Lady Beserkers & Corpse-Carrying In XCOM 2 Footage

Another lifeboat for me reach out to in the endless sea of E3 hype is Firaxis’ XCOM 2 [official site]. Clearly it’s hardly a dead cert they’ll get it right, especially given that Civ Beyond Earth eroded some faith that the studio is willing to go outside its comfort zone, but there’s no game in vidyaland that I’m more excited about right now. Even though all we’ve been given so far is context. That’s just changed: here’s footage there’s footage footage now hooray footage

This comes via IGN, chatting to Firaxis producer Garth DeAngelis in their super-studio, and bundling five minutes of in-game alien-bothering too. It looks more XCOMy than I’d somehow expected, which I think is because the lazy and fearful part of my brain immediately went NO TOO MUCH CHANGE I COULD NEVER LIKE IT upon hearing about the switched-up ‘the aliens won the war’ setting. There’s been a sort of inversion of the core tactics, and it’s that rather than any plot stuff or new aliens which most has me thinking “yeah, this is going to swallow months of my life again, isn’t it?”

In case you don’t want to sit through the whole thing or work in a place which fires you should your computer ever makes a noise, I took a few scribbled notes on perhaps the most salient points we (by which I mean ‘I’) didn’t already know:

  • The Advent Speaker, apparent leader of the Humans, looks suspiciously like a Thin Man to me.
  • XCOM not just a diminished force, but actively treated as dissidents, hated by the populace.
  • Starker look aesthetically, a bit like Brink.
  • Zoom in past that to get a similar essential feel – the run-crouch to cover.
  • “You are now the invader. You’re the good invader.” This isn’t just a theme thing: in battles, you’re the faction which creeps and darts around sowing destruction and setting up ambushes. It’s a very different dynamic to the slow lawnmowing of XCOM.
  • Your own soldiers appear on wanted billboards
  • There are cutsceney bits mid-mission, showing how the city works, how and where enemies move around so you have some sense of what to expect as you move forwards and setup traps.
  • “Double overwatch ambush.” A tactical trap – lure an unaware enemy out, then have them plough straight into your watching soldiers when they respond. You’re a much more active force now, trying to bring about conflict rather than clean up after it.
  • Though active, it’s about hiding, getting into position unseen and surprising the enemy, not just sheltering to mitigate damge.
  • Sound of crowd screaming as XCOM’s mission kicks off – it sounds like you’re doing something monstrous. Interested to see how this is reconciled and if there will be consequences to ‘noisy’ missions.
  • Completely procedural maps – both their geometry and their objectives. Hopefully no more Defuse The Bomb tedium?
  • Cover shatters much more, and more impressively.
  • Floors and ceilings and rooftops can be taken out
  • Snakewoman: she’s called the Viper, and as well as the choke move we saw in the first trailer she has a Scorpion-style harpoon grab, but with her tongue. Terrifying – as well as damage, it hauls your soldier a long way away from their colleagues.
  • Seems like aliens are deadlier, and for cannon fodder you now get human/Advent soldiers
  • Ranger – a new XCOM class, who carries a big old sword – apparently because XCOM’s resources are scarce, so they’ve gone more lo-tech.
  • However, there’ll be several new new grenades types, including acid and fire
  • There’s a bit of a Combine vibe to Advent tech, its carriers and turrets, isn’t there? It is playing with similar concepts, after all.
  • The enemies can call reinforcements at any time, so timely exfiltration is super-important.
  • Another new class, the Specialist – has a pet robot drone called Gremlin, can hack, take control of enemy turrets, amongst other powers.
  • Evolved Beserker, who looks a bit like a giant, uncooked steak. Noticeably, and cutely, DeAngelis uses “Her” when talking about, well, her.
  • Advent field Mechs, who are very reminiscent of War Within mech soldiers. Guess that’s not entirely being overlooked, then.
  • As suggested previously, your units can carrying critically wounded and dead soldiers. If you don’t get them to the evacuation zone, you’ll lose any kit they were carrying too. I like the idea – if they pull it off – that missions will be messier, not simply win or lose. Might be more of a focus of making the best of a bad situation.
  • There’s no encumbrance for carrying a body, so you can sprint as well as ever. This strikes me as being one of the first things someone will mod.
  • Sectoids, not seen here, are going to far more lethal rather than basic grunts. One of their new powers is Psi-reanimate- they can resurrect a dead alien or XCOM soldier to fight for them. Erk.

