Alien conspiracies and government cover-ups shrouded in mystery, what’s not to like? Producers Drew Smith and Harvey Whitney took me into a back room where it was set up like a 1950′s kitchen.
The stainless steal sink; the red, plastic, and metal chairs; and the vase ornaments mantled on the shelves gave the room a distinct feeling. It was vintage, but it was uncomfortable and very eerie – A pristine environment that mirrors XCOM’s world.
The hands-off demonstration opens up with the player roaming around in a secret government facility. It looks like an airplane hangar, but really it’s a central headquarters that deals directly with the extraterrestrial.
The player moves through the environment conversing with various NPCs, acquiring new weapons from a Q-like character named Mal, and selecting from three missions. As someone who has only heard minimal details about the original, the game moves away from a RTS format into a first-person shooter.
While the game differs in type, many of the strategy qualities stay the same. When selecting your mission, you have to consider which one you want to play. Choosing one mission over another may mean that too much time has elapsed for it to still be relevant to the story; thus, it’ll disappear.
In the demonstration, the producers chose to showcase a rescue mission in California. On the player’s way to California, he is accompanied by two other agents. It’s imperative to the player to do his best to keep them alive, because if they die in the game, there is no way to bring them back.
Enter California – the three agents step out of their vehicle into a suburban neighborhood. Everything looks normal, except for the fact that no one in the neighborhood is around – it’s completely dead. The initial investigation shows small remnants of a black goo smeared in random areas.
And then the intensity begins to stir. A shrill cry rings out behind a house. The agents rush to his aid, but upon arriving, all is left is the body of a man covered in the same black goo.
What really grabbed my attention about the demo is that the game starts out very mysterious and quiet, and then it slowly begins to ramp up. It has a progressive tempo that maintains the mystery behind the game, but gives enough information to keep players on edge.
From there another loud cry is emitted from the house across the street. Upon reaching the woman, a player is met with a small black blob that’s trying to take over the individual in classic alien fashion.
That’s when all hell breaks loose. Black blobs from all over begin attacking the three agents from everywhere. Armed with a shotgun, a molotov-like grenade, and a lightning gun, the agents begin to destroy every black blob that gets close to them.
What adds to the strategy aspect of the game is being able to understand the weaknesses of the aliens. The player can take pictures of the blobs for evidence. That evidence is then analyzed by Hal and is used to make stronger and better weapons to use against the aliens.
After the mayhem ends, the agents proceed to head back to their vehicle where they’re met with a giant rectangle that appears out of the sky in some extraordinary black hole. It begins to fire off a beam that pretty much vaporizes everything in its path, including the other two agents – gone in a blink of an eye.
The player tries to use every weapon in his arsenal to slow it down, but nothing seems to work. The demonstration fades to black and it’s all over.
What XCOM has going for it is the terrestrial mysticism. You don’t know why the aliens are visiting earth and you’re fairly puzzled by them in general.
Similarly, the 1950s vibe creates a great atmosphere that makes players feel slightly uncomfortable. Everything is the same as we know it, but it feels… different. Everything is cold and normal, yet it conflicts with the alien presence.
The producers declined to comment, but what really has my curiosity piqued is if the game will be three player co-op. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see until 2011.