The X-COM series is set to receive a considerable shake-up next month, as 2K Games begins their reboot of the franchise with the launch of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. A reimagining of the original 1994 classic that launched a hugely popular strategy franchise, UFO: Enemy Unknown, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is clearly a product designed to please an audience hungry for more strategy action alongside the forthcoming first-person shooter, simply known as XCOM.
From the very beginning of XCOM: Enemy Unknown it’s obvious that the design team has taken inspiration from the work of Arthur C. Clarke, are aren’t afraid to show it. This is a world in which humans are aggressors; little grey men have descended from the stars, and though it’s true that they are here for nefarious purposes, the first act of the human race is to send in an elite special forces team armed to the teeth. Even if the visitors were here to make peace, seeing a squad of highly skilled killing machines coming straight at you with their sights trained is only likely to antagonise the situation.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown essentially presents two parts to its tactical action: combat and strategising. The action takes place in fully 3D environments, wherein the player commands the actions of each of their squad members individually. The closest parallel available in recent times would be the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable releases of Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command, though in reality these titles were more than likely influenced by the original UFO: Enemy Unknown. Each available unit has two action points (at the start of the videogame, it’s currently unknown if more can be earned through gaining experience) which can be spent on movement, environment interaction or combat. For example, a squad member may move into cover and open fire on an enemy, or they may dash to a more distant piece of cover, but they cannot do both. This limitation is where the tactical element of XCOM: Enemy Unknown comes into play; knowing the limitations of your squad and the enemy forces is essential for the careful planning of a course of action that will lead to minimal casualties.
The strategising element of XCOM: Enemy Unknown takes place at your base of operations. Here, a visual representation of research and training operations allows players to customise their squad and invest in developing new technologies for use on the battlefield. In Electronic Theatre’s limited hands-on time with XCOM: Enemy Unknown only a small selection of options were revealed – developing one prototype, upgrading one troop – but there’s likely to be many more options that reveal themselves when XCOM: Enemy Unknown launches next month. And based on the evidence seen here, Electronic Theatre can’t wait to dig deeper into the tactical action that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is set to provide.