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(04-28-2010, 11:04 PM)
XCOM OXM Cover Story June 2010 48-55:

-It all starts in a secret underground base beneath an air force hangar somewhere in the US.

-This hangar is your home, and it’s the center of your team’s operations. We’re not quite sure how Carter ended up in the FBI trailing unexplained phenomomena-2K AU guys would only say that the agent has a “checkered past”.

-It’s clear from a quick lap around the facility (run by brilliant Dr Goldberg) that something at the Bureau buzzing.

-A team of people in one glass-walled corner are busy listening to radio transmissions, searching for intel that might be useful in your mission.

-In another area tech expert Malcolm Quinn-the Q to your James Bond-is busy assembling your next gadgets in his search lab, aided by a team of engineers.

-In the planning room, meanwhile, it’s time to take the intelligence you’ve acquired and decide your next move. Which lead your should pursue? Something strange is a foot-something not of this earth. Carter is seeking evidence of extraterrestrial activity, be it biological or elemental-the latter referring to Elerium, a potent energy source that powers the entire underground facility and is sought by the US govt for the use of weapons apps.

-Examining the large US map on the wall, we have the option of heading to Wichita, Kansas; Bangor, Maine; or Flagstaff, Arizona. 2K promises that each mission will offer a range of choices of where to go and because the game unfolds in quasi-real time, picking one mission might cause you to miss out on others. In gaming terms that means the leads in towns you pass up might go cold by the time you return from the location you do visit.

-This setup should diversify the campaign experience, giving you and your friends completely different stories to share about your play-troughs. In our demo, we made our way to the Grand Canyon State to check out reports of “swarming insects’-a hint that our precious Elerium was nearby.

-You will be joined in all missions by fellow FBI agents. In Flagstaff for example Agents Jonas and Frank tag along. Though 2K claims that the agents presence is part of a tactical-management angle meant to hearken back to the original X-COM strategy games, we didn’t see the ability to issue any sort of squad orders-like basic “go there” commands, for example-in our demo. But the game is still very early in development.

-Nor did 2k Au provide any further details about your pals, like the possibility of leveling them up or whether they will simply be replaced by two more generic grunts in the next mission if they happen to be killed.

-For now though it’s FBI cohorts Frank and Jonas providing the extra eyes and ears as we park our boat like cruiser at the end of the residential zone’s cul de sac. Working our way back up the street on foot, we make our first strange observation; the streets are completely empty. Where is everyone? It’s sunset sure, -Northern Arizona’s gorgeous early twilight sky is rendered beautifully by the same Unreal Engine 3 tech that powered Bioshock-but hardly late enough for any sort of curfew to have kicked into effect.

-Pulling out the in-game map and notepad to see our mission goals and decide our next move, the 2K AU crew take advantage of this quiet time to tell us you ‘ll be able to leave a mission anytime you want.

-The level zones are huge, but if you want to poke your head into just one house, find a bit of intel, and go home unscathed, you can do that. The tradeoff, though, is that you lose out on other potential intelligence hidden around the area, and crucially, you’ll miss any opportunities to gather precious Elerium. Eventually clarifies lead designer Ed Orman ominously, “You do have to leave no matter what. “

-In the quaint Flagstaff neighborhood, Carter and Co come across a rather impressive two-story house halfway down the street. According to the mailbox in front the Sweeter family live inside. But, clearly, something’s gone sour. A dark grayish black trail of….something leads from the front yard into the back through the gate.

-All is quite in the backyard except for some odd sounds-foreign noises made even more eerie silence permeating the entire neighborhood-and the continued trail of residue running up the side of the white house. A red lawnmower lies on its side. Still running, its exposed blades remain spinning, ready to slice and dice anyone-or anything-that gets too close. Here, we receive our first look at XCOM’s unique array of gadgets.

-Dr Goldeberg really outdid himself; in Carter’s left hand is a Petrie dish containing what appears to be a living, nebulous sample of the black, inky residue that led us to the Sweeter’s backyard. It’s as if someone captured Spider Man’s Venom in a glass sphere. Plugged into the dish are electrical leads connected to a battery-fed compass in Carter’s other hand.

-As we move closer to the trail of goo the electronically stimulated contents of the dish vibrate wildly. Because the substance wants to combine with itself whenever possible, the gadget ends up guiding you closer and closer to the source of the gooey material.

