XCOM: Enemy Unknown to Feature Multiplayer, PC-specific UI and More, Previews

10 Aug 2012

A few previews have popped up today for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and they bring some interesting details on Firaxis' turn-based strategy/RPG "re-imagining" of the beloved franchise. Specifically, the title will feature multiplayer, a PC-specific interface complete with a grid, and an "Interceptor" mini-game mode.

First of all, Eurogamer writes on the multiplayer:
XCOM's multiplayer is simple, really. You begin a match with a points pool from which you buy units you wish to send into the battlefield. All the units in the game are available from the off, from the Sectoid to the Thin Man, the Chrysalid to the Sniper soldier. Powerful units are expensive. Weaker units are cheap. There are variations of unit types, for example, The Sectoid can Mind Merge with a friendly unit for a turn, boosting its power, but the Sectoid Commander can mind merge with your entire squad. Of course, the Sectoid Commander is more expensive than the Sectoid.

All the soldier types are available, but you can pay more for more powerful archetypes and items, such as medkits and combat stims. So you can, if you wish, pimp out a solider with Titan armour, a medkit and a snazzy plasma rifle, but you'll have spent half your budget on him in the process.

...

Thankfully, Firaxis has resisted the urge to tinker with the core XCOM gameplay for multiplayer, instead replicating it, more or less. A turn is limited to 115 seconds (this can be customised alongside the points pool). During this time you command each unit in your squad, moving, perhaps shooting, maybe using an ability too. Then, it's your opponent's turn. In the early game, you're focused on sending out units that can cover a lot of ground in one turn, such as the Chrysalid, the Drone or maybe the leaping Thin Man, to scout the battlefield.

And then moves on to talk about the PC version's interface and the Interceptor mode:
The PC version, unlike the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version, draws a grid on the battlefield, allowing the player to see in detail how movement is affected by the terrain.

Additionally, the camera perspective is different. On PC players are able to zoom out to a greater degree than they are on console, providing a wider, sweeping view of the battlefield.

"It's interesting," lead designer Jake Solomon said. "Playing mouse and keyboard is a different experience. From just the way it looks when you start, the UI is different. The grid gets drawn in the PC version and we have a little extra help when you hold down the mouse button. Small things like that. Obviously we have to add a lot of new buttons and things like that. It feels good on mouse and keyboard, which it should. It's XCOM."

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Interception sees players engage invading UFOs in and attempt to shoot them out of the sky in a short, Risk-style mini-game experience. If players have not built enough ships, upgraded them appropriately and stationed them properly around the globe, UFOs can slip away.

GameSpy on the multiplayer:
The first map I was dropped into was a town square at night, with a stone statue and fountain in its center. My squad: a fast moving, zombie-making alien Chrysalid, a human soldier with heavy armor and a big laser gun, a human sniper with Ghost armor for stealth and a nice aim perk, a tough Muton Berzerker tank, a Sectoid for mind-merge buffing, and a flying alien Floater capable of rocketing to any spot on the map in one turn. Off we go!

Not knowing where my opponent would come from, I sent my Chrysalid out as a scout. His long-distance move ability enabled me to get out far on the left flank and take a defensive position behind a truck. Everyone else I kept fairly close together, thinking I'd have a better idea of how to deploy my attack once the Chrysalid spotted the enemy. I put my sniper into stealth, turned on Overwatch for everyone (ordering them to fire at enemies on sight), and hunkered down.

As my opponent played out his 90-second turn, I heard occasional scampering of alien feet or the stomp of boots -- definitely a mixed squad like mine. Still, my foe's forces remained hidden by the fog of war. For my second turn, I felt confident I could move my Chrysalid up to the next cover position and hopefully spot some bad guys. Over confident, as it turned out -- my bold movement order sent the spider-like creature directly into the firing line of two human soldiers in Overwatch. Goodbye Chrysalid. Bad Guy: 1 Me: 0.

GameInformer focuses on the same subject:
Once you're in a match proper, it's just like any XCOM mission except that the bad guys have a human mind behind them. Each unit can move and take an action (or double-move) each turn, and the game is over when one side is completely wiped out.

Fog of war is as important a concept as it is in single-player. Each team starts in a randomized position on the chosen map (the build I played had a half-dozen available settings), and you have no idea what kind of units the other guy brought until you see them. Scouting, lines of sight, and cover are just as mission-critical as ever.

Because multiplayer retains the same full-team turn structure (all my guys go, then all yours, repeat), making sure first contact doesn't leave your squad exposed is hugely important. Multiplayer is just as lethal as single-player, meaning one bad turn can leave your team crippled or worse. Making sure your units are advancing cautiously and covering each other is paramount.

While IGN focuses on the single-player:
Now inside the structure, I spy an armed German operative. Taking advantage of the building's cover-conducive barrels, crates, and forklifts, I move my three men—and one female squaddie—in for a closer look. Sadly, the recon reveals that ally is under possession by a Sectoid—XCOM's signature little gray men. I order a squadmate to disarm him, but the zombie-like soldier fills my man's chest full of lead before dropping a live grenade at his feet. The surprise attack leaves my team down to two and me anxious for revenge.

Thankfully, the tutorial shifts to combat mode, where a squeeze of the right trigger calls up the tactical menu. A number of options, such as returning fire or tossing a grenade are available, but I first scan the battlefield—with the right stick—for more baddies. My surveillance shows two more alien threats hiding in the warehouse. Making the most of this intel, I position my remaining pair of soldiers for kill shots. Each hero can only perform a single action and one move (or one double-move) per turn, so I leverage the next few turns to close the distance between targets, then select my combat options. Using this strategy—with lots of help from the tutorial—I'm able to liberate one Sectoid of his brain and turn another inside out with a grenade. Before unleashing these attacks, I'm able to gauge their probable success by a percentage number in front of the bad guys. I easily extinguish the last big-eyed bastard, but not before it feeds one of my remaining soldiers a frag grenade. I successfully complete the mission on the next turn, but don't feel much like celebrating with three of my pals in body bags.
 
 

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