E3 2011: XCOM - The Outsiders

The last time we saw XCOM was E3 2010. Now, a year later, we get another look at how this sci-fi shooter is coming along.

In XCOM, the name of the game is fighting fire with fire. That's how it worked in the classic PC strategy games, and it seems that philosophy hasn't changed in this modern-day reimagining. After going dark for a year, developer 2K Marin was finally ready to give us a second taste of XCOM during this year's E3 convention. 2K Marin began its presentation by defining its interpretation of what makes an X-Com game. Its points were building and customizing your team, creating a game that blends multiple genres, and facing an unknown enemy.

In 2K Marin's words, it is taking the Batman Begins approach with XCOM and retelling the origins of this supernatural agency. Our hands-off demonstration began in the shoes of William Carter, the head of the newly formed XCOM agency in the year 1962. This was a time of great change for the United States, with the ideal vision of 1950's America giving way to the counterculture movement of the '60s. And to make matters worse, aliens are popping up to further traumatize the country.

The demo began with Carter sitting in his office reviewing some amateur footage of an extraterrestrial attack. On it, an unfortunate cameraman guided us through a quiet, everyday suburb. Everything seemed as normal as apple pie and the 4th of July until he rounded on a young woman with a devilish smile. A moment later, her face rippled and deep, black lines split from her nose and cut back toward her ears. The frantic shaking of the camera signaled that our man was now running scared, eventually spilling outside to find his quiet suburb under siege by an alien weapon. By the time the first car was vaporized, he had already dropped the camera and was fleeing on foot.

Back at the office, Carter took a moment to review some of his new XCOM agents. Every character shown had two slots for powers and two for perks, with each slot broken down into a few sections that we presume are for leveling up. Once Carter had made his selections, he checked in with Angela, XCOM's chief of intelligence to choose his next mission. From a map of the continental United States, he had the choice between advancing the story and choosing a randomized side mission. He went with the former and was briefed on a mission to find and secure Dr. Weir--a brilliant scientist and much-needed asset for the young organization.

After a short helicopter ride to his last-known location, we stopped to check in with a military outpost. At first, everything appeared to be in order, save for one thing: There were no people. The streets were empty. The local diner was empty. Even the military's tents were empty; that is until our character rounded a corner and spotted a body slumped against a chalkboard. A massive burn wound was still smoldering on his chest. In the next room was a lone soldier surrounded by more bodies. As he slowly turned his gaze on us, our teammates called out for identification. The soldier exploded in response. With a piercing wail, his body rippled and he reverted to his true form: a blue, slightly crystalline alien.

The alien was promptly gunned down; however, its death triggered an alarm that alerted its companions. It was obvious that this mission just got a whole lot more complicated. On the far side of the outpost, Carter and his team encountered a half-dozen aliens barricaded behind cover. Worst of all, they had a powerful shield that was blocking his gunfire. To counteract this, he called up the tactical command view that displayed each character's abilities while drastically slowing the action. From here, he used his disrupt ability, a bit of technological wizardry researched from alien technology, to stun the alien on the far left and attempt to flank the side of the barricade.

In response, the aliens threw up another wall. Annoyed by this turn of events, Carter ordered his squadmates to move to the other side of the barricade and use an ability to draw enemy fire. In response, the aliens dropped the shield facing Carter and redeployed it to counter his teammates. This was their undoing, and they were soon wiped out under a barrage of gunfire as our hero closed in for the kill.

Further along in the demonstration, our squad arrived at the inner courtyard of a local university. This was where Carter encountered the Titan, which was a massive enemy laser cannon in the form of a giant, ever-morphing ring. This siege weapon quickly incapacitated one of his squadmates, forcing Carter to use his shield ability to protect the two of them while he helped his partner. Using a high-powered energy weapon he had collected earlier, Carter managed to weaken the weapon to the point were it could be captured.

Capturing alien technology and bringing it back for reverse engineering is key to your agency's survival in XCOM. The aliens are winning the war, and turning their weapons against them is your only chance of evening the odds. Once the cannon was dismantled and sucked into a space containment sphere, our character could either chose to save it and bring it back for research or redeploy it in the field and gain a powerful ally (but lose the device afterward). The game ended up forcing his hand by dropping in another swarm of aliens that were quickly annihilated by the now-friendly cannon.