That’s out in November, and PC only. I am excite.

67 Comments

  1. HallowedError says:

    It sounds like I’ll like the idea of this game but probably rage quit often.
    What am I saying, I raged quit the last one too.

  2. Skeletor68 says:

    ‘Sub-zero style harpoon grab’
    *Scorpion* :)

    • Skeletor68 says:

      I really wish I could edit these away after fixes. Mods, please delete!

      • DwarfJuggler says:

        That was almost as bad as commenting about the light saber usage in star trek :(.

  3. Lombar says:

    This game is the best in E3 for me so far.
    So.
    Fing.
    Hyped.

  4. Greg Wild says:

    Is it just me, or have they radically increased movement distances/done weird things with the 2-moves system?

    • kament says:

      Yep. Seems to me it’s the former. Good thing, too.

    • Xocrates says:

      Yeah, though I suspect they just massively increased the ranges for demo purposes.

    • ShineDog says:

      They’ve said they fucked around with things for the demo, like aliens don’t get to shoot on their activation turn for one thing, so it’s entirely possible it’s not final.

      • Rizlar says:

        Funny, one of the things I was going to mention was those reinforcements dropping in and firing on the same turn. That seems pretty much game breaking, if enemies can drop in and fire from any angle without warning. Hopefully it’s not in the actual game or they have something else planned for it.

        • Rizlar says:

          edit: Oh, I just realised that is probably what you meant. Aliens won’t get to fire on their activation turn in the proper game.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    “Sub-zero style harpoon grab”

    HEATHEN

    that is scorpion you are thinking of. You know, his mortal enemy. Pfft.

    But yes, this looks pretty impressive. I’m still quite worried about procedural generation, particularly on interiors. I’ve still to see good procedurally generated man made structures. I believe it can be the source of a lot of frustration on an iron man game. A bad seed can finish a game, and feel very unfair in the process. Not something you want with permadeath.

    With a little luck, interiors will be more of the teleglitch school of procedural design.

    • Xocrates says:

      From what they’ve said, I got the impression that the maps are more modular as opposed to truly random. So you’d have designed pieces assembled semi-randomly.

      As an example, they mention that this map had the fountain, but on a different seed it could have a restaurant or something like that. Which would imply that both the restaurant and the fountain are pre-made modules.

      • Synesthesia says:

        That’s great news. Hype!

      • marach says:

        Yeah from whats been said basically there are set pieces of different sizes (small,medium,large). The map is generated then appropriate set pieces are added(city and forest have been mentioned with hints of others) then finally cover is randomly added kinda like a best of both worlds approach random maps that don’t have broken areas…

      • wallpaper says:

        Let’s party like it’s 1994! I guess they* really did do it better in the olden days?

        Looking forward to playing this :)

        * The Gollop’s, in this case.

  6. AJ says:

    Omg hype overload!
    Please please let there be a longwar mod gamemode.

    So hyped i’ve fired up anew game of longwar. #soaddicted

  7. TobleroneRoloCombo says:

    This reminds me that I probably should play Enemy Unknown. Bought it on a Steam Sale a year back, but never got around to playing it. Maybe because I don’t have the expansion yet. Shall see if it goes on sale this Summer Sale.

    • Horg says:

      It’s 50% off right meow.

    • Xocrates says:

      I believe it was actually one of the previous daily deals :P

      Also, I would actually recommend making a non-expansion playthrough first, as the expansion seems to expect you’re already reasonably experienced with the game, and also adds plenty of stuff, which means it can become a bit overwhelming if you’re going in blind.

    • Juke says:

      Agree on going ahead and playing Enemy Unknown!