-We move through the backyard toward the opposite side. The black stuff begins to react even more violently, leading us straight over and through a doghouse to a grassy patch behind some bushes in the back of the property. On a different day we’d stop to admire the scenic view of the valley below, just as a man standing there was doing, camera in had. But this isn’t that day; the man with the camera lies dead next to his tripod, coated in black nastiness. Ironically it is now our job to photograph him to document the incident for Goldberg, Quinn, and crew to study for precious intel.

-With the goo compass spastic and the trail of horror getting worse it’s obvious we’re close to something. Heading towards the home’s side entrance we finally glimpse it; a big black glob of goo. You quickly put away your compass for a loaded shotgun. You and your two pals unload pellet blasts into the extraterrestrial substance. It shrieks and breaks into smaller-but-still-very-much alive pieces and immediately starts to reform. A good ol-fashioned lead diet, it seems, is only going to slow down this alien invader, not stop it.

-Your man carter plunges his hand into his pocket to pull out another Goldberg contraption.: the Blobatov (aka a goo grenade rigged to catch fire when shattered), The dichotomy of its visual appearance is almost laughable: a clear glass sphere containing a radically advanced alien substance, rigged up as a grenade with primitive analog 50s’ era switches and misc hardware. Still, it proves satisfyingly effective when you throw it into the goo. The orb shatters, the goo ignites, and the entire tar like mass evaporates in a flash of fire and ear piercing, terrorizing shriek o what must be pure pain.

-One blob is down, but we still have to fine Elerium before we flee Flagstaff. Our sense of dread intensifies as we move through the house. In these close quarters and tight hallways, we’d have a difficult time dodging the goo if any of it leaps out at us here. We follow a slime trail upstairs and discover the nursery, complete with mutilated mom and no baby. There is no Elerium either.

-With Frank and Jones at our back we move back downstairs and toward the front door. Remember how we’d come in through the side? A wise decision as three blobs ambush us in the living room! One gloms onto Frank. He tries to pull it off, but at the end of the battle we find his body lifeless beneath an end table with a knocked over lamp on his head. Carter and Jones manage to fight off the springy alien tar with shotguns and Blobatovs, but not before being dragged to the brink of death in the process. Still in search of Eleriu, we move outside and head up the street; that’s when the vortex appears in the sky and the Titan monolith shows up.

--Jones by our side, we streak in the opposite direction, our health’s low, ammo scarce, and a giant stone alien death ray is on our tails…but we still have options. We could leave now with our lives intact, but returning to the base empty-handed after everything would be a waste. We turn into one more backyard.—if only to shake the Titan from our trail—and we see it on a random back porch: Elerium.

-Looking like Mayan relic designed by Frank Loyd Wright, the element’s nearly within our grasp, save for the swirling goo shield protecting it. We blast the goo with our shotguns, reluctant to risk bombing the Elerium with a Blobatav. Three blobs vacate the Elerium block and attack, and after another fierce battle and a few more Blobatav-induced immolations we finally collect what we came for. But where’s Jones? Is he dead or alive? Not out of the woods yet the Titan is cresting over the roof of the house like the morning sun, resuming its quest to vaporize us. We’ve come so close to death we can feel the hairs on the backs of our necks singe, but as described earlier, we make it to the care and escape.

But where’ll XCOm take us next? Some weird animal killings were recorded in Bangor, Maine, and we didin’t get to check them our before heading to Arizona. If the case is still active we have some investigating to do.

-As intense as it is, the Flagstaff incident is merely one of XCOM’s grab-bag missions. Orman suggests that every mission you go on will play differently.

Other tidbits;

-When we asked about the possibly of multiplayer, 2K AU was non-committal. Right now, we’d place the odds at about 50/50.

-Lead designer Ed Orman tells us that the team did their homework before starting the project. We clocked a lot of hours with the original. He shares with a laugh.

-Looking to spice up the missions the developers have made their outcomes uncertain says lead designer Ed Orman, But he noted things will escalate.

-Naturally you’ll have far more than just a shotgun and Blobatovs at your disposal. We’re told to expect a good mix of human and Goldberg built alien gadgets.

-Did you enjoy taking pictures of enemies in Bioshock 2? 2K AU clearly thinks so: they're adding it as a major evidence gathering component of XCOM. Snap pics of unexplained phenomena-no matter how grisly-and you'll gather research that Quinn then uses to build you new alien based weapons and gadgets for future missions.

This is the rough and tumble of it . Don't complain about typos ya lucky ya getting this.