XCOM: Enemy Unknown Features

FeatureWatch: 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?

FeatureDevelopers' 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.

FeatureDevelopers' 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.

FeatureThe 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.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Preview: First Contact

FeatureXCOM: 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 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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FeatureFear 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.