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Newstoid #3 photo
Get your tentacles ready!
We are back with another episode of Newstoid, your favorite video game news show. On this episode we discuss all things Fallout 4, dogs, and Splatoon takes over. I might be a bit biased, but I think this is our best episode ...

XCOM 2 photo
Firaxis Games is developing
2K Games has just sent word that XCOM 2 is in development, and will be a sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the recently beloved reboot of the series. Firaxis Games is once again handling the project, which is great news fo...

Newstoid #2 photo
Newstoid #2

A Taco Bell with Bloodstained windows painted by Splatoon - Newstoid #2

RIP green screen?
May 29
// Jed Whitaker
Newstoid is back, and this time with no green screen! We heard your cries of "your heads look weird" and "get rid of that fucking green screen" and we listened. Is this better? We are thinking of getting a small piece of gre...

The beauty and tragedy of a perfectly planned character

Apr 27 // Nic Rowen
I spent way too much time looking at screens like this. City of Heroes probably holds the dubious distinction of having the most skewed relationship in terms of “time spent planning characters VS time spent playing characters” in my life. I spent entire nights pouring over different power sets, ability combinations, and team synergies for a game that doesn't exist anymore. I devoted hours upon hours to figuring out the perfect stat progression for super villains that I knew in my heart of hearts I'd never take out of the starter area. The only crime they'd ever commit would be loitering. However, City of Heroes wasn't the only game to trigger this kind of obsessive cataloging, not by a long shot. I have a stack of character builds and ideas as thick as the Yellow Pages for Dark Souls PvP set-ups, gimmicky X-Com squads, and Darkest Dungeon dream teams. I have concept characters (complete with embarrassing back stories) sketched out for both of the modern Fallout games. All of their would-be perks, S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats, and fashionable item accessories already plotted out -- all that’s left would be to actually wander out in the wastes and find them, but who could be bothered after so much work? This goes way back, long before I had easy access to the internet where character planners and clever apps make it simple to plot these things out. Go back to the Precambrian era of high school days, dig through the fossil records of my notebooks and I'm sure you could find Diablo 2 skill trees scribbled in the margins of my English homework. The cave wall painting blueprints of a Hammerdin specced holy warrior looming above my predictable observations about MacBeth (probably, hopefully, accompanied by a cool doodle of a flying hammer crushing a zombie's skull).   When I step back and look at the sheer amount of go-nowhere ideas and try to tally up the time I've sunk into them compared to the relatively meager hours I've clocked into some of the games they're for, it dawns on me -- maybe this is kind of messed up. Maybe I've been living all wrong. Looking at it from a distance, it all seems quietly sad. I've spent more time in my head with some of these games (some of my favorite games, I might add) than I have playing them. There's a small critical voice in the back of my mind that is furious with me for squandering those hours, for not doing something more productive with the time -- both in the sense of actually playing the fucking games, and in the broader and more judgmental “what are you doing with your life?!” sense.  I have perfectly good reasons (or maybe I should call them “justifications”) for all the obsessive plotting and scheming. For one thing, there are just too many cool ideas out there and not enough time to see them through. For as much as I beat myself up for the papery death of my stillborn characters, I never really would have had the time to convert those dreams into reality even if I had the work ethic of John Henry. How long does a full play through of Diablo 2 take anyway? How many trips through Hell do you need to make to grind through the necessary experience points? If you're after a certain item set (and you know you are because you're the kind of crazy person who didn't stop reading three paragraphs ago) you'd probably need to go online to trade and wheedle your way into a full set to see it done. It's a hell of a lot more of a time investment than goofing off in English class, that's for sure. Sketching out those ideas for gimmicky Paladins and upstart Mages let me stave off the temptation to roll another character while I took my (unfortunately less imaginative) Barbarian to kick the shit out of the Prince of Lies. In a weird (insincere) way, I could even argue it helped me save time. Besides, an immaculately planned character can be satisfying in its own right. It's always good to get your intellectual hands dirty, to put your fingers into the putty of an idea, to roll it around and shape it. As far as pastimes go, you could do worse. Let's not forget all the situations where actually playing a game would be impractical. You can goof off a little at the office and play around with the Borderlands skill editor without causing much of a scene. But try and boot up your lv 30 Gunzerker at your desk just once and you'll never hear the end of it. Human Resources takes a dim view on bringing akimbo guns blazing justice to the wasteland during company hours, apparently.  Still, I look at the swollen and poorly organized folder where I dump all of my character ideas, filthy with PDF character sheets, webpage saves from online builders, .txt documents imported from PC to PC for games I'm not even sure I own anymore, and I wonder if I have a problem. I can justify all the characters I cooked up sitting in class or during lunch breaks? I know I spent just as many perfectly fine nights sitting in front of the same machine that actually displays and runs the games I was thinking about, tapping away at some poorly conceived concept character while utterly ignoring the game itself. At the same time though, I love those characters, I love those ideas. Yeah, most of them never made it out of the gate, but those characters had character. If videogames are mostly an exercise in mental stimulation, of burning off stressed out braincells and decompressing after a long shitty day, does it really matter if the satisfaction you get from them is through play or by tinkering with the ideas they present? If I could swap those hours around, gut about a quarter of that folder and take the time spent on the fantasizing about those ideas to actually playing out a few of them, would I be more satisfied? Or would it shake out to be about the same? I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that while writing this article, I did have an idea for another Dark Souls 2 character, and it's been all I could do to keep myself from drifting over to a wiki to start putting him together. There may be no hope for me.
Character building photo
I'm the man with the plan (and little else)
I've probably spent more time creating characters, builds, and dreaming up party compositions in my head than I have actually playing games. It seems odd to think of it in that way, but if I could somehow tally it all up I be...

