X-COM: Disappointment From The Deep
Unsurprisingly, No Mutants Allowed ruined everything.
Some people are so overly cynical that they go out of their way to complain about anything, such as those members of the Fallout-centric forum that whined about the series' move to 3D and went on lengthy diatribes explaining how turn-based combat was way more realistic than real-time combat.
There are also, however, reasonably skeptical people, like those who felt that Bethesda didn't exactly have a great track record when it came to putting together creative quests, believable NPC interactions, a tone that properly gelled environment with story, or any gameplay mechanic that didn't require player-created mods.
Turns out those people were right. Fallout 3 had an incredibly detailed world and VATS was solid, if not as polished as it could have been (melee was barely implemented, and targeted attacks should have resulted in way more feedback in terms of variety and personality), but the RPG parts were shit. Any tale that wasn't told through the environment fell flat due to poor writing and Bethesda's patented "you're talking to a mannequin" implementation of dialogue. The world was at its emptiest when you were with other humans, and the humor never really came through in the right way.
Unfortunately, every reasonable concern on No Mutants Allowed was drowned out by outbursts from bitter nerds that were too emotional to find actual things worth complaining about. As a result, the website became synonymous with people who fear change. In fact, the overt cynicism made such an impact that it is now impossible to be skeptical of a sequel or franchise reboot on the internet without someone replying, "When did this place become NMA?" or "I guess it's popular to hate on new things."
Case in point: The very silly news that 2K Marin is making X-COM into a "story-based" first person shooter that promises to be "immersive" and a "gripping narrative ride".
Reactions have been overwhelmingly negative. There are plenty of jerks bleating about my childhood and how this game will be the absolute worst. Unfortunately, a lot of valid points are being swept under the rug, such as:
- 2K Marin's press release claims that they will build upon X-COM's "rich lore". What? There were aliens, and there were people fighting those aliens.
The franchise's main appeals were its multi-layered and relatively complex strategy, the ability to personalize your squads to feel an actual connection to them and piece together your own story entirely through the things that happened when you pitted your wits against the computer, and the constant reminder that you were working against the clock with failure a very real possibility.
It would be great to be wrong about this, but it's not likely that any of the above qualities will be at the forefront of a story-based first person shooter that lists the Xbox 360 as its primary platform. A "strategic core" is mentioned, but way more emphasis is placed on the shooting and story. Let's hope that's just PR attempting to emphasize the bits that they think will sell more copies.
- 2K Marin's first full game was BioShock 2. Technically, it did a lot right, improving on many of the gameplay elements in the first game and pulling off a surprising multiplayer element. On the whole, however, the experience left me feeling rather empty. Playing a solid shooter for a bit without feeling like the story was a total waste isn't the same as feeling genuinely captivated by the entire experience and only later realizing that the gameplay was the glue that held together all the things you loved.
I don't doubt that the 2K Marin crew can make a good first person shooter. Giving the audience an experience that will make them think "this makes me look at X-COM in a whole new way", however, would be a surprise.
Even if they do come up with a great story, it seems like things would be heading in the wrong direction. A major part of the original game's eerie atmosphere can be attributed to the cold, detached point of view as you pitted the resources of a vast agency (and a handful of soldiers whose details came from your head) against the alien force. Giving the player a name and a storyline will narrow the scope.
- There's already an Alternate Reality Game going on, and among the themes that have been introduced are the Cold War and a mysterious black goop. When combined with the game's press release that mentions an alien force "plotting its way into this world", it's way too likely that the plot will revolve around the black goop being used to take over the minds of political figures, with the main character developing incredible abilities after coming into contact with the substance.
This is another thing that I would be very happy to be wrong about.
It's been a long time since a game like the original X-COM has come around. Why not make an update - not just more of the same but an evolution of the concept that stays true to the original's spirit, something that will do what Civilization IV did for its series? I can only imagine that the reluctance to do so is based on the (in my opinion, bogus) belief that there aren't enough modern gamers capable of understanding or enjoying a complex strategy game to justify the cost.
Prison Break: The Conspiracy
All you need to know: Quick Time Event tutorial in the first five minutes, teaching you the intricacies of mashing a button repeatedly to break free of a dude that has you pinned against a cell door. 2/10
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
This seals it, the best stealth game is Batman: Arkham Asylum, but if you like shooting dudes in the head with guns that become completely inaccurate after the first shot and replaying areas because you didn't guess what the game wanted you to do, this is your game. 6/10