      Moving to Enemy Within adds a lot of fun systems, but it’s also a lot to grasp, especially early in the game for new players. Instead of EU’s slow burn of figuring out “who are these aliens, and how to we slow them down?” the expansion pack adds a human sympathiser group who sabotages your progress, and spreads your research and funds out even more with the gene mods and MEC techs, etc.

      Enemy Within really is good enough to stand on its own. I recommend trying it out. Though, if you don’t have it, pick up the Soldier Customization mod in the Steam Sale, and possible some of the mission DLC, if you think it sounds fun. Customizing soliders is really kind of core to the XCOM experience, and the DLC doesn’t disrupt as much as EW, while giving you more variety.

      Good luck, Commander!

  8. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    The biggest news in this video that isn’t mentioned in this article or the comments so far: User-defined Waypoint Pathing.

    Awesome.

  9. Rizlar says:

    Sound of crowd screaming as XCOM’s mission kicks off – it sounds like you’re doing something monstrous. Interested to see how this is reconciled and if there will be consequences to ‘noisy’ missions.

    Preeeetty sure they have already said this will be a thing.

    I am so excite.

  10. Carlos Danger says:

    Looks great. Hope they add in some more diverse models for the Advent troops. Having to call in a evac for every mission and dragging out corpse should make for some interesting fights on the procedural maps.

  11. EhexT says:

    Unfortunately they confirmed that Aliens getting a Free move will still be a thing. Why they’re sticking to this utterly dreadful piece of game design garbage is unknown.

    • Shadow says:

      It’s questionable, yes. But if stealth is a real thing (haven’t been able to watch most of the video since I’m at work), it’s unlikely they’ll get a free move often unless you’re constantly getting spotted. If they get it once they start taking fire, then it’s also an exploitable situation, as the video shows.

      Fun fact: in the original(s), aliens sometimes took shots at you from the dark, in your own turn (that’s how reaction fire worked), often with fatal results (especially in the beginning). A free move instead makes less mechanical sense, perhaps, but it seems benign in comparison.

      • Xocrates says:

        As far as I could tell, you’re in stealth until the first time you’re spotted. You don’t get stealth back, so after the first shot every pod gets the free move.

      • Kitsunin says:

        I don’t really get why either option is a must, I’d think it could work fine to have enemies just hidden. I dunno, it makes the most sense to me, certainly more than the stupid way of EU making you crawl so damn predictably to avoid triggering new groups.

        That being said, I don’t really mind them jumping in and kicking sudden ass, as long as the game is balanced for the casualties caused by such relatively unavoidable circumstances to be easily taken in stride. That’s the most important thing to me, being able to move on regardless of whether you were screwed over by something cheap or your own errors, rather than having to reload or restart and completely ruin the flow and the investment.

        • kament says:

          Enemies just hidden are basically sitting ducks. You discover their location, throw a grenade, shoot the survivors, rinse, repeat. Enemy getting free move on contact is actually the best solution despite its drawbacks.

          • Kitsunin says:

            But I mean, couldn’t they be placed in locations where you can’t do that in the first place? If they scatter into locations you can see the end result is the same, really, except they might wind up somewhere that you already had sight of which completely screws you…and forces you to play in the boring-ass way EU did.

          • kament says:

            I don’t see a way to do that without dispensing with the turn-based model altogether. Without enemies getting a free move on contact you’ll always have a nearly game-breaking advantage over them. If they don’t scatter and take cover on contact you can always spot and eliminate them in the same turn. And by employing the same tactic of inching forward one move at a time. So in effect without a free move for an enemy you’d be playing the same way and the game would be twice as boring for it.

          • Kitsunin says:

            I guess I was utterly unclear, I was thinking either enemies would be moving in the shadows (but maybe something like, they will only fire upon you after they move into sight-range), or perhaps your sight works in blocks rather than creeping forward (so, if one of your men can see through a window, the entire building or at least a room becomes illuminated, causing the enemies to activate because you can now see them, but most of them are still probably too far for you to reach).

      • EhexT says:

        Let aliens roll their overwatch fire IF they actually went on overwatch on their turn when Xcom steps into their vision range. It’s fair. It requires you to not have enemy patrols teleport around the map (like they do in XCOM) and it certainly would help if they didn’t cheat and activated the entire pod regardless of distance when one member spots XCOM, but even that’s not necessary. Simply simulating aliens in the fog and giving them the ability to go on overwatch solves the entire problem.

