Enemy Known: XCOM To Have Competitive Multi

Alien vs alien. Oh the (lack of) humanity!

A small gray alien finds itself alone in the smoking remains of a forested battlefield. Everyone else – friend and foe alike – has fallen, yet it still stands victorious, a conquerer of worlds. And then, the unthinkable happens: SNAP. A beartrap closes around its exposed footflesh. It yelps in pain, which draws the attention of one remaining human survivor. The two immediately lock eyes, but this is no staring contest. It’s a staring war. But then, the solider lowers his gun and pulls apart the beartrap’s blood-caked jaws. He proceeds to help his one-time enemy up, at which point we cut immediately to a montage of the two skipping merrily through sunflower fields, pushing each other on a swing set, and making silly faces in a photo booth. “Wow,” declares the president one minute and 47 seconds later, after the montage has ushered in an era of peace. “If we’d just gotten to know our enemy, everything would’ve been so much easier.”

I will imagine this sequence every time humans and aliens team up in XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘s multiplayer. Every single time.

OK, so that aspect of multiplayer kinda flies in the face of XCOM’s central tenet (aliens bad, humans good), but Firaxis has been sure to note that it’s not actually tied to the narrative in any way. The rest, meanwhile, actually sounds pretty solid – if somewhat basic. In short, you begin by assembling an army composed of whichever units you’d like – provided, of course, that you have the necessary funds for them. So says the announcement:

“Players can mix and match both alien and soldier units to comprise their squad, outfitting soldiers with dozens of armor types, weapons, items and class-based abilities for thousands of possible loadout combinations. These dream squads of up to six units are built using a point cap that can be scaled for players to fight in small skirmishes all the way up to epic battles. Matches can be modified by point limit or time limit per turn.”

After that, combat proceeds as you’d expect, with each side having only a short amount of time (it’s scalable, but 115 seconds is the default) per turn to make their moves. So, in short, it’s new-school XCOM, but with another person. No crazy modes. No Mass-Effect-style single-player crossover shenanigans. Just smart, fast-paced strategy.

Meanwhile, Eurogamer’s preview (which is well worth a read) notes that Firaxis plans to monitor players’ strategies post-launch and modify multiplayer accordingly. Lead designer Jake Solomon’s referring to it as letting players “crowd source the design,” which sounds like a nice sentiment given how beloved this series is. Only time, however, will tell rather post-release support ends up being an obnoxious rollercoaster of nerfs and buffs or something more measured and substantial.

All told, though, it sounds pretty simple, but fairly harmless in the grand scheme of things. I do sort of wish Firaxis tried harder to leverage the sense of fear and dread a good X-Com match can create, but if that energy’s instead being directed into single-player, you won’t hear any complaints from me.


  1. derps says:

    They’re still not getting my monies

  2. coldvvvave says:

    Good, I needed something to go from DoW2 and it seems similair even if turn based.

  3. Flint says:

    Sounds great to me. This game is sounding better and better.

  4. CletusVanDamme says:

    Multiplayer X-Com works for me. Can’t say it’s the thing that’s most exciting me about the project but yeah, it’s a thing and I’ll check it out.

  5. abandonhope says:

    I can’t say I’m bothered by this at all. Throughout Enemy Unknown’s development, I’ve never had the sense that Firaxis was making any significant blunders. In fact, I’d say that this is turning out to be about as ideal a franchise reboot as one could wish for. I hope its success demonstrates to EA/Starbreeze just how big a misstep Syndicate was.

    • subedii says:

      Well Starbreeze still maintains that they did a ‘great job’ with Syndicate. After apparently selling about 150,000 units.

      So yeah, I’m not sure they’re going to learn much from this. Basically the CEO chalked the failure down to angry fanboys and said that the irrational fanbase would never have accept anything less than a pure clone. Which is why they didn’t bother to try and match anything to do with the franchise at all and struck out in a completely unrelated direction with a game that happened to have the name “Syndicate” stuck on it.

