XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Definitely Not Halo Reach 2

  • Share
  • Read Later
Firaxis Games / 2K Games

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the new XCOM: Enemy Unknown launch trailer for a Halo Reach 2 teaser. It’s a slick, one minute, 38 second guns-and-aliens action brief — a festival of body armor, jetpacks, green plasma and explosions.

Trancebeat punctuates the money shots. Detonations bloom in slow-mo. Near the end, some guy wearing what looks like the segmented soot-black nano-suit from Crysis scowls, conjures a spiky orb of energy, then flings it at a throng of husky aliens.

You’re half expecting a squad of SPARTANS or even Master Chief to show up.

(MORE: 5 New XCOM: Enemy Unknown Screens Explained)

That’s probably as it had to be. Hanging a camera over the battlefield as soldiers clomp from cover point to cover point like animated chess pieces, their routes prefigured by electric-blue vector lines — you might as well film croquet.

I mean, turn-based. Can you believe it? A turn-based game after all this time. And as of Tuesday next week, it’ll be on consoles, too.

What’s XCOM? Some of you know. Okay, I’m guessing a lot of you do, especially if you had a PC and an appetite for offbeat “you go, I go” strategy gaming in the mid 1990s. But in case that just looks like all-caps shorthand for “sitcom,” imagine the X-Files before that show took off (the original X-COM, subtitled “UFO Defense” in the U.S., was released just a few months after Chris Carters’ spooky series premiere). Like that, only with the government onboard.

As in the original, you assume command of a “secret paramilitary organization known as XCOM,” working like Mulder and Scully (or as them — you can customize your squad members’ names and abilities), only with massive governmental resources, to fend off a global alien invasion. You do so by recruiting and training your very own super-soldiers, researching alien tech salvaged from battles, outfitting your base with new facilities and squaring off against new threats as they pop up around the globe.

Granted, that all sounds kind of preposterous: Aliens with vastly superior technology start poking around the planet while a governmental organization steals that tech, assimilates it and somehow musters the wherewithal to throw the invaders out? Please. It almost sounds like a Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin disaster flick.

But the backstory doesn’t really matter. It didn’t in “UFO Defense,” after all. It’s much more about creeping through buildings, trees, or over rooftops after dark, hunkering along curbs, park benches, water fountains or inside empty buses, wondering when some sectoid or muton or floater might pop into view, wielding a crazy extraterrestrial weapon that’ll drop any of your squad members dead with a single well-aimed shot.

Design lead Jake Solomon’s XCOM reboot promises to bring all that back, dressed to the nines. I’ve been playing the final version on my PS3 for a day or so, and…that’s probably all I can say about it for now. Or maybe I’ll just refer to the demo, which debuted last week, and admit that I’m positively tickled.

I love panning around the battlefield, sizing up cover and wrestling with decisions like “hide in this vehicle” (better cover) or “climb on top of it” (better view-range). I love reloading from save points and fiddling with different flanking maneuvers. I love that dead means dead if you play in “iron man” mode. I love poking around my bustling base, scrutinizing research projects, having to choose whether to equip soldiers with med kits or grenades, or just zooming out to watch the whole thing working like a high-tech ant farm.

And I love that it’s all as quick, precise and satisfying to manipulate with a gamepad as a keyboard and mouse.

MORE: Sid Meier Talks XCOM: Enemy Unknown Remake’s Action, RPG Angles

14 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Paul Rone-Clarke
Paul Rone-Clarke

Turn based games are alive and well on the PC. Too many to name, though Heroes, Bounty and anything with "Tactics" as a suffix is almost bound to be a TBS. But in Indie gaming T-Based games are HUGE, be they Spiderwebs RPG's, Wesnoth (how many million players....?) and several remakes of Xcom itself (and Jagged Alliance). I don't miss the "golden age" of turn based - because it is better now than it ever was back then.

Even better in many ways now that most of the "shooty bang bang dullards" are playing the 100,000th first person shooter to be released this week, and the TBS games I play are under $10 and often free, and mostly are far better than the ones I played in the 90's

Alf-Einar Trenulltre
Alf-Einar Trenulltre

Stop trying to be clever and witty/funny, and instead concentrate on writing something that is 100% understandable. 

Jason Palazini
Jason Palazini

If any of the visuals in the trailer reminded you of Halo, this is not an industry to be writing about. Yes there are aliens and armored characters, but that's about as far as the similarities go. 

This is also one of the worst titles I've ever seen. It would make just as much sense if I was to write a movie review title it "Hangover- Definitely not Braveheart Returns"

girakul
girakul

XCOM is one of my favorite games, even though it was made a while ago... I am glad it is finally coming out!!! If you like to use your brain, or if you want to improve it, this game is for you... If not, go play Halo! :DDD

oilerspb
oilerspb

What's with all the negative comments? The original XCOM is one of the greatest games ever made and the article explains how the gameplay differs from what the trailer suggests. Although I'll probably buy the PC version rather than a console version, it's good to see a game like this being released for consoles to mix things up from the 24th iteration of CoD or whatever they're up to now. Although if it's just as easy to control on a console as a PC, it might be tempting to play it on a 60" TV....

And anyone who has never played XCOM before and picks up the new one, do yourselves a favour and play on iron man mode. Yeah, it'll be frustrating at times, but part of what made the original so good was every move had to be so carefully considered. There was always plenty of tension when the aliens took their turn, which turned to horror when an alien appears from an area you didn't consider.

I'm already tired just thinking about how much sleep I'm going to lose once this is released. 

Brandon McKee
Brandon McKee

Comparing this game/trailer to Halo Reach 2 is about the dumbest comparison I seen in recent history. It's like saying apples are definitely not oranges, yet both are fruit and together this concept appears to be news to you. 

Then you decide to bash the turn-based style of gameplay. You clearly like your console games to be shallow button mashing affairs with little regard to combat strategy. Unless you have some appreciation for the style of game play that strategy games cover you have no business writing reviews on them. 

I would recommend that Time.com have you stick to reviewing Halo games for the 13 year olds that don't read their website or should they should hire someone that knows what the heck they are writing about.

NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

How dare you compare this game to Halo!!! At least you had the good sense to see the greatness in the game. It's a classic that stands the test of time, can't wait to see if this reboot can compare to the original.

Alex Cotman
Alex Cotman

I left this article with A) eyestrain from rereading sentences that made no sense the first time I read them, and B) a headache from rereading those convoluted sentences that still make little to no sense. 

Kyle Walsh
Kyle Walsh

You should never be allowed to write about video games again. It's almost as if you have no knowledge of video games, or writing in general, and I've never struggled more to make it through an article.

PlyrX
PlyrX

I accidentally liked Kyle's comment. I must say that this is a terrific article. Just wanted to know more about the game and i found more out. This is simply a solid rep orting job. Although i guess if your news articles had a plot twist and possibly a sex scene it would be easier to read till the end. Maybe next time.

Haha keep up the good work

Matt Peckham
Matt Peckham

Hey Kyle, sorry to hear it didn't work for you. I'm not sure what wasn't clear -- you got that I was talking about the trailer at the outset, right?