When I was first introduced to XCOM: Enemy Unknown at PAX East just over two months ago, the developers at Firaxis Games introduced me to the game’s basic concepts and mechanics as well as the XCOM organization and its soldiers. In its infancy at the time, the squad I was introduced to was just a bunch of rookies, inexperienced in the ways of handling the alien menace threatening Earth. Luckily for them, they only experienced the small skirmishes of what became an all-out global conflict.
That global conflict is where Firaxis put me when I returned to see how XCOM was doing against the extraterrestrial foes. Now out in full force, the enemy had brought its heavy hitters to the battlefield. This is not a good situation for rookies to be caught in, but unfortunately a fresh batch of recruits was all the organization could send as this city burned. Up against insane odds, the soldiers fought on despite injuries.
Sadly for these troops, sheer will and determination was not enough against the newest species sent to eliminate mankind. Some of the fastest and deadliest of them all are the Chrysalids: four-legged zerg-like creatures with spikes jutting out across their back and limbs. As the developers told us, let them get too close, and you’re dead. This was the case for one of the poor rooks, torn to shreds by a Chrysalid’s spike-like feet and claws, then slightly digested. The threat wasn’t over once it killed the friendly either, as Chrysalids turn any unit they kill into another of their kind.
Aiding one of these predators was a Heavy Floater and the ever-dangerous Berserker. However, it wasn’t those two that spelled doom for one of the remaining two soldiers, it was the Insectoid Commander. Capable of mind control, the demented overseer took over one of the troops and made him blow his body to bits with his own grenade. With only one rookie left standing, the entire mission appeared to be doomed.
It was then that an aerial vehicle shone its lights over the street and landed behind the rook; the cavalry had arrived in the form of the squad of veterans from the PAX East demo. Leading the charge was none other than Sid Meier himself, in avatar form. These were not the same inexperienced, commonly outfitted troops I had met in prior demos; they were battle-hardened and stacked with upgrades and perks. The prolonged campaign and exposure to the aliens’ technologies had allowed XCOM to design and outfit its elite troops with weapons and gadgets capable of keeping the playing field level.
With these abilities, the team went to work. The first used a jetpack and alien-tech rifle to gain the vertical advantage on the Chrysalids and take them out. Following that, the squad’s sniper slipped into her ghost-armor stealth mode, sneaking up behind the Berserker for a safe and relieving silent kill. After another vet used his enhanced gun to take down the Insectoid Commander, avatar Sid Meier showed that the aliens weren’t the only ones capable of mind control. Mimicking the telepathic aggressor, Meier forced the Heavy Floater to drop a live grenade on the ground in front of it, causing an explosion that splattered the alien.
As the demo came to its close, it appeared the vets had rescued one of the rookies and stopped the attack. That was until a massive Sectapod a few stories tall roared through the streets and right up to the squad. As the group prepared for another hellacious fight against a villain from outer space; the screen faded to black. It appears that there may be some interesting boss-like encounters in store for anyone who picks up XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it is released on October 9 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.