      Therein lies the problem. For some Pulishers / Developers, it’s like they’ll take on a franchise, but at the same time will have nothing but pure disdain for it and its existing fanbase and want nothing to do with them. They continually parrot how they seek to “remain true” to the vision of the franchise, but simultaneously disregard the franchise and alienate its audience, instead gunning for a new and completely unrelated one. They keep aspects of cosmetics, throw in an Easter Egg name or two, and then complain some more that fans of the original didn’t pick up the game whilst people who have never heard of the franchise (the new audience they were aiming for) didn’t pick it up either.

      Of course, maybe I’m just over-complicating things. It could just be a case of “Battleship: The Movie”. Publishing studios are horrified at the thought of a new IP, because “new IP’s means fewer sales!”. So they take a product to be made and stamp it with an IP, any IP, so that they can alleviate that fear.

      I do hope this new XCom is successful, and I’m fairly hopeful that it will be. If nothing else, it’ll hopefull show that the previous way of dealing with franchises doesn’t make much real sense.

      • abandonhope says:

        The kicker for me is that they’re now probably shelving the IP indefinitely while making statements that imply they believe there just wasn’t enough interest in Syndicate anymore, as if their poor decision had nothing to do with its failure. Instead of addressing that, they’re just going to move on to the next legacy IP. I don’t think anyone was looking for a clone–Syn Wars certainly wasn’t a clone of Syndicate.

        But with Cartel coming out, who cares? EA can go on maintaining most of its focus on the teen/man-child demographic.

      • Tuco says:

        You know, while I wasn’t happy about the idea of a Syndicate FPS, I was at least open to the idea of enjoying the game if it was going to be ambitious and interesting enough.
        Some sort of Sydicate-branded Deus EX? Yes, please.
        But they just delivered a short, linear scriptfest. Probablythe unambitious vision one could tackle to this franchise.

        So, yeah, they can keep it and blaming whoever they want.

        • abandonhope says:

          If there were two simultaneous Syndicate projects, one an FPS and the other a proper third installment in the series, I would have been a lot more open to a shooter. I have no doubt that Enemy Unknown is shielding the XCOM shooter from what could have been a lot of ongoing hatred.

          • Big Murray says:

            And Xenonauts is covering this from hatred.

            It’s a goddamn cycle, I tells ya.

    • Azradesh says:

      Oh look, another idiot to block.

      (oops, wrong person)

      • abandonhope says:

        Aww, did I hurt your butt?

        • Azradesh says:

          Actually the reply system messed up. It’s not you I blocked.

          (Or I miss clicked)

      • eks says:

        The Internet must be a very quiet place if you block everyone who has a differing opinion to you.

        • Azradesh says:

          Actually RPS doesn’t have that many idiots, but ever now and then some like Laurentius says something so pants on head stupid that I just can’t be bothed.

  6. Laurentius says:

    So I was wondering why they ditched „time units” and there was no logical answer to this change of mechanics until now. Bingo! Of course this stupid multiplayer doesn’t work with old UFO mechanism so they had to ditch it but instead saying it upfront they hade to beat around the bushes and make idiots of themselves. This is not looking good.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Your comment really just shows you didn’t read any of the previous articles. Stop your trolling please.

    • Unaco says:

      Why would Time Units not work in multiplayer? Really… can you explain why they would remove TU’s just to fit in multiplayer? Because I’m not seeing a connection whatsoever. Obviously, you’re not just looking for the slightest thing to spit some venom and bile at, and instead are enlightened and obviously see the truth… so why would TU’s not work in multiplayer?

      Time units would have worked fine in MP… UFO2000 maintains the use of TU’s. Did you even think about TU’s and Mutliplayer or did you just put “what this article is about” together with “something people grumbled about in previous articles” to come up with some baseless moaning?

