Video games are a cornerstone of student culture at RAHS, and the recent release of XCOM 2, the newest game in an extremely popular and long-spanning series, has many eager to experience the next chapter in the game’s rich story.
Veteran X-COM player Brian Locke is one of many at RAHS who was patiently awaiting the next installment of the beloved series, which debuted on 5 Feb.
The series started with X-COM: UFO Defense, made by a small company called Microprose in the mid-nineties. The player is the head of a secret government organization called XCOM with the mission to develop technology and employ it to fight invading aliens with the focus on closely managing soldiers in combat on the battlefield
“The game consists of a real-time strategy management layer, the geoscape,” said Locke, “and a tactical-turn based layer, the battlescape.”
Microprose later developed several sequels, including X-COM: Terror from the Deep (TFTD) and X-COM: Apocalypse, and several more were later made by Hasbro, all of which take place decades after the first game.
“Apocalypse happens five decades after the events of TFTD, in which a new kind of aliens invade the self-contained mega-cities, which are now the only places on Earth where humans can survive,” said Locke. “[As in the previous game,] X-COM accidentally destroys the Earth’s entire ecosystem.”
Another well-known studio, Firaxis, rebooted the series in 2012 with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This game is generally known as the quintessential edition of the series, fit with a later expansion in 2013, Enemy Within, and a still-active game modification community and player base.
Junior Daniel Rusinko, a die-hard XCOM fan, began playing the XCOM series early his Sophomore year, and immediately fell in love with the games.
“One of the reasons XCOM: Enemy Within was so popular,” said Rusinko, “was because of a popular mod for it called Longwar, which added a vast amount of content and increased the play time. I have personally spent more hours than I would like to comment on playing it over the summer.”
XCOM 2’s story begins with the interesting assumption that the player lost the previous game, Enemy Unknown–which given the difficulty and permanent nature of the game is a likely fate–the aliens have conquered the planet, and formed a provisional government to rule over the Earth with XCOM pushed into the shadows.
The new story comes with gameplay changes, too, including randomly-generated maps, a larger emphasis on stealth, and a more responsive environment.
“My favorite addition is the character pool,” said Locke, “which allows you to make a character once and have them show up randomly in your campaigns later on as a soldier or VIP. Customization options are far more varied.”
Other things have carried over, like the notoriously glitchy line of sight.
“Line of sight is still bugged to hell,” said Locke, “occasionally granting your operatives the inexplicable ability to shoot enemies through walls or the inexplicable inability to see a two-meter-wide and four-meter-tall berserker [a large armored humanoid alien that looks somewhat reminiscent of a Hunter from the HALO series] because he’s standing behind a tree.”
One of the biggest improvements for XCOM 2 is its huge leaps forward in modding support to an extent far surpassing that of similar games from other studios, giving the game an adaptability that will keep the game fresh and playable for a long time to come.
“The devs have released 50GB of in-game assets for use by the community,” said Rusinko, “and a full map-making toolkit–the same one used by the studio. This allows the game, even after aging few years, to be continuously improved by players themselves long into the future.”
Luckily for the strict supporters of the tech contract, and unfortunately for school-laptop bad gamers, XCOM 2 is far too resource-intensive to run on school-issued laptops, and the price may be a prohibitive for some for the time being, a copy generally running $60.
“I’m really excited to play through the game,” said Rusinko, “I can’t wait to see what XCOM 2 really brings to the table in the world of video games.”