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XCOM Gets a Makeover at E3

At last years E3, 2K showed off its reboot of the MicroProse classic “X-COM,” a turn-based tactical game from the 90s that actually borrowed from Gerry Anderson’s 70s “UFO” series.


Who could ever forget the purple wigs? Besides striking the hyphen in the title, 2K Marin transmogrified the game into a pretty pedestrian looking first-person shooter that was panned by diehard fans for not being true to the franchise and for not being turn-based like the original game.

Harvey Whitney, a producer at 2K, said his team did some deep soul searching to reimagine the game into what they debuted this week.

The new XCOM is more of a role playing shooter hybrid that’s set in 1962 America at the height of the Cold War.

XCOM is now a division of the department of defense, and the secret unit is tasked with combating the alien invasion. You play Special Agent William Carter, a former member of FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which illegally spied on Americans during the 50s and 60s.

Carter’s back story is that he refused to plant evidence on Martin Luther King that would discredit the civil rights leader.

XCOM then snagged Carter for themselves before he could be disciplined, said Jordan Thomas, creative director at 2K. “He’s a talented agent with integrity.”

After hand picking your specialized two man unit, the team is dispatched to invasion sites around the United States.

The aliens are trying to terraform earth to be more like their own planet and the fiery process lays a black goo over the rendered suburban landscape.

The aliens themselves look human but are actually some kind of “electronic intelligence.”

The aliens are also armed with plasma weapons and shields so typically outgun your conventionally aspirated M3 Grease Guns and Winchester trench brooms. But you can apply classic battlefield tactics to outsmart them through a tactical mode that slows time, allowing you to survey the battle from multiple perspectives and make more careful decisions about how to deploy your squad. It’s similar to a turn-based mode except that you may end up seeing your men killed in slow motion if you’re not careful.

Each man has a limited number of time units or TUs, which is a movement allowance.

Fortunately, the rocket launcher from the original game will be offered in the new game, said Thomas. It can wallop an enemy position, but the high explosive (or incendiary) blast can ruin your salvage opportunities.

And recovering alien technology is one of the most important parts of the game since it can be used to advance your weapons research or give your men a short term boost in firepower.

It’s these kinds of organizational decisions that made the old game great fun to play, and it looks like they’ll do the same in the new game as well.

XCOM is scheduled to be released on March 6, 2012 and will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC.

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