[E3 2011] The Invasion Won't Be Televised

XCOM is headed to the PS3, and boy what a difference a year makes.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 16, 2011
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The XCOM franchise is damn near sacred to those that grew up playing the strategy games, which is probably why there was... well, let's call it a bit of a backlash when 2K Marin unveiled the game at last year's E3. Though at the time the game was only scheduled for PC and Xbox 360, that has changed, and the PS3 will be enjoying some early 60s anti-alien hijinks when the game hits next year.

But a third platform isn't the only that that was changed since the last time we saw the game. Nearly everything about the look and feel has been overhauled, bringing in far more of the actual strategy element that made the original games so much fun. This is, at its heart, a reboot, but lest one think the old turn-based/real-time split has been completely forgotten, 2K says, "hold on."

Yes, this is still a first-person shooter, but one with at least more of a passing resemblance to earlier games than we'd seen before. As newly recruited XCOM operative William Carter, it's your job it investigate and contain a rising number of reports of extraterrestrial encounters, and E.T. these guys are not. We were shown a brief introductory sequence, highlighting the game's impressive attention to detail in this alternate version of the 60s where alien tech has been repurposed in an effort to contain the growing threat of little green men. This headquarters hub allows for conversations with agents during down time, as well as perusal of the various facts about those visitors from beyond.

In truth, the aliens in XCOM are probably the most impressive part of the whole game. The short video was actually a recut version of the bucolic suburb we saw at last year's demo. In it, a cameraman discovers his neighborhood taken over by at least one alien that used to be his wife, and a massive, featureless floating pillar starts disintegrating people left and right. It's obviously a Very Bad Thing and Carter's being sent in to investigate and repel the invaders.

To do so, he can freely choose his squad based on their innate abilities and weaponry, and the more he uses a particular XCOM operative, the more they'll level up and gain new abilities or strengthen their existing ones. 2K feels this is a crucial part of the game's pre-mission set up -- which, by the way, will include randomly-generated side missions, though the main story ones are all pre-set to help push the overall story along as needed. Exactly how those missions are tackled, however, seems to be fairly open. There were multiple options for Carter waiting as soon as a mission map was pulled up, so choice definitely seems to be one of the main goals for the reboot.

The mission that followed was surprisingly tense, where Carter and his two-man team had to extract a scientist by the name of Dr. Weir who had tech that could help fight off the invasion. The aliens, dubbed The Outsiders, are quite capable of blending in as evinced by the sudden face-shifting of a seemingly normal soldier when prompted for ID. Obviously the Outsiders are looking for Weir too, and things quickly escalate.
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