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E3 2015: XCOM 2 impressions

We check out a brief demo of XCOM 2 at 2K’s E3 booth.

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XCOM 2

We check out a brief demo of XCOM 2 at 2K’s E3 booth.

XCOM 2 picks up some time after the events of XCOM with the rather sobering news that humanity has been defeated. That’s right, all your efforts in the first game were for naught.

With Earth now occupied XCOM has become an underground resistance force. This lends the game a slightly different tone from its predecessor, reminding me slightly of V. The 80’s original of course, not the dreary remake.

XCOM 2 remains a turn-based tactics game but continues to employ seamless cinematic transitions to show the results of each move and play out key story beats. It’s conceit Firaxis have perfected, each turn generates a variety of context-relevant dialogue clips and cut-scenes that lend plenty of drama to the action.

Among the new elements the E3 demo introduced were some new weapons and the ability to carry critically injured team mates from the battlefield. It’s a useful move as perma-death is still very much in play in XCOM 2.

A new enemy type, called the Viper, was also introduced, although its entrance – climbing out of the back of transit van to join the field of play –  was somewhat unimpressive. The Viper can attack soldiers from distance for brutal kills and seems formidable enough, but once it pulled out a weapon the image of a gun-toting snake was a little too humorous, undercutting the hitherto bleak tone. Other enemies, including lumbering brute-like foes, were more imposing.

XCOM 2

Sound design was also excellent, with satisfying zaps of gunfire fizzing around the demo room and music adapting on the fly, nicely raising the tension as the battle progressed.

Overall, this brief skirmish was an effective display of XCOM 2’s intent. The biggest achievement of the series continues to be the way it amplifies the traditionally slower pace of turn-based strategy games into something with flair, heft and consequence.

2K have confirmed that XCOM 2 will not be coming to consoles this time round and will only be released on PC. Firaxis cite their close familiarity with the platform a contributory reason, but the addition of mod support is also a likely factor.

XCOM 2 will be released in November 2015.


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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe.