XCom: Enemy Unknown and Dishonored managed to pull off a seemingly impossible task. They stayed true to their PC gaming roots with complex interconnected systems, at the same time presenting everything so clearly that new and old players can grasp what they have to offer.
Of course, people had their doubts, especially when it came to XCom. That concern was understandable. After all, "we respect the franchise's rich history" is usually developer codespeak for "we don't give a shit, enjoy this shooter". When you add in the challenge of making a game that works on both PC and consoles, it's easy to imagine things going horribly wrong. Jake Solomon and his team at Firaxis genuinely understand and appreciate the original X-Com, though. They recreated it, then took it apart to examine its pieces and put them back together to make the best title they could.
What if they hadn't cared, though? Suppose the game had been approached with no respect, every decision reached by appealing to the broadest audience possible. What would that have looked like? Today we're going to compare how that worst case scenario would have stacked up against the actual XCom: Enemy Unknown and the 1994 original, X-Com: UFO Defense.
X-Com: UFO Defense: Turn-based. An abstract measurement called Time Units determine how far each character can move. Different actions and types of attacks consume different amounts of Time Units.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: Turn-based. Each character has two halves of their turn, allowing them to move twice, move and shoot, or move once then go into Overwatch, which allows them to take a shot at anyone that runs into view. Additional abilities let characters perform other actions.
XCom: Mass Appeal: Entirely first person, in real time. Well, the game does slow down for a tactical situation. You know, like someone stepping in front of you with a hostage, waiting for you to shoot them in the head.
X-Com: UFO Defense: A shitload of guys. Most of them are expendable. You wind up moving a lot of people around and methodically sacrificing far too many just to find out where enemies are.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: Four soldiers per squad, eventually going up to six. A balanced number that allows you to move around the map with several teams without needlessly shoving extra people into a grinder. When you do lose someone, it matters.
XCom: Mass Appeal: Two teammates that you have no control over whatsoever. They mostly just run ahead of you and shoot everything, yelling at you constantly to move, shoot, open doors, and pretty much anything else that you would like to have done by yourself.
X-Com: UFO Defense: Build individual rooms in your base, opening up specific resources such as alien containment cells, labs, and satellite control centers. Pick the exact location of the base on a global map.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: Build individual rooms, each with an impact on your capabilities. Excavate new levels. See the entire base from a side-on ant farm camera, getting a look at all of your personnel as they walk around the facility.
XCom: Mass Appeal: Sometimes you go back to an awesome looking building and talk to a lady or dude until they have sex with you.
X-Com: UFO Defense: Randomly generated, using large premade tiles such as cabbage fields and barns. Each map plays out differently, but uses familiar elements.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: Over eighty hand made maps. Randomized elements such as the composition and placement of enemy units. Variations on many maps, including drastic changes for different modes like bomb diffusion and terror missions.
XCom: Mass Appeal: Ten Middle East warzones, with all the corridors you can run through in a straight line. There might even be a BADASS turret sequence or two.
X-Com: UFO Defense: Cheesy, but oddly effective early 90s comic book cinematics and menu art. Important moments such as new technology advances are explained via text dumps.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: A few scripted (but skippable) tutorial missions. Important moments such as new technology advances explained via brief (but skippable) conversation with a member of your organization.
XCom: Mass Appeal: Unskippable ten minute plus cinematics, with QTE prompts to make sure you're paying attention.
X-Com: UFO Defense: Multiple difficulty levels. If someone on your squad dies, he's gone for good unless you reload your game. Piss off enough countries and they'll cut funding, leaving you with no way to win.
XCom: Enemy Unknown: All of the above, plus an Ironman mode that keeps you from reloading if a mission goes terribly wrong.
XCom: Mass Appeal: No one ever dies. All injuries are healed within moments via regenerating health. If you put the controller down, the enemies will just sort of get shot and die without any player input whatsoever.
XCom: Enemy Unknown
The tactics and strategy game that I always wanted, with loads of options, challenges, reasons to replay, and rookies weeping in fear as they fire at their squadmates. 10/10
Teleport, steal, sneak, stab, choke, explore, shoot, push, lean, summon rats, upgrade, stop time, possess fish, and never stop laughing maniacally. 9/10
Fable: The Journey
An on-rails theme park ride through Albion which can be enjoyed in the same way as an actual theme park ride, as long as you don't mind the occasional awkward Kinect bits. 7/10
Resident Evil 6
Buying this trash says that yes, we are a bunch of idiots that will happily gobble up anything with spectacle (no matter how hollow and uncreative it may be), even if the game has no regard for player input, and in fact seems to actively hate the idea that we might want to be in control of anything at all. 3/10
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
Yes, it's the perfect form for surviving a car crash. But it's also the perfect form for so much more, like surviving the trauma of reading any news headline in 2016.
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