Lots of games are morally bankrupt, we get it

Mar 19 // Anthony Burch
Most games are horrifying celebrations of violence and empowerment that prioritize aggression over compassion, and competition over empathy. And that's completely fine. (So long as the game, and the audience, know that that's what is going on.) We all -- to some extent or another -- are aware that the art and media we engage with can often be full of shit. We often love our art for being full of shit! I love Doctor Who, and it's one of the most full-of-shit television shows of all time! It champions optimism and mercy without ever approaching anything even remotely similar to a real-life dilemma, and -- so long as you know that's what it's doing -- it's a perfectly fine bit of escapism. And so it is with violent videogames. Yes, it's really, really weird that you run around massacring orcs because They're The Bad Guys, and it's even weirder that we were more excited to massacre them in Shadow of Mordor specifically because they felt more human. They felt like people with lives and backstories and that made it way more satisfying to slice their heads off what the fuck. But! It's escapism. It's full of shit, but it's full of shit in a way that is decidedly fun and effective. Should we ask greater questions about why Shadow of Mordor is fun, and consider how its fun-ness might be inexorably linked to racism and classism? Absolutely. Should we stop playing Shadow of Mordor and paint everyone who enjoys it as an enormous pile of human waste? Of course not. Or, to quote Anita Sarkeesian: "It is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects." (A quote that, if more people actually listened to, might have resulted in a way goddamn calmer gamer culture over the past few years.) So, it's okay to enjoy sadistic, weird, violent bullshit, so long as all parties involved know that that's exactly what they're doing. The only real problem, to me, is when that bullshit starts pretending to be about something else. Going back to Shadow of Mordor -- which was unquestionably my favorite game of last year -- I loved the over-the-top violence and the multitude of horrific things that you could do to your enemies. I distinctly did not love the story that tried to morally justify those things. The story of Talion's vengeance, and how justified he was in killing all those orcs because they are inherently "vile, savage beasts" (again, you should really read Austin Walker's article), is kind of nonsensical. It gets the player from A to B, sure, but it never stopped feeling weird for the game to paint Talion as a hero with one brush, and then allow you to decapitate an orc who is defined by a very human, relatable fear of fire moments later. But we've heard this argument before, right? Ludonarrative dissonance, blah blah blah. We've heard this argument so much, in fact, that it spawned an entirely new genre of games: the Violent Games That Criticize Violence And People Who Enjoy Violence genre. Anyone who has played Hotline Miami will remember the constant, enigmatic questions posed to the player by its cast of animal-faced murderers. "Knowing oneself means acknowledging one's actions." "You like hurting people, don't you?" "You're not a nice person, are you?" "Do you like hurting other people?" On its surface, these questions -- questions that many games pose to their players -- are deep, interesting queries. Functionally, though, they do nothing but jab an accusatory finger at the player. You fucking caveman, they shout. What's wrong with you? Why do you like this horrible, violent pornography? The answer to these condescending questions is simple: because these games are fun, and you know they're fun, and you spent hours and hours and hours of development time making sure I'd find them fun. These games never broach the actual social or biological reasons we find violence entertaining. Evolutionarily, it's to our advantage to find violence more stimulating and interesting than other aspects of the human experience, because a failure to find violence noteworthy can result in our deaths. Culturally, there are reams and reams of academic papers on violence as a (chiefly male) expression of worth and power that can often poison the aggressor almost as much as their victim. These games don't address that. Far Cry 3 says you like violence because you're a racist, simple-minded tourist (or at least, you have no problem taking on the role of one because, as a player, you're so eager to get to the murdering that your avatar is meaningless). Hotline Miami says you like it because you're kind-of-sort-of-bad-person-I-guess-but-maybe-not-really-I-don't-know. Spec Ops: The Line suggests you've just never given any thought to what the hell you've done as a player of games. These games chastise the player for enjoying consequence-free violence, right before offering them a smorgasbord of beautifully rendered, lovingly visceral consequence-free violence (Spec Ops less so, as it actually gives a shit about the choices you made in the story. Additionally, it forbids the player from being as graphically sadistic toward his or her enemies as FC3 and Hotline Miami). This is kind of weird, right? This is a hypocritical way of having your cake and eating it too -- of pretending you're making a grand statement about violence, without actually saying anything of note beyond -- bizarrely -- blaming the player for buying your game. If a game truly cared about exploring violence and its consequences, wouldn't it bake that into its game