Sunday, 29 December 2013

XCOM: Enemy Within (or All Your Favourite XCOM Action with Added Gut-Churning Horror!)

Wow, I think I tired myself out with all the Game City reporting. Had to take a month off blogging. Anyway, as expected I've played a lot of games over the last couple of months, but the one I've deigned to tell you about is XCOM: Enemy Within. When this was first released, I was enraged at the prospect of having to rebuy a whole game in order to obtain what was essentially gratuitous amounts of DLC. But being the ginormous XCOM nut I am, I moaned for about two days and then bought it anyway. And within moments of playing, the only thing I could find to complain about was how goddamn orange all the UI was. And as someone who loves a good moan, that says quite a lot. So, I give you:

5 Way Gross but Way Awesome New Additions in XCOM: Enemy Within


1. Chryssalids in Sharks

Something's fishy...
I bloody hate sharks. They're like the Michael Myers of the sea, pursuing their prey at a leisurely pace, confident in their own ability as homicidal bad asses. I also hate chryssalids, zombies and gaming against the clock, so it's like XCOM's designers assembled all my fears into one perfectly constructed nightmare fodder Recon Mission.
This level really is a triumph of minimalist horror storytelling, giving you just enough to make you shit yourself. And just when you think you've endured all the spewing zombies, and racing to beat an impending air strike you can take, a chryssalid bursts out of a shark THAT WAS DISGUISED AS SCENERY. Thanks for that designers. Thanks a lot.

2. Seekers

Sentinel or Seeker?
Okay, so they're easy to kill and quite blatantly ripped off the sentinel squid things in the Matrix, but that first encounter with these new aliens is sure to send a shiver down your spine. Cloaking and biding their time until you've forgotten they're out there, these tentacled beasties will then pop up and try to make your Rookies' eyes bulge. And not in a good way.

3. Exalt

Whaddya got under there, mister?
Now, I'm aware that a lot of the 'horror' I've described above is actually the product of my own fevered imagination rather than any genuine in-game scares. I accept that. And I also accept that what I'm about to say about creepy alien worshippers Exalt doesn't really help my case, but here goes. Exalt are inherently creepy because they're fanatics who shiv themselves in the neck rather than be taken alive, and pump themselves so full of alien parts they no longer know what size shirt they need, but that's not why they freak me out. They freak me out because of the imagined awfulness lurking beneath the perpetual bandana. These guys are identical, so they can't be wearing the bandanas for anonymity's sake. So what's so terrible about their mouths? (I might've thought about this too much.)

4. Augments

"I had regular feet before I joined the XCOM program."
So, on the one hand XCOM:EW asks you to look at the horror wrought by fiddling about with alien DNA via the cookie cutter Aryan extremists of Exalt, but on the other hand, encourages you to give it a go on your own soldiers to gain a military advantage. Your soldiers' eyes, skin, brains, bones and innards are now just extra ways to upgrade. Give them an extra heart, chameleon skin, and super springy leg muscles, but don't think about what happens when the war is over and your uniformed abomination has to go home to its family.

5. Cybernetics

"I'll never wear peeptoe sandals again..."
Perhaps the most horrifying addition is the Cybernetics Lab. When I saw previews of the Mechs, I thought "Cool, my soldiers get to be like Sigourney Weaver, fighting aliens in a mechanised suit." When the reality is: "Oh no, as a reward for her exemplary service I've amputated all my soldier's limbs and condemned her to never again knowing the touch of another human being." I feel better about Patrick Sutherland the Chameleon Kangaroo Freak going home to his kids now. At least he won't accidentally shoot their legs off with his mini-gun arm while telling them in a monotone they are down to 50% functionality.

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