      • Laurentius says:

        No, TU wouldn’t work with this kind of multiplayer that FIRAXIS presented here and since they said they planned this multiplayer from start it’s obvious that they ditched TU in favor of their multiplayer mode. I am disappointed about this but hey all I am saying that they should be clear about this and not making stupid comments as it is obvious that both TU and soldiers progression was change due to multiplayer mode

        • Unaco says:

          That does not explain WHY Time Units would not work with Multiplayer. Why would TU’s not work with Multiplayer, hence causing Firaxis to remove them? Can you answer that?

        • c-Row says:

          Yes, please enlighten us.

        • theallmightybob says:

          I too would like to know how you think these things are even connected. what they have presented hasent really been enough to make such a baseless accusation. or are you just spinning conspiracy theorys?

          • Laurentius says:

            Everything they said and presented so far abort turn based combat in single player and how it differs from original system somehow fits perfectly with this newly announced multiplayer mode. This is just obvious explanation not conspiracy. You don’t want to believe it, fine, suit yourself but there have been people commenting here that also dismissed D3 always on as a Blizzard way of DRM as a “conspiracy. I guess they were right…

          • Chris D says:


            One more time. There is no obvious connection between multiplayer and time units or lack thereof. There are many, many ways to handle turn order and initiative in both single and multiplayer games.

            If you want anyone to take you seriously you are going to have to actually set out specifically what your reasoning is rather than simply repeating “It’s obvious” when it’s no such thing.

          • c-Row says:

            Especially since games like UFO2000 and Incubation prove that it’s perfectly possible to add multiplayer in either a time unit or number-of-actions based system. So, again, please elaborate.

          • Laurentius says:

            @ Chris D

            I didn’t say any multiplayer mode; I mean the one they presented. It’s quite simple really: 1. Firaxis don’t what they are doing and are adding things randomly. 2. They actually plan things for their game. Despite my reservation about this game I still think that 2. is how things roll at Firaxis. If so then again: 1. they create turn base combat system first and then upon this they build multiplayer mode that would use it most effectively. 2. Come with idea for multiplayer mode first and then tailor combat system to suit it. Seeing how like almost every developer think that multiplayer sells the game I think 2 is how it was done in this very case and everything presented so far about multiplayer screams that it wouldn’t work as intended with original TU system

          • c-Row says:

            Why. Would. It. Not. Work. With. Time. Units?

          • Laurentius says:

            Because with TU multiplayer mode would emphasize on planing and strategy, while this one presented is get-to-go, quick paced romp. (only 6 characters, no time units etc.).

          • MrLebanon says:

            This makes no sense…. I have no idea what a Time Unit is (I’m an Xcom noob), but I’ll draw an example from another game.

            Starcraft 2 has units in SP that would be unbalanced/OP for multiplayer play. They are in SP and not MP. They did not take out any SP units or content because they would not work in MP.

            There is 0 direct connection with Firaxis deciding to make Multiplayer and the inclusion of time units

        • theallmightybob says:

          ok, how about you tell us how removing the TUs really would effect your play style? in the old game (which i played a lot when it came out mind you) all time units really did was get in the way. it was unessary micromanagment that was not needed.

          it wasent fun forgetting about the 1 time unit to turn when you were trying to set up a reaction shot or anything else of that nature. Time units are just a solution to a problem, how to limit the ammount of actions that can be taken in one turn. Taking away time units and implimenting a diffrent system dosent change anything, concidering you could only really take about 2 actions anyways. I know i wont miss that little anoying green bar thats for sure.

          • derps says:

            This is a move and shoot or shoot and not move system. Its a regression of TUs. It’s designed for the “thinking hurts ma head” crowd, who won’t buy this game anyway.

          • c-Row says:

            No chance to run into you online then?

  7. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Finally some alien-on-alien action!

  8. gnodab says:

    And I thought having to stare at Shepered’s ass for days was kind of uncomfortable…
    Now I’ll have to fight mental images of anorexic patients and alienbutts fusing together. I feel like a terrible person. Thanks Firaxis.

