Last week I was invited to a special hands on event with 2K Games highly anticipated XCOM 2. The original XCOM was released in 2012 to great critical success and has built quite the fanbase. I think it’s necessary that I mention that this was my first time playing the franchise and outside of watching some gameplay videos on YouTube, I went in completely blind. Being a huge sci-fi fan, the storyline immediately had me bought in. Based off a kind of “What If” scenario, if the aliens had actually won in the original XCOM and they now ruled the world. My life experiences of watching extraterrestrial films was going to finally pay off. Time to assemble the team of; Ripley, Hicks, Dutch, and Nada (well not exactly those characters, but bonus points if you know them all) and kick some serious alien ass.
During my brief time with the game I played the tutorial missions and a mission picked out by the developers about 1/3 of the way into the game. If you are new to XCOM, it isn’t the easiest genre to describe. I would call it a turn based squad action strategy game and I still don’t know if that fully represents the way the game is played. Before you start a mission you're thrown into the mobile headquarters. Your mobile headquarters is your home for all of the customization options at your disposal before you get into the action. Different rooms offer different options and believe me when I tell you, there are many rooms. You can customize the looks, weapons, skills and much more for each member of your squad. You can even train new squad members and increase your team size. The amount of options at your disposal should insure that each player has a different experience and strategy with their squad.
The members of your squad will fall under certain playable classes. In this hands on session we had four playable classes to choose from. This yet again will play into how you play a given mission. Do you want to train and utilize multiple sharpshooters for sniping from a distance or maybe you know the mission will call for a lot of up close and personal fighting, so you will need to utilize the ranger with his/her sword and shotgun. Being my first time playing XCOM 2 I decided to take a balanced squad of; ranger, grenader, sharpshooter and specialist. This worked effectively for my time in the tutorial levels but it didn’t fare very well in the later mission.
Something I should also mention that I really liked about XCOM 2, is that the mission environments are generated randomly. So each time you play a mission the strategy you used to ambush some alien scum once, might not pay off on a second play through (and that very same alien ambushes your entire squad, picking them off one by one like the predator). After failing a mission, I went back in with a game plan and once the level reloaded I soon realized my game plan could not be utilized because some of the building locations were no longer in the same places as before. (Some of my time playing XCOM 2 was captured and included in the YouTube video on this page)
XCOM 2 Preview Event Gameplay:
2K Games also made a point to mention to me that XCOM 2 will heavily support the modding community and that at launch all of the assets will be available via Steam Workshop. With the mod support, squad customization and random level generation, it appears like the battle of alien versus man could be raging on for a very long time. XCOM 2 launches February 5th for Mac, PC and Linux…and that doesn’t leave me much time to build the gaming PC that I’ve put off for all these years so I can play it at release.