Genetically Modified Ops: XCOM – Enemy Within

By Adam Smith on September 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

I’m fairly sure that this is the most shooty-bangy XCOM trailer that I’ve ever seen. It’s far more energetic and noisy than the videos for the never-born FPS ever managed to be, and if I didn’t know anything about Enemy Unknown, I’d assume this was an advert for some kind of third-person alien-punching game. There’s even a bit at the end that has two mechanical monstrosities punching each other, as if this were Revenge Of The Rise Of The Robots, the sequel that nobody wanted. Has a trailer for a turn-based game of tactics and base-building ever before featured such blatant pandering to the robot fight fan demographic? Not to my knowledge. I’m very much looking forward to playing the expansion, mind.

Maybe I’m being squeamish, partly because of attachment to my XCOM soldiers, but the mechanical augmentation really does disturb me. Does XCOM just lop their limbs off and chuck them in the bin? What happens to the soldiers when the war is won? A veteran cyborg, his joints rusted and stiff, slumps against a storefront. “NEED MONEY FOR REPAIRS/FOOD”, he has scrawled on the cardboard, using the thick hydraulic fluids that bubbles from his shattered left arm as a form of ink.

He once fought creatures from other worlds but there’s no fight in him anymore. There’s no gratitude either, from this world, only fear and disgust. He worked as a janitor in a local gym for a while but the customers complained that he unnerved them. Not just his modifications but his manner. Haunted and hollow.

The management found an excuse to fire him (too many mops snapped into splinters) and he lost his temper, punched a hole through the wall and had to serve time. Now he spends his days and nights on the street, trying to forget even as the world tries to forget him.

Cripes. There’s an Enemy Within interview here.

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70 Comments »

  1. TeraTelnet says:

    What about my legs? What about my life?

  2. Tacroy says:

    … was his name Gunther? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what would have eventually happened to the laputan machine if he hadn’t gotten himself killed by the new hotness.

    • merc-ai says:

      Hah, beat me to it.

    • Squirly says:

      Maybe we can give our cybernetic soldiers skull guns. Would make it easier if they only had to think to shoot.

  3. sabasNL says:

    But war…
    War never changes…

    Or does it?

  4. karthink says:

    Nah, this is no more action heavy (or pandering) than XCOM’s E3 2012 trailer.

    Besides, getting a new class of people to try out a turn based strategy game for the first time is a good thing for everyone involved.

  5. razgon says:

    Meh is no longer a valid response I’m told, so…Not interested unless they fix the current campaign structure and gameflow.

    Also, this is not an extra campaign, but something that is playable throughout the normal campaign, correct? With this in mind, who is the target group for this, since most who are interested in the game already played it through at least once, and with lack of replayability, it just seems silly.

    • merc-ai says:

      There is a lot of replayability there as it is. Double so with new features they will introduce (and maps / reworked maps).
      So not really sure what you’re ranting about.

      • razgon says:

        replayability in a linear campaign without any choices to be made? Thats not really replayability – thats just playing the exact same maps over and over and over.

        • GeminiathXL says:

          Well said, Sir.

        • gladius2metal says:

          +1

        • mouton says:

          While the campaign in the new game is much more scripted and corralled than it needs to be, it is no more linear than the original one. It simply wasn’t showed in your face, then.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            The big issue with the campaign in the original XCOM was that it was very prone to unwinnable scenarios due to the randomness involved.

            The new game is a lot more heavily scripted, but losses in XCOM 2012 are much more likely player error than the RNG breaking to a point the game isn’t winnable from the getgo as was fairly common in the original.

            So much nostalgia for the first game when it really has not aged well and this is from someone who grew up with the series.

          • Nick says:

            saying its as linear as the old games is just so amazingly wrong. As highlighted above in fact.

          • mouton says:

            @JKjoker

            The strategic layer of the new game is, by general consensus, its weakest point. It is needlessly constrained and at times not paced optimally. Nevertheless, the old game’s virtues tend to be grossly overstated.

            Sure, it was “procedural” but those were very simple procedures. In essence you didn’t do much more then in the new game. You had 4 basic mission types, really – ufo mission, terror, base defence/assault. The rest was different crew composition.

            What AI are you talking about? They built bases at random, launched missions at random – the only real trigger was when you pissed them off, then they would send an assault. And on the tactical layer, AI was purely reactive – the aliens just roamed the map randomly, shooting if if they saw you. Nothing more.

            At least in the new game, aliens on tactical map have some _semblance_ of intelligence. They move in groups, not wander alone like idiots. They use cover. They actively try to flank you. They retreat to their forces if they get locally outnumbered. Sure, all that is hardly groundbreaking, but it is MILES better than the RNG-powered aliens of the first game.