systems? XCOM, to me, is a greater treatise on violence and death than any of the other games I've mentioned because its systems force the player to make real, consequential, dynamic choices about the value of life. Should I put my elite assault trooper into the path of a crysalid if it means that he'll be able to save two or three civilians? Is it worthwhile to use my rookie to draw a sectoid's fire, just so my sniper can get a shot off? How much do I care about "winning" versus being a good person? What is the actual, financial cost of a human being? XCOM, while seemingly just a silly game about marines fighting aliens, directly engages with these questions in a way that the Hotline Miamis and Far Crys of the world never do. (And what's more, they do it without relying on gore for spectacle's sake). The answer for that is, perhaps, obvious: because it's hard. Because to do so is expensive, and means you're making a mechanically complex game in a time where it's easier and cheaper and often more profitable to make simple games. But if you're going to make a simple game that casts the player in a simple, hyperviolent role, why pretend to be an exploration of violence when your game mechanics obviously aren't? Why not go the other direction? Why not celebrate the fact that you're, to be brutally cynical, kinda full of shit? That's what Borderlands 2 was about -- from my perspective, at least. (It should probably go without saying, but a TON of people worked on Borderlands 2, and though I wrote about 90% of the dialogue, that dialogue makes up a comparatively small percentage of the overall Borderlands 2 experience. I can only speak for myself, and my own frame of mind when I worked on the game.) Early on, after the player kills a few psycho bandits, I had Claptrap comment on the battle: "Minion! What did you DO?! Those people had LIVES, and FAMILIES, and -- nah, I'm totally kidding. SCREW those guys!" As a joke, this line of dialogue isn't great. It's too long, its punchline is obvious, and it's just plain not all that funny. But nonetheless, this was a line I found myself coming back to as a thematic touchstone for the series as a whole. Yes, you are a murderer. Yes, you only exist to kill people and rob their corpses so you can kill more powerful things and rob more shiny stuff from their corpses. But it's all bullshit, so don't sweat it. Don't forget that you're being kind of a murderous antihero, but have fun with it! It's entertaining to be a murderous antihero. Don't pretend you're something that you're not (a hero), but don't beat yourself up over your antiheroism -- revel in it. There was a bit of internal worry about casting the player as such an amoral mercenary, but by making the bad guy an even bigger asshole, and by surrounding the people with (hopefully) charming, equally amoral good guys, everything basically turned out okay. We didn't, to my recollection, get any letters about how horrific it was to play as an antihero -- if anything, people seemed to enjoy that Borderlands was so jovially honest with its players about what it was and what it asked them to do. Saints Row works for exactly the same reason. The first two Saints Row games can often veer toward the horrifying, as the player upholds "values" like loyalty (which manifests itself in the player brutally murdering Julius, the founder of the Saints who rats on them in an attempt to bring peace back to Stillwater) and justice (which sees the player kidnap an unarmed woman, lock her in the trunk of a destruction derby car, and trick her boyfriend into ramming her to death as a means of avenging one of their fallen comrades). But Saints Row 3 and 4? The games where the franchise fully accepted just how batshit insane its players, characters, and world are? God damn, those are some good fucking videogames. Yes, your only method of interaction with civilians sees you punching or bludgeoning or shooting them. "Fuck it," the game says -- "let's incentivize that kind of behavior by making civilians drop health when you kill them." The moment Saints Row stopped trying to make serious statements about anything was the moment it reached its full potential. It accepted its own ludicrousness, and in so doing became the most honest videogame ever made: you play like a psychopath in these games, so we'll cast you as a mass-murderer and have everyone talk about how hilariously fun it is to be a mass-murderer. Fuck it, we'll make you president because you were so good at being a mass-murderer. Sure, the Saints Row games aren't "deep" (except for the fact that they totally are, thanks to their treatment of sexuality), but they're honest. Their messages, such as they are, match up perfectly with their mechanics. In my dumb, ex-game-dev opinion, XCOM and Saints Row represent the two best ways of actually tackling violence in games. Either build your systems around violence and its consequences -- actually force your players to answer questions of morality and power for themselves --  or just throw up your hands and create a world where the player can have fun being a total piece of shit. Above all, just be honest in what you're doing -- don't pretend your game is about How Bad Violence Is when it's really about How Awesome Pixelated Blood Looks.
Immoral games photo
Now move on, already
With Hotline Miami 2 recently released, I realized I am really, really tired of games that belong in its genre. When I say "genre," I refer not to "action games" or "indie games" or even "violent games," but a subtler, more h...

