Along with a few other Wikians, I'm at GamesCom in Cologne Germany this week, and I had the luxury of playing XCOM for an hour today at 2K's booth. This gameplay session consisted of the first hour of the game, which contained three separate missions - two with training wheels and one without. I was super excited to play b/c I remember playing the original XCOM game back in the mid 1990s when it was first released.

I'll admit to being a former journalist, but I'm going to try to keep this post as straightforward as possible. The game was in German, so I wasn't able to absorb all the plot points, but I was able to get the gist of things. (And learn some German to boot!)

Let's get started...

The game starts with a great Arthur C. Clarke quote:

"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

Then a short cut scene (which you may have already seen) where an alien device lands in the middle of a town square. The device cracks open, and all hell breaks forth. Aliens killing humans, infecting humans, etc.

From here, I was challenged with my first mission, which included investigating the event and (of course) killing a bunch of aliens. XCOM's VTOL craft landed near the town square. My four units got out of the vessel, and I began moving them in turn-based format to various points on the map.

The game (which is viewed in an isometric perspective) makes it clear which locations on the map are protected by cover - which is one of the most important concepts in the game. Without cover, you die very quickly, as I discovered on this mission. At one point, I cornered the aliens, but didn't think through the cover angles, and the end result was that 3 of my 4 party members were wiped out.

I still took out the aliens in our first encounter, although losing so many members in what is supposed to be a tutorial was embarassing.

Cut scenes and action

Along the way, as you issue various orders to your troops, cut scenes depict some of the more exciting maneuvers, such as bashing through doors and windows and taking shots at aliens. The PC controls are very straightforward, as are the console controls. On the console, you use the right shoulder button to aim, and the action button ("X" or "A" depending on the system) to fire. Depending on your soldier's skills, your shots may or may not connect with their targets.

You can also chuck grenades, which do a broader damage.

Back to the XCOM base

After my hard-earned victory, we jumpd in our VTOL aircraft and flew back to the XCOM base. In the original game, the base was an important part of the game, right up to the very end. That appears to be the case again - it looks like you'll be able to build new rooms and elements of the base.

In between missions, various alerts call your attention to different locations in the XCOM base. You can research new alien technology, outfit your soldiers with new weapon tech, level them up, and detect new alien landings and invasions across all 7 continents.

In my second mission, I summoned my memories of the previous game and blazed through the mission.

Whereas the first two missions were simple search and destroy missions, the third mission challenged me with facing down a new alien unit type (The Thin Man), and also with rescuing a civilian who was caught in the cross fire. This involved 1) tracking down the aliens and destroying them; 2) finding the civilian; 3) escorting her to the landing zone; and 4) killing more aliens intent on taking her hostage.

This mission, I encountered the Thin Man enemy for the first time. He looks very X-Files-esque, but packs a pretty potent wallop with his weapon. (The first two missions consisted of Sectoids , the basic alien enemy.)

Some other things to briefly note:

When you direct characters to jump through Windows and go through doors in combat, you often get short snippet cut scenes that depict these kinds of actions.

Just like the original game, you can set your characters to be in guard mode. This makes them wait vigilantly, and if an alien/enemy enters their sites, they'll fire away.

It appears that you resource management will play a key role in the game. Initially, XCOM won't have the resources to track down every alien landing. At various points, you'll have to decline missions based on your material or human resources.

Overall, this remake feels like a nice blend of the original XCOM game, with touches of city-building, resource management, and even character development.

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