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So, my Acer Aspire 5742G laptop’s harddrive decided to explode and since the piece of shit had overheating problems, I went ahead and got myself a spanking new PC. Specs are as follows:

 

Intel Core i5 4570 @ 3.20GHz

8,00GB Single-Channel DDR3 @ 798MHz

2048MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

And a bunch of other stuff that shouldn’t interest anyone, like how I’m using my TV as my monitor because fuck having separate speakers.

So far, all the games I’ve tried on this have run over 150 fps on maximum settings, the sole exception being DayZ, but that’s more due to how the game works. I am aware that my processor may be a bit sluggish, but seeing as how this was built by me and a friend, switching it out shouldn’t be all that difficult. Handy tip if you’re not in the know. Buy a desktop in parts, get a friend to help you put it together, you might just get a computer like mine, which is a powerhouse at 3/4 of the price of an inferior computer. This thing cost me 1010€.

 

As for why the site hasn’t been updated, well, a lot of the games I’ve played over the year haven’t been all that interesting. The biggest game I probably played was Dead Space 3. I have been using my Twitter that I started up at around the beginning of the year to post thoughts on games that didn’t warrant a multi-paragraph post on here. Either that or you really don’t need me to tell you how absolutely fucking stupid the Xbox One is. Which it is.

So there you go. Now I’m off to kill some more guys in Chivalry. Remember, don’t be a leftclicking zweihander noob, or I’ll come and pull off crazy stunts as a man-at-arms.

 

Trash.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is just Call of Duty with some special abilities. Big whoop.

I know its immensely popular. I know it rakes in boatloads of cash for Activision. So why do you think it’ll do the same for you? Well, not the devs certainly, it’s the marketing people. And I can’t really go and say they know nothing about what gamers want, hell the reason why every single multiplayer is a carbon copy of Call of Duty is its popularity; more people than not buy up that swill. Its their damn job to think what will sell well, then have the devs make just that. Perks, aim-down-sight shooting, when will it end? It’s getting very tiresome, knowing that every multiplayer component is exactly the same. No hidden gems, no matter how rough they may be. Take Condemned 2: Bloodshot for example. I killed a guy charging at me with a fire ax by throwing my goddamn pistol in his face. It remains as one of my favourite ever moments in online gaming. Can you do that in Call of Duty? No. Can you use a rocket booster pack to jump through the roof of a fully destructible building, before smashing the poor fool taking refuge there with goddamn Mjölnir, like in Red Faction: Guerrilla? No. Or maybe something a bit more mainstream: Wielding a Spartan Laser in Halo 3, shooting down an enemy Banshee, first laughing in glee then screaming in abject terror as the destroyed flyer’s wreckage falls on your ass. No, that doesn’t happen in Call of Duty.

The Call of Duty-type multiplayer is good only when it is in actual Call of Duty, I genuinely liked Call of Duty 4, and then the sole funny thing that can happen is someone getting squashed by your care package.

While not rife with funny moments, Gears of War 3 was the only game that I consistently, and for an extended period of time, played online. Back when it was in full swing Gears 3 was amazingly fun, before the servers were turned off and the Rise of the Laserburst. When the player base consisted of more than those two ridiculous guys. Those guys who always sent you hate mail, because they just sucked. Eat Retro Lancer, bitch.

If my computer hadn’t been built by absolute cretins and actually had a cooling fan I could get access to without disassembling the entire thing, Team Fortress 2 would be the game I’d probably play if I wanted to play online. TF2′s not without its problems, however. The name of the problem is the pyro and how Valve, in their infinite wisdom, gave them a ranged weapon that sets you on fire from across the map. Because that’s fair, right?

I went on Amazon some time ago, thinking: I need more survival horror. Good thing too, as the recent Dead Space 3 demo showed how far the series has, as all survival horror series do, fallen from grace. Hell, the Wikipedia article for Dead Space 3 describes it as a shooter, while the original is labeled as a survival horror.

