Home Editorial Cut short: A preview of XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Editorial note: XCOM Enemy Unknown is not to be confused with that really shitty XCOM game we previewed a few years ago. Sweet Lord was that game bad.

Whilst at Multiplay’s i46 this summer, I was very fortunate to get an early heads-up on the new XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I heard good things about the original games so I was, of course, very excited to get playing. And though the machine I was using suffered an unfortuante, catastrophic failure* that ended my demo prematurely, I think I was able to get the jist of what the game is about.


Genre-changing gameplay

XCOM plays like an old-school turn-based strategy game in the same style as chess if all the pieces could move the same and had guns. In a turn, you have two points you can spend by taking actions such as moving to a position or taking cover. You could, for example, move to a position far away with no cover, or move to a closer position and be well fortified. The act of moving forward and getting into cover seems to be the aim of the game as, oddly, there is no combat at all in XCOM. As I never got to the end of the first level, I can only assume that the mission is complete either when your squad moves to a certain position or when all of your squad are in sufficient cover, both of which are very interesting takes on the current state of strategy games.


False advertising

Another shocking revelation is that, despite what is shown in trailers, there are no aliens in XCOM. In fact, there are no enemies at all, so the subtitle of Enemy Unknown makes more sense. The game actually feels somewhat unfinished as there’s little on screen apart from your squad and cover to get behind. No aliens, no way of using your weapons, no civilians running from terror, nothing. There were a couple of alien ship-like things hanging around in areas inspired by a crash-style motif but everything feels pretty dead. This is, of course, a direct commentary on modern police forces: they’re nowhere to be found when trouble actually starts but eight turn up at once as soon as things have died down.


Wild speculation

From what I saw initially, I can only assume that XCOM is following in Spec Ops: The Line’s shadow by advertising to the public’s expectations and then flipping it all on the player’s head when they start playing. The commentary on police forces is noted above, but what else could there be? Political commentary on dual party systems of government (it is, after all, an election year)? Revelations shown through discovery of abandonned technology to further interest in modern science and engineering in today’s youth? Proper crime scene investigation and quarantine technique? They could even take the normal alien invasion storyline and turn it around so that the aliens, unsightly and foreign as they are, have actually come to earth to search for help as refugees only to be sectioned off in ghettos and shanty towns in a stark commentary on racial discrimination, xenophobia and apartheid which, for my money, would be an interesting story the likes of which we have never seen before.

Of course, my experience was atypical. The only way for everyone to truly find out is to load up Steam and check out the demo that was released in the last couple of days, play through it and find out for ourselves. Pre-orders are currently available and XCOM: Enemy Unknown is set to release on the 11th of October on PC and Xbox 360.


* Later attributed to close Aesir proximity

9 replies to this post
  1. Hey Binerexis. I met you at i46 outside the UKCS room. T’was pretty cool to meet you in person. :)

    Sorry to hear your demo experience got cut short. Although I’m pretty sure it’s identical to the demo that’s downloadable on Steam at the moment (except there’s no crazy semi-arcade cabinet this time). I was pretty disappointed by the demo for how constrained the first mission was. For anyone who hasn’t played it yet, it basically makes all the moves for you and as a result isn’t very satisfying. To be fair it is a tutorial; I guess it’s just a bit dull for someone who already knows what they’re doing.

    The second mission gives you more control, and it’s a lot more fun because of it. Kind of a shame they couldn’t show us a bit more. I guess the focus was more on showing people how to play though so I can’t blame them. I’ll be buying the game regardless.

    I’d advise anyone who is interested in the game to watch the video posted above; it really shows you a slice of the tension that made the original so much fun, and is unfortunately missing from the demo as it’s so short.

    • IT WAS YOUUU!!!!

      Yeah, everyone should go play the demo. Keep in mind that the video in the article shows you a fair portion of things you can do in the game so if you want to be surprised, DO NOT WATCH IT! SPOILERS IN THE EVERYTHING!

  2. Good god this game looks awesome. I had no plans to buy it but it looks like it plays like the original. I may play something other than DOTP for a change…

  3. I already have Civ 5 but I will definitely be picking this up. That’s a great deal though since Civ 5 is outstanding.

  4. I’ve been meaning to pick the gods and kings expansion to address the lack of religion and espionage but I haven’t done so yet. But the reviews of it are pretty good.

    • From what I’ve heard, the religion aspect is nowhere near as good as it was in Civ 4 and the espionage was kinda tacked on. It’s one of those things where if I want to play something like Civ 4, I’ll just play Civ 4.

  5. I bought xcom. It is amazing. Much better than I anticipated, it is like playing the original but with better graphics and a better interface.

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