XCOM stream photo
XCOM stream

Destructoid saves the world! Sorry, Kyle

Filling my squad with Destructoid staff, heh heh heh
Feb 28
// Steven Hansen
Last time on Destructoid Saves the World, I looked around the map, panicked, to find that Kyle MacGregor had died. I didn't even see him go. It was tragic. Brett Makedonski is actually en route to my home at the moment, ...
XCOM stream photo
XCOM stream

Destructoid saves the world: XCOM hasn't killed any of us yet

Filling my XCOM squad with Destructoid staff
Jan 30
// Steven Hansen
Last time on Destructoid Saves the World, I made strained addiction analogies (not the Kanye song) and found a work-related reason to play XCOM. Now if only I can find a work-related reason to do nothing but play Puyo Pu...
Destructoid plays XCOM photo
Destructoid plays XCOM

Destructoid saves the world: Come watch me play XCOM

Filling my XCOM squad with Destructoid staff
Jan 13
// Steven Hansen
I've not played anything more than turn-based strategy games in recent months, years. Massive Chalice. Invisible, Inc. Fire Emblem: Awakening. XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I started an Enemy Within playthrough one evening last y...
Enemy Within photo
Enemy Within

XCOM: Enemy Within on mobile could ruin my life

Save Earth by slacking off at work
Nov 12
// Nic Rowen
Every once and awhile I see something that I desperately want but know I shouldn't get because it would ruin my life. Motorcycles, home-installed espresso machines, that sort of thing. Now I can add XCOM: Enemy Within on mobi...
Firaxicon photo

Civilization, XCOM dev doing its own fan convention

Aug 26
// Steven Hansen
Firaxicon sounds like an expensive drug for lumberjacks. Or a bad sci-fi original film. But it's actually a new convention put on by Firaxis, developer of the Civilization games and the recent, real good XCOM reboot...
XCOM: The Board Game photo
XCOM: The Board Game

Fantasy Flight announces XCOM: The Board Game

Four player cooperative strategy
Aug 05
// Darren Nakamura
Fantasy Flight Games has a pretty good reputation for taking hit videogame franchises and translating them to the tabletop space. Previously, the publisher has released board games based on DOOM, StarCraft, Sid Meier's Civili...
Deals photo

Classic X-COM games join the Humble 2K Bundle

Beat the average price to unlock them
Jul 15
// Jordan Devore
2K said it would add more games to its ongoing Humble Bundle featuring the likes of BioShock, The Darkness II, and Spec Ops: The Line and indeed it has. Folks who pay more than the average (approximately $8) will gain access ...
Deals photo

BioShock, The Darkness II, and more in this Humble 2K Bundle

Morbid curiosity has me interested in The Bureau
Jul 08
// Jordan Devore
If you want to jump straight to the new 2K Humble Bundle, here's the link. It's a tremendous value. This one is offering pay-what-you-want pricing for The Darkness II, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and the original BioShock....
XCOM on Android photo
XCOM on Android

XCOM: Enemy Unknown hits Google Play this week

You can grab it for $10
Apr 24
// Chris Carter
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games of 2012, and a year later, I enjoyed its iOS port all the same. It was a wonderful way to play it on the go, and considering the fact that it was basically the full game, it wa...
Deals photo

XCOM and Sid Meier titles discounted in 2K mobile sale

Now through Jan. 2
Dec 20
// Jordan Devore
Publisher 2K has a holiday sale going for its mobile games now through Thursday, January 2. This is a great opportunity to pick up the iOS version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, though, fair warning, it's a comparatively expensive d...

Review: XCOM: Enemy Within

Nov 11 // Chris Carter
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013MSRP: $29.99 (PC download upgrade) / $39.99 (Console disc) Enemy Within is still the same great turn-based strategy game you played last year, but with a number of added maps, customization options, enemy types, and missions mixed in. It's a really weird way to approach an expansion (almost like an RTS, blending in new and old), and when it was announced I was apprehensive. At first, I thought I'd have to play through the same game again, with the occasional bit of mixed content -- but as I soon found out, there was a lot more added than I had previously assumed. Enemy Unknown was the original title of the game due to the fact that you literally had to discover how to vanquish XCOM's alien menace with very little knowledge going in. Gradually, you would research corpses and live specimens, slowly developing the skillset and upgrades required to best them. It was a unique way to tie in a mechanical crescendo in with the narrative, and it worked out wonderfully for Unknown. But now, the new Within moniker refers to a new enemy -- your own kind, the human race. Instead of simply dealing with an unrelenting horde of extraterrestrials, now you have to deal with organizations on earth trying to put a stop to the XCOM Initiative and bringing you down. While this may not seem like a huge change, it significantly alters the narrative in the sense that everything is a lot more bleak -- which has ramifications not only on the way the story is told, but actual gameplay as well. For starters, a new foe emerges in the form of EXALT -- a super villain-like organization that will stop at nothing to shut you down. They're a thorn in your side in many ways than just physical altercations, hacking your mainframe and raising hell across the world in the form of enhanced panic (if a country reaches a panic level that's too high, they pull out of the program, which contributes to a game over). Missions of the EXALT variety are more covert affairs, kitting down your troops into a more subversive toolset, with pistols and sneaking equipment. The new human AI opponents are fun to fight and do a good job of mixing things up for when you get tired of fighting aliens over and over. Beating EXALT is also a game of cat and mouse, as you eventually have to find out where they're located and shut them down permanently -- or just deal with them, or ignore them entirely with the consequences in tow. You'll have to slowly hunt them down Clue style, and accuse a country of harboring them. Accuse wrongly, and that country pulls out of the program (see a pattern, here?). You'll also have to deal with new alien enemies like the Mechtoid (you guessed it -- an alien mech), and the squid-like Seekers, which can cloak, fly, and strangle your party, among other foes. In short, the game is absolute hell, and is working to crush your spirits around the clock. On Iron Man mode (a setting that prevents re-loading saves) and a high difficulty setting, it's one of the hardest modern games ever created. It's this madness that contributes to the magic of XCOM, and why so many people find it so appealing in an age where games constantly hold your hand and tell you how to win. Having said all that, it is possible to beat the game -- you have the technology! A new substance called "Meld" is now hidden on almost every map, which allows you to perform two new major upgrades on your troops -- exoskeletal cybersuits (MECs), and genetic enhancements. MEC soldiers, at the cost of ripping off their arms and legs for cybernetic implants, have their own tree, weaponsets (like flamethrowers), and unique movement properties, not to mention the fact that their hulking physique looks damn cool on the battlefield. The other big upgrade is the ability to genetically alter your team with options like superior eyesight and Bioelectric skin implants. These upgrades allow you to, as the game calls it, become a "little bit alien." The over-the-top modifications are not only fun to play around with, but they make the world more harrowing and real. Now, the people of earth are significantly altering their bodies just to avoid extinction, to the point where they can barely even be classified as human beings. It all serves to add to the allure of the XCOM universe and add a sense of hopelessness. Another great thing about these two upgrades is that it all feeds into the core game's central tenet of allowing you to play the way you want to play. If you want to only help out certain countries, build an army of MECs, and have an all-female unit -- you can do that. If you want a tactical team of genetic super soldiers all named after Saturday morning cartoons, you can customize that too. With the new additions in Within, the sky is the limit. In addition to that, there's further amounts of customization to get lost in like new outfits and national accents which help give you a sense that the conflict is a real worldwide affair, and not within the confines of a US-centric sphere. There are also a number of interface and mechanical changes, most notably a new tutorial for the Within features, as well as tougher AI, more skills, and 47 new maps that are mixed in throughout the entire game. Controller support on the PC still works great, and I used it throughout my entire playthrough. If you haven't played the newest XCOM yet, now is a perfect time to do so with the Enemy Within package. For all the XCOM veterans out there, you'll find a solid amount of new activities to engage in, as well as an unprecedented amount of squad customization. In other words, this is now the definitive Enemy experience.
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
It almost feels like a sequel
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games of 2012. As a fan of the original franchise back in the '90s, I felt like it did an excellent job of not only re-introducing the once-beloved franchise back into the fold ...