The damnedest thing is, people bash on survival horror a lot. Then why is it I like it so much? So much so, that I go on Amazon to buy games for a system I didn’t even own yet? Sure, the controls are universally clunky, but that and the fixed camera angles are part of the fun and atmosphere of the genre. I watched my eldest brother play Dead Space and he ended up staring at a wall while something supposedly scary was happening behind him. If the camera had been fixed to force the player to see the creepy stuff, sure, it’s only good for that one time and is decidedly cheap but the way I see it, if it startles you that one time, it did its job, which is leagues better than sticking your face into a wall and missing it out completely. Another point against modern “survival horror” is that you can’t simply run from enemies to conserve ammo and/or health, dreading that you might have to come back later. Nowadays, the games bury you in supplies, whether enemies drop the said supplies or you just buy them from a shop that’s around every corner with money the enemies also drop. Just squeaking past the final boss with one bullet in your handgun, your guts ready to fall out if someone as much as sneezes at you gives you a sense of victory not found in games anymore. Having a large area to explore and sometimes, heavens forbid, backtrack through, knowing where you left enemies, planning the fastest or the safest route there using your map. Does it go past the saferoom? What about the place you need to get back to?. You cleared it out, but is it clear anymore? What if something new lurks there?

We’ve seen a resurgence of other forgotten genres through Kickstarter, the CRPG, the space sim. What about traditional survival horror?

With the tangent over, let’s get to the issue at hand.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is one of the games you usually find in best horror games lists. I really can’t tell yay or nay yet, as the setup I have for my old consoles is annoying to get out. Basically, I’ve got a ye olde CRT television set, since RGB and SCART look like ass on my HDTV, on a chair that doesn’t have wheels and it’s in between my couch and a bookshelf. Whenever I want to play, I have to drag the chair out from its little nook. At midnight or beyond, not really something you want to do on the third floor of an apartment building.

So, the game. I played for a couple of hours after the postman kindly slammed it through the letterbox. I didn’t exactly get into the survival or the horror parts, but I hear once I do, the game is amazing. Here’s hoping. I did run into puzzles, if you can call moving clock hands a puzzle. The game had crammed the time 3:33 down my throat and when I got to the grandfather clock in a study of sorts, the answer was simple. Trying my best to get the damn thing to accept my answer, however, wasn’t going to work. I was dismayed at first, believing myelf to be so smart, with snarky remarks and all, for figuring out the answer and then being cast down in my hubris. I went around the mansion, searching every damn corner I could, before returning to the clock. And this game. This fucking game. A voice whispered: three thirty-three. I can’t tell you how close I was to smashing the controller through the screen.

So, afterwards I get to the first proper combat bit. Chopping the heads off weird gangly things was fun. Also, how cool was that the Romans actually spoke latin at first?

Silent Hill 3. Had to get it for the PC, seeing as how the HD collection was just trash. Didn’t get to play it much yet, spent about an hour trying to get it running on my native resolution and upon doing so, the game worked fine, but the menus slid off to the side. I do love PC gaming. So easy, so simple, so convenient. Also, either the US postal service or Finland’s very own, privatized postal office biffed up the case. Slightly annoying, as the copy was new and unopened.

With its assets sold off to companies like Ubisoft and Take-Two, the publisher has now gone the way of the dodo. So, what now? What happens to the franchises and studios under THQ? These are all valid ponderings, but in truth, they pale in comparison to this:

What will happen to the Warhammer 40k games? I really don’t like real-time strategy games, but the Dawn of War games are two of the three RTS games I tolerate and Space Marine was a pretty good third-person action game for a developers first foray into the genre. Sure, there are a few video games set in the Warhammer 40k universe in development, such as the new Space Hulk, but I fear it may lack the quality of Relic’s games. Speaking of Relic, they were acquired by Sega who also happen to hold the licence for making games based on the Warhammer Fantasy setting with Total War creator Creative Assembly announced to be developing said games. Does this mean that Sega might get the Warhammer 40k licence in the future? I certainly hope so. Especially if it means we get more Dawn of War and Space Marine.

I downloaded the demo for Dead Space 3 and the only thing I can say is that a horror game this isn’t. I played the demo through with a friend and when we play together, things get a bit silly, so my impression may have been twisted a little. Then again, co-op is the thing EA’s trying to get all the drones hyped up for. Sure, we had a lot of fun, but not exactly because of the game. We were just arseing about, something that happens no matter the game we play.

Apparently, co-op is supposed to change the way the game plays out. Neat, but co-op’s mere existence means the game must have been optimized for two people. That means the pacing, something very important to horror, will always be fast and action-packed lest the kids lose their interest.