Inside the university, we spotted the good doctor just as a translucent blue snake creature snatched him up and carried him down a hallway. Our character gave chase, with the screaming racing ahead of him just out of reach. As he closed in, the creature dragged him off into a portal and beyond our sight. But that didn't stop Carter. He dove after it into a flash of white, blinding light. When his vision cleared, we saw that his hands rested on unfamiliar terrain--gray and pulsing with blue lines. Looking up into the smoky sky above, we saw more of these jagged, floating islands shifting and moving through the air. Then the lights came up, and the demo ended.

This cliffhanger left us hungry for more details. Overall, XCOM reminded us a lot of Fallout 3--both in terms of art style and its hybrid of role-playing and first-person shooting genres. We'll be sure to keep you abreast of any further developments leading up to the game's release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on March 6, 2012.

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77 comments
Hellavation
Hellavation

Xcom seems like it's going to be different from most first person shooters and have a good story to boot with it. Strategy and first person shooting who could go wrong?

Carlos161
Carlos161

If it reminded you Fallout 3 I'll take a look at it.

sam85_
sam85_

looks very good!

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

@Mordraneth - I agree, either that or I'm getting old :) I didn't even get to mention Jagged Alliance with the talking mercs too. Another classic, Back when, I couldn't believe every merc was actually talking to you, such personality! great stuff! What was that Doc...'There shooting at us.', you don't say :) Anyway, I hope the new X-Com game does well. I miss the old games..

Mordraneth
Mordraneth

@Hillsy_: The issue here is the gap in gaming generations. When X-Com 1 and 2 were out, gaming was ruthless, unforgiving and very challenging. I loved that and miss it dearly. You had to scrape and work for every victory in most games. Today that rarely if ever happens. What people find fun now is a far cry from what we enjoyed old skool.

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

It isn't fanboyism, it is being able to recognise a classic game. Xcom 1 & 2 and Civ 1 are classic games which beat many modern day games found today.

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

@rman88 - haha well...remind me not to go with you to a casino then :) Remember it is a game, if you hit every go wouldn't it become easy and boring? The random element is what makes the game special too, don't you like surprises? I remember a couple of times, I missed one alien and hit another by chance :) Another time I missed an alien and hit a canister at the back and killed three aliens, even better :) Use scouts to find hostile locations, use height to your advantage too so you can see further, cover your best troops(check there stats). If your squad is wiped out you aren't using vehicles efficiently, remember vehicles can take more than one hit, though remember your armour, rear is the weakest. Even if you have an alien in front of you at the end of your turn, make your vehicle look toward it, why? frontal armour is the strongest. Anyway, rant over :) Hope the new game is good, and I hope you give the game another chance one day. BTW, I did finish the game and didn't have any problems on dosbox(0.74) or old dos(486). Final Note: There is a Windows version too.

Darthexodus
Darthexodus

Why? Why take a game that built its reputation as a turn based stratagy game and turn it into a first person shooter? Why set it in the 1960's and not modern day? Why make it look like a cartoon? Why not make a descent follow up to the original? Why would we pick this up instead of another FPS like MW3 or Battlefield 3 ? Everything i have seen and read about this screams medeocracy, which is a shame because i was a big fan of the originals. Oh well maybe one day ...

rman88
rman88

urgg.. man fan boy you really don't understand a thing. while the game frustrates me to much to play it, and i don't know how to use dosbox. i have seen other people far better at me play it threw lets plays. yay you tube. they always say that you can get screws so easily.by the random die god. aka i didn't come up with that. because even if you have a 99 percent chance to hit. you can still miss. and civilization had the same thing. i am not saying they are bad, no. am i saying that xcom sucks no. i am saying i didn't like it because the combat system was pure chance. and at times i really don't have the best luck. so coming into a game getting my squad wiped out constantly because the random die god hates me, ain't much fun.

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

One last point..Civilization's combat is also based on combat dice rolls, are you saying Civilization isn't good? Civilization & X-Com are recognised classics with or without your approval. It is fairer to say you don't like RPGs & Strategy games as the majority of those games are based on dice rolls.

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

If you played X-com... and I mean actually played it!! you would realise the percentage chance increases by supporting your troops in conflict. Seriously, play the game!! To give yourself a better chance you don't go alone, you form a party who go around together, so other troopers can shoot too at the aliens....and/or you use supporting vehicles.. mix and match, like 2 vehicles to 4 troops, 1 vehicle to 7 troops etc..

rman88
rman88

o god you didn't even read what i said. i am complaining that because attacks are randomly generated threw a percentages system. meaning of you have 25 percent chance to success. you most likely will fail. has nothing to do with being poorly equipped. i don't like relying on a die role to figure out if i hit or be hit. because anyone who played any game of chance will know you can get screwed so easily. so no i am not saying that i want to be able to have everything at the beginning and be super powerful. no that's not the case. what i am saying is i don't want to have 50 percent of the strategy of a game to revolve around being lucky.

