what my 16,17 year old self would have done. 10 years was 2002. Time fucking flies.
      edit: i think, i’m insulting you but it is not meant as that, i think

      • Hematite says:

        Even better, the original XCOM was set in the grim future of… 1999

  45. amblingalong says:

    Definitely buying/playing this- it sounds great- but this line

    “Your base doesn’t get invaded, you only invade one alien base”

    pretty much sums up my big problem with the direction the devs took, which seems to be removing player agency/emergent events on the geoscape and replacing it with a more carefully crafted experience, that is, pre-made maps, developer-generated ‘choices’ that rely on only being able to build one skyranger, etc. I think I’ll really miss seeing an alien settlement ship, knowing the AI is building a base somewhere, following resupply missions until I find it, and then launching an invasion.

    Essentially, I’m buying this for the tactical side of things, which seems great, as opposed to the geoscape, where it seems they basically neutered everything that made the original fun. Nothing wrong with buying it for a fun turn-based shooter, which is kind of all it seems like, now. But will people still be doing an LP in 15 years? No, probably not.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Very well put sir. What I take away from the WIT is that XCOM is less an evolution or exploration of the original games, and more an effort to massage the X-Com formula to fit the contemporary design paradigm – always carefully designed, the developer’s hand ever present to guard against any unplanned intrusion of AI or random generation.

      But I might be assuming based on omission of some detail from the WIT, I suppose.

      EDIT: After several comments, I think the best summation I can make is to compare X-Com/XCOM to Alien/Aliens. Many people enjoy both films with no problem because of the shared lore and themes. But by envisioning the sequel using the tropes of the (at the time) new breed of macho action film, the emotional weight of the first was diminished (the tension, fear, loneliness). As a kid, I loved the automatic fire and shouting army men of Aliens, but it’s the emotions of Alien that still feel compelling and relevant today.

      For those who enjoy X-Com as a squad strategy game, XCOM sounds like a wonderful continuation. But as someone who enjoys X-Com as a scrabbling horror-strategy blend, I don’t feel like XCOM is intended for me. A shame, since I feel compelled to support any effort at an AAA TBS game, but I just don’t think I’d enjoy this one.

      • Hug_dealer says:

        There was never anything horror about Xcom.

        its was comic book style.

        The horror came from watching aliens maul your guys, and it happens in this game also.

        The tension is still in the game, they removed some features like base invasion, but they also added many new features also that beefs up that tension. Less troops means every loss is a huge blow, instead of having cannon fodder by the dozens available to you.

        I say this as a 11 year old played who played the original when it came out. Nothing horror about the original. Nothing.

        Also of note, they had added new mission types also. So its not like they removed everything, and added nothing. So while base invasions are gone, they added new ones in their place.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          I sort of get where you’re coming from, but I sense we’re never going to agree. I’m not referring to soldiers being eaten, I’m talking about the tone of the game, the focus on little details (time units and inventory management) which is a choice that defines for us what is important in this world. The rule design directs our attention, and is just as important as the subject matter and overt genre conventions.

          In XCOM, the thought process is “run to cover, shoot”. There are choices and strategy, yes – seemingly truly good, deep stuff. But the rules that shape how we interact with the world tell us “run to cover, shoot, use abilities”. It’s military-game clarity – efficient, battlefield logic.

          In X-Com the rules create a world of tiny details: “Grope for grenade and hope I have enough time to throw it before it cooks off in my hand”; “oh god I just saw an alien for a split second in that barn”; a terrified soldier running back to pick up his gun after panicking. No, it doesn’t have jump scares or haunted mansions, but to me it is clear that X-Com shares more tonal cues with the horror genre than, say, military squad games like Company of heroes.

          But I get this is a subjective area, and I’m not likely to convince many people. I’m sticking to my guns on this one, though. Or, I dunno, maybe strategy-thriller is better? Horror just feels better to me.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            I think a better word for what you are talking about is tension.

            Which imo, tension was only big at the start of the game, After a while you would just send in rookies to take the overwatch blows. Or field a massive amount of troops and overwatch creep forward.

            I like the smaller squad sizes because everyone is important, even that guy you send in to take that overwatch blow.

          • Tomn says:

            To be fair, if the impression I got from the interviews are correct, there certainly WILL be a change of tone – away from the cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek of the original in favor of something no less strategic, but more action-oriented (in the sense of being more about killing the enemy than finding him, not in the “HURR DURR MACHO MEN” sense). That’s a pretty significant change, and I can certainly see how someone who likes the one might not care for the other.

            I have to admit, though, personally? Cat-and-mouse WAS a neat feel for a time, but after a while shuffling 10+ dudes across the map and spending like 50 turns slowly trying to find and kill the last goddamnit-where-are-you alien started to really get on my nerves. I ended up using Red Army tactics out of sheer frustration with the pace, which annoyed me because usually I like to play cautiously and preserve troops in strategy games. I’m looking forward to the new combat system, which certainly promises to avoid that at least – but that’s just me personally.