As for gameplay, it’s the same song and dance, but with a few additions. There is now a cover mechanic on account of some enemies, human and necromorph, are now shooting guns at you. Why? Is there a horror games playbook that states that the farther the series progresses, the more action you have to cram in, until it is merely a mediocre action game?

Not everything gave me a bad vibe, however. The most interesting new feature is the weapons crafting system. In previous Dead Space games, you had four slots for weapons. Now you can put two weapons into one frame. So if you want a plasma cutter with an underslung submachine gun or a sniper rifle with a shotgun, you have the ability to do that. Just one thing irks me. Because of this system, ammo has become universal. Bullets, plasma energy, rivets, javelins even rockets all come from “ammo” clips. I understand the logic behind this, but to me, it only takes it farther away from its horror roots. Another issue with the ammo is that once you run out of, say, your secondary ammo but have plenty in your primary, you still auto reload. Also, why can’t I fire both weapons at the same time? What if I bolted two chainguns together and just want to spray death at my enemies? What about giving us a much more powerful version of the weapon?

I’ll still buy Dead Space 3, but not at launch.

The year 2012 came to a close about an hour ago, so what better time than now to take a little look back and list the games that were the best, and the worst, of the past year.

The best games, in no particular order, of 2012 were the following:

FTL: Faster Than Light

This little indie game tickled that special fancy that reared its head after watching Firefly, the fancy to captain my own spaceship through the cosmos. You’re on a trek through numerous star clusters to deliver a vital piece of information to your superiors. Gameplay revolves around your ship and its crew, carefully managing the power consumption of the various systems aboard your ship, like weapons and shields. Crew can be placed on these systems to boost their efficiency and the more you keep one crew member on one system, they gain proficiency for that particular system. A fully upgraded engine with a fully experienced crew member will allow you to dodge almost all incoming shots. Mind, however, that your crew can die as a result of various trauma, such as burning to a crisp or asphyxiation. FTL is hard to nail down when it comes to genre. It’s a roguelike, meaning it is the rule, rather than the exception, to lose the game and once you do, you cannot reload a previous save; you must start all over again. Add to that, for better or worse, the fact that every playthrough will be randomised, so if you got a sweet new laser for your ship and subsequently blow up, you most likely won’t be as lucky. Of course, you may also find an even spanglier laser.

As a testament to the difficulty of Faster Than Light, out of the 77 games I’ve player over 30+ hours, I’ve only actually beat the game three times.

If there was something that I’d change about FTL, there would be two: first, teleports would not work if the shields are still up, because the overwhelming majority of my losses were due to boarders being relentlessly hard to repel, an annoying blemish on an otherwise great challenge. Second, I would have added some sort of free roaming mode after finishing the game or attempting to do so a few times. Other than these two issues, FTL: Faster Than Light is a game that I would recommend everyone to try. It’s fun, addicting, has a good soundtrack and is cheap.

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line showed us one simple thing: modern military shooters need not be Call of Duty. You can tell an engaging story set in the present with soldiers of a modern army. Spec Ops: The Line is not about how the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans and maybe some Middle Eastern terrorists blew up the American dream with nukes and Ebola. No, Spec Ops is something else and I don’t want to say anything to spoil it, but trust me, it’s a great game with a solid third-person shooter core. Also Captain Sheridan.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

The tactical, turn-based strategy genre has been all but forgotten, save for a precious few over the years, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown brought the genre back into the limelight, not as a small indie title, but made by the people who made a gaming juggernaut, Civilization, namely Firaxis. Of course, even this was not enough to satisfy some diehard fans of the series, and some of their points are valid. The game featured less micromanaging and a more streamlined design. I understand where their gripes come from, but the genre has been without major attention for so long, you can’t make too complex a game without warming up the audience for more advanced features in the future. And I sincerely hope there is a future, for the genre and for XCOM.

Now for the worst games of 2012. There were a lot of bad games out this year, but thankfully, I avoided purchasing them. There were, however, a few that slipped the net, clumps of scum wrapped in gold foil.

