E3 2012 Impressions: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Microsoft Xbox 360/Sony PlayStation 3/PC)

I know next to nothing about the XCOM franchise (not being a regular PC gamer probably has a lot to do with that), but I sat in during 2K’s demonstration of their latest reboot to see if I could get a glimpse of what the fuss is all about. After all, despite changing hands as much as it has, I’ve heard nothing but good things and if they plan to make a console version, it would be the best time yet to jump in. So far, it looks rather promising.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is basically a turn based strategy game where you are combating alien invaders. As someone who used to play StarCraft pretty regularly, this is not a foreign premise to me (at least in a real time variation). The game opens with civilians getting blown away somewhat similarly to the movie War of the Worlds, so already you can tell the odds are not in your favor. There were some strategic elements introduced that although I had seen them in RTS games in the past, I still found the way they were utilized very interesting. First and foremost, certain alien units have the ability to mind control one of your units and use them against you (or alternatively, eat a grenade as was demonstrated). Not only that, but other units can turn corpses into zombies which then transform back into aliens to further turn the odds against you.

Now I’ve seen abilities like those utilized in Blizzard’s RTS titles, though I never expected them to all belong to the same race. It seems as though the odds are stacked against you… until a unit is revealed on the human side that has the capability to control the aliens too. The mind controlled alien then acts as one of your own units or it can self-destruct itself with a grenade if you choose to remove it from play completely. The demo also showed Sid Meier as a playable unit, and who’s going to be able to kill Sid Meier in a strategy game? No one, that’s who.

Your units will be able to utilize cover in order to protect themselves from enemy fire. The demonstration depicted several marine units that when positioned near barriers, they would crouch down behind it as opposed to standing out in the open. You can also deploy units with ghost armor that will allow them to cloak and sneak up behind enemy units. One of these “ghosts” was shown approaching an alien unit on a rooftop and promptly blasting it in the face. Suddenly, the humans didn’t seem so underpowered anymore.

I can’t comment on how much the core game differs from that of its predecessors, but it does look interesting at any rate. XCOM: Enemy Unknown will release October 9th for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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