XCOM: Enemy Unknown


Key events

You're probably aware by now, but Eurogamer's Chris Bratt really loves XCOM and consequently has a bit of a man-crush on Jake Solomon, the designer who masterminded its rebirth at Firaxis with XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the recent XCOM 2.

Jake Solomon was starting to panic. For the second time in his career as a game designer he'd been given a shot at making the one game he'd always wanted to make: a true successor to X-COM: UFO Defense, the 1994 turn-based classic. But he was facing a problem, a really major one, in fact. Because again for the second time in his career, he couldn't make it fun to play.

Watch: Johnny reviews XCOM The Board Game

Between the flurry that is E3, the brawl to top the Christmas sales chart and the steady trickle of releases all through the year, the games industry has a pretty unshakeable fixation on the new. While I try to make time to play older releases I may have missed, there's always that pressure to play something current - something of the now.

One of the things I love most about board games, on the other hand, is their sheer staying power. Carcassonne is often one of the first ones I recommend to people asking for a good place to start getting into tabletop, and it was published in the same year as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Great as Anthony Hawk's Professional Skateboarder is, it certainly wouldn't top my list of recommendations for someone looking to get into gaming.

Basically what I'm trying to say is I reviewed XCOM: The Board Game this week despite the fact it came out in 2015. Hopefully I've done enough to convince you that's ok.

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Watch: Chris teaches Aoife how to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown

"I don't trust anyone that wears a turtleneck."

In a previous episode of Late to the Party, Chris Bratt embarrassed himself by not being very good at Ocarina of Time, a game he'd barely played before that I can pretty much recite step by step from memory. He launched himself headfirst into a Deku Baba, got thrown around by a Skulltula, and defied the Great Deku Tree's orders at every possible opportunity - it was a disaster. So bad was he that an anonymous commenter declared that the video was ruining the game for everyone else on YouTube, but since when does anyone listen to what anonymous YouTube commenters have to say?

XCOM 2 sounds all kinds of exciting. With taller sectoids, procedural levels and humanity having already fallen from the get-go, it absolutely has my attention. But a November release date? Man, that is like five whole months away. I don't want to wait that long. I'd like more XCOM and I'd like it right now, thanks very much.

Developers' Games of 2013

CD Projekt! Blow! Bithell! Molyneux! More!

We've had our say on 2013's best video games. And so have you. Now, it's the turn of the developers, the makers of the virtual experiences we so love. Read on for the games of 2013 according to the creators of the likes of Super Meat Boy, Assassin's Creed 4, XCOM, Oculus Rift and more, complete with Twitter bios.

Julian Gollop reveals how the original X-Com was nearly cancelled - twice

As of the year 2000, the X-Com franchise had sold 470,000 games and made just over £1 million smackaroos, creator Julian Gollop revealed at GDC today. Consider that the original cost just £115,000 to make, and it was "a very profitable game" both for Julian Gollop and his brother as well as ye olde publisher Microprose.

But the game that became a legend - and was reincarnated so successfully recently - was nearly cancelled. Twice.

Gollop pitched X-Com to Microprose - his publisher of choice - and the publisher talked it over with him, suggested some alterations and ask that he go away and write a design document for the game.

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Developers' Games of 2012

Levine! Molyneux! Dean Hall!

You lot have your fun with this. And we do, too. So it's only fair that game developers, the people who smash the virtual hammers onto the virtual anvils, get their chance. What are the games of 2012 according to the likes of Ken Levine, Peter Molyneux and other game design luminaries? Read on to find out.

I didn't think it was ever going to happen. The games industry isn't Hollywood and they don't toss out another remake of an old classic every other year. Sure, there are an increasing number of games inspired by fondly remembered oldies, usually produced by enthusiastic indie developers, but flat-out remakes are as rare as shamrocks and not nearly so lucky.

"On The Shoulders of Giants" is the name of the achievement that pops up towards the end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis' reimagining of the revered strategy classic X-Com: UFO Defense. The achievement is awarded when you pass the final bottleneck into the game's finale - put another way, nobody who finishes the game could possibly miss it. Firaxis want to make the esteem in which they hold the 1994 original unmistakably clear.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown patch makes easy difficulty easier, fixes broken SHIVs

Firaxis has announced the innards of the second patch for superb turn-based strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown and confirmed plans to make the easy difficulty easier.

The patch will be released soon for all versions of the game, a post on the 2K Games forum revealed.

The headline fixes tackle roof visibility issues, game hanging problems and SHIV inaccessibility. That last one is particularly welcome - many players have found their SHIVs (small tanks that take the place of soldiers in combat) bugged so that they can't be used.

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First XCOM: Enemy Unknown DLC announced

First XCOM: Enemy Unknown DLC announced

New Council missions! New playable squad character! New character customisation options!

2K Games has announced the first downloadable content for superb turn-based strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Two pieces of single-player add-on content will be sold for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the Firaxis-made game.

The first of these is called the Slingshot Content Pack, which includes a new set of linked Council missions. You'll meet an "enigmatic" Triad operative, divert an alien ship's course and battle aliens in the skies over China.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown review

They don't come in peace.

Buy XCOM, it's a belter. I know it's Big Game season, but this is so good I've chalked up 43 hours in four days and want more in the near future. XCOM absorbs you into a universe of Tonka toy soldiers and B-movie science-fiction, a rich and smartly streamlined strategy experience that's a hell of a credit to the design of the 1994 original. Re-imagining? Remake? Whatever it is, XCOM brings back and revitalises a classic.