Assassin’s Creed III

The Assassin’s Creed series was about the Assassins versus the Templars, that is it. Assassin’s Creed 3? Well, the main character is not even a real Assassin. He doesn’t follow, or recite, the eponymous creed of the Assassin brotherhood. His only concern is the safety of his tribe amidst the American revolution. And I get the feeling I’m supposed to be in awe whenever one of the founding fathers shows their mug on screen. It’s not like the revolution was as big a deal as the backdrops of the previous games, the Crusades and the Renaissance and yet, the whole thing was made to seem larger than life, it took centre stage in the game. Altaïr never, for example, took an active part in the Crusades, he didn’t go out and kick King Richard’s arse for example, distinctly unlike Connor. Every and I do mean fucking every big thing that happened during the revolution, Connor was there, Connor made possible, Connor fucking did it. The Boston Tea Party, the signing of the fucking Declaration of Independence?

By the end of it, I was so sick of the revolution, I just wanted to get back to the modern times if only to avoid what felt like nationalistic chest thumping in a game made by French Canadians. Wait, what? It would not have been such a big deal if the previous games had made such a huge fucking number of their own specific time period.

As for gameplay, this game has the worst in the series. One-button free running, less options in combat. Not the way to do it.

Mass Effect 3

This game is a fucking travesty. BioWare took a series into which me and countless others poured hours upon hours to learn all there was about the universe and the people who inhabit it only for them to give us a nonsensical ending. What’s most depressing is that there were bright spots in the game. The conclusions of your teammates stories, namely Garrus and Tali. They stuck with you from the first game.

Mass Effect 3 is the worst game of the past year because it hurt on a personal level. I consider the first Mass Effect to be the single best game of this generation, period. Then they do this. First Dragon Age, then Mass Effect. The ending ruins it all.

We are officially through, BioWare.

Dark Souls is an RPG by From Software, a sequel-in-spirit to Demon’s Souls. The whole idea of the game is this: you will die. A lot. You’ll die because the game is without pity or remorse. It will kick your ass over and over again. That is, if you’re not a bad enough dude to kick it back harder. The difficulty of the game is what makes it stand out, what makes it fun. The right tactics, timing, gear and a cool head should see you through the ordeal. This isn’t the hard mode in most games where the enemy cheats and is buffed beyond reckoning, you can win fairly, though if you can get a piece of rubble between you and a boss throwing lightning bolts while you chip away at his health with a crossbow is totally acceptable. You outsmarted the boss. There is no such thing as an easy fight. It’s a very distinct possibility that you screw up, or the enemy gangs up on you, after which you die. And you lose all your souls, the game’s currency, upon doing so. You can try to retrieve your money, but die again and they’re lost for good. It’s refreshing to play a game that’s really challenging.

There is only one enemy in the entire game that I feel is just absurdly difficult to deal with. It isn’t a boss or a mini-boss. It is just one type of mob. The wheel skeleton. These annoying cretins roll around in their spiked wheel and if you happen to be in their path, you will get stunlocked from the first hit and then die. Your shield will not do you much good either, they’ll just roll right through your stamina and then kill you. The tactic to dealing with these things is to sidestep just at the right time and hope you have a wall behind you. The silly bugger will keep rolling right into the wall and remain there for a precious few seconds for you to stab, slash or smash them to bits. Be wary, if you try to swing too close, you’ll come into contact with the wheel. Then you will die. You’d think that these things roll for a distance then stop, but I’ve actually seen one of them remain in a roll indefinitely as I was stuck in the middle of a ladder with the wheel spinning away at the bottom and a horrible blob monster with a spear at the top.

Thankfully, the wheel skeletons are only found in two areas of the game, but they are both very open and dark areas and there are a lot of them.

Now, the game’s core gameplay isn’t anything to balk at and neither is the story. Both are a tad clunky. The game does feature an interesting, seamless world that is interconnected with hidden passages and shortcuts. You’ll be surprised where a secret path may lead. But its most unique aspect is its online component. It’s not your average multiplayer, more akin to an MMO in my mind. You’re alone, most of the time, but other players can leave messages informing you of traps, treasures and such. You choose from a list of words, so no one gets upset because someone might write something naughty. Something like “Be wary of trap” may be written a few metres away from a pressure plate for instance. Players have the ability to vote on a message and an up vote grants the writer one point of Humanity, so if you see a lot of messages asking for Humanity before a boss, consider up voting. There has also been a few hilarious instances where the messages were used for comedic effect. One such instance was right before a boss, “Weakness: Amazing chest.” After entering the boss zone, a cutscene played where this spider-thing crept into view. Then the camera started panning upwards and you realise the creature is some sort of drider. A spider lower half and a luscious woman, naked, as the upper half. And of course the camera lingered on her bosom. Weakness: Amazing chest indeed.

