E3: The Return of XCOM

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We got a chance to check out the revival of the nineties PC strategy game XCOM at E3 yesterday and it’s got quite a few changes. The new XCOM from 2K Games is a first person shooter set in the sixties that leans heavily on your tactical skills. You play Agent Carter, a member of XCOM, a government agency preparing for the possibility of alien invasion. It’s 1962 and the country is right in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy is President and marginalized groups are finally beginning to be heard. In fact, a very fine point was put on that in the presentation. Because of the alien invasion and the chaos it throws the world into, people who were shunned for their race, beliefs or sexuality are given an even stronger voice. Well, the aliens have landed and they’re not exactly E.T.

Agent Carter must build up his alien fighting team with a group of agents. He can only choose two at a time, but each has a different skill set that might be needed to battle the baddies. We were told that they were very much traditional class based characters. You have your main missions, but there are also side missions that help you build up your experience and get you what you need in terms of weapons. You can also send your field agents out to do these while you’re out somewhere else so they can level up as well.

We got to check out a mission to recover a scientist (one of those who’s sexuality and politics have kept him on the fringes of society until the government needed his skills). He’s been captured by the aliens, who are basically living technology, here to terraform Earth into a planet for themselves. You have to use your tactical skills to beat these aliens, including choosing your style of attack, stealth or straight on, how many people to use, etc. You get a time slowdown and a radial menu where you can see how much each tactic will cost in terms of time. Once you capture a piece of alien technology, you have two choices. You can either have it fight for you with it’s superior power or you can bring it back to home base where it can be used for research and better weapons.

The game is fairly linear and we were told that most conversations you have back at base won’t really take you on a different path. This is a story, and though side missions are optional, what you choose to do doesn’t really take you off the rails. XCOM is set for a Spring 2012 release for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. This one looks pretty intriguing, despite being in the early stages. We’re looking forward to seeing what other goodies it has in store.