XCOM: Enemy Unknown -- The Cinematic ExperienceBy Eric Eckstein - Posted Apr 06, 2012
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a real cinematic touch. When a new X-COM game was first announced, I was worried about a design that seemed more shooter than strategic for a game I used to love. That game would later impress me with its BioShock-style spirit before being abducted for further probing by 2K Marin… and then all seemed lost. Until Firaxis Games, creators of Civilization, appeared with a brand new contemporary take on X-COM, the game itself called XCOM: Enemy Unknown (the same title as the original 1994 title), knocking me off my feet but not just due its gameplay.
If you haven't read our blow-by-blow XCOM: Enemy Unknown preview, go there now and get a full take on what the game is shaping up to be. I agree with every word Adam wrote, but what I wanted to point out is how XCOM is making us feel like this turn-based isometric strategy game is a living, breathing cinematic experience.
Yes, you select your squad mates one-by-one and lead them to take cover and shoot at aliens, but what's illustrated so well in our first look at the game is how the game doesn't feel locked into "turns." Take for example, our first glimpse at our alien foes. In the middle of issuing orders to a soldier, we cut to an in-game cutscene, eyeing Sectoids who are clustered, almost as if feeding, around a human corpse. They scatter off, and their "turn" begins, seamlessly after the cinematic ends. This happens again later when we meet another race of aliens, Mutons, who lie in wait inside a gas station, and once more as a Beserker smashes through a wall to take out one of our squad mates. In every instance, XCOM takes what was once a fairly standard reveal within a fog of war to a new level, making us feel fear or curiousity.
Or another example and one that affects gameplay as well, a soldier laying down suppressing fire to help pin an enemy down and keep it from firing back. Reflected in the game, the soldier is constantly shooting, even when it's not his turn and while there's no real chance he'll do damage, you can tell at a glance he's laying down suppressing fire so I, as a player, can use that to my advantage.
It's these noticeable touches that make this XCOM update even more special, as CG rendered cutscenes bookend missions or launch more complicated story beats while in-game cinematics raise the stakes to deliver a higher investment in what's happening as you play. Quite frankly, I'm completely smitten and if they can keep that well-paced and throughout the narrative, XCOM: Enemy Unknown could help transcend the genre to gamers that may not normally play these types of games. Either way, XCOM is clearly one of the most important strategy games of the year, and if anyone can pull it off, it'll be the team behind one of the greatest strategy game series of all-time.