2K are at E3 this year (natch) where they're showing off an impressive set of games. In what seems to be the year of the shooter/action-adventure, 2K Marin have fronted with an eyes on for XCOM, which they're showing in a superbly decorated room where they can lock away 15 or so journos at a time. NZGamer.com were there.
Marton Slater, Studio Director for 2K Marin (and one of the guys behind BioShock 2, who we interviewed late last year) took us through the latest gameplay from what he assures us plays to all of 2K's strengths – the foremost of those being the ability to anchor intense visceral action in a substantive story. He used words like fear, upgrading that to terror, and mentioned that gamers wishing to vanquish the malevolent alien threat better be “deeply strategic”.
In XCOM you play as Special Agent William Carter. Carter works for a government agency researching alien activity in the US. The game takes place in 1950s USA; a time of purity and patriotism – a world of mom, dad, 2.5 kids and soda pop shoppes. But, 2K say, something is horribly, horribly wrong.
The playthrough showed us Carter going out on a mission with a couple of his workforce. Starting in the agency's headquarters, Carter picks his missions from a huge map of the States, and will also use the HQ as a research area, and weapons factory. Before he sets out, Carter stops by the armoury division to check out the Blobotov – a grenade filled with black gunge taken directly from the alien threat, that works like a Molotov cocktail. Researching is a key element of XCOM – very much a “know your enemy” sort of a game. The research division uses what they know about the aliens to build weaponry and use their own technology and biology against them. You'll do this in a practical sense by taking photos and samples of strange phenomena, and the programme of work undertaken by the guys on staff back at HQ will throw up tidbits from newspapers, radio and police reports.
As with 2K's other period project, Mafia II, everything about XCOM is classic 1950s – period weaponry, automobiles, turn of phrase, outfits and the world itself. The presentation at E3 took place in what was ostensibly a 1950s American kitchen – the entire place had been tiled, there were painted cupboards, appliances, and the chairs we sat on were of the era. It was a nice little touch.
There are four reasons Carter and his team might take up a mission: to collect Elerium (a valuable alien by-product), to gain goodwill among the populace and police force, for money, or for research purposes. Today's mission was one just for a spot of goodwill, and responded to a hysterical woman's phone call to the police.
Arriving in suburbia, everything was eerily quiet. There was evidence that something wicked had just happened; namely, trails of black goo everywhere. One of these trails led into a thicket, and ahead of that was a child's baseball cap and glove lying forlornly on the ground. Following the screaming of nearby folks under threat, Carter and his men found their way into the backyard of a typical 1950s home, where a body lay smothered in goo and smoking faintly. A photo was taken, but as Marton pointed out, “there's nothing to be done for this poor bastard.” His dog wasn't any better off.
Inside, what we can only presume was the wife of the dead man was under attack. The aliens in XCOM will come in various guises, and they are fast, smart and mean. The ones we saw looked something like electric black slugs, lightning flecked tar, but that was soon fixed with a mixture of buckshot (the shotgun is the staple in your arsenal) Blobotov and the lightning gun. The carnage was spectacular – they killed the enemy, saved the wife, but her house was an absolute wreck afterwards. One of Carter's men was killed in the action, too.
As with BioSchock 2, the hardware in the machines have been pushed pretty hard to bring the world to life and create an intense and scary version of post-war America. Superb work on flames and lighting effects add to an atmosphere that is shaping up to be truly memorable. PS3, Xbox 360 and PC owners will all get a taste.
The final scene was the emergance of the Titan, who started to suck the world away. In terms of in-game graphical display, this is one of the coolest things I have seen at E3. A quick photograph of the technology that the agency still has no idea how to defeat, a couple of sneaky rounds fired into the enemies the Titan dropped on the ground, and then the characters were running. Also like 2K's sister project, Mafia II, the sound was incredbile – the screaming, bending, ripping fabric of the world ought to get the heart racing.
NZGamer.com is looking forward to hands on with this one.
The Good: Lightning gun!
The Bad: A completely clean HUD – no ammo count even?
The Ugly: Enemies that just... won't... die.