Whether funny, useful or detrimental, these little scriblings are not the only thing that players can do to interact with each other, but other than messages, you have to sacrifice Humanity to revert from being a Hollow, a zombie-like version of yourself back to, well, human. And you always go Hollow upon death. You can summon other players to your game to help you defeat a boss for example. Sounds all well and cool, but that’s not all.

A player whose character belongs to a specific covenant, the Darkwraiths, may use certain items to invade other people’s games and attempt to murder them to gain humanity and souls. Unlike summons, you may be invaded at any point during the game, assuming of course you are not Hollow. The only warning you get is a black banner in the middle of the screen informing you that ” has invaded!” They then appear close by as a shadowy, red phantom. You have a number of options, either fight, die or quit the game. While quitting the game at first sounds lame, heed this: There are no systems in place to balance this. The invader may and most likely will be tens of levels higher than you and toting the best gear in the game. This system, in theory, sounds exhilarating. In practice, it fails miserably. I would welcome a fight against an even foe, but no. So far, I’ve only been invaded twice, thanks to the covenant I belong to. The first time, I got very lucky. My opponent was obviously better equipped than I and brandished a nasty looking spear. The fight wasn’t that long as my would be killer rolled off a bridge to his death. I looked down from the bridge and saw his broken body at the bottom and thought to myself, “Wow, that was cool.” I felt the familiar feeling of being hunted, the very same you get when you play on a very active PvP realm in World of Warcraft. Then the next invasion took place, whether it was the same guy or not, I don’t remember. Needless to say the guy hit me once and I was down. I then remembered why I transferred my character from my old PvP realm in WoW after getting so sick and tired of it. That thing was ganking.

One covenant that caught my eye was the Forest Hunters. The idea is simple. There is a forest in the game. If anyone kills NPCs in that forest and you happen to wear a ring given to you upon joining, you are taken, and automatically mind you, to the offending player’s world. In addition, more than one member of the covenant may be summoned to defend the forest. Sounds great, right? Again on paper yes, but there are a number of problems. First, to enable this form of invading, you must sacrifice a ring slot, denying you helpful buffs to slay the offenders. Second, the leveling problem is still there. Lastly, unlike Darkwraith invading, the offender may have one or more summoned co-op allies. So you get all psyched up and upon arriving, you see four people decked like the Dark Lord Sauron smacking the NPCs and your fellow Forest Hunters about, you kinda realise that this invading spiel isn’t all that fun. For you, at least.

Furthermore, after doing a bit of sleuthing, I discovered a very, very distressing fact. Those summoned buddies are not there for added protection per se, but are there for farming souls from the Forest Hunter invaders. No. Just no.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: Dark Souls’ multiplayer was envisioned for a much larger player base, certainly more than what I believe are playing it right now. The concept is cool and exciting. I really like the idea, the added tension that another player may make an attempt on your life at any point in the game. But as it stands, it is broken. It isn’t about trying to beat the game when suddenly someone invades and the better man emerges victorious through evenly matched mortal combat. No, as it is now, if you get invaded, you either have to be one of those who invade regularly, so you’ve maxed out your levels and gear or hope that your assailant makes a blunder and falls to their demise. So, either be devoted to PvP or just lucky.

This is where Dark Souls outright fails at; you simply cannot do any PvP on the side. You have to be committed if you want to have any fun doing it. The whole system is based on involuntary PvP and it doesn’t work as such. The fear of getting ganked is a great big mark against any online feature. There are ways to avoid PvP altogether. Either play offline or as a Hollow for the entire length of the game. The former option means you lose a significant component of the overall game, something they advertise on the back of the damn box or you look like a desiccated corpse. Pick your poison.

There are other types of PvP available, like the Gravelord Servants’ ability to spawn souped up mobs into the worlds of three random players who then hunt down the griefing bastard and put an end to him or the Blades of the Darkmoon who basically invade the invaders through indictments, but other than those described in length, I haven’t had much if any contact at all.