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

@rman88 - Did you actually play the old X-Com games?? Your team was underpowered due to the alien invasion. Your weapons were ineffective because you needed the alien technology to combat the alien threat. The enemies you fought could see further, they were themselves superior but in time...well..maybe things change throughout the game. It is not all random, get power suits or flying power suits, ion armour(in the sequel), and watch as your team progresses and level's up, becoming stronger. Use enemy grenades, far more effective than standard issue military ones, the idea was you were the underdog and only through research you could prevail. Enemy Unknown and Terror from the Deep are classics, especially the first one; as they were so far ahead in the gaming world upon there releases. The only other game which achieved the same status in my eyes is of course Civilization 1. All of them classics and very difficult to aspire to. X-Com 1 & 2 were tactical games because you had to be thorough in your searching due to initially being underpowered. Enemy sectoids had great reactions whilst floaters didn't. Flanking your squad to the alien ufo was an advantage, but only if your trooper had high reactions too. Never go through the door into a ufo, open it first; so enemies are less likely to react. Blow away walls if it gives you a shot at an alien. As you progress your team abilities improve, upgrading your research, building bases for a better future. Then...you get introduced to a friend called the blaster launcher :) Brilliant games. I will check out this new one though, but we will all have to see about the results.

rman88
rman88

to be honest everything i hear form this game seem to be qq. so i am sory to lump you with the rest of the x com fan boys. i played the original and hated it for the complete and utter luck system. where game can screw you over get everything you did all your hard work gone in a instant with some lucky or bad rolls on your self. aka why in most cases grenades were useless as your agents will throw them 4 inches away and kill them self. i am glad there making it a tactual first person shooter. and i hate it that almost everyone is not willing to give it a chance and only care about staying right to the mold. and this is not the only game that has a fan base that dose it. i seen many Ravid fans that if you say something that may deviate or try to expand the world itself. maby in a way that wouldn't hurt anything but give you some more options. you will get chewed out so badly by so many fan boys. why i cant help to be hypercritical on anyone giving a revamp game, which i have allot of hope in so much crap because its not the same. x com is about fighting off a alien invasion by stealing tech and building a base and a squad. not about taking turns and dieing because you didn't worship the random die god. just a note this was only in minor third party games. which even the forum moderates started trolling. so you have to say i have very little faith in the third party fan base.

Unholy123
Unholy123

Its so sad the closet we ever get to a true new x-com games comes from russians and has to be called UFO instead. This game is not xcom. It may take a storyline based on it but its not an x-com game just like fallout 3 stopped being a fallout game and became oblivion in the wastes with guns.

Mordraneth
Mordraneth

@rman88: No where in my comments did I state I wasn't looking forward to the game, nor did I state I wanted the old system back; my position was never stated. I was simply correcting people's uninformed assumptions. Speaking of which, assuming I am "qq"ing because of my previous statement lumps you in with the other ignorant people I was replying to.

watchawant
watchawant

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

rman88
rman88

you do know that the world map was in real time and wasn't turn base. if your going to qq least get your fact straight.

Mordraneth
Mordraneth

@DaneGamer: @Watchawant: The old X-Com games were not RTS. They were squad based tactical games. Turn based strategy with micromanagement elements like base design, research, etc.. If you are going to bash a series at least be informed when doing so. Anything else shows your ignorance.

milannoir
milannoir

This game is a travesty. Why can't someone just revive the X-Com games properly, with neat base building /tactical combat simulation? The concept was awesome...

usermikey
usermikey

Lol I didn't forget about this game, mostly cause of the multi-page feature of it in an old game informer from last year... Looking good. :D

rashbourne
rashbourne

Hmm. This HAS changed my opinion. Random missions, squad command and customization, research... This might not be the BS letdown that it first appeared to be.

megakick
megakick

this is really different from the rest of the series.

FoeCrusher
FoeCrusher

Well I haven't seen anything here that changes my basic opinion about the game. Nothing looks innovative or interesting. Wow another first person shooter....what a great idea....that hasn't been done to death. When did gaming become like Hollywood anyway? Where new ideas are seen as too risky and everything has to be a re-imagining of something that has been done before. No one who loved X-Com wants an X-Com FPS. Just change the name and I will be happy.

zync-
zync-

this game is amanzing.. but i hope they talk more about the gameplay.

