E3 2010: 2K Games Shows Glimpse of 1950s Sci-Fi Paranoia in XCOM

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Announced a few months ago, 2K’s reimagining of the classic PC strategy game changes genres to become a first-person shooter. But the 2K Marin dev studio insists there’ll still be strategy involved. The game takes its title from an organization gathering disparate pieces of info regarding a secret alien invasion. The demo we saw started in aircraft hangar, the base of XCOM. You’ll play as William Carter, who discovered an alien artifact that led to forming of XCOM. Carter leads XCOM and in tat role, players will decide which missions to take on and which to reject. A tour around the base showed off Illyrium, an alien substance that powers the retro-futuristic tech and weapons the agents use to fight the aliens. The research you do in the field generates new equipment and weapons, so that’s another way the missions you choose can affect progression in the game. Your techician Mal is like a greaser, and you’ll get items like a Blobotov from him, which uses weaponized alien mass against them. The game has very limited ammo so you’ll need to be careful to conserve it in battle.

The mission we saw had Carter investigating a emergency call in a suburban neighborhood. He got there get there to find a deserted street and followed a scream to a backyard with a trail of goo, with a dead body smothered in the gelatinous mess. Then we saw the first glimpse of the games’ extraterrestrials. The Blobs are amorphous tentacled creatures that crawl up walls and ceilings. They’ve got a black exterior that reveal a  white central mass when you shoot ‘em up. If you don’t take them out completely, the black jello reforms around the white nugget and keeps on attacking. In short, they’re hella creepy. Carter pulled out a sci-fi energy weapon and dispatched the rest of the blobs after a while. You’ll be manage a team of agents in the field and as the mission continued, it turned in a slaughter in a mid-century modern split-level ranch. One agent went down in the mission to rescue the woman who called for help. Once that was done, the race was to get back to the car and escape the destroyed suburb. Going back out to car, Carter encountered the Titan, a obelisk shape-shifter with disintegrating blasts. Like the walkers from War of the Worlds, it evaporated everything in its path. The demo ended with the Titan ominously bearing down on Carter. Who knows how he’s gonna escape?

Basically, Madmen + The X Files = XCOM. The same kind of attention to style that makes the Bioshock games so good shows up in XCOM. Fedoras, suspenders, high-waisted pants all make the period aspect of the game come alive. The old-school UFO paranoia will be a great element, too. This time period was supposed to be an era where everything was sunny and perfect, so a dark alien threat provides a nice contrast to all the “Leave It to Beaver” nostalgia. XCOM’s out in 2011 and we’ll have more on it as news becomes available.