  9. Danny252 says:

    So, basically, they’re copying UFO2000 without making any reference to it?

    link to ufo2000.sourceforge.net

    • Unaco says:

      “So, basically, they’re copying UFO2000 while singing its praises as a major inspiration for the MP aspect, as something the devs adored, and something they called an “awesome experience”.”

      There we go, I fixed your comment for you, so it’s more accurate. If you’d bothered to click through on the Eurogamer article/interview (which is where the information in this RPS article comes from) you’d have seen they have a whole section titled UFO2000 and Jake Solomon goes on about how much he loves it. So yeah… I’m not sure it counts as ‘copying’, because I’m gonna bet UFO2000 wasn’t the first turn based, squad based strategy/tactics game with multiplayer. But they acknowledge the inspiration it provided.

  10. Unaco says:

    This sounds good. Multiplayer is such an obvious fit for XCom games, it makes a lot of sense. I hope there’s plenty of customisation and options going to be put in… like, changing turn lengths, or an option for Human/Alien/Mixed teams maybe, although that’s the sort of thing you could just agree with your opponent on, if needed.

    • subedii says:

      I fully intend to try and form Xeno only squads at some point. Stalking in dark alleyways with Chrysalids waiting for the occasional unsuspecting red-shirt to walk by.

      • theallmightybob says:

        Sounds like a fun idea. I fully believe that EVERY game can be a role playing game if you do stuff like this.

    • zeroskill says:

      What about HATS?

      • Xardas Kane says:

        The most important aspect of any multiplayer, surely. I AM NOT BUYING THIS GAME IF THEIR R NO HATZ!

  11. pkt-zer0 says:

    This reminds me of Incubation, actually. The SP campaign there was more of a puzzle, and strategy only appeared in the multiplayer. And it was really damn fun.

  12. studenteternal says:

    I would have preferred aliens vs humans rather then allowing mixed teams, but whatever, I was excited about single player, and I am still excited about single player. Any multiplayer is just frosting. :)

    • Chris D says:

      I would have preferred that from an aesthetic standpoint as well. On the other hand I suspect they can sidestep a whole lot of balancing issues by just allowing everyone to use anything.

    • Torgen says:

      Just agree beforehand who’s going to be human and who’s going to be alien. Mixed units have no appeal to me, either.

    • derps says:

      I think they were too lazy to make a balanced alien vs human system, so they took the easy route.

      • lowprices says:

        Well since we’re making broad claims without any evidence, I believe magical fire-breathing goats from Jupiter forced them to do it.

      • Squirly says:

        You might be on to something, though you can’t blame them, really. Can you imagine the rage once kiddies start losing with their all-alien team against an all-human team? I’m getting cold shivers and I’m not even responsible for developing this.

  13. mckertis says:

    I’ll repeat, that its two months till release, or whatever, and its still an entirely console game. People still had to use the controller to play PC version on recent showing.

    • theallmightybob says:

      So basicly the project isent finished becasue its not out yet, this effects me how? I think I will hold my consoles are ruining PC gaming coments untill I get a view of the finished game.

    • Asurmen says:

      And I’ll repeat what has been said many a time. A turn based game can work perfectly fine with a controller, so it hardly matters.

      • subedii says:

        Indeed. King’s Bounty is a PC only game. But when I felt like lying back and playing it, I just plugged in a gamepad and played it using an emulator.

        Which is still besides the point anyway because they have also, repeatedly, said that the interface is going to be different between the two versions and catered towards the PC when it’s released on the PC. For crying out loud, they’re STILL talking about that:

        link to eurogamer.net

        The PC version, unlike the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version, draws a grid on the battlefield, allowing the player to see in detail how movement is affected by the terrain.

        Additionally, the camera perspective is different. On PC players are able to zoom out to a greater degree than they are on console, providing a wider, sweeping view of the battlefield.

