XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Preview - Sectoid Shootin'
Written Thursday, May 24, 2012 By Lee Bradley
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I'm not gonna lie to you, I never played the original X-Com, nor it's numerous spin-offs and sequels. Sure, I researched the crap out of them before getting my hands on this latest iteration, but I'm no expert. It's possible that you aren't either.

Why? Because most of us here, both the writers and readers, are primarily console gamers. And that's absolutely fine, because XCOM: Enemy Unknown is meant for us. Sure, it attempts to appease the baying PC fanboys, but this is a reinvention for a new generation of gamers with a new set of expectations and desires, built with consoles in mind. Based on my recent hands-on session, it's also really bloody good.

Let's get the history out of the way first, so that all the time I spent faffing about on Wikipedia doesn't go completely to waste. The first game (called UFO: Enemy Unknown in Britain, X-COM: UFO Defense in the US and Japan, and X-Com: Enemy Unknown when it was ported to PSone later), was originally released on PC back in 1994. Developed by Mythos and Micropose, it was a turn-based strategy title lauded for its combination of scares and strategy, picking up numerous awards along the way.

In the years that have followed, the sequels and spin-offs spawned by X-Com have failed to live up to their progenitor, providing a string of largely unsatisfying pretenders to the crown. That's part of the reason why, when the XCOM FPS was announced last year, the hardcore reacted by freaking out. It was the final insult. But then XCOM: Enemy Unknown was announced and everyone was happy again. Yay!

Will this new entry to the series truly satisfy the demanding PC masses? I'm not sure. Not only is the game a way off from release, I'm also wholly unqualified to say. But do I think Enemy Unknown will be a good game? Hell yeah.

You couldn't hope for a better developer to helm the project. Firaxis Games has a rich history of strategy masterpieces in the form of the Civilization series and they've proved themselves to be uncommonly talented in bringing those experiences to consoles. It's a genre that typically translates poorly, but in Civilization Revolution Firaxis is responsible for one of the very best examples of the form. A lauded game re-imagined by the best in the business? It all bodes rather well.

Our demo centered on the very beginning of the game, with a team of XCOM operatives sent to investigate a crashed alien craft in Cologne, Germany. The craft, it turns out, was carrying Sectoids - aliens in the classic grey mould - little scuttling, big headed fellows. And let me tell you, these aren't the kind of aliens to plonk in the basket of a bicycle and help phone home. They're dangerous little bastards who come in anything but peace.

Most of the missions pan out in this way, with your team investigating a series of UFO-related incidents and panics around the world. Starting off against just a few isolated greys it's not long before you're up against giant, scuttling spider things, poisonous gas-spurting Thin Men and more. With a map viewed from an isometric perspective, the environment reveals itself as you plunge deeper into it. Threats can lie around every corner. As such, there's an all-pervading sense of tension and fear. All it takes is one wrong move for one of your soldiers to die, permanently.

The controls are streamlined for console controllers, yet don't feel compromised in any way. Each member of your four-strong squad has two action points, which you can either use as separate movements and actions, or one long extended movement. So, for example, you may want to shoot at the enemy, then retreat behind cover (cover is essential, without it you'll be dead quickly), or you can make an extra long dash to an advantageous position.

Combat is executed by pulling up a slick menu that offers options like assault rifle blasts and grenade tosses, with your relative position to your enemy, and the quality of their cover dictating your percentage chance of a successful hit. You start off with just these two simple options, but as you progress you are given access to more and more enjoyable gadgets and weaponry.

Following each successful mission you go back to your base with research materials you can use to raise cash and invest in new tech. The base itself is shown from a side-on perspective that Firaxis rather aptly refers to as the Ant Farm, as you can see everyone scuttling about doing their thing. It's here that you can commission research, promote your soldiers in order to unlock new abilities, and choose your next mission. It's a rather attractive method of delivering what could have been a confusing collection of menus and options.

Invest and upgrade wisely and what you'll end up with is a pretty baddass squad. We were shown a stage from later in the game and the team was equipped with grappling hooks, jet packs and a mind control weapon that allows you to force the enemy into a messy suicide. Each new toy opens up further tactical options, carefully thought-out to tackle the escalating threat of the enemy.

All of this is presented in a dynamic fashion, with certain movements and actions instigating a swooping camera flourish that takes you down to ground level. The graphics themselves are pleasing too, with a crisp, clear, almost cartoony aesthetic. It's a perfect fit with the pulp sci-fi subject material.