Still, I like Dark Souls for its challenging PvE. It just would be leagues better if not for the faults in the PvP aspect.

Perhaps for the sequel…

Halo 4. To me, this game is just meh. At first I had no intention of buying it, but a friend brought his copy over and I played a little multiplayer. And it was fun. It had explosions, vehicles and a lot of dakka. Needless to say, this lured me to buying the game. I was confident that this would wash away the shame of Reach. At least, that’s what I thought until I actually played it.

First off, the new Spartan design is awful; the new MJOLNIR is just the nanosuit from Crysis with a lifejacket on top. And it’s hideous. The old design, even from Reach, actually looked like armour. So that’s the biggest nitpick out of the way, let’s get into more serious issues.

The campaign, though it had a lot of character development, had little appeal for me, even with the new faction of enemies. And let me tell you, those fuckers are annoying, not fun, but annoying and most importantly boring to fight. Mechanical enemies in general are not fun to fight, they’re not satisfying to kill. Take for example, Gears of War. You shoot Locust, Locust is reduced to giblets. Shoot one of these Prometheans, they just fall apart or turn to slag. There’s only three types of Prometheans you face, two of which are small and able to move around fast. The Knights, the big Prometheans, well, they’re just as dull to fight as the rest.

As for the story? Like mentioned earlier, some melodramatic character development, but not much else. Unlike the rest of the main Halo games, this didn’t leave us in an ongoing story arc. Halo 4′s plot starts and ends. The main villain is, presumably, killed and six months later, according to Spartan Ops, nothing has really happened. I wonder, is this a contingency plan? Like Episode IV of Star Wars? To me, this just feels like they are wary that there won’t be a Halo 5. The story just could not suspend my disbelief, it had no mysteries or wonders the original Halo games did. The missions themselves were just “get Cortana to pedestal.”

Also, why exactly are we shooting Covenant again? The war was over. And I don’tthink the Elites would much care for the lies the Prophets spewed for centuries anymore. Those guys treated them like idiots and when the truth was out (no pun intended) the Elites promptly shot them up.

Still, the campaign of Reach is still the worst and I liked the fact that the Master Chief actually had an active role in the campaign.

The Spartan Ops. Wow, really?

The multiplayer. I had a long rant about the multiplayer written a couple of days ago, but after giving it some time, let me condense the entire rant into this:

Fucking wallhack.

“Wait, what?” you ask yourself. Yes. Halo 4 has a legal wallhack that you can equip as an armour ability. It has almost no drawback, but its mere existence makes two other AA’s, the camo and the hologram, two armour abilities with very limited but effective uses on paper, utterly and irrevocably useless. Sure, whenever you use it, a beacon is shown on everyone’s radar. But guess what? I can already see you on the radar. What it does it makes both players aware of each other, making any sort of quick ambush you plan for pursuing enemies utterly useless. It forces the game to become a fucking point-and-click match.

It’s not cheating guys, it’s skill! Fuck off.

I really wanted to like Halo 4′s multiplayer, those few matched I played had potential. But after playing it for an extended amount of time, so many annoying trends came up I just can’t bring myself to like it as much as I did Halo 3. Customizable loadouts, perks, it all just reeks of Call of Duty. Maybe an open beta test could have eliminated a lot of balancing issues, maybe it would have exacerbated things or maybe not. We will never know.

As luck would have it, not a day had gone by after my preview of XCOM: Enemy Unknown before a demo for it was released.

And boy did they drop the ball with this one.

The game feels good, no question about it and the tactical framework is there, but the demo utilises none of it. Three missions, only two of which you can actually play in one playthrough. The first mission is just a tutorial railroad and I can forgive Firaxis for this, perhaps someone would want a tutorial on how to use their human interface device, the mouse, but the second mission should have been a real show of what XCOM’s tactical battles are all about. Rapidly changing situations, casualties and panic. The best word to describe XCOM’s gameplay is SNAFU. But this demo brought none of that into the limelight. Instead, the aliens just sat in place until you saw them and then, and only then, starting to move. I crept through the level, going from cover to cover just waiting for an alien to jump out at my soldiers. Turns out, that was all for nothing. The objective of the mission was just to run through and ‘activate’ the aliens and then shoot them.