  46. razorramone says:

    This sounds great. Especially because all the problems listed: homogenous missions/maps, UI problems, no free aim, lack of accents – these are all things that should be quite easy to mod.

    • DarkMalice says:

      I sincerely hope so, been itching for this for ages now and to have it spoiled by a few minor irritants (non-US citizens with US accents in games or movies is a pet hate of mine) would be a shame.
      As for the UI, I thought they had a team specifically working on it to be optimum on the PC? I haven’t played the demo yet, but I’m told it appears to have been an afterthought.
      I won’t lose sleep over it, but these things annoy you when you’re playing for hours on end.

      • Zenicetus says:

        “As for the UI, I thought they had a team specifically working on it to be optimum on the PC? “

        Judging from the demo, that “special team” was only there to figure out how to adapt the console control scheme, so it would sort-of work on the PC. Maybe the final game improves over the demo, or maybe modding can help. But that statement about “optimizing for PC” sure smells like B.S. in retrospect.

        I pre-ordered anyway, so that isn’t stopping me from buying the game. I can live with a less than ideal console port, like the UI in Skyrim before the modders started working on it. But it’s still disappointing to see PC users treated this way, when the game is a re-imagined PC classic.

      • Hug_dealer says:

        The Ui works just fine. I really want to know how people thing it can or could be improved. Everything was fluid and easy to do and activate.

        Its not mouse only friendly, but as a mouse and keybard set up. Its quite easy to issue all your orders quickly and fluidly.

        everything is a single shortcut away. Want to see why the odds of hitting an alien are what they are. SImply hit a button and it pops up with everything you need to know. Want to see your soldiers stats. A single click and there it is.

        It blows the original ui out of the water. I really want people to point out a tbs game that works better.

        • Zenicetus says:

          “The Ui works just fine. I really want to know how people thing it can or could be improved. Everything was fluid and easy to do and activate.

          Its not mouse only friendly,…”

          Let’s stop right there, with “it’s not mouse-only friendly.”

          As a PC gamer, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a PC strategy game is optimized for mouse control, with consistency in the way clicks interact with onscreen icons, and where any keyboard shortcuts are secondary, not the primary way to interact with the game. Especially when said keyboard commands are obviously subbing for console controller buttons.

          “I really want people to point out a tbs game that works better.”

          How about any turn-based strategy game for the PC where the mouse is the primary controller, and works consistently on the screen icons? Say, Civilization, GalCiv 2, Endless Space, etc. None of them have UI’s that feel like they were compromised by being a console game first, and a PC game as an afterthought.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            I’m sorry, the games you mentioned work much better when using hotkeys, and all require you to bring up a different screen to see additional information.

            None of those games work any better using mouse only, but work much faster and better when using mouse and keyboard, just like every other game out there.

  47. Ateius says:

    Glad to hear this lived up to the hype. Look forward to playing it once I can afford it!

  48. Premium User Badge

    Continuity says:

    Sounds like they’ve made a good game. But not a good as the original. How exactly do you manage that when all you had to do to match the greatness of the original was give it the proverbial lick of paint and a few tweaks?

    Oh well, guess I shouldn’t complain at the moronic design choices too much, at least we have this right?

    • wodin says:

      Exactly. For me it sounds like they where going the right way with “Combat 2.0″. Then decided (well Jake decided) it was to complicated for the average gamer and would only satisfy the old XCom players. For starters I think thats not giving any credit to other gamers and second it means “we had to dumb it down”.

      • Hug_dealer says:

        to complex? no. Boring and tedious is more like it.

        I love the original games, but having 14 guys on the ground and simply crawling around managing time units to be sure i had overwatch all the time got quite time consuming and boring.

        You spent more time fiddling with everything than actually doing anything of value mission. Then you had to hunt for that 1 last alien hiding on the other side of the map.

        How about the retardedness of having to spin your soldier in a circle every room you entered.

        X-com was a great game for its time, but it does hold up well with all the little things that were not that important to the game, that you had to fiddle with. The amount of redundancy in XCOM is probably higher than any other game ever made.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          OK, what actually do you love about the original games, because reading your words here it seems like you mostly ground your teeth through them in order to see aliens and explosions.

          Serious question, actually. What do you think the design goals in X-Com were, to make mechanics like visually sweeping a room with precious time units a problem? Because based on my priorities for the game, all the things you’re complaining about are integral to the experience and play a huge part in making X-Com as fascinating as it is. Remove them, and you wind up with a standard turn-based armymans game with aliens on one side. Maybe I’ve misunderstood you? I’m honestly curious to know what you enjoy about X-COM that you see being exemplified in XCOM.

          Seems what’s going on here is we identify different components of these games as “the important bits”, and then fail to set up any shared yardsticks to measure how well the game is meeting its goals, or even finding consensus on what those goals are.

          It’s like when I play an MMORPG and wonder why all these levels and item upgrades need to get in the way of my enjoyment, or when people complain that DOTA is too complex… The problem is not in the game design, but just that you don’t actually enjoy what the game is trying to do.