25% off good games photo
25% off good games

Deal: 25% off Batman Arkham Origins, XCOM expansion, more

Jolly green giant
Oct 18
// Steven Hansen
Deals! Green Man Gaming is currently offering a 25% off voucher that is good for just under a week. With it, you can get a host of titles at 25% off, from the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins to the XCOM expansion Enemy Within...
2K Marin layoffs photo
2K Marin layoffs

BioShock 2, The Bureau dev 2K Marin 'essentially' closed

Bureau of bad news
Oct 18
// Steven Hansen
Yesterday, Polygon got word of a massive layoff that hit BioShock 2 and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified developer 2K Marin. "We can confirm staff reductions at 2K Marin," the statement read. "While these were difficult decisio...

XCOM for iOS gets multiplayer, on sale for $9.99

Normally goes for $19.99
Oct 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iOS has received a new update that brings in asynchronous multiplayer. Additionally the update brings in iOS7 optimization and a newly implemented leaderboard. The game usually goes for $19.99, but it's on sale for $9.99. Check out our review to see why the mobile version is worth picking up. 
XCOM photo

XCOM: Enemy Within trailer shows the Exalt faction

This substantial expansion is set for release on November 15
Oct 09
// Alasdair Duncan
I've put 30 hours into XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I still suck at it. I'm losing soldiers left, right, and center but maybe that's the game's appeal. Still, I'm hankering for new enemies to fight so the upcoming Enemy Within lo...

Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within

Oct 09 // Steven Hansen
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [previewed], Mac, PS3, 360) Developer: FiraxisPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013 Enemy Within expands the original content on two levels. Down in the trenches, in XCOM’s turn-based, solider-controlling gameplay, we’re seeing new additions like solider modifications and new enemy types. It isn’t just new aliens that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix and the alien ghosts from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. There are scummy jerks in fedoras, too. Well, they probably own fedoras. Exalt is a comically evil paramilitary secret society that is down with the aliens’ genetic perfection aims. It intends to rule over the world using alien technology and genetic superiority. It is basically a facile, extra occult Nazi party, but with a name that has an “ecks” instead of a “z.” You’ll have to fight with Exalt members in covert operations, which are two new mission types within the expansion. Their AI has been tuned differently than the aliens, too, allegedly making them more cooperative and tactical enemies. In Covert Extraction, you send a plainclothes solider into a scheming Exalt cell, then go pick them up, ensuring they live through the process (and you hack a com relay). In Covert Data Recovery, your solider on the inside doesn’t need to make it out alive but you need to protect two different assets. The first can be sacrificed if you want to hole up and protect the second, but you get less money. I ran a Data Recovery mission -- successfully, in fact. My covert op, a Russian armed with only a pistol, actually managed to hit every overwatch shot and made the final kill. Unfortunately, I lost two in the process soldiers, including a dependable Italian heavy, Maurizio Mancini, who was close to my heart. I mention the soldiers’ nationality because soldiers now speak in their native language, rather than everyone having the same handful of American English combat barks. It’s a subtle addition, but I liked it a lot. On the macro level, Exalt changes your day to day operations as XCOM commander as well. First, Exalt cell attacks are another event you’ll have to respond to. Fail to do so and it can hinder your progress in some way. Exalt will run Propoganda attacks to raise panic, Research Hacks to slow your lab’s research progress, and Sabotage attacks to directly drain your money. You don’t have to take Exalt’s shtick lying down, however, just foiling them in retaliation. For a fee, which increases each time, you can scan the world for potential Exalt activity. An exposed Exalt cell won’t be able to begin its attack, letting you choose whether or not to engage it or to let it go back underground and prepare another attack. Stalling is always an option if you’re not presently up to a challenge. Engaging with Exalt, whether through planned covert ops or otherwise can also yield clues to where Exalt is located; for example, you may learn Exalt is not in Africa. With enough clues, you can take a stab and accuse a country of housing the cell, or collect more clues until you're sure. A wrongly accused country pulls out of the XCOM project, as they are well enemy within their right to do. Choose correctly and you get a shot at Exalt’s challenging, fortified base. Playing Enemy Within reminded me of how good XCOM: Enemy Unknown is. After playing it, I had to go home and start a new game of Enemy Unknown, x-completely aware that to experience Enemy Within’s additions, I’d need to start a new campaign. Maybe next month it will be time for that Classic Ironman run, with an added twist.
XCOM Enemy Within photo
XCOM expansion has me xcompletely excited
If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enem...

