Friday, September 28, 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown- Hands On First Impressions

For most of his life, Rock has been intensely interested in the subject of UFOs. Before video games, comic books, movies, music..almost other hobbies came into his life, he was into UFOs.  So it should surprise no one that he was incredibly excited to play a game that let him take the lead in defending Earth from nefarious beings from outer space.  Rock recently got some hands on time with the demo for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and he likes what he saw. Time to die, alien scum!

 Let me start by saying that I've never played the original X-COM. It's something that I've been aware of for a long time, and once or twice I've even come close to buying it. What's stopped me? Well that game is supposed to be hard as balls and, like Chris, I derive no joy at all from punishingly difficult games. I was relieved, then, when we got to see this new XCOM in action at this year's PAX East. Relieved because the guy giving the demo assured us that this game would definitely not be that soul crushingly hard unless you wanted it to be. Yay! Well needless to say that I've been aching to get my hands on this remake, and with the demo out this passed week, I was jumping for joy.

My posse.

And then I started the tutorial level... I started out with a pre-made squad of four soldiers sent in to investigate a mysterious crash. This mission does a great job of teaching you the basics of the game, such as squad movement, turns, finding cover, and more. Things quickly go down the tubes, though, as three of my four soldiers are rapidly dispatched by aliens. "What the fuck? I did everything this game told me to! Why am I losing guys?!" I was pissed. My sole surviving grunt returned to base and I had an epiphany.

As soldiers rank up, they learn new abilities.

 The game was teaching me something, even when I thought it was giving me the shaft. In a span of about twenty seconds, the game taught me that troop placement is crucial. It taught me that when I mess up, soldiers die and they stay dead. And it taught me about leveling up. It seems that my surviving soldier has learned a thing or two and he's advanced to the next rank, becoming a heavy weapons guy and learning how to use a rocket launcher. OK. I'm getting the point now.

Aliens exist, and they hate you.
I'm given a tour of the XCOM base and allowed to start some tech research, and then it's back to mission control, where I learn that some aliens are abducting people and I have to go intercept them. I'm given a new squad, plus my new heavy, and we're off to (hopefully) stop some alien invaders. This time I'm given full control, and I like it. The interface is clean and pretty sparse, telling me exactly what I need to know and nothing that I don't. Soldiers' line of sight is clearly delineated, and I know precisely where they can and can't go. At one point, it was suggested that I try to take an alien alive for further research, but I wasn't told how to do this. I won't spoil any of the mission details for you, but this one was a blast! I'm definitely looking forward to playing the full game in a couple weeks!

Rock wonders if any real world anti-alien tactics could be derived from this game...

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