  12. SuicideKing says:

    I’m actually terrified of this game.

  13. Coming Second says:

    Why can’t November be now.

  14. Zenicetus says:

    Looks good. Although, I’m still a little skeptical about how that melee sword fighting is going to work.

    It was one thing to run up and punch an alien as a heavily armored MEC trooper. But even if you can get a one-hit sword kill like that, your melee soldier is then exposed with no cover, and what looks like light armor. Seems like that would only be a good thing to try in a few ideal situations, so I hope they have a decent ranged weapon as backup.

    • Premium User Badge

      rustic says:

      I agree. I wonder how the trade-off between the chance of a one-hit kill and the risk of becoming a sitting duck for the rest of the turn will look. And swords in this context just feels a bit meh. I think the various classes in XCOM:EU/EW have fairly cool main weapons/weapons usability (except for Support, but well, they’re Support) and I’m just not feeling it for swords in this near-future scenario.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Swords appears to be the one bit of Xtra-Stoopid that they were not able to avoid. You might make a tenuous case for sword in a more claustrophobic jungle setting. Maybe. But shotgun, pistol, knife makes far more sense in any situation you’d normally be in. I actually worked with an old Marine Recon guy once, and his jungle loadout was apparently shotgun, pistol, machete, and crossbow.

      Unfortunately, developers going ‘That’d look cool!’ has lead to a wide array of game sins.

      • Bull0 says:

        If you’re trained to use them well, melee weapons make sense in loads of situations over firearms – don’t need to worry about ammunition or jams, they’re quieter, etc. Particularly in close quarters, which with the mega-city setting I expect a lot of the XCOM 2 combat to be. That said, there’s a very real mechanical problem with the combat design here though, as you point out – your meleeing ranger is exposed after making that attack, so it’s going to be extremely situational.

        • Tekrunner says:

          Maybe the class will get a skill that lets it go back to cover after a sword kill?

  15. Cronstintein says:

    I am officially hyped.
    I really like the shift from earth defense force to freedom fighters. Stealth changes are good. Increased movement is good. There was a bit of cheatery with the body-save at the end. He essentially moves 3 times: once to get to the body, then dashes (2 moves) to the exfil. Speak of, the exfiltration is a very cool way to end missions and I like the shift from search and destroy towards a more objective focused mission against superior forces.

  16. s1473492 says:

    It may be just me, but I think that the Advent symbol looks really similar to the symbol used by the socialist East Germany before 1989? That would fit thematically.

  17. Biggus_Dikkus says:

    so storyline is
    Beyond Earth in reverse

  18. cpt_freakout says:

    I’m very excited for this, but I think I’m even more excited for what they said about better mod tools… if Long War is already amazing, I can only imagine what that team could do with easier access to the game’s innards. Can’t wait!

  19. lowprices says:

    The Advent speaker looks suspiciously like Geddy Lee of Rush to me.

    This game looks incredible. Time to ignore every other game I was planning to play in favour of XCOM Long War.

  20. nrvsNRG says:

    wanna hear something utterly bizarre? i randomly stopped my witcher 3 playthru last week and re-installed X Com to play. BUT! this was the day before I had heard about X Com 2…ok that’s weird but not that weird.
    WELL… also that week I randomly decided to start watching the X Files again…and guess what? I find out the next day that X Files will return in 2016! Spooky!!? and they both begin with the letter X!! true story :)

  21. amblingalong says:

    Seeing a couple things to dislike here, honestly; the fact reinforcements can appear, move, and shoot all before you have a chance to react is particularly bad. The fact the Viper can appear, pull a soldier out of cover, and instakill him all in one move is similarly problematic. Both are reminicist of the ‘scramble’ problem in XCOM, taken up to 11.

    The sword is just silly.

    HOWEVER. XCOMXCOMXCOMXCOM.

    • Machocruz says:

      I thought the developer guy said that reinforcements don’t get a free shot, that was just for expediency of the demo.