Indeed, it's hard to think of any negatives about the game based on this early showing. It's early days, but you should keep an eye on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Whether you're a massive fan of the series, or a newcomer like me, it deserves your attention.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is out on October 9th in North America and October 12th in Europe.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #1 by Jornny Ramone
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 12:04:57 PM
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I have never played XCOM before, but the more I see and hear about this, the more I look forward to it. Definitely on my pre-order list!

Forum Posts: 16
Comment #2 by Spandex Stiffy
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 12:05:16 PM
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Please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

With all of the delayed games now, I'm holding my breath that this will turn out as good as a Sid Meyer's XCOM sounds.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #3 by THE G0D EMPER0R
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 12:40:52 PM
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loved this game back in the day, looking forward to getting this on day one. shame more games like this cant be ported, getting sick of the usual sequals.

Forum Posts: 304
Comment #4 by AgentOrange330
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 01:07:11 PM
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"Why? Because most of us here, both the writers and readers, are primarily console gamers" - I wish at some point before this releases video game writers would realize that this game ALSO came out on the original Playstation. Thats where I, and alot of other people played it first. Too often on various gaming websites its reported that this game was a PC exclusive and that just simply isn't true...

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #5 by Darkdefiler84
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 02:33:01 PM
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I hope the "mind control weapon" was called a Psi-Amp. I'm really looking forward to this game.

Forum Posts: 966
Comment #6 by Snoop QC
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 04:41:03 PM
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@5, I played the original back in the 20th century and it was indeed the psi-amp your soldiers could use after psi training. I hope they bring back some of the baddies from the first game like the floating disks or the black alien (can't remember its name) that infected humans, turning them into more black aliens (still don't remember its name). I played the original so I'll admit my expectations are high because I had so much fun playing it. Can't wait!

Forum Posts: 304
Comment #7 by AgentOrange330
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 06:48:39 PM
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@ #6 - You are thinking of Chrysalids and they were one of the worst video game enemies of all time. By worst I mean totally bad ass in a completely frustrating way. I've had them wipe out an entire squad of soldiers in a matter of a few turns. Really looking forward to this...

Forum Posts: 30
Comment #8 by crunchb3rry
Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 10:30:19 PM
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I do hope they tweaked the money system. The originals were great, but the game would ramp up in difficulty faster than you could compensate for it. You'd be broke from having to pay the upkeep costs of your base, and not have much money left to buy more soldiers and weapons for them. Basically sending in rookies with basic armor and rifles, then have the game end because you ran out of money. Kinda like SimCity, in a way. But that was a sandbox franchise, so there was no real pressure in having money problems.

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #9 by richardwarnercool1
Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 03:33:07 AM
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Never had the chance to play the original, but I really like what I've seen and read about it, particularly the idea of performing autopsies on Aliens that you've killed. It sounds really simple, but most games would involve running in and gunning everything down, where as in XCOM you need to learn whatever you can to have a chance to survive.

Also the idea of the ant farm looks really cool.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #10 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 03:38:50 AM
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I did mention the PSone port. But yeah, I get what you mean,

Forum Posts: 304
Comment #11 by AgentOrange330
Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 06:31:02 PM
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@ 10 - I certtainly wasn't singling this website out as I've seen IGN and GameInformer do it too. Its just kind of worrisome to see it being described solely as a PC exclusive which I think will turn some people off. It was already on a console and quiet frankly ran great on the PS1 so I have no reservations about this working out on consoles now.

After seeing what happened to 38 Studios this week I'd hate to see people pass on a game simply because they don't know what they're getting into. I've sait it once and I'll say it again, this is the game I look most forward to this year. I simply can't wait...

Forum Posts: 24
Comment #12 by Shazaeomon
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 @ 02:23:25 PM
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Coming as someone who played both the PC version with the game perm set on the hardest diff due to a glitch (back before patching was easily distributed) and currently still own the PSOne version; I cannot wait for this at all! Can't wait to blast some more Sectoids!

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #13 by King Theoden
Thursday, May 31, 2012 @ 01:08:37 AM
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I was a big fan of this game on PC. It was very fun but I prefer the sequel Terror from the Deep. So much hours i put in those games

Forum Posts: 81
Comment #14 by danielhauck007
Thursday, May 31, 2012 @ 01:31:05 AM
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So excited about this. I loved the original games, they were so fun and original. I hope this game will be on the same level.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #15 by Young Egge
Monday, June 04, 2012 @ 04:50:35 AM
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I don't prefer Terror From The Deep, but it was an excellent sequel to UFO Defense on PC. Great concept but it was incredibly difficult compared to the first. For its time, the Aquatoids dying underwater from a harpoon gun had the coolest sound effect

Can't wait for this new one. Can't believe it's been almost 20 years.

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Game Info
Firaxis Games
2K Games


US October 09, 2012
Europe October 12, 2012

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