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Somehow, I wasn’t aware that there was an official novelisation of 1993 strategy/everything game X-COM until just last month. Given my decades-long fixation with X-COM, this was rather like discovering that there was a book about my mum that had passed me by completely.
Diane Duane’s slim text X-COM: UFO Defense – A Novel, published in 1996 by game guide firm Prima, has long been out of print (and never made it to e-print), so despite long scouring of fansites my only option was to explore the secondhand market, which in general wanted over £20 for this 250-page paperback. One joker’s even asking £500 for it. Fortunately, a lucky eBay bid got it to me for a mere £11, and so it is that I now own this fascinating oddity: a novelisation of a strategy game, written by an author with a long history of penning books based on existent sci-fi franchises. Could it truly recreate the tension and horror of X-COM? The thoughtful trauma of the minute-to-minute decisions and the long game of base-building and troop-nurturing? (more…)
Oh dear, it turns out it’s a first-person shooter with quick-time events and checkpoints after all. Move along, nothing to see here.
No, no, rest assured Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown is, like its 1993 predecessor X-COM: UFO Defense aka UFO: Enemy Unknown, a rich brew of turn-based strategy, base management, a sort of roleplaying and the sudden, frequent, horrible death of people you’ve developed an unhealthy fixation with, as you and your changing squad of soldiers struggle to save the Earth from alien invasion. This remake, until fairly recently, seemed like an impossibility – large publishers had lost faith that big-budget strategy games could pay for their yachts, iPads and watches heavy enough to beat a donkey to death with, and the X-COM name was sullied by spin-offs that had about as much in common with it as Hulk Hogan has with Stephen Hawking. X-COM was over, surely.
X-COM is back. I’ve waited 15 years for this, and now I can wait no more. Here’s what I think. (Note – this write-up covers singleplayer only. Thoughts on multiplayer will follow at a later date).> (more…)
I’m only just curling myself out of the tiny ball of rage I’d become due to missing out on getting to play Firaxis’ X-COM reboot the other week. Instead, we sent Adam. Adam! He’s famous for saying stuff like “aliens are for losers” and “turn-based combat is a dusty relic of a bygone age” and “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Skyranger”, then he starts body-popping and singing Flo Rida songs.
I take some small measure of comfort from the following end of the world-themed and rather splendid E3 trailer for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which you may yourself watch below. It’s impressively dramatic and explosive, in a way that I can only presume will be somewhat at odds with the slower-paced, turn-based combat of the real thing, but more excitingly it shows a Cyberdisc transforming, some sort of new alien that might be made of crystallised light, a Chrysalid in action, hints at some sort of psychic powers for soldiers and a glimpse of a very pissed-off Muton trapped in an alien containment tank. I likey. (more…)
With their Guile haircuts and their baggy jumpsuits, the original members of X-COM couldn’t suppress an alien if their lives depended on it and, boy, did their lives ever depend on it. The new XCOM are all about suppression though. There’s nothing they love better than pinning some hapless sectoid behind a car and then flanking the mind-probing little bastard. Of course, all this suppression and whatnot is change and change can be more frightening than a chrysalid in a confined space. Here is a developer diary that intends to explain why modernisation is not necessarily the enemy you know.
I know exactly what I’m doing. Including when I screw up. When I screw up in X-COM, I invariably know that I’ve screwed up long before the results of said screwing-up actually come to pass. My soldier is out of action points and left standing in the open while an alien silently eyeballs him, or a yet-to-explode grenade lands casually at the feet of an innocent civilian. Next turn, I will pay for these mistakes. Pay in blood.
I make exactly the same mistakes, and knew exactly why they had come to pass and what punishment would follow them, in Goldhawk Interactive’s indie remake/reiminaging Xenonauts, which after three years of preorder-funded development today climbs about the wheezing Kickstarter bandwagon for its final furlong. (more…)
As promised yesterday, here’s another chat with XCOM: Enemy Unknown lead dev Jake Solomon. Here it is – and it brings with it particularly glad tidings if, like me, you weren’t 100% convinced the slo-motion ‘glamcam’ killshots and 80s action movie soldier vocals were for you. Turns out we will indeed be able to turn them off in favour of quieter, interruption-free strategising. I’ll probably try it both ways (missus) to work out which I prefer in practice but I’m super-chuffed that we’re getting the option.
Also discussed – what he thinks about indie X-COM remake Xenonauts, chat about how to capture live aliens, how alien interrogation and research works, more on the game’s lethality, and to what extent the game will shape your advancement up the tech tree.> (more…)
Two XCOM: Enemy Unknown interviews in (across four huge posts), I’m afraid I’m still nowhere near out of questions. And people are still saying ‘why didn’t you ask about thing x?’ Well, let’s do it all over again. Once more, Firaxis’ Jake Solomon fields my endless queries about his reboot/remake/reimainging of precious, precious X-COM – and in this first of two parts, we talk about the new look, newly not-stupid Floater, the length of the game, approximately how many fatalities you can expect to suffer, coming up with prototypical names for the soldiers, squad sizes and modding. Oh, and please click on the first three screenshots for larger versions.>
Jake Solomon: This is like our third interview
RPS: I know, it’s getting silly. (more…)
Much as I love X-COM and would have as many of its turn-based, slow-scrolling babies as it asked me to, I would have zero hesitation in demanding one important change from it – to change the name of hovering alien foe known as the Floater. No, no, no, NO I’m not going to tell you why. If you don’t already know you live an enviably innocent life. And probably haven’t read many issues of Viz.
Distressing name or no, Floaters will not remain a thing of the past, having recently been confirmed as making a redesigned appearance in this Falltumn’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. (more…)
It’s probably horribly sensationalist to suggest there’s a cold war on between Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Goldhawk Interactive’s more mechanically purist X-COMlike Xenonauts, but then again it is the battle to end all battles, one shall stand and one shall fall and the Earth itself will be left in smoking ruins by the time this apocalyptic conflict is over.
Xenonauts has been smartening itself up since the announcement of Firaxis’ official reimaginging, as lead dev Chris England chatted to me about a few weeks ago. More detailed environments, and the ‘evil alien sheds’ have now been replaced with suitably dramatic crashed UFOs. Images of its newly endetailed look are now available for all to clap eyes upon. Which is only so much preamble, innit? Here you are… (more…)