          • Psykhe says:

            What I am missing with the current AI (and which is the #1 problem which I have with the game) is that the Aliens only react (read: attack you) once *you* have seen them.

            This means that until you encounter an enemy group you can pretty much ignore cover – there is no danger of an enemy at a snipers position killing your soldiers without you seeing him or an enemy partol attacking you if the initial encounter happens during their turn.

        • Deston says:

          Don’t you think that replayability is exactly what this expansion is being designed for? The EU community has been crying out for more variation, especially in terms of increasing the amount of maps and solider customisation. That seems to me to be precisely what they are at least trying to do here.

          Whether you believe the game is replayable or not is entirely up to you, that’s a subjective thing so – to each their own. But I don’t see how XCOM is fundamentally much different there than any other strategy game, or even a Roguelike such as FTL… most people I know play that over and over for the challenge of beating the randomisation and getting a good run. Granted there are things to unlock there too, but there is still a lot of that challenging element there. The core maps, missions structure, enemies and such are always basically the same. It’s their situational context within your current playthrough that changes. It’s not always the same fight because you’ve not always had the same luck, chosen the same units and upgrades, had the same amounts of resources etc.

          There is a lot to be said for that design approach in my opinion. It feels broadly like a more traditional structure for a game. It’s always a welcome break from the interactive movie style games that are current fad, and which often have far less replayability for me.. Personally I’ve found a decent amount in XCOM, especially with the Ironman and Second Wave options.

    • EisenKreutzer says:

      Poppycock! Xcom is not about the campaign or the story. The story is frankly rubbish in Enemy Unknown, and I expect it to be rubbish in Enemy Within as well. XCom is about the emergent story, the story you tell yourself as you play, about your soldiers and the war they fight. Thats why you can name themand customise them, thats why the game is so brutal and unforgiving, and thats especially why the new expansion with it’s tough moral decitions will be awesome. XCom has tons upon tons of replayability, the replayability just isn’t grounded in the story progress. When I finish a game, I immediately want to start up a new one and play it again, because of the emotional attachment to the soldiers which makes an already mechanically tight strategic game much, much more engaging. So I saypoppycock!

  6. VCepesh says:

    Octopus-like enemies look quite marvelous. And enemy exoskeletons look quite a bit cooler, than human.

    Also, can I either of the two new types of operatives be psychic? I know that they can not be combined with each other.

    • jezcentral says:

      Tentaculates! Yay!

      Or rather, Aaaaaaagh! *runs away to hide in a corner, in a foetal position*

    • Lemming says:

      I really, really dislike the human augmentation stuff. I would’ve much prefered some chunky exo suits to stop around in rather than the weird toonish body horror.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Genetic modded soldiers seem to have psi abilities going by the trailer where one mindblasts a sectoid.

      Mechs lose all of their previous class abilities when “promoted” to a mec trooper but they get a perk based on their previous class/rank.

      The octopus guys are called Seekers and are basically squad sight sniper counters (they cloak and then seek out lone units, strangling them to death over a few turns while the unit can’t fight back.)

  7. Tom De Roeck says:

    they also alluded to base invasions, so fuck off, negativists.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      I’m 99% sure this means there will be a scripted base invasion at some point during the new plot, just like there was a scripted alien base invasion during the first plot.

      Of course, neither is anything like the original game where the entire strategic layer developed procedurally as opposed to being a series of gated encounters. If you could find an alien base in day 1 of the original, you could assault it. You’d probably lose, but maybe not.

      The main difference still remains that there is no AI in the new game. There is no strategic AI, where the aliens are actually pursuing a series of goals that culminates in infiltrating a country. There is no tactical AI, where the AI is actually patrolling the map to defend itself.

      No, now maps are literally a defined number of spawns that are triggered as you progress across the map. Now the strategic layer is “spam satellites.” Sorry, this is a step backwards. The maps are smaller and less interesting and there are only so many of them. The game cannot stand up under a few play-throughs.

      • mouton says:

        There was no AI in the original game either, so what’s the problem.

      • Goldeneye says:

        ” There is no tactical AI, where the AI is actually patrolling the map to defend itself.”

