The XCOM Debate

Friday, May 28, 2010
By now it's all old hat but it's taken some time to gather my thoughts on the XCOM issue. Take 2 bought the rights some time ago, so there was never any room for speculation on whether or not they would release a new XCOM, it was just a matter of time. That time is apparently nigh, though I expect Take 2 was hoping the news would garner far more aplomb than it did.

I've talked to a few people that don't really seem to understand why so many of the games fans are so upset about the news, some of them are even XCOM veterans. Let me put it this way. Say you have a favorite restaurant. Time goes by and the place closes. The building sits there untouched for a while until one day, a wealthy party buys it up. You hear rumors that they're going to bring it all back better than it was before. Then, when the big announcement comes that your beloved restaurant is re-opening you discover that the entire building was torn down and rebuilt into a cookie cutter fast food joint. Only the name had stayed the same. How would you feel?

I can't blame my fellow XCOM devotees for being upset. Hell, I was as angry as the worst of the mob for a little while. I had my own little breakdown, complete with raging forum posts and a Terror From the Deep marathon. Somewhere in that haze I realized something. I was getting upset over nothing. Literally, nothing. The truth of the matter is, we know very little about Take 2's XCOM.

I've tried contacting Take 2 about their promise to keep the strategic element intact. So far nobody wants to talk about what exactly they're doing to preserve that core mechanic. I don't doubt their claim, I just think it'd be nice to see what they have up their sleeves.

I can't say for sure if Take 2 can deliver a decent XCOM game or if this is going to just be an FPS that happens to be called XCOM. What I can say for sure is that Take 2 made this announcement far, far too early. All they really have to show us is a couple bits of concept art and one "screenshot" with no context behind it. Had they made their announcement later, when they had more resources to share or at least when they could explain the gameplay a little better, I think there would be far fewer disgruntled fans out there.

For me? Thanks, Take 2... What is it?

A substantial contingent of the unhappy horde have settled on Xenonauts as their remake of choice to carry the XCOM torch into the future. The gameplay seems to be nearly identical to the original games. The story is set during the dusk of the cold war rather than the distant future. The weapons, vehicles and equipment showcased so far reflect the time period well.

So is this what we want? A remake, a remastered version of the original XCOM? For me at least, it's not. I'm not looking for the same game I played countless times throughout my life and I suspect I'm not the only one. We want something familiar, yes, but fans want something new more than anything. There has been too much time wasted making copies of XCOM already.

Xenonauts is close, but not quite there. I love Goldhawk's tenacity and understanding of what made the original so spectacular, but it's too similar to be called much more than a remake. That's not all bad, but still not the new XCOM so many of us have been looking for. We've been waiting for something to expand the horizons of XCOM. Something beyond the dismal climbs of Interceptor and Enforcer.

As much as I'd like to forget those two dismal parts of the series, I am seriously disappointed to see that Take 2 has thrown the entire history and lengthy back story that already existed away in favor of something completely alien to me and the thousands of loyal XCOM players out there. Some acknowledgment of the series' illustrious roots would have been nice to see with the announcement. I can understand the decision to make it an FPS, given their seemingly universal popularity these days. Couldn't they at least maintain some of the established canon?

I have a lot of suggestions for Take 2 in regards to XCOM. As something near and dear to me there are a few mechanics I'd like to see preserved and/or revitalized. Perhaps give the game a sort of Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six tactical look, or use something akin to the VATS system in Fallout 3. Give players the ability to research new tech, examine aliens for new insights into how to fight them, even allow the players to tap into their own or other squad member's psychic potential. There are countless other requests, from me and the rest of the community, too many to discuss in just this one post.

Who knows, these may be things already present in the new game. If they are, we haven't seen them yet. What I'm trying to say here so very haphazardly is that Take 2's XCOM is still too much of an unknown. There's is little sense in grumbling to ourselves when we really know nothing about the game. Those of you that wanted a remake, you'll have your Xenonauts. Those of you who are like me; sit down, take a deep breath and wait. We've been doing just that for 13 years now, a few more months won't kill us.