MetalRatex
MetalRatex

I'd like to play a game in the way the first and second X-COM: UFO were made. Even the third I enjoyed.

watchawant
watchawant

I personally would much rather play the fps they're working on than an rts. So all you dbags screaming "THIS ISN"T XCOM WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" just go away. Go play the original if you want more of the same f**king game.

banderweir
banderweir

Yeah I agree guys, this is a total misuse of the x-com brand name. I mean a series reboot is okay sometimes, but true x-com was a turn-based strategy, not whatever this is... Count me out. I realize TBS isn't all that popular these days, but there are lots of (older) gamers that would appreciate a true new x-com game, myself included. Hell, I just played thru TFTD again a couple of months ago. If they just wanted to please the new generation, they shouldn't have slapped a classic name on this garbage.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

X-Com, where? I don't see any X-Com.

smellyfeet
smellyfeet

End of the day, the Almighty dollar supersedes all design decisions The two Bioshocks obviously made them truckloads of money, and by the time Infinity comes out, everyone will be driving in to work in Ferraris and Lamborghinis (if it’s not already happening) So how do you repeat Bioschock's $ucce$$ while at the same time ensuring it's not in direct competition with Bioschock? Easy, make another game that’s in the same era (1950s-1960s); you can reuse the same graphics and music from that period -- recycle levels, weapons and monsters you didn’t get to use in Bioschock, and you significantly cut down on the R&D! Then have your team focus on other important stuff like gameplay and MP And the best thing : a customer base of several gajillion Bioshock players who won’t take too much prodding to run out and buy this new alien invasion game And call it XCOM, cos hey it’s a famous brand! (and we might win the hearts of all those fanboys from the original game) If not stuff them. End of the day, I’ll be driving a Porsche.

Shardz7
Shardz7

X-Com or Mass Effect? You be the judge. In either case, this will be a console leftover plate for the starving PC crowd. Lovely.

logodash
logodash

Looks NOTHING like X-COM. It's all about Half-Life 2 + Brothers in Arms... Another ruined classic...

boonerr79
boonerr79

This will end up being white noise mixed in with the numerous other FPS games that constantly stream out. MAN! They really are wasting an opportunity with this. Remaking (and reimagining) the original XCOM would have yielded a "must buy" game. Instead... this will likely fall on it's face. Time will tell of course.

StormFuror
StormFuror

If the game doesn't have Sectoids, Mutons and the ability to go into UFO spaceships I will be disappointed and hate this game. Why can't they just make X-Com Ufo Defense with today's graphics. It seriously cannot be that difficult. I like FPS games and I will probably play this, but this is not X-Com.

NotJackieChan
NotJackieChan

It looks like something Valve would make, graphics/style wise.

Poodlejumper
Poodlejumper

@darthkillerduck What makes you think you wouldn't enjoy an X-com experience as a bit older? Tastes refine. You might like it if you tried an updated version (that is not coming). The old recipe could indeed use some streamlining (and by this I do not mean 'dumbing down': this term is very real and more and more prevelant no matter what some say.) I didn't like the Total War series until I hit around 27 or so. I don't think I'm being hateful towards this title and I am still reserving final judgement, but nonetheless does everything truly need to be a shooter? I rather liked BioShock's rehashing (the first one moreso than the second) of the System Shock system but it was always a "thinking person's shooter", wasn't it?. So was Deus Ex. These were changed a bit (some good and some bad change) but always shooters at heart. We're demeaning ourselves if EVERYTHING must be a shooter...and I for one refuse to say, as we all get older and still are into gaming (heck, I'm in my mid-30s and a professional/family man), that collectively lowering ourselves will make sales jump. Any game done right that can readily be used across multiple platforms with enough ingenuity and risk. Just guessing, but I'm pretty sure EA's biggest seller isn't a shooter. It's Madden. Proof that everything does not need to be a shooter. If American Football isn't a combination of realtime action and turn-based (think about what "downs" really are) strategy I don't know what is,