        As someone who as of his previous game just saw a previously unseen Sectopod flank my camping Squad Sight sniper at the very rear of the map, I can say with certainty that you’re dead wrong. Yes, most of the time encounters will be spawn-triggered upon discovery, but there are AI behaviors for reinforcements and patrols, like enemies calling for reinforcements when outnumbered, culminating in enemy groups converging on your position (This once had the effect of sending 6 Mutons at me from all sides). Reloading a game can actually show that depending on what you do, the enemies will at times reposition themselves, sometimes to give them a better position once you uncover them. And then there are the times when previously undiscovered Floaters or Chryssalids will visibly come out of the fog of war despite me not doing anything.

        • bleeters says:

          I’m reluctant to call magically teleporting aliens ‘patrolling’. There’s a distinct difference between them actively searching an area for your squad, and just plain appearing out of nowhere in places they should be physically incapable of.

          Either way, it doesn’t really serve a purpose other than throwing more opponents at you and possibly dicking your over in ways you can’t adequately prepare for. If it was, say, possible to force aliens to search for you in one area with distractions (by using explosives to create noise, perhaps) and then avoid or ambush them, there’d be a point to it. But it isn’t, and there isn’t.

    • Lemming says:

      Yeah that doesn’t really change how much of a travesty everything else about the game is, does it?

      • Bull0 says:

        It’s good that you’re able to be so reasonable about it, though

        • Lemming says:

          I’ll be frank: it’s an ok game. It’s a terrible XCOM game.

          • Bull0 says:

            And if you’ll allow me to also be frank, I disagree!

          • theblazeuk says:

            Don’t be silly you can’t both be Frank. One of you will have to be Shirley. I’ll be Dave.

          • EisenKreutzer says:

            I strongly disagree. It is an excellent game, and a good XCom game IMO. On Classic or Impossible (which frankly is the way the game was ment to be played) the game is just as infuriatingly hard as the originals (ok, maybe not TFTD, but that game was hilariously difficult), and because of the small squad size losing an experienced soldier is perhaps even more distressing. But thats only one guys opinion.

  8. Safilpope says:

    I imagine the vets will sorta be like mechamom, but with added PTSD and screaming, oh god, the screaming. Why wont it stop?

    • Snargelfargen says:

      The Ghost in the Shell series actually runs with the idea. There’s a subculture of PTSD-stricken cyborg war vets. They no longer get free maintenance for their implants so they have to work hazardous jobs such as radiation clean-up just to stay functional.

      Less Mecha- Mom, more like Jacob’s Ladder :-(

  9. Max Ursa says:

    but, but,

    JAEGAR PUNCH!

    • Ansob says:

      Yeah, someone obviously went to see Pacific Rim this summer.

      • Max Ursa says:

        alas no, not yet. absorbed what i can of the lore from the fluff, promo, trailers and reviews.

  10. Procrastination Giant says:

    Finally! The Crysis/Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots crossover we’ve all been waiting for!

  11. lowprices says:

    Don’t be silly Adam. After the war they will get jobs doing 40K promotional work.

    Even though I played EU to death (can complete Classic Ironman easy enough, but I get slaughtered on Impossible Ironman), I’m more than willing to make room for this in my busy schedule of being the Superpowered President of the USA and brooding about how naff Space Hulk turned out to be.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Adam Smith should write a 40K novel. I WANT TO READ IT.

  12. Nater says:

    After the war, he/she will go on to teach philosophy about citizenship in High School.

  13. geldonyetich says:

    Somehow I doubt that, after I get my super nasty cyborg exoskeletal soldier, I’ll be running up and punching any aliens. Or, rather, if I did do that, they’d immediately tear me to pieces for being out of cover.

    • Nim says:

      If the Cyborg-Mechs are intended to be out in the open, they probably get the abilities hardening and defense to offset the lack of cover.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        The mechs can’t use cover but in fact work as mobile cover for your other units, like a beefed up SHIV.

        From the PAX gameplay preview, they seem to make up for the lack of cover with a ton of hit points (the ones in the gameplay mission had 10-15 HP)

        • aphazard1 says:

          Using a mech/SHIV for mobile cover == please throw grenades at me

          Also, I hope that 10-15 HP is wrong. You can reach that many HP very early in the game with carapace armor, nano fiber vests, and a couple promotions. If mechs are going to walk around in the open they better have at least 20 HP and probably more, or they will die real quick. If they get hardening to prevent criticals, maybe they could survive for a short while in the open.

  14. Zenicetus says:

    Judging from the view of the tech working on the empty mech suit, it looks pretty big. How is that going to work, if the expansion adds some new maps, but still uses some of the current ones? Or do we get all-new maps scaled for mecha stomping?

    I’m wondering about things like doors and low ceilings in the current maps. Although I guess by the time you get the mech suit you won’t be carefully opening doors and crouching by windows, you’ll just be smashing your way in? Seems like it might alter the feel of the game, from cautious bounding overwatch to something very different. But we’ll see.