    • Christo4 says:

      They could show you where the enemy reinforcements will come with a red arrow, so then you will be prepared when they arrive so you can put overwatch and your soldiers in cover.
      Also, yeah the sword is silly. Unless it was like a lightsaber against enemies with really heavy armor. That would kinda make sense.
      Regarding the viper, maybe they want the game to be more like long war? Dunno. The fact that they basically expanded a rookie just to blow up a monument is kinda similar i would think…

    • Xocrates says:

      Both the reinforcements shooting on the turn they show up, and the viper instakill were specifically stated to be staged for the demo. The Viper specifically was stated that not only did way too many actions on a single turn, but cannot instakill a soldier – instead, they strangle them like the Seekers in Enemy Within.

    • Bull0 says:

      YOU need to watch the rest of the video.

  22. Raoul Duke says:

    The enemies can call reinforcements at any time, so timely exfiltration is super-important.

    Oh god no. Why why why why? This is so anti-X-COM (the original).

    And aliens still get a free magical move when spotted? WHY? Make the same rules apply to the player and AI, for god’s sake.

    This stuff plus the retention of the highly artificial “move-action” rubbish make this all too artificial IMHO. It should be more of a turn based combat sim IMHO – this is more like a turn based combat arcade game.

  23. ButterflyRogers says:

    Did XCOM always have so much action points per turn?

  24. Odontochelys says:

    I don’t get why people are still complaining about the aliens’ scrambling move:

    a) It’s not a free move as is so often argued, since it’s only taking cover. They could have just as easily made the aliens stay in cover the whole time until you discover them. It’s just a more dynamic way to make contact.
    It’s fine to argue that the whole activation of pods system is not the best, but that is a different point.

    b) Everyone saying it’s unfair because XCOM does not get a free move: That’s the worst argument of all, because actually XCOM do. If the aliens are actually pathing into you (basically as if the aliens were activating you) not only do you get overwatch shots at the incoming aliens but you also get to play a full turn after they scrambled.
    So If you path into the aliens, they get a half turn without shooting (some late-game enemies go into overwatch upon activation)
    If they path into you you get 1.5 turns on them with up to two shots.
    So yeah definitely unfair – for the aliens.

    c) It was possible even before to lay ambushes on not activated aliens, it was just rather rare. One way was via battlescanners and sniping and explosives. Another -admittetly not that reliable- way was, that if you placed it just right it was possible to get sight on the aliens without activating them, I think XCOM soldiers have 1 tile further visibility or something like that.

    With that I rest my case that the whole ‘activation move is bullshit’ argument is the worst piece of critique you can level at XCOM. So instead of riding that point till the grave, please focus on the actual mechanical and gameplay problems EU had.

    • kament says:

      You said it better than I ever would. Thanks.

    • EhexT says:

      So wrong on every point.
      a) Getting the ability to scamper into cover on your enemies turn is THE DEFINITION OF A FREE MOVE. It’s not a free move because it’s a free move? What?

      b) When aliens use their free move to move into Xcom’s squad, Xcom is only getting a free turn BECAUSE the aliens got a free move. That situation wouldn’t exist if they didn’t get a free move in the first place. Xcom only gets the advantage of Overwatch when you play in a really boring way (which the free move forces you to) and because the Aliens aren’t allowed to Overwatch on their turns if they’re undiscovered. They’re not allowed because the Aliens aren’t fully simulated in the fog. If the game managed to simulate aliens in the fog and gave them full options while undiscovered then there is no “free” anything. Both sides move, and both sides have the option to move less in exchange for Overwatch.

      c) It was possible to lay ambushes if you played EXTREMELY boring and exploitative yes. Oh hey I guess you’re not wrong on this point. You’re absolutely right, you can do Overwatch traps in original XCOM by exploiting the broken free move system. I’ll note though that when you’re playing to exploit this system, you are universally better off NOT using Overwatch shots and just triggering the aliens and then shooting them with normal shots, since normal shots are more accurate (and very often you can use a single move to flank then use the more accurate normal shot).