  49. syndicatedragon says:

    Can you talk more about the strategic game? I’m particularly concerned about the “multiple choice” aspects e.g. you can save city A or city B, but not both. From what I’ve read they sound rather arbitrary and restrictive, and I’m concerned that they limit the replay value considerably. One of the great things about the original was that the strategic situation evolved naturally, without the need for prompting like that.

    • Strangerator says:

      Emergence in games requires players to take some responsibility for their own enjoyment. When given tons of interwoven procedural systems, all manner of emergent events can take place. Sometimes these events are unbalanced in one direction or the other, causing temporary spikes or troughs in difficulty. This is sometimes termed “unfairness” or “inconsistency”, however games made in this way tend to become legendary if done correctly. You can play them umpteen times without worrying about repitition. This is the only thing I’m afraid the new XCOM has lost too much of, but I will be at least giving it a shot. The general mechanics aren’t a concern, but will the game be surprising the 2nd, 3rd, or 15th time through?

      For some reason, it is now seen as more important to constanly homogenize games to insure that everyone has the exact same experience, so that single experience can be quality controlled and focus group tested and further “refined.” Maybe the devs/publishers are correct for not entrusting consumers with any responsibility for their own enjoyment? Maybe the generalized consumer of videogames has developed a sense of laziness and entitlement? Hell, you can’t even expect anyone to READ anything, so your game can only be as complex as a few intuitive button presses and on-screen prompts allow.

      I guess what has got me thinking is this… let’s say X-com (the original) had never been made. Do you really think X-com could be made today (given that the graphics/interface would be modern)? Or have people changed so much that it would be written off as “poorly designed and balanced”? Reviews would complain about the “unfairness” of having soldiers shot up right as they left the ship, or having a Chryssalid walk right around a corner and zombify two of your troops. Would people be able to grasp the idea that a game with intertwined procedural systems could sometimes produce less-than favorable circumstances?

    • Hug_dealer says:

      It is a gamey mechanic that they force you to pick between 1 or the other, and sometimes more.

      While Gamey, it gives more tension to the choices you make. Do you save the High panic country, or do you go for the good reward? Do you choose the easy mission instead of the very hard, because your main soldiers are all wounded and out, so you could attempt the hard with a bunch of rookies, but be very likely to fail it because they dont have the equipment nor skills to succeed a hard mission, but by taking the rookies on the easy mission, they could gain levels and be more useful in the long run.

      Those are the reasons they choose to do it. That tension is not there if you can simply do everything, and not worry about things. Firaxis wants you to sweat every action you take, whether its research, or choosing a mission, or moving your troops. They want you to feel like every decision you make is critical, and one way to do that is by introducing gamey features like you must pick 1 or the other.

      Some people enjoy Gamey mechanics, such as myself being a board game and RPG player. I am used to those types of systems that have rules and whether they make sense you have to play and succeed within the rules.

      The original game was gamey as well, but in different ways.

      The missions and where aliens attack and stuff are all random, as well as the maps. So a 2nd playthrough will not see chicago hit on the 12th day. Every playthrough will be randomly generated from a roster of maps, and then aliens and locations of those aliens will be random. Then you have a whole new set of modifiers that alter the game in other ways also.

      http://www.ufopaedia.org/index.php?title=Info_(EU2012)

    • Tomn says:

      I’m a little confused. These are all great analyses and all, but ARE we locked into “A or B” choices? Serious question, I’m still trying to work out if what happened in the demo was just the demo or the tutorial being silly and hard-coded for the sake of shuttling the player properly. There certainly seems to be interception and presumably recovery, so that’s probably dynamic, but do ALL terror missions come in twos?

  50. Vorphalack says:

    I think the pre-order bonus for this is just about acceptable, but only just. It is the same across all retailers so you aren’t locked out of any content by choosing one vendor over another. They did put out a demo of sorts, and there are plenty of pre-release reviews up already so we aren’t going in totally blind by pre-ordering now. I don’t think it’s fair to penalise people who want to buy later by making the customisation pack a DLC sale, but at the same time you will probably be able to get a cheaper copy fairly soon. There is some balance there.

    I’d have preferred something more like the Shale DLC / new copy bonus for DA:O. Any new copy gets the promo code for that pack, no matter when you buy it, just to deter second hand sales or piracy. I think I will buy XCOM as my game for this month, but I still remain confused as to why more publishers don’t use the model DA:O did for pre-release bonuses.

    • saginatio says:

      “just to deter second hand sales or piracy.”

      It only deters second hand sales, not piracy. Pirates get all dlc for free.

      • Vorphalack says:

        That’s deter, not prevent. One reason people keep giving as an excuse for piracy is locked on disc paid DLC or restrictive pre-order bonuses, both of which are dick moves by the publisher. The DA:O Shale pack was a fair compromise to encourage a new purchase, certainly not something you could use as justification for piracy.