XCOM Declassified photo
XCOM Declassified

XCOM Declassified 360 exclusive DLC detailed

'Hangar 6 R&D'
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
Hey, remember when 2K announced that The Bureau: XCOM Declassified was getting Xbox 360 exclusive DLC? Me neither -- I barely remember XCOM Declassified. For those of you who did enjoy it though, a brand new DLC campaign is o...

Let's take a look at XCOM: Enemy Within's gameplay

Look at it!
Sep 04
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Missed gamescom and PAX Prime 2013? Well don't stress about it too much if you were hoping to catch the gameplay demonstration for XCOM: Enemy Within as it's now available to view right here. Lead designer Ananda Gupta shows...
XCOM too big for consoles photo
XCOM too big for consoles

XCOM: Enemy Within 'too big' to be console DLC

XCOM's enemy is size
Sep 04
// Steven Hansen
Over the weekend we posted the trailer for XCOM: Enemy Within, the meaty expansion to the excellent strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It showed off new enemies that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix...
XCOM: Enemy Within video photo
XCOM: Enemy Within video

XCOM: Enemy Within: Ghost robots & transhumanism

I asked for this
Aug 31
// Steven Hansen
You're well Enemy Within your rights to be upset with the lackluster The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, but when you remember that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was excellent, you should be back to appropriate levels of excitement for its...

XCOM: Enemy Within is MEC-ing me crazy

Aug 26 // Dale North
[embed]260465:50140:0[/embed] Those big-headed aliens? They haven't gone anywhere. While I'll never tire of blowing their bulbous heads off at close range, some more fire power to do so would be nice. Enemy Within brings that needed firepower a whole bunch of gameplay advances to the formula and lays them out in a story that's actually parallel to the original. Someone up there in videogame heaven loves us. Let's get the biggest thing out of the first: Mechs. Or, in this case, MECs: mechanized exoskeletal cybersuits. And playing with them is as good as you'd imagine. They do big damage and can take big hits, making them a lot of fun. It's good that they can take the hits, as they can't really get out of the way fast enough. They're big but they're not too big -- there's a guy inside, after all. Let me explain. If an eyebrow raised at what MEC stands for, the other one will raise after my explanation. Enemy Within's MECs and many other gameplay advancements come from modification, namely genetic and cybernetic body modification. Yes, it's just as messed up as it sounds. Your soldiers can be beefed up in one or both of these ways, letting you tweak their body parts to your heart's content. For example, you might need a sniper or two to get up top in a particular map. A genetic modification to a soldier's legs would let them simply jump to the top of a high point for some instant snipe action -- no ladders needed. Or. maybe drop in a brain modification to deflect psi powers. It sounds gross/mean, but hey, it's not your legs or brain! The MECs come in on the cybernetic side of this process. Your poor soldiers go through a modification to get mech'd up for battle. Again, it hurts them, but not you. A side benefit from these modifications is that your troop becomes a new hybrid class entirely, which greatly broadens available tactics.  Being able to simply order up a convenient gene modification sounds like too much power, doesn't it? The twist is that coming by the resource that lets you do this is not easy to do at all. I didn't have to go through as much of the work as a first-time player might as 2K had a map set up from farther in the game, complete with a soldiers that had already gone through modification. But even with that I still had quite a time getting to this required resource, called meld. This technical marvel lets you build up the ability for modification -- after you collect it, that is. My demo session had a glowing canister outpost of meld highlighted, sitting dead in the middle of the hot area of the map. All I had to do was run up and take it. But there were a couple of problems. First, aliens and their new MEC counterparts, Mectoids [we love that name, as you can imagine], lay in wait in the distance. And the meld pod itself has a countdown timer that lets you know that it's only going to available for a short time before it goes kaboom. This puts the pressure on players like me, giving me a lot more to think about than the enemies on the map. So what does this normally careful, highly strategic player do? I run right out there. And yes, as you'd guess, the solider that was sent to retrieve that meld died. And so did a supporter I sent out after him. The ones I sent to flank and one MEC held out for a bit when surrounded, but I eventually paid the price for being the rabbit that dashed out blindly for the carrot. I used some new tricks, like using the MEC to blow up cover, but I didn't last long. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching how badly I was getting smashed. Someone was. I winced. But, in the end, I had one of those satisfying finishes where I barely survived. It ended up where I had crossed enemy lines, left only with one half-dead MEC and one standard solider, up against a really beefed up alien that hid in its ship up until that point. In a totally defeated mind state, I sent the MEC to soak up some hits, hoping he could maybe take the alien down before he died.  I had that remaining solider come up from the side and help whittle the alien down. Again, I barely made it out alive. Was getting the meld worth it? I suppose it would have been if I could have continued playing past this single map. I can't wait to continue playing past that single map. What's great is that this is just a taste of what's to come for XCOM: Enemy Within. There's much more where that came from, including new weapons, new abilities, new enemies, new maps, new challenges on old maps, and multiplayer. I want it all. I know we'll see and hear more leading up to the Nov 12 launch on for PS3, Xbox 360, Windows PC and Mac. My genetic and cybernetic modified body is ready.
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Mmmmm, cybernetic modification!
Being at gamescom has its perks, especially when it comes to having the first opportunity to play a newly announced game. Or in this case, a new expansion so big that it's essentially a new game. 2K officially announced expan...

