X-Com Details Become a Little Clearer at E3

This looks...bad...

This looks...bad...

We got a chance to sit down in an interesting environment today at E3, when we were led into a kitchen straight out of 1950′s America. Black and white tile floors were topped with classic-style cabinets and a period-accurate refrigerator. The only thing that looked out of place was the state-of-the-art TV and monitor in the front of the room, on which we were shown our first look at gameplay from X-Com.

X-Com has long been a franchise about strategy intermixed with a little fear of the unknown. 2K has pledged to keep this formula intact with this latest installment in the franchise, but they are putting their own stamp on it.

Set in the USA in the 1950′s (thus the setting the demo took place in), X-Com posits that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. As before, X-Com is an organization formed to combat the unknown alien threat realized by your discovery of an alien artifact. You will take on the role of William Carter, director of X-Con and discoverer of the alien artifact itself.

We head into the game demo, and we’re in the old, familiar X-Com control center. This control center is the hub of the game. All the information and research you collect is collated here, setting up the missions you will undertake. You can choose from three main types of missions:

  • Money: These missions help provide X-Com with the financial wherewithal to continue its mission.
  • Elerium: These missions provide X-Com with the alien power source for their weaponry.
  • Goodwill: These missions will increase the popular support for X-Com, making your mission easier.

You’ll be able to choose from a variety of weaponry, some conventional, and some created from research you’ve done in the field. In the demo we saw, a lightning gun was featured alongside a conventional shotgun. Also visible on the weapons selection was what looked to be a .45 caliber grease gun. We were also treated to another alien weapon, called a globotov. This was simply a ball filled with alien goo that would burst into flames when thrown, much like a molotov cocktail.

All of this was interesting, but not really groundbreaking for X-Com. As Martin Slater, X-Com Director said, “This is the X-Com you know. Now let’s look at the X-Com you don’t know.”

2K’s new vision of X-Com is quite a bit different from anything I expected. Playing as a first-person action game, it has you take to the field to defeat the alien menace with the assistance of a team of operatives. As you’re trying to accomplish your mission, you may run across some side missions as well. In the demo we saw, you could hear calls for help and sounds of a slaughter from behind a house. Investigating it led to a mutilated body covered in slime and oozing black mist.

Advancing further, you encounter a man stumbling out a house, vomiting ooze, and collapsing. Slater quips here, “There’s nothing we can do for that poor bastard.” Too right, he’s obviously done for, and as such, we head into the house. We fight a number of aliens that are apparently amoebic blobs of blue-black ooze, battling our way through the house with our shotgun and lightning gun (which looks really cool), as well as our globotovs. At the top of the house we save the terrified woman from the alien menace, and then we have to retreat to the car and make good our escape.

Along the way we encounter something called a Titan, which we photograph for research purposes, and finally reach the car, ending the presentation. After the presentation, we asked if the new title would be receiving any support for modders, since modding was such a large part of X-Com in the past. Unfortunately, there was no information available on that just yet.

I have to admit to being interested in how 2K’s new vision for X-Com turns out, but there are a few flaws showing thus far. In the build we saw today, there seemed to be a few sync issues with the voice acting and the animations, but that may be a function of the game simply not being finished yet. Additionally, many of the systems will look very familiar to any Bioshock fans, including the “take a picture to research” mechanic, as well as the look and feel of the lightning gun.

Still X-Com is a franchise that has been dear to my heart for a long, long time, and I hope that 2K’s final product will do it justice. I can guarantee you this much: it won’t be the same X-Com you used to play.

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