E3 2010: XCOM First Impressions – It’s XCOM... But Not As You Know It!
Written Saturday, July 03, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Okay, let’s lay our cards on the table before we kick things off. Yes, we were as disappointed and disgusted as you when 2K announced that XCOM would be coming back... but as a shooter. A shooter!! As we always do though, we went into this year’s XCOM presentation at E3 with no expectations, no grudge against 2K Marin for doing the unthinkable, and after being treated to a walkthrough for a good 20 minutes, we actually came away awfully impressed. I know! It shocked us too! This is XCOM, but not as you know it.
The first half of the demo took us deep into XCOM territory, to an airplane hangar that acts as the XCOM headquarters. Walking through the office buried underneath the hangar, you can hear conversations of your team as they converse with one another about the tasks they’ve been assigned. While Carter stands in the main operations room, at the far end of the large hall sits a map of America where all the intel you’ve gathered is collated and stored; from here you choose your missions – it’s basically your mission hub.
On the map sits a number of choices that Carter has open to him. For instance, open on the map at this moment in time in the story are 3 missions: 1. To head out in the field to get some more Elerium– an alien artefact that powers XCOM; 2. To wander out to collect money and get state support; or 3. To venture into the field to rescue civilians. Smith tells us though that choosing one mission is the potential sacrifice of another, so if you choose California, the current New York mission might not be available when you return. It’s all about strategy. Do you sacrifice the civilians’ lives in order to make sure the operation has enough funding or vice versa?
After Miss Angela Weaver, XCOM’s Executive Intelligence Officer, plays the horrifying call for help from some civilians in California that are reporting suspicious activity, Will chooses to take on the civilian saviour mission. Even Angela finds time to remind you that saving the civilians may get you gratitude, but it won’t help with the research or fix the Elerium shortage. It’s a tough call, but it’s one of many you have to make.
Before Will heads out to the field, Miss Weaver reminds him to check in with Mal before he leaves. Incidentally, Mal is XCOM’s Chief Engineer & Weapon Specialist – XCOM’s version of “Q” basically – and his research on the artefact that led to the formation of XCOM – as well as yours in the field – will lead to new weapons and equipment to help fight the aliens. By specifically researching the “Blob” alien type, Mal has come up with what he calls a “Blobotov” – which is essentially an incendiary grenade that fries the Blob with relative ease – for Will to use out in the field. I have a feeling that he may need these.
Will’s destination for his field mission is a small suburb in California where he must investigate and save who he can. Will’s not alone though, he’ll have XCOM field agents with him – as he will on every field mission he goes on – who will help make things easier and watch his back when it gets a tad hairy – I don’t mean back waxing! Be careful though, your agents aren’t invincible and if you’re not careful, they’ll become another victim in the ongoing war against these unknown invaders.
As soon as the XCOM chief steps foot in the town, there is already an eerie Twin Peaks feeling about it as all you can hear is a lawnmower in the background, still revving away, with its owner nowhere to be seen. It’s at this point where Will hears a cry for help and having looked at the map, this scream for assistance is well off the beaten path – an optional side mission if you will. After investigating the plea, Will and the agents come across a dead body covered in black goo. They may have been too late to save him, but it’s the perfect time for a photo op to get some more research on what might have killed him and how.
Moving up the street, the path to the objective is riddled with crazy goings-on, whether it’s the car that crashes into a lamppost round the corner, the Blob - an alien that looks like a piece of dark matter - that runs from the scene of the crime or the infected guy who’s on his last legs and obviously not feeling himself. Armed with the standard fare shotgun, Blobotovs and a Lightning Gun, Will and his team approach the house where the call was made and go inside. The Lightning Gun and the Blobotovs are both alien pieces of technology, and while they are more powerful than your standard guns, their resources are in short supply, so using them sparingly is a good piece of advice.
The interior of the objective’s house is lined with your typical 50s decor, and the pine wood floorboards, clean living space and strong primary colours are enough to overpower the senses. That is until the Blobs start attacking, and although Will and his agents make short work of them with the Lightning Gun and Blobotvos, the clean living space is now a thing of the past as scorched walls, black residue and bullet holes now became the interior’s new focal point.
The XCOM crew continue to move through the house clearing out room by room, starting with destroying the Blobs that came out the sink in the upstairs bathroom, and ending the clear-up by shooting the Blob that was attacking the woman who presumerably made the call. Despite losing an agent, the mission can be deemed a success, now Will and his last surviving agent have to dash back to the car, but as these things are, it’s never made simple.