Urdnot Wrex, Clementine, Elizabeth, Claptrap, HK-47: these video game companions all conjure up distinct memories for the people who met them and played alongside them. Those close-shaves, those funny moments, those last minute saves. These complex pieces of code have transcended their unreality by tapping into our emotions from the very primal to the deeply complex.
"I forget everything between footsteps.
XCOM 2 has just landed on consoles with a decent port of the PC version - a bit stuttery when loading missions, but otherwise fine, as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, how bad am I at XCOM 2? By way of an answer, here are a few of my recent save file names: Everyone Dead. Big Error. Oops. These sound like cocktails served at the world's worst theme party, but they also, to their credit, sound like the sort of thing an inexperienced soldier might radio back to base when things go horribly wrong. Okay, maybe not Oops, but when I'm the soldier in question nothing is ever entirely off the table.
Listen, Chris Bratt has found another way to talk about XCOM 2. He's just completed the game on Ironman mode, which means that the game saves pretty much constantly and any mistakes are locked in good and tight. He wants to talk about it and so do I. Welcome to another edition of the Eurogamer Podcast!
Hello again! We're back with the second episode of our video games podcast and this time it's all about XCOM 2. Or at least, it really should have been. After awarding Firaxis' latest a big golden badge yesterday, I assumed I'd have free reign to just talk about that for upwards of an hour, but, unfortunately, there were some other people on the podcast too.
I've already written a little bit about why I think XCOM 2 is shaping up so well, but one of the nice things about playing games at preview events is that sometimes (usually if the game is half decent, in my experience) they let you record a bunch of video whilst you're at it. Now even when that happens, you tend to face some kind of restriction, typically in the form of a harsh time limit - but we didn't get too much of that with XCOM 2.
I didn't expect XCOM 2 to demo particularly well. I fell in love with its predecessor because it gave me the time to grow fond of the soldiers I was commanding and I couldn't see that happening within the confines of a brief preview. The concern seemed a valid one too, as my first mission came in the form of a restrictive tutorial (which can be skipped, thankfully) that had already decided who would live and who would die. I can't even remember their names...
This wasn't how an XCOM game should be played. I needed to see the numbers and make my own mistakes. I needed to rename my soldiers, give them different hats, and carefully fret over each decision I'd make on their behalf. Happily, this is exactly what the next two hours would look like.
And I enjoyed it. The game may be set 20 years after we lost the war in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but mechanically it all feels pretty familiar. You'll still be playing a game of two halves: either controlling a small squad of troops on the ground, or managing a base (albeit one that now exists within a repurposed alien supply craft). If you didn't enjoy what Firaxis accomplished with their 2012 reboot, don't expect this to be the game that changes your mind. But if you did, XCOM 2 offers the kind of improvements that make the game feel fresh, without losing what I enjoyed about the previous title.
When XCOM 2 was announced earlier this month, it wasn't quite the sequel I was expecting. I had always assumed the follow up to XCOM: Enemy Unknown would simply be more of the same, with alien forces launching a new invasion after recovering their strength in the far reaches of space. Instead, we glimpsed a future in which man and alien share an integrated society filled with guarded checkpoints, propaganda films and nods toward strange eugenics initiatives. The XCOM project has been pushed further to the fringe, continuing as a guerrilla unit trying to upheave this ordered society in any way they can. Hang on! Did we lose the war?