XCOM: Enemy Within announced for November 12!

Aug 21 // Jim Sterling
(So ... I got the embargo right on this one?)
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Official expansion to Enemy Unknown is officially official
2K Games has lifted the lid on XCOM: Enemy Within, an expansion to the wildly popular Enemy Unknown. It'll be available on November 12, and aims to bring a whole host of fresh content to the original game.  New soldier ...

Review: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Aug 19 // Jim Sterling
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC [reviewed], PS3, Xbox 360)Developer: 2K MarinPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: August 20, 2013 (NA) August 23, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $59.99 Declassified reboots the XCOM story with the foundation of the titular bureau in the 1950s, and an invasion by the alien Outsiders. William Carter finds himself unwittingly drafted into the ranks of the agency after surviving an encounter with the aliens, and exposing himself to a mysterious artifact that gives him fabulous secret powers. As Carter, players are supposed to draft recruits, undertake missions, and reclaim America from the Outsiders, though in practice it doesn't quite go down that way.  The story is, to put it nicely, as boring as boring can get, and large sections of dialog make very little sense. Carter is little more than an outdated archetype, a grumbling misery with a store-bought tragic past and nothing remotely likable about him. His supporting cast are possessed of even less personality, while the Outsiders themselves are only slightly more compelling. The game pitifully attempts to throw dialog options to try and spice things up, but they are half-heartedly implemented in such a way that, in one scene, a hostile character devoted to his cause suddenly changes his mind after one or two sentences.  Towards the end, the game attempts a cute fourth-wall breaking twist, along with a handful of "moral choice" contrivances, but by that point, so little has been narratively established, and there is no reason to care about anything that's happening. The Bureau is the kind of game that has realized certain storytelling devices work to surprise and delight the audience, but it doesn't know why they work. The result is a game that comes off as cynical, and a little embarrassing, whenever it blatantly attempts to trick you into believing it's meaningful.  [embed]260320:50081:0[/embed] The campaign itself is surprisingly shallow, with only a handful of optional messages and very limited customization options spread across an eight hour game that features almost as much back-and-forth walking between NPCs as it does actual combat. Though the game entices with a map of the United States, littered with hotspots and the promise of a tactical romp to take back the nation, the reality is an eight hour, fairly linear jaunt through repetitive missions with a handful of bonus stages. It would appear the groundwork was in place for something much more expansive and involved, but such things were abandoned for one reason or another.  Each mission will involve the player character and two other agents. These agents take orders during battle, and belong to one of four classes -- Commando, Support, Recon, and Engineer, each with their own special abilities, leveling systems, and skill trees. In one of the few genuine nods to XCOM, if a field agent is killed in-mission, he's dead forever. Not a major problem when you can just make more of them between stages, but it's certainly an inconvenience to lose their level progress.  In theory, The Bureau is a tactical shooter where players are constantly outflanking, outthinking, and outgunning the opposition. In practice, much of the early stages feel more like an escort mission than anything else, as players are forced to babysit weak and incompetent allies. With very little sense of self-preservation, and stripped of almost all autonomy, players aren't so much encouraged to take charge as they are forced to monitor their charges at all times. At level one, field agents are pitifully weak, unable to soak even a fraction of the damage that basic Outsider mooks can. They don't always follow orders correctly, and they're not afraid to dash headlong into an enemy rather than take a covered approach to a destination. Until they're fully leveled (if they you can keep them alive that long), they're more anchor than asset.  Fortunately, the game becomes much more tolerable when Carter and his friends level up. Carter himself gains access to some genuinely cool abilities -- able to summon an Outsider Silicoid or support drone, brainwash targets into temporary defection, and heal his comrades -- while field agents all eventually get themselves some crucial powers, bringing automated turrets, protective shields, draining plasma fields and more into the battlefield. Allies sadly don't get any smarter, but eventually they can take a beating and dish out some fire of their own in return.  Orders are given by pressing the "battle focus" button, which slows down time and allows characters to be commanded via a simple wheel of abilities and directions. Allies can be told to use abilities, mark targets, or move to locations. It's a nice idea on paper, but The Bureau's implementation leaves a lot to be desired. When telling allies to move to locations, or setting the target destination for an ability, players have to move a marker to the desired area -- a marker that's restricted by walls, windows, ledges, and cover. Even if the character can carry out the command, they sometimes need to be moved or the order abandoned simply because the target marker couldn't be physically moved to the area by the player. You can't raise the marker over or through walls -- you have to ostensibly "walk" it to the destination as you would a physical player character, and if you can't do it, you're boned. The marker also frequently catches on the scenery, and moves like it's being pushed through mud, leading to an altogether uncomfortable experience.  