Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

X-Steve: Ender Unknown

Night will always follow day, controversy will always follow a highly-anticipated game scoring less than 9/10 on a mainstream videogaming website, and X-COM will always see remakes. Xenonauts is the one to watch at present, of course, but Xenowar caught my attention because it’s going for a hyper-stripped down, simplistic, scrappy mini-take on the oft-aped formula. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Tiny men, you trust me so much. And yet my recklessess and lack of foresight means I am your DOOM

OK, I admit it: I am as cynical as you when it comes to half-suspecting that enormously ambitious, fanbase-courting independent projects announced before work on them has even begun carry the dread stench of vapourware. I’ve been very interested in Xenonauts for some time, if faintly horrified that lead designer Chris England claims he made the final decision to pour his life savings into funding an X-COM remake based on an offhand oh-if-only comment I made on RPS, but I confess wasn’t entirely convinced it would see the light of day. Partly this was due to the many tales of infamy concerning amateur game devs who started working together remotely without ever actually meeting – online tensions can run so high – and partly because I’ve been waiting a long time for an X-COM remake that actually feels anything like X-COM. It is not in my nature to believe that dreams can come true.

A playable build of Xenonauts was on show in the RPS-sponsored Indie Arcade at the Eurogamer expo last week, and pretty much everyone I spoke to about it said the same thing: “well, it’s X-COM,” they offered with a wide grin. They didn’t say what worked or what didn’t or what they’d change or anything like that – they just said “it’s like X-COM.”

I can’t think of a greater compliment for any game. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Curse our limited-length titles! For this post should really be called something like ‘Irrational co-founder and now Blue Manchu boss Jon Chey talks more about his splendid-sounding new PC boardgame/ CCG/ MMO mash-up Card Hunter, how to make free-to-play non-horrible, what he thinks the future might be for immersive sims in the vein of System Shock and his thoughts on his former studio’s controversial XCOM remake’. Doesn’t bloomin’ fit though, does it? Oh well. You’ll find all that stuff out for yourself simply by reading on: tons of interesting comments in here, and I’m particularly excited by the thought towards the end that a coming wave of mid-budget simulational shooters might be on the cards, and far more likely to take big creative risks than their glossier triple-A peers… (Oh, and if you missed the more Card Hunter-centric first part of this interview, looky here). >

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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

After a year long silence, the enemy unknown is among us again. Below, you can find a brand new and very different to the last trailer for the XCOM reboot, which is created by some of the guys behind Bioshock 1&2, as well as the long-awaited release date. Hooray/uh-oh. Here we go.
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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

It’s been a bit all-quiet for the Cold War-set X-COM reimagining Xenonauts for the last few months, but creators Goldhawk have finally broken cover to show how the major element – the ground combat – looks in action. The answer, you may not be terribly surprised to hear is “quite a bit like X-COM”, but clearly that’s exactly what we want. Higher res and detail is a fine thing, but it’s especially pleasing to see that destructible scenery, something so bafflingly absent from many of the commercial X-COM remakes, is present and correct.
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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Around four months ago, I flew to San Francisco to see XCOM, 2K Marin/Australia’s remake of my favourite-ever videogame. Where once it was a turn-based strategy game, now it’s a first-person shooter. This upset one or two people. All that time, I’ve had to be quiet, despite my previews appearing in PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine UK – games publishers, I love you, but your print/online emargo split is just dark-ages idiocy.

Now, at frigging last, I can talk about it. There’s a preview over on Eurogamer as of right now, though I do advise picking up the PCG issue for more details still. Read at least one of previews first, then come back here, because I’m afraid I don’t have time today to re-describe the game in this post (but will definitely unfurl my thoughts >about what I saw tomorrow). Back? Well, okay then. Below is a long interview from that showing in March, never before published, with three members of 2K Australia – Creative Director Jonathan Pelling, Art Director Andrew James, and Studio General Manager Anthony Lawrence. We talk about why it’s a shooter, why set it in the 50s, how it references the original, how it’s going to escalate and, yes, the possible fan reaction. (more…)>

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Me! I saw XCOM! Me! And I still can’t bloody talk about it>. But I can direct you to buy, beg, borrow, steal or consume the latest issue of PC Gamer UK, which contains a big-ass feature wot I wrote about 2K Australia/Marin’s controversial do-over of The World’s Greatest Videogame™. What I can say – I hope – is that the feature goes into why the game is a lot> more interesting than the infuriatingly brief press release suggested. The issue’s lurking on the shelves of UK agents o’news now, or you can buy a copy direct from here. Free delivery, I’m told. Oh, and the feature also includes the largest picture you’ve ever seen of a Sectoid from the original X-COM. We’ll be spilling XCOM details on this very website in a few weeks: print/online embargo splits are absolutely ludicrous in this day and age, but there you go.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

The enduring question around 2K Australia’s upcoming XCOM FPS has been “why not just come up with a new IP?” Well, that three posts about X-COM each clocked up triple-figures of comments on Wednesday is the answer to that. A secondary question is “why is everyone so upset that it’s using the X-COM IP?” The IP is not what’s important about X-COM. In terms of fiction, X-COM has only ever been about killing aliens. The important thing is having a game that plays as X-COM did, with its sublime multi-genre cleverness. While it’s unlikely a major publisher would tackle it, the door is not closed to someone else doing that. As has been mentioned by various people, someone like Stardock would be insane to not pick up this baton – there’s a vast and willing audience out there.

First out the gate, though, is indie title Xenonauts, which is militant in its desire to do X-COM properly. It also has a cute genesis – its lead designer Chris England (who is indeed from England) says he was inspired to create an X-COM remake after we wished for one on our podcast. Aw! (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Funny thing. Whenever I try to write about X-COM, as in X-COM the game, not X-COM the place in my heart, I stall. It’s too big. I need to do it at the right time (or perhaps for the right paycheque, I suspect). Where to start? Where to end? There have been superb summaries, makings-of and play diaries. It’s a well-documented game, for sure. Yet I’m not sure there’s been that simple one-two punch of why> our collective knickers remain so thoroughly entwisted by it. Perhaps the words of one are not enough. Let’s try the words of many. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Oof, tough day. I totally get why people are upset, but once again it’s worth waiting for a few more details before you decide the new XCOM is the end of all that is sacred. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little honest hope. Today does, however, spell the end of a decade-long dream that someone would throw really serious money at resurrecting the fantastic hybrid genre 1994’s X-COM created. There is a great sadness there – so many ideas left to die, never bettered in the long gap between then and now. So let’s be hopeful, cautiously or otherwise, about XCOM, but let’s also raise a glass to X-COM. We owe it so much, and we may never see its like again. Sniff.>

This is the first of two posts exploring why I (and many others) unwaveringly believe X-COM is one of the most important and greatest games ever made. We’ll talk about the game itself in the second one, but first please allow me to indulge myself with this autobiographical prelude. This is why X-COM matters to me. (more…)

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