You play as the Commander of the eponymous task force set up to defend Earth from a new extraterrestrial threat, responsible for both the organisation's overall management and directing the ground battles. This combination of genres is unusual even 18 years later, but works because of the multiple ways the two worlds intersect - the most obvious and irresistible through-line being how the XCOM troops evolve over time, from standard-issue grunts to plasma-wielding psychic warriors in cloaking suits, depending on how research and manufacturing are juggled.

The base management owes much to the original X-Com, but also to Kojima Productions' masterful Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and its Mother Base. The surface sheen is a gorgeous, zoomable 3D map of the facilities you've built, which whooshes into and out of rooms as you burrow into the nested menus - studying recovered alien technology, expanding XCOM's global coverage and training up an army. There are always new things to fiddle with and read and choices to be made.

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The re-making of XCOM

From the archive: Looking back at how Jake Solomon completed his 10-year mission.

Every Sunday we dig an interesting article out of our massive archive for you to enjoy again or perhaps read for the first time. With an XCOM expansion due next week in the shape of Enemy Within - and we'll have the review for you on that this coming Monday - this week we thought we'd take you back to last year's reboot, and the tale of how Jake Solomon resurrected one of gaming's most treasured series.

Jake Solomon, the enthusiastic brains behind Firaxis' XCOM remake, knows some of you will be unhappy that the game has multiplayer. He saw the reaction to BioWare's announcement that Mass Effect 3 would have multiplayer - a first for the series - and is aware how opinion can, in the blink of an eye, sway from adoration to derision.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Preview: First Contact

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Preview: First Contact

Hands-on with the unknown unknowns.

"XCOM is the game that teaches you the meaning of 'acceptable losses'," Firaxis' Peter Murray says to me. As he demos an early build of Enemy Unknown to journalists, and as we talk about the 18-year-old game that inspires this re-imagining, something becomes obvious: He wants me to experience failure. He wants us all to. That's a little worrying.

But for Murray, the possibility of loss is part of what defines the XCOM experience. This could be the loss of a mission, the loss of a valuable and experienced soldier, the loss of an expensive base or even the loss of the game. Success, when it comes, should be paid for in blood, measured in bodycounts. Murray looks on as the assembled journalists play through a scripted tutorial mission that kills three of their four soldiers. He then demos additional footage that features the original game's deadly Chrysalids tearing an unprepared and outmanoeuvred squad to pieces. XCOM, he tells us, will not be pulling its punches.

Much of this challenge will be presented by the game's new approach to small squad tactics. After what Murray describes as a "eureka moment", lead designer Jake Solomon introduced "a completely new approach to combat, based on a move/action paradigm". The currency of time units favoured by older XCOM games has been binned in favour of a more streamlined system that represents the simple and yet critical choices a soldier makes in the heat of battle: moving and firing; sprinting forward; hunkering down to provide covering fire; reloading; assisting a squad-mate.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown release date

XCOM: Enemy Unknown release date

UPDATE: Image of pre-order skins revealed.

Update: 2K has released a picture of the Elite Soldier Pack pre-order models, shown below.

From left to right there's: female Hyperion Armor, Reaper Armor, Heavy Carapace Armor, female Hyperion Armor again, and the original X-COM soldier with a flattop haircut in Reaper Armor.

A desktop wallpaper is available on the 2K Forums.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Preview: A True X-COM Sequel?

For fifteen years, those who grew up with righteously revered 1993 PC strategy-management-roleplaying-everything game UFO: Enemy Unknown (aka X-Com) have been a faithful dog waiting by the door for their beloved master to come home. Every few years, that door has opened and the dog has jumped up excitedly. Is it him, is it him? No, it's an appalling first-person shooter. Smack! Bad dog!

Is it him, is it him? No, it's a series of scrappy Eastern European games that recreate some of the strategy mechanics but fail to capture the heart and soul of X-Com. Smack! Bad dog!

Is it him, it him? No, it's a lavish reboot as another first-person shooter that looks mightily ambitious but is only tangentially similar to the proud game whose name it bears. Bad dog! Your master's dead. You must love this other man instead.

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Fear of Failure

Partying like it's 1999.

It says something about modern games that BioShock Infinite has been able to make headlines by adding a special "1999 Mode" where your in-game decisions will actually matter. If you've yet to hear about it, you can read our full run-down here, but in summary, it's a special difficulty mode where you'll be forced to make and live with your in-game choices. Where normally you'll be able to jack-of-all-trades your way through most situations, here - supposedly - everything will be a trade-off.

First XCOM: Enemy Unknown screens, details

First XCOM: Enemy Unknown screens, details

Firaxis' game "re-imagines" 1994 original.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a "re-imagining" of the original 1994 strategy classic UFO: Enemy Unknown which spawned the XCOM franchise.

According to GameInformer, Firaxis' project shares the same underlying concepts but the gameplay has been comprehensively modernised.

"Firaxis is undeniably streamlining aspects of the game and removing no small amount of micromanagement, but from what I've seen I wouldn't call it 'dumbing down' the game so much as getting rid of tedium and uninteresting mechanics," read the report.

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Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown announced

Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown announced

Turn-based strategy game re-imagined by Civilization dev.

Civilization developer Firaxis is making XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a re-imagination of the classic turn-based strategy game.

US magazine Game Informer revealed Enemy Unknown, saying it "introduces a wider console audience to what made the storied franchise great in the first place". It launches on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this autumn.

"Unlike 2K Marin's previously announced XCOM shooter, which sparked tempers among longtime fans for turning its back on the series' cerebral roots, this title is a full-on strategy game that puts players in command of a global anti-alien defense force," Game Informer said.

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