Instant commands can be given with a quick button push, but the command to focus all fire on an important target and move to a new destination are the same one, which means you frequently risk telling your comrades to rush directly toward a gigantic Sectoid Walker rather than hold the line and simply fire at it. All told, The Bureau's tactical elements are quite shoddily implemented, are far less convenient than they could be, and sometimes cause more harm than good.  The action side of the experience isn't much better, either. When you strip away the convoluted strategy, you have a very mediocre cover-based shooter, in which weapons are weak, enemies rush around in a manner that's more annoying than challenging, and the same handful of enemies crop up from beginning to end -- maybe with a few "elite" variants thrown in to make the battle pool seem deeper. If it wasn't wearing its little tactical badge, The Bureau would be just another Gears of War tailgater, following in the fine tradition of such titles as Inversion, Quantum Theory, and a dozen other titles you won't have heard of.  Missions follow a predictable and unrewarding formula, comprised of corridors that open into blatantly telegraphed killing arenas, leading to more corridors and more arenas. Exploding red barrels, spammed grenades, and a stable of garden-variety weapons all conspire to deliver a combat experience both familiar and very familiar.  Oh, and just like with issuing commands, the button to reload and pick a weapon up off the ground is the same one -- and it's a press, you don't hold to pick up and replace your current weapon, which is fantastic when reloading behind a wall with a gun on it. It's the little things that really drive home how ill-produced this whole thing is.  Everything in The Bureau works enough to be playable, but its engines run to about half the capacity they could if 2K Marin had just put all its efforts into one thing. Hammering home that inability to commit, XCOM Declassified is both a half-baked real-time strategy game and a banal shooting gallery, with some crude attempts at roleplaying on the side. With a fragmentary story that goes nowhere, and the only good ideas appearing right at the very end, this is a game that manages to run for eight hours, and never truly feels like it starts.  As you might expect, the visuals are thematically consistent with overwhelming indefination, attempting to marry the 1950s aesthetic with trappings from 2012's critically acclaimed Enemy Unknown. A schizophrenic art style that moves from small town suburbia to high-tech alien landscape and back again could be effectively jarring, but it's so understated in delivery and generic in design that it comes off as simply jarring in this case. This is not helped by the fact that the graphics themselves are sub-par and the environments are fairly bland.  Yes, the sound holds no surprise either. Voice acting is generally blasé, while the music is instantly forgettable.  When this game was a first-person shooter titled simply, XCOM, a bold and definitive statement was made. It was a statement that drew intense backlash from series fans, and even though 2K Games won back player trust with the release of Enemy Unknown, the damage had already been done to its nerves. After years of troubled development that saw several major overhauls to the game, it's actually impressive that The Bureau isn't far worse than it is. That it's at least playable and more than four hours long is remarkable, but that is the only noteworthy thing about it.  The Bureau: XCOM Declassified desperately wants to be liked, but by failing to satisfy in any direction, all it succeeds in being is a disappointment. It wants to be a strategy game without being a strategy game, it wants to be a shooter without being a shooter, and it wants to be XCOM without being XCOM. As such, it is nothing. It's an inconsequential waste of time that does nothing for anybody, and saying that makes me feel guilty because its cloying pleas to not be hated are worthy of pity. I feel like I've kicked a puppy that just wanted to be my friend, but it really was a crap puppy. 
XCOM Declassified review photo
Worthy of XCOMmunication
The press materials for The Bureau like to stress that, for 2K Games, this is considered a brand new intellectual property. It says this, even though the game continues to cling to the XCOM name it origina...

XCOM Declassified photo
XCOM Declassified

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified devs discuss art style

New developer diary focuses on tone and visuals
Aug 08
// Chris Carter
2K Games has released another developer diary for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and it talks about about the general tone of the game, including the visual style, and how other forms of media influenced it. Specific influen...
XCOM photo

2K will officially announce XCOM: Enemy Within this month

We'll be waiting
Aug 01
// Jordan Devore
Now that listings for XCOM: Enemy Within are out in the wild, 2K has come out to confirm that an announcement will be happening soon. The reveal is set to take place on Wednesday, August 21 -- right around when gamescom 2013 ...

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