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XCOM 2's turned tides makes humanity feel like a desperate underdog

Hayden Dingman | June 22, 2015
It's really no surprise the aliens won. I mean, I don't know the exact ratio of "Number of XCOM: Enemy Unknown games begun" versus "Number of XCOM: Enemy Unknown games won," but I can guess it's not great.

It's really no surprise the aliens won. I mean, I don't know the exact ratio of "Number of XCOM: Enemy Unknown games begun" versus "Number of XCOM: Enemy Unknown games won," but I can guess it's not great.

The idea that the alien invasion succeeded? The idea that a critical squad member died at a critical moment, or that the world's greatest superpowers pulled out of XCOM and doomed the world to dominion? That was the ending, as far as the vast majority of my campaigns are concerned.

Thus opens XCOM 2: Aliens have already invaded, XCOM has turned from global enterprise into a scattered network of resistance fighters, and humanity is subjugated. Muzzled.

What I didn't expect was how damn happy humanity seems. Or--well, not happy, per se. But quiet. Maybe even content. Certainly alive.

Keep in mind everything in this article is made up of surface details I've gleaned from a single trailer and a fifteen-minute demo. There's plenty we've yet to learn about XCOM 2. Perhaps the main game will portray your guerrilla tactics in a much stronger "Rah-rah save the day!" light.

But so far, what I find most interesting about XCOM 2 is that humanity seems totally fine. You've got people hanging out, talking on the sidewalks. You've got people gathering to watch the aliens unveil a statue commemorating "Unification Day" a.k.a. the day the aliens took over. You've got media types spreading the Good Word--The Aliens Are Our Friends And You Should All Love Them.

There's definitely a They Live vibe to the proceedings--and for a story-light strategy game, that's a surprisingly complex theme to explore. The mission we were shown at E3 involved a team of XCOM guerrillas quickly infiltrating the aforementioned statue unveiling, with the goal of blowing it to pieces. In other words, terrorism.

And while "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is cliché, there's no denying it makes for an interesting setup. How does humanity perceive XCOM? Do they have support? Why are they fighting? Is it out of habit? Out of fear? Or to combat legitimate injustices?

Whatever the case, it's clear the ensuing two decades post-invasion have wreaked havoc on XCOM. These are the lean years. From the minute our demo started it was clear this was not about killing every alien as much as it was about staying alive long enough to complete your objective. You're outnumbered, outgunned, and in danger of being overrun--so move fast, complete your task, and get the hell out.

Some of that is almost certainly a by-product of the "E3 Sizzle Reel." It's much more interesting to watch a soldier sprint across the map and unload a shotgun into an alien's face than it is to watch two snipers take pot-shots while the rest of your squad hangs out in Overwatch. Shots that, at least half the time, are going to go wide. Because it's XCOM.

 

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