XCOM 2

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XCOM 2
XCOM 2 cover art.jpg
Developer(s) Firaxis Games
Publisher(s) 2K Games
Director(s) Jake Solomon
Producer(s) Garth DeAngelis
Artist(s) Gregory Foertsch
Composer(s) Timothy Michael Wynn[1]
Series X-COM
Engine Unreal Engine 3.5[2]
Platform(s)
Release Microsoft Windows, OS X & Linux
  • WW: February 5, 2016
PlayStation 4 & Xbox One
  • NA: September 27, 2016
  • WW: September 30, 2016
Genre(s) tactical role-playing, Turn-based tactics
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

XCOM 2 is a turn-based tactics video game developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux in February 2016, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in September 2016. The game is the sequel to 2012's reboot of the series, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Taking place 20 years after the events of Enemy Unknown, it follows the continuity that XCOM, a military organization trying to fight off an alien invasion, has lost the war, and is now a resistance force against their occupation of Earth. The expansion XCOM 2: War of the Chosen was released in 2017.

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay screenshot of XCOM 2, showing the player-controlled character peeking around the corner

As with previous games in the series, XCOM 2 casts the player as the commander of the eponymous military organization, now reduced to a resistance force opposing the ongoing alien occupation of the planet. Players take control of the Avenger, the new mobile base for XCOM. Players are tasked to give commands to squad members in battles against aliens during missions, while commanding the engineering and research department of the base between missions to create and research improved and new gadgets, weapons and technologies to assist players in battle.[3] Soldiers can be recruited, with each soldier class having their own skill trees and abilities. For example, the Grenadier class can gain access to explosives and grenade launchers, while the Ranger is equipped with melee weapons like swords.[4] Armor and weaponry can also be researched and upgraded by the player in the Avenger base. Each mission's environment is influenced by the world's state, while maps are procedurally-generated to create a wide variety of levels, in which every map features different terrain and buildings in each play-through.[5][6] Mods are also supported. Campaign, class and enemy types can be created by users and can be shared through Steam Workshop. A one-versus-one multiplayer mode also returns from Enemy Unknown. New enemies are also featured, such as units from the new faction, ADVENT, and more alien types like the Viper.[7][8][9]

At the start of most missions, the player's squad will be concealed and will not be detected by any enemies. They can position their troops to plan their battle and ambush enemies.[5] The player can also loot corpses of enemies to obtain weapons, upgrade parts and artifacts. Melee weapons are also featured. Players can also hack into enemies' mechanical weapons like turrets and temporarily shutdown or control them for themselves.[10] Soldiers in the squad can be killed by enemies; however, their bodies can be carried back to extraction to keep their equipment should the player deem it necessary to abort the mission.[10] Likewise, if a soldier is critically wounded and it is deemed necessary to abandon the mission, a soldier can carry the wounded soldier to extraction where they are revived upon leaving the map.[10] XCOM 2 features faster combat than Enemy Unknown, as there are a lot of "hit-and-run" missions where players must rush into facilities to complete their objective quickly and return to the extraction point immediately.[4] This includes semi-random attacks on the Avenger by alien UFOs, which will cause an automatic game loss if failed. The mission structure of the game is also different from other XCOM video games, as XCOM 2 features secondary objectives for the first time in the series.[4] Reinforcements play a bigger role, and depending on the mission, ADVENT will continuously deploy new enemy troops. Another feature added is the Avatar Program, a research project run by the aliens, that gradually proceeds over time, and if completed is an automatic loss. This can be delayed by sabotaging alien research facilities and other semi-random events.

Customization also returns from Enemy Unknown, in which players can customize their soldiers' personalities, names, uniforms, and costumes. Furthermore, genders, nationalities, and weapons can also be customized.[4][5][11] Bonus customization options are available in the downloadable "Resistance Warrior Pack." which was given for free as a pre-order bonus as well as being made available for purchase. [12][13]

Plot[edit]

The game is set in 2035, 20 years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and its expansion, in a scenario in which humanity was defeated by aliens. XCOM proved incapable of attenuating the alien threat and was quickly betrayed by the council nations, who surrendered to the aliens shortly after the invasion began. XCOM became nothing more than a resistance force, and went off the radar to avoid persecution at the hands of the aliens. Most of its members either submitted to alien rule and left behind their past or, some, like Central Officer Bradford refused the alien administration and went into hiding. Earth is now controlled by the aliens through the puppet ADVENT Administration, and XCOM has been long-forgotten, members silenced and records erased. ADVENT has done much to gradually improve public opinion of the aliens, most notably by the propagation of the belief that the aliens came in peace, and that the forces of Earth retaliated aggressively and with prejudice. (This is presumed to have happened right after the player researches MECs, as stated by the autopsy of an ADVENT MEC.)

The player again assumes the role of the Commander, who had up until recently been placed in alien stasis for them to make use of their strategic thinking via a brain implant. After the Commander is rescued by Central Officer Bradford, XCOM launches an attack on an alien convoy and steal an elerium core used to power the Avenger, an alien supply barge that has been converted into XCOM's mobile base.[14] In the Avenger, the Commander has the support of rogue ADVENT scientist Dr. Richard Tygan, replacing the now-missing Dr. Vahlen, and Chief Engineer Lily Shen, daughter of and successor to the now-deceased Dr. Raymond Shen, with whom the Commander was familiar in the prior game.

Story[edit]

The game begins with Bradford leading a raid on an ADVENT gene bank and rescuing the Commander, who had been captured and put into stasis. The Commander is then brought to XCOM's mobile headquarters, the Avenger, where they meet support staff Dr. Richard Tygan and Lily Shen. Tygan explains to the Commander that while they were in stasis, ADVENT had connected their brain directly to their global psionic communication network in order to act as a battle simulation computer. The Commander is then contacted by the Spokesman, the last remaining loyal member of the Council. The Spokesman tasks the Commander with uniting the various resistance groups scattered around the world, as well as discover the true nature of ADVENT's top secret Avatar Project.

As the Commander leads XCOM in the fight against ADVENT, they raid numerous secret ADVENT research facilities and slowly begin to piece together what the Avatar Project is. Through their research, Tygan and Shen discover that the Elders, the leaders of ADVENT, have been slowly dying from an irreversible physical degeneration of their bodies. In order to escape their imminent demise, the Elders started the