      • Odontochelys says:

        a) Free move suggests that the aliens get to act. They only get to react in a very limited fashion. As I said, It would make no practical gameplay difference to having the aliens start out in cover. At that point the complaint boils down to an aesthetic issue, not a game mechanic one. At least I assume here that no one really argues that aliens should start off without cover to just be slaughtered.

        b) Here your complaint boils down to your dislike of the activation system, not the actual movement of the aliens and as I clearly stated in my opening post that is a sensible thing to dislike.
        But even then I don’t understand what you are upset about. Where is the difference if you see aliens and they are sitting in cover (doesn’t even matter if they were active before and moved up to it or just sat there) or you see aliens and they move to take cover before you engage them.

        For the remainder of your criticism:
        I don’t really see battlescanners as exploity, since they are a regular skill choice in the game, the other thing is up in the air really, I never had it happen much tbh, just wanted to put it out there for completeness sake.
        And your remaining point: I don’t really see how the methodical advancement over the map is boring and I disagree that having active pods from the start would remedy that, because you’d actually have to play much slower, because you have to stay in cover the whole time and be much more careful about your moves outside of a direct engagement. But again, that are issues beside just the scrambling move and as I said, I can absolutely understand if people don’t like certain design decisions in the game, I just take issue with it when people claim the scrambling move was unfair or cheating by the AI or whatever along those lines

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Are you aware that the aliens in EU don’t actually “exist” in the game until “activated” by the player “finding” them? I.e., they are not simulated walking around the map or doing strategic stuff – there is just some fuzzy logic which says “they player is now in this bit of the map, spawn some aliens near them”.

      None of the rest of what you wrote made sense IMHO. The simplest test is real life… can you sneak up on someone in real life? Yes. When you do so, so they magically get to teleport to a different location? No.

      Another way to test this… just go and look at the original games. No magical free moves, and the combat is (IMHO) significantly better.

      You also seem to fail to understand what overwatch is… it costs you time from the preceding term. It’s not a “free” move in any sense.

      • Odontochelys says:

        Did you even read my post?
        I clearly stated that I can understand people disliking the way that you activate pods but that has nothing to do with the scrambling move.
        It’s also not true that alien pods don’t exist. They don’t really walk around -instead they teleport from one point to the next- but there are several ways how you can attract inactive alien pods towards you, the most common being running through doors, breaking windows, etc. and them being called to reinforce by outsiders on UFOs.

        I don’t understand your point with overwatch, of course it’s a action of the previous turn, that doesn’t change anything in my stated example though, since you get that action from the previous turn if aliens path into you but the reverse isn’t true when you path into alien, so the player is not disadvantaged by the aliens’ scrambling movement.

        Once again I can only state: Yes, there are several game mechanics that you can make valid criticism of -among them the fact that you even activate pods in the first place or how their movement is determined. Those issues are far removed from the aliens’ scrambling move though, which is just the game’s way of putting the aliens in cover for the engagement -which as I mentioned previously could have been done differently without any change to the gameplay. The scrambling move is a non-issue that gives no advantage to the AI and can even be exploited but it is the one thing that is most often complained about, which makes absolutely no sense.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      They don’t just run into cover, they get a full free move, they move AND shoot in the same uncovering turn.
      The times I’ve lost a guy because they scramble then shoot from cover in not funny.

  25. racccoon says:

    Gone cartoon with the same concept..
    Not much joy here.
    They need to think of different paths & stop with habits of following the same idea & game plays.

  26. Fredward says:

    Just a few things: the ranger and specialist aren’t ‘new’ exactly, they’re Xcom 2’s version of the assault and support class, respectively. There’s supposed to be a genuinely new class but that hasn’t been revealed yet. The snakelady can do the yank and constrict thing but rarely both at the same time, that was for demo-flash. Also the constrict thing won’t kill you immediately, that was also for demo-flash.

  27. RProxyOnly says:

    So what exactly was it about my comment that was so offensive that it needed to be deleted?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      You mean the comment you posted on a different XCOM 2 article?

      For reasons unknown, you’re posting on both yesterday’s article and this week-old one.

      • RProxyOnly says:

        Good lord, you are quite correct.

        You have my apologies.