If you’re old enough to remember having played X-Com: UFO Defense then the news of 2K Games’ reboot of the franchise probably came with a buttload of excitement followed by a wave of skepticism. Your skepticism is well regarded. 2K released a lot more info on the upcoming XCOM for the current generation gaming platforms and sadly it’s generally nothing like the original X-Com…and that's not necessarily for the best.
Most gamers who originally played any of the good Microprose X-Com games from way back when (i.e., X-Com: UFO Defense, X-Com: Terror from the Deep and X-Com: Apocalypse) were probably hoping that the new game would be a third-person or first-person reincarnation, featuring the old-school concepts of the turn-based series, with strategy being at the forefront of the gameplay. However, that’s not entirely the case with this new XCOM. Now, before reading any further...for those of you who don't know anything about the original series you can read up on the X-Com series at the Wiki page...given that it would take several pages just to explain how the old-school tactical, turn-based strategy game(s) worked.
Now, us fans knew the setting for the new game would take place back during the nuclear-paranoia era of the 1950s and that the game would be a first person shooter, what we didn’t know was how it would all be handled by 2K.
Turns out the only two things that stay the same from the original is that players can hire in new recruits or teammates and the alien technology can be researched and redeployed against them. The developers have taken a completely different take on the franchise by giving it a more story-oriented direction with XCOM being an origins story of sorts that helps explain how the invasion originally began.
It’s not all about being a Debbie-downer, though. To add some sense of nostalgia to the whole affair 2K Games has included a slowed-down tactical overview mode similar to the squad/enemy overview mode in Brothers in Arms, which allows players to re-assign or tactically advance on an enemy using teammates.
Still, the major drawback is that XCOM is dumping a lot of what fans loved about the series: macro and micromanagement. You can no longer build your base anywhere in the world, you’ll no longer be micromanaging paychecks and supply inventories, and you’ll no longer be a nameless X-Com director trying to keep your job…you’ll be playing as a character with a pre-scripted story with additional side-missions to flesh out the longevity of the game.
While there are some features in this new XCOM that are reminiscent to the original trilogy that shaped a genre…from what we know and what we’ve been told about the game I just can’t help but feel that this is a reboot more for namesake than anything else. In fact, the UFO: Afterlight/Aftermath/Aftershock series from Altar seems to tap more into paying homage to X-Com than XCOM.
Nevertheless, we have up until March 6th, 2012 to see what 2K Games churns out in its completed form. Hopefully there’s going to be more to XCOM than what 2K has revealed in the gameplay demos, videos and interviews, otherwise we’re basically just playing another alien-shooter game with light strategy elements.