E3 2010: XCOM's new weapons and research system is BioShock-y

Series reboot looks promising, with strategy, technologies, and scares to spare

We used to love dissecting dead aliens to develop new technologies in the old X-COM games. So we were excited to get a closer look at how weapon research and other fundamental features from the original series will be handled in the upcoming series reboot developed by 2K Marin. It looks like there will be a hint of BioShock-y gameplay mixed in.

Our brief demo took us on a journey to the suburban outskirts in Los Angeles, California, where the XCOM team detected a distress call that had “hostile aliens” written all over it. With two field agents to back us up, the main character, Agent William Carter, headed straight for the sound of screaming and came across a man lying face down in his backyard, his smoldering body covered in tar-like goo. And that's when Carter took a picture.

Above: This picturesque 1950s suburb violently collides with mysterious alien tech that disintegrates everything in its path

XCOM's camera-based research system reminded us a lot of BioShock, only it makes more sense in the XCOM universe. The data you collect during your missions will be sent back to a research team at your home base. More pictures with your camera will help you develop new weapons at your base to fight the various aliens you encounter, like the “Blobatov” a grenade-like weapon filled with highly flammable goo.

Above: Documenting aliens in action, or in this case, the aftermath of an alien invasion, will help you develop new tools to the fight the good fight

Above: Elerium, the valuable extraterrestial element from the original series, will still play a role in weapon development

This will be just one way to help you beef up your arsenal with new weapons based on your encounters with aliens in the new XCOM. As Carter continued to explore the surrounding area, he came into direct contact with the goo-like blobs that have been busy turning the neighborhood's citizens into tar covered corpses. The blobs seemed to shrug off shotgun shells fired at point blank range. But once Carter lit them up with his newly developed Blobatovs, the quickly melted with satisfying screams.

Above: Blobs are resistant to shotgun shells, but they're highly flamable. Use Blobatovs to light them up

Above: This is your home base. In the demo we saw it was full of NPCs hustling and bustling for the sake of humanity

Above: You'll choose missions from this map. But taking on an assignment might mean sacrificing the ability to take on another

Above: You'll always want to some special agents to back you up on assignments

It was good to see that the researching and tech development from the original games weren't lost in XCOM's transition from a straight-up strategy game to a first-person shooter. But it was seeing the little details, the kind that we loved in BioShock, that were most promising. As Carter rounded a corner in the blob infested home, we could see the silhouette of a woman being consumed by the beasts. Blobs burst out of the sink, spilling out onto the previously pristine floor. It's these sorts of cinematic tweaks that can be so dramatically effective, especially when gruesome scenes, like these, violently clash with XCOM's idyllic 1950s setting. 

Jun 15, 2010