Alien Nation


When it comes to long-running franchises, reinvention is something that rarely ever sits well with a fanbase. That hasn't stopped 2K Marin from giving the treatment to the nearly two-decade-old strategy franchise, X-COM. The strategy appears to be somewhat intact, but it is no longer upfront and center like it is in the previous games. This new game, titled XCOM, is a first-person shooter. This is a pretty significant departure from the franchise's roots. However, that doesn't mean it's destined to suck. After seeing the game in action at E3, I would be willing to bet that it's going to be quite awesome.

At the closed-door showing of XCOM, the exhibitors made it clear that the team at 2K Marin is aiming to capture four key elements that they feel should be integral to the reimagining of the X-COM franchise. These elements are: storytelling, shooting, fear, and strategy. They have assured us that XCOM will prominently feature these four elements, and after seeing the game in action, I'd be hard-pressed to challenge them on that claim.

XCOM will take place in 1950s America. You play as William Carter, the president of the titular FBI division. The prime directives of XCOM revolve around the collection and organization of any and all information regarding supernatural phenomena. More often than not, however, you are called upon to serve the public by eliminating any and all paranormal and extraterrestrial threats.

The demo starts off in XCOM's headquarters. This is where all the strategizing and planning occurs. The first stop is the facility's research and development department. It's run by a guy who looks like a cross between Buddy Holly and Fonzie. Carter has acquired several precious resources during earlier missions. As a result, he is allowed to green-light the production of two interesting-looking weapons. One is an oil-filled glass flask known as a "Blobotov," and the other one is a gun that shoots pure electricity. From there, Carter heads to the country map that allows him to take his team on missions.

If you choose to go on a mission, the decision of what mission to accept cannot be taken lightly. If you take one, another will likely be closed off. You need to balance the potential benefits against the potential consequences. Will you save a group of people at the expense of potential bonus resources? Or will you leave them to their fates in the hopes that the resources will help you save several more?

Carter chooses to go on a mission to save a suburban community near Los Angeles. When he gets out of the car with his team, things seem tranquil. Too tranquil. It isn't long before they notice that the aliens have been here long enough to do some serious damage. They hear screams coming from a nearby house. They dash in, weapons at the ready, but it's too late; the woman they heard screaming is on the ground covered in black gunk. She is dead, but based on the noises they are hearing, the aliens are still inside. Carter's team heads upstairs, where they witness a number of odd, shapeshifting Blobs crawling over the walls and ceilings. A few shotgun blasts are more than enough to finish one of them off, but when they attack in numbers, it's time to bring out the weird stuff. Carter hurls a Blobotov in the general area of his assailants, and in a matter of seconds, the hallway is in flames. The Blobs that don't immediately burn to a crisp are fried by Carter's lightning gun. The house is clean, but there's another disturbance outside.

When Carter's team steps outside, a portal explodes out of the sky. Out pops the Titan, a seriously weird-looking monolith that transforms into a variety of weird shapes. None of the team's weapons seem to be effective against this foe at all. The Titan starts pulverizing everything in its path. Trees and cars are simply unmade by this thing. Carter's strategy? Run.

2K may be treading on thin ice with this reboot, but I, for one, am very excited to see where this title goes. XCOM will be coming out in 2011 for Xbox 360 and PC.

2K Games