E3 2012 XCOM Enemy Unknown Preview
What a difference a year makes when going to the 2K Games booth this year at E3. Last year, 2K was talking up the retooled XCOM first person shooter title, and all the changes that had come between 2010 and 2011. Now we move forward to 2012 and there was no sight of the first person shooter XCOM and in its place was the Fireaxis developed XCOM Enemy Unknown, which brings us the XCOM gameplay that we all know and love from the original XCOM titles of 1994. Every drop of this new XCOM title crafts the love and adoration that old school gamers have for those titles, but with enough new flair to appeal to a new audience.
Our presentation started up with a bit of an explanation as to what this new XCOM Enemy Unknown is all about. The game is a turn based strategy game, where you recruit units to wage war against an enemy menace that is looking to use Earth for its own purposes. Now most will hear the phrase turn based and immediately tune out, thinking the game is going to be very complex, but Fireaxis understands how to make these games friendly to console players, as we learned with Civilization Revolution.
Turns no longer are comprised of action points and worrying about making sure you save points for return fire, crouching and more. Instead, for each character you are shown two movements. You can make those moves and from there, you can perform one action. So, we watched as the four person squad on screen maneuvered around the map, with each showing a path as to where they could go and then allotting an action for them. When finished with the turn, we submit our orders and then the action unfolds in real time. The action was rather interesting, as your actions have a more cinematic flair when performing an action, like jumping through a window into cover, or showing the sights down a weapon when shooting at an enemy.
Sadly, we were watching a rookie team in this initial round of danger, and things did not end well for them, as two of the team was killed by aliens and one was taken over via mind control. The last thing we heard from one remaining teammate was to send backup before he was gunned down by the mind controlled soldier.
Next we saw the A-Team of soldiers drop into the battle, led by the only man that is up for the task when aliens have you on the ropes – Sid Meier himself. Yes, the team had a little fun and digitally recreated Sid Meier in the game for our presentation. We watched as this highly trained unit was able to work their way around the map and use advanced skills to make short work of the enemy. Mr. Meier even used mind control, a weapon harnessed from recovering enemy tech, against the enemy to force them into killing their own.
Moving from the battlefield, we then had a chance to see the base area that you will reside at between missions. Instead of an overhead view of the base that we had in 1994, we now get to see a cutaway side view of the base structure, which is built down into the Earth. Each section of the base can be selected to perform research or manufacturing, or to just watch your guys as they recuperate between missions. I felt that it was a great way to handle the base building structure as well as managing your resources, and it had a Tiny Tower sort of vibe as you watched all of your workers go about supporting the mission against the looming alien threat.
As our presentation came to a close, I found myself beaming with a smile from ear to ear. Fireaxis understands what made those old XCOM games great. It is all about playing up the strategy angle and giving us attachment to characters. I cannot wait to name my squad and send them out against the alien threat come October 2012, as XCOM Enemy Unknown is going to allow me to relive one of my favorite games, all with a new look and feel.