One of the games we got to see on the show floor at E3 2011 was the new first person shooter being developed by Take Two, X-COM. Coming from a beloved classic franchise, we were very excited to see what they were doing with their upcoming release.
Behind closed doors, we had a 45 minute hands off demo of the game, which is beginning to near completion, and it certainly has changed a lot since it was first shown last year.
What sorts of changes were made? How big of a mistake was it for them to let me see it?
Find out after the break.
So let’s get one thing straight. This is not in any way a sequel to the games we know and love from the 80s. If you’re looking for more strategic turn based amazingness, you’re going to hate this game. While they’ve given the game a handful of twists to make it feel at least a little bit more like its roots, at its heart, X-COM is one of the most generic shooters I’ve seen in a while.
Breaking all canon from the original series, the game is set in the 1960s right before the Cuban Missile Crisis.* The home base in which you hang out in between missions looks very CIA big brother-ey as you’d expect, and it feels a lot like the bridge of the Hyperion from Starcraft 2 in terms of gameplay. We talked to a couple of NPCs, and then went to look at the mission map.
The mission structure is non-linear. From what I could tell it seemed like it was a main mission/side mission type structure, but we weren’t told for sure if that was the case. We were able to pick from several agents that you unlock throughout the course of the game, and we were able to unlock skills both for them and ourselves based on research points which you are able to collect.**
After we jumped into the mission, we were in what amounted to an early version of the drop ships used in the original X-COM games. Our agents were both CIA suit types, wearing some absolutely ridiculous gear. One had a collar that looked kind of like the death collar from Saw 3, while the other clearly had a proton pack from Ghostbusters. We were told this gear is the alien tech we’ve reverse engineered in order to give our agents their special abilities.
After walking through an empty town (which was apparently supposed to surprise us), we came across a living soldier who attacked us and then showed himself to be an alien in disguise (loldrama!!! ~WiNG). The aliens in X-COM look like a cross between the static electricity dudes from Fahrenheit, and the twilight from Zelda, because: Hey, why should they bother making the enemies look like or have anything to do with the aliens that we fought across five games and around which the entire canon is based?
Next we got to see the next element blatantly ripped off from other games, because again: Why bother doing something innovative? It was time for the Mass Effect 1 skill wheel! Yes, you can press a button to pause the game, giving you the ability to look around, give orders to your squad, and direct their abilities! And of course, like Mass Effect 2, you can also simply look around and press a button to direct abilities which you’ve assigned to short cuts.
After a few skirmishes with the “aliens”, they came to a turret. Now obviously, every shooter needs elements from Pokemon. So they flanked the turret, weakened it, and captured it inside of a little sphere. At which point, its data was added to our Pokedex and it was transferred to PC box 3. Ok so maybe I made that last part up. Or did I? †
When you capture a piece of tech, you have two options. You can either deploy it on the battlefield at some point in time, or you can save it and get research points. And no, you can’t recapture something if you deploy it. It’s gone forever. So basically if you’re smart, you’ll never ever deploy anything.
Because that would be dumb. And you’re not dumb, right? Riiiiiiight?
For the big finale, we got to see what was basically a mothership that had a giant laser and could make lightning, because: Hey, why shouldn’t they rip off movies in addition to games? Proving themselves to be true Pokemon masters, they weakened the ship, stunned it, and threw a Pokeball! Wait for it… Wait for it… Mothership was successfully captured! They had no plans on showing us what the research screen was going to look like, so they unleashed this thing against a squad of aliens to give us media reps a little bit of spectacle.
And that was it. They were behind schedule, so there was no time for any sort of Q&A. Needless to say, nothing about this game looked particularly interesting. It was a Frankenstein of elements from other games, and every game they ripped off did it better. If they send us a review copy, you’ll get our full review when the game is released. But based on what I saw this week, I have no intention of buying this game, and I wouldn’t recommend it to you either come [insert anticlimactic release date].
* XCOM: UFO Defense was set in the near future, and was supposed to be humanity’s first contact with any extra-terrestrial life forms.
** Seriously, I think someone at Take Two just said “Let’s make this exactly like Starcraft in between missions.”
† I did.