I know that the full release won’t be like this, but I wonder how many people on the fence about XCOM tried or will try this demo and weren’t all that taken with it and I can see why; the demo was just a couple of tutorials and not a real demonstration of what you could expect from the real thing.

On a more positive note, I did get a chance to customize a soldier and I have to say, even without the Elite Soldier Pack, your options for customization aren’t too shabby. You can fully name your soldiers along with changing their physical appearance by choosing their race, voice, skin colour, hair style, facial hair (where applicable) and hair colour. With the aforementioned pack, these options are expanded along with introducing even more options.

Before I get to this game, I believe a little exposition from where I’m coming into this is in order.

I’ve played a lot of tactical turn-based games, such as the original XCOM, Silent Storm, Jagged Alliance 2 to name a few and I love the hell out of the genre. Reason why? Simple, it challenges you to think, but isn’t an annoying juggle like an RTS where your plans go to shit because the computer can truly multi-task where you cannot. In an RTS, a problem I can’t solve by throwing a hundred Space Marines at is not a problem I want or have the patience to solve. The scale is also smaller which means that, to borrow a very relevant term, the battlescape is interesting. A forest with maybe a clearing or some sort of house in one corner? Sure. Perhaps a desert crag with a lot of cover but also a possibility for fire raining down from above? Sure. Or perhaps the most interesting of them all, an urban setting with enemies lurking behind each corner and shooting from rooftops? Sure, especially if the game has destructible environments. Need to run away from a Chryssalid? Blow a hole in the wall and leg it. However, this genre has been understandably a PC heavy one, but more importantly one that has been almost forgotten by the industry.

So when they announced XCOM: Enemy Unknown back in January, I was elated. And now, seeing as there is only a couple of weeks ’til release, I thought I’d talk a bit about XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Developed by Firaxis, the creators of the Civilization series, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reimagining of the original 1994 version. And being a reimagining instead of a remake, Firaxis could make a few changes, for better or for worse. Some of these changes don’t sound that great to me. One thing though and I cannot stress this enough: I have not played this game, all my knowledge comes from articles, videos and such. These changes may just need a hands-on feel to fully understand. With that out of the way, the most alarming change was the removal of time units, instead Firaxis opted for two action points per turn per soldier. You may for instance move and shoot in a turn. However, since there are no units, a number from which each action subtracts from, moving any distance uses up your first action. You may find yourself trying to edge closer to the aliens to scout their positions out, then getting to cover and putting a few rounds their way. In this new system, you may move closer, using up the first action, then using your second action to run into cover. Also, I am pretty sure that there is a perk, I will get to those next, that allows you to first shoot then move. This is not a major issue, a bit of questionable design maybe, but more of a gripe.

Now for the perks. Perks are tied to the new classes your XCOM operatives may have. Classes include snipers, heavies, assaults and supports, each with their role to fulfill. They also have a choice of perks per rank. Snipers, who normally may not move and fire their rifle, can gain the ability to do so or the ability to fire on any alien a squaddie can see. Once you pick the one you want, the other one is locked for good, you can’t pick it up later. Sounds great, but the twist is this: you cannot select what class your soldiers are, they are assigned randomly. In a worst case scenario, you might find your entire squad comprised of snipers. Classes are assigned on the second or third rank to off-set this, but it might lead to one ranking up all your soldiers to get the ones you want. Sure, it forces you to adapt and make-do, something very familiar from the original XCOM, but I like to tailor my squads just right. Speaking of squads, you can only field six soldiers at the maximum.

Unlike in the original, you can only have one base, but you can station Interceptors into different parts of the world for quick, well, intercepting. In your base, you research alien artifacts and even the aliens themselves, then build what you discover in your workshops, be they plasma guns or better armour. At the start of the game, you choose the location of your base from a list, like Europe, Asia or South America. Each location has a bonus it grants if you choose to build your base there, like aircraft being 50% cheaper in North America.

From bases we get to missions, as in there are no base defense missions in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. There are a few new ones to take its place, like escorting a VIP from an area under alien attack. The game should also have more story than the original’s “intercept aliens then shoot the survivors and take their stuff to research and build your own space ship to shoot the aliens on their own turf.”

Not necessarily a change, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s stylised art direction is quite cool. But what of the musics from the original? It was said that they were being updated, but so far, I have not heard a new rendition of the very catchy interception tune. Its absence would be a great shame.

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