    • Goldeneye says:

      The MEC Trooper and Mechtoid fit into a single tile, same as a Sectopod. There’s lots of gameplay video out for Enemy Within showing how they work, and they play fundamentally the same as other units, so no super-sized maps made for them. In fact, MEC Troopers can even go through doors as you would with your other troops.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Okay, they do look different in the gameplay videos. The shot of the tech kneeling down and working on the empty suit makes it look like it’s at least 15 feet tall.

        • Goldeneye says:

          Exactly, the tech is kneeling. So if he stands up, assuming he’s of average height the MEC Trooper would be around 7-8 feet tall, 9 at most.

  15. LennyLeonardo says:

    Hey, Silent Hunter 4 wasn’t that bad, not with mods anyway. Oh, wait, nevermind.

  16. Rich says:

    X-COM needs YOU
    …to give up your wang for Earth.

  17. Perjoss says:

    *clears throat, best Adam Jensen voice*

    “I never asked for this”

    • Strangerator says:

      They even used the same color for the logo. I just got finished playing through Deus Ex: HR and the similarities are fairly striking.

  18. Wednesday says:

    Am very concerned about this “meld” rubbish.

    Also, slightly annoyed they haven’t continued the narrative. Would have been great to return to old squaddies. Would it have been impossible to think of some balancing Maguffin to lower tech levels and experience?

    Heaven forfend we don’t start with rookies again.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I hope it means the extra tech just extends the vanilla campaign with more missions towards the end, instead of keeping the same length of campaign and shoe-horning them in. It already feels like you reach the end-game gear like plasma weapons pretty fast, at least in the two times I’ve played through it.

      The early missions are actually my favorite part of the game, where your team is dropping like flies, tactics are more critical, and don’t have powerful units like snipers in Archangel armor picking off targets from the edge of the map.

  19. bleeters says:

    Given how the looks of this and how they’ve apparently scaled back Doctor Shen’s cautious atitude towards losing our humanity by making use of looted technology from alien races that exhibit a callous disregard for life, I’ve a feeling this’ll handle the whole transhumanism thing with all the delicacy of a bull in a china store. Hopefully the ‘fuck yeah look at us punch things with our robo arms’ trailer is just misleading.

    Either way, I think I’ll pass.

  20. aphazard1 says:

    They are definitely marketing this expansion in a rather misleading way. If you are not already familiar with the new XCOM, would you have any idea this is a turn-based game? That tactics are based around cover mechanics? That the game does not even include melee combat, because the aliens (and XCOM once the game progresses) have devastating ranged weapons?

    The whole “mechs punching one another” scene was ludicrous. I really, really hope that is not in the game, and is not even possible in the game. The earlier comment about the devs watching Pacific Rim too many times rings very true.

  21. Tssha says:

    What do you mean by “never-born” XCOM FPS? It was renamed The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It’s on Steam right now!

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/65930/

    Unless this is a case of Fanon Discontinuity, in which case, carry on citizen.

    • Ahtaps says:

      “What do you mean by “never-born” XCOM FPS?”

      From the synopsis of the game on the page that you linked:
      ” As agent Carter, call the shots, pull the trigger and lead your squad in a gripping third-person tactical shooter set within a covert war to protect humanity from an otherworldly enemy.”

      Third-person tactical shooter is not equal to FPS.

    • Lenderz says:

      Oh you funny young’ens with less memories than I.

      I believe he was referencing XCOM Alliance.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-COM:_Alliance

  22. AStarks says:

    That last bit reminds me of something: http://www.nuklearpower.com/warbot/

  23. Haplo says:

    Genetically and cybernetically modifying a team of soldiers to fight an unknowable alien menace is still one of my most craved things ever. I have wanted this for ages.

    Really though, being a high-tech secret organisation with a secret base under the ground, faced with an unstoppable enemy, with huge funding and influence from a shadowy international government council… Doing dubious yet awesome things with cybernetics and genetics is exactly what XCom should be doing just for the hell of it. There is a pedigree to uphold, and that pedigree is mad science.

  24. MeestaNob says:

    I hope there is the option to resurrect fallen squaddies using cybernetic upgrades, instead of manhandling perfectly able-bodied soldiers.

    • EisenKreutzer says:

      But… But… But… That would completely invalidate the coolest part of the MEC Troopers, the hard moral choices! Without that, the whole thing is pointless. It’s not RoboCop. We are ordering these soldiers to become inhuman so they can save humanity. It’s pure, distilled awesome!