Friday, April 16, 2010

What is Wrong with The New X-Com?

Recently, 2K Games announced that they would be releasing a new X-Com game. At first, this sounds like great news. X-Com is a beloved franchise and its mix of base building and turn-based man-to-man combat has never truly been matched. Certainly, in a market filled with sports games and first-person shooters, a modern version of one of the best turn-based tactical games ever made will be an exciting release.

Except that it seems that the modernized version of the best turn-based tactical game in history would just happen to be a first person shooter!!?! Huh?

Yeah, the new XCOM game (hyphens and lower case are soooooo 1990s, or British, not sure which) will be a heavily story-drive FPS, along the lines of 2K Marin's last title, Bioshock.

Now, of course, this news tweaked the old, crotchety gamer in me and elicited the usual rants about "ruining the franchise", "dumbing down" and an old standby, "kids these days". But then I thought, "Well, Bioshock was an ok game, maybe a good game with the X-Com label, whatever the genre, will be neat."

Then I thought about X-Com Interceptor and Enforcer and threw up a little into my mouth...

Seriously though, there is nothing inherently wrong with a top-notch game maker scooping up an old franchise and reimagining it. If you think about it, the highly enjoyable hit, Borderlands, is pretty much Diablo skinned as an FPS. It is a great game because it is an FPS, written by a dev studio that specializes in FPS games, and it adds other elements that twist the formula just enough (looting and character development) to put the game over the top. So ultimately, it is ok for 2K to rethink XCOM and the result might be a pleasant surprise.

On the other hand, to those of us who know this venerable classic, the announcement of the new genre is still disappointing and part of me can't get over the fact that this seems like a cynical attempt slap a known franchise on a game that would otherwise have a hard time competing in a glutted market with the likes of Gears of War and Modern Warfare. Certainly the buzz of the licensing announcement... good and bad... cannot hurt the future sales of this game.

And the name XCOM sure beats Yet Another Shooter as far as titles go.

Perhaps someday the tables will be turned and someone will buy the rights to the name Modern Warfare and remake it as a puzzle RPG. Until then, it seems someone IS creating an honest-to-goodness remake of X-Com. Check out http://www.xenonauts.com/ and hope they make their release date of Christmas of this year.