Saturday, October 20, 2012

X-COM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

Back in the early '90's when I first started getting into PC gaming, a buddy introduced me to what is still one of the most engaging and simply amazing games I've ever played, on any platform, in the history of ever.  That game was X-COM: UFO Defence.

X-COM: UFO Defence saw players take on the role of the head of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-COM) having you set up bases and managing soldiers, scientists, and engineers as you attempted to assess and stop a global alien invasion.  It was extremely detailed and complicated with a lots of logistics, and once you got on the ground for some combat against the alien invaders, it became a great turn-based strategy game.

 X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a modern day re-imagining of it, and surprisingly it's still a turn-based strategy game.  The Xbox 360 demo is pretty short and consists of two levels, basically what I suspect to be the tutorials for the full game.

The first has you leading a squad of four soldiers in Germany, learning how to move, take cover, attack, etc.  The controls take a little getting used to but are fairly intuitive and since the game is turn-based you can take your time figuring stuff out.  Gone are the Time Units found in the original and instead each soldier has two bars.  Moving uses one bar up to a certain distance, but go beyond it or dash and you use your second bar.  Managing the use of this bar is important as it allows them to react during the alien's turn and can be key to keeping your guys alive.

The second mission sees you leading another squad of four, but this time you get to choose to thwart an alien attack at one of two spots around the globe.  The country you assist will grant you a bonus, extra scientists or funding, but the one you neglect will be angry with you and your relationship with them will be damaged.  Thus, the choices you make are difficult and truly do matter, and you'll want to keep the larger strategic picture in mind.

Overall I found the gameplay very solid and a great spiritual successor to the original.  You really do want to take your time moving across a map, having your soldiers cover one another and take cover properly, and you'll specialize them into different roles (medics, heavy weapons, snipers, etc.)  Certain actions, like attacking an alien, now transition to a in-game cinematic which is flashy, though I personally felt unnecessary.  Something like that wasn't needed in the original, but I understand they did it to broaden the appeal to the more mainstream audience of today.

There wasn't much to tinker with for base management in the demo.  Your one base is already established and while you get to sample a bit of research and soldier management (promotions an such), you don't get to do much else other than moving around it.

Overall the demo took me about 45 minutes to complete, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  While I won't be picking up X-COM: Enemy Unknown right now simply due to time constraints, it's definitely on my radar.

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