WarPrime
WarPrime

I am not opposed to a shooter int eh X-COM universe, they did it before with Enforcer (which was awful...and part of the reason I cringe at this concept) . What I really hated from that pile of crap they showed last year was basically BioShock re-skined with a 1950 wrapper. Right down to "Research" being done with a camera....now where have I seen that before? Whats the point of using the X-COM name if you are going to get rid of everything "X-COM". You will only piss off the fans who love the franchise. The players who don't care about X-COM don't care that its called X-COM, so call it something else. Now that they are making more of an attempt at matching the original intent of X-COM, now I am interested. Still don't want to fight blobs of black goo, but what ever, here is hopping they can pull their stuff together to make a good game.

darthkillerduck
darthkillerduck

@Poodlejumper I didnt new in terms of the genre, i meant new in terms of the actuall franchise. To me, this looks like a really good game. I remember playing the first X-COM when i was younger and finding it really hard, but this looks like it will be easier and more accessable, meaning more sales, but they are also trying to keep with the old games (I think). Now I fully respect yours and everyones elses opinions on this, just dont go spewing out hate for it and stop other who might actually want the game by thumbing down all the comments that give it a compliment.

00J
00J

This isn't the same game they showed off a year ago, this is more like X-Com. No wonder they went dark for a year, it looks like they took the advice of all the nay sayers about the crappy black slimes... Even the intro is different, and the whole premise leading up to the Aliens, the workings of how the game plays is different too, different from what was explained a year ago.

GarGx1
GarGx1

I not so sure they've totally lost all the X-Com feel here. There's still squad based combat, randomised misions, the need to develop new tech from captured alien gear maybe they'll still let us disect the aliens and soldiers that advance through levels. To be honest though, if they had to go squad based FPS it should only have replaced the turn based combat and left the base building strategy side in (that could have been nice from an first person point of view aswell, especially defending a base you designed yourself). I can understand why they've made such a drastic change to game though, could you imagine trying to play vanilla X-Com on a console with a controller.

zzodr
zzodr

I predict lotsa bugs.

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

Might be an interesting game but I do miss the original X Com. Will wait for additional details as I enjoy the hybrid RPG/shooters but it's a tough genre to pull off. Clumsy RPG elements tacked onto a shooter really make for a bad experience, plus you have to have a good story and interesting characters. All that combined in one game isn't easy. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of ME1 & 2. People can argue about their various strengths and fanboys can scream that there were no weaknesses but there definitely (albeit it different) things that Bioware didn't do well in either game.

Poodlejumper
Poodlejumper

@Kevin-V. No offense but really? I've heard that line about "tarnishing memories" many times. Nothing is tarnishing my memories. This isn't about X-Com Enforcer (which has about as much street cred as Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance does). X-Com Enforcer was never going to replace regular X-Com. It, like RE: Umbrella Chronicals, fell to the wayside because if an attempt to send things in a new direction, it lost the spirit of the origial. This is about what we want more of and what we where we want to see games going. They all seem to be going in the direction of "everything has to be a first person shooter", simplified, shortened, and always with graphics that outdo the game-play. Oh I'm a fan of FPS...don't get me wrong. But diversity in what I play is the spice of gaming. Sure, my memories won't change. I can always go back and replay those but those games I have already played and I want MORE and BETTER. But I want more games that play and challenge differently. I do not want my old favorites rehashed at all. I WANT MORE. I want another Baldur's Gate. A REAL ONE AND NOT DA2 "Push a bu'on and something awesome happens". I want a new Jagged Alliance (and I'm FINALLY getting it). I want a MMORPG that doesn't use the term "DPS" in an attempt to clone WoW. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this. I bet you some folks who disagree might reconsider after playing those games. Most importantly I want Platformers and PC gamers to enjoy this.

Brokenhope69
Brokenhope69

What tyoe of an idiotcalls Fallout 3 a free roam version of Quake? How someone could even think that makes me wonder how they made it this far un life and are still alive.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

Guys. X-COM has already been made into a shooter: X-COM Enforcer. Remember that? The Outsiders is not a new twist for the franchise, and Enforcer didn't bring about the end of the world. In other words, some of you are acting like 2K killed your puppy, but they aren't doing what someone else already did 10 years ago. Games may change, but no one can take away your experiences with the classic games you love. And don't forget: the series has has some not-so-good strategy games. Remember Aftermath? Let's let the game speak for itself. Whether it's bad or good, it can't tarnish my memories of a classic.

actusoul
actusoul

Someone IS WORKING ON AN X-COM REBOOT. I am a fan of the old x-com and I will give this one a chance. However, here is a link to the reboot. This looks great too. It is a reboot with updated graphics etc. and keeps the core game intact. I am looking forward to this one; xenonauts http://www.xenonauts.com/