        “It’s interesting,” lead designer Jake Solomon said. “Playing mouse and keyboard is a different experience. From just the way it looks when you start, the UI is different. The grid gets drawn in the PC version and we have a little extra help when you hold down the mouse button. Small things like that. Obviously we have to add a lot of new buttons and things like that. It feels good on mouse and keyboard, which it should. It’s XCOM.”

      • MrLebanon says:

        I’m actually interested in trying out playing with my 360 game pad for those days I wanna louge and shoot aliens

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      “Hey guys. Im mckertis. I have hard time fitting into the society due to being a fuckin idiot”.

    • Moraven says:

      Disgaea, Rondao of Swords, Luminous Arc, Fire Emblem, Tactics Ogre, multitude of other ps2 release.

      Turn based games work great on consoles.

      RTS…kinda don’t. Halo Wars (rip ensemble studios), did it right. Goblin Commander was soso. Red Alert on playstation wasn’t as great as PC. Same with starcraft N64.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      The original X-Com/UFO was released on the Playstation. It even had better music. They’ve always been ‘console games’.

      • Balm says:

        X-Com on playstation took over 2 minutes to load a mission level. While not unplayable – it was a torture.

  14. aircool says:

    Still sounding awesome :)

  15. Brise Bonbons says:

    I was a bit grumpy about this game to begin with, so I’m naturally disinclined to see this announcement in a positive light. That said, I can’t help thinking this is probably a wasted opportunity.

    It seems silly to pass up the chance to make a narrative driven asymmetrical MP experience of humans vs aliens for this sort of game-y, zero-context free-for-all.

    Personally I think the obvious choice would be to make the “serious” MP component strictly humans vs aliens – with the focus on balancing that – but include a casual goof-off mode that lets players mix and match human and alien units. Maybe they have some specific reason to do it the way they have, but I certainly can’t see it.

    Which is nothing new, since none of the design choices this team makes have made any sense to me. Not that they’re objectively wrong, I just think it indicates that this won’t be a game I enjoy.

    • Snidesworth says:

      My preference would be to allow people to drop into someone’s single player campaign, taking control of the enemy forces and wreaking havoc in the way only a human player can.

  16. Sidewinder says:

    Well, that sounds…. Pretty cool, actually. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find this game fascinating in the way it’s managed to give me such strong feelings of both anticipation and dread.

  17. ScorpionWasp says:

    Would be nice if there was a “full campaign” multiplayer mode as well. To make it easier to balance, the alien side could have limited interactivity (kinda like what Left 4 Dead does in vs); player gets to choose where ships attack, where bases are built, etc, but no full blown budget management. As well as play the tactical missions, of course.

    • Gregg B says:

      I was kind of hoping for that too. Both players have overviews, bases, aircrafts, research, units to look after. It would be a lot more work I’m sure but it could be incredible.

  18. Rupert484 says:

    As long as I don’t get an competitive CoD style FPS multiplayer with XCom slapped on the front, I’m okay with this.

  19. Trent Hawkins says:

    Flying Suit Chrysalid squad FTW

  20. ffordesoon says:

    I love how basic this is. It’s so clearly just a bite-sized XCOM battle with a friend, like a quick game of chess to unwind. As opposed to, you know, CoD-style BRAH YOU GOT TO COMMIT TO IT IF YOU DON’T WANNA BE A TOTAL N00BTUBE BRAH thing. I love it. Reminds me of Starfox 64 multiplayer, oddly enough. Just, “Here’s another thing you can do with this game. It’s not particularly deep, but you’ll have fun sitting on the couch with your pals blasting each other, and then you can get back into the engrossing single-player.”

  21. ShriekBob says:

    As an idea, why not have two squads, one of aliens, one of humans. You play best of three, first player plays humans second player plays aliens (maybe on a random map), second game the loser picks which race they want (or the map, but never both, if they take one, the other play gets the other), repeat for third game.

    So you actually play both, but seperately.

  22. MrLebanon says:

    I know I’ll be forcing my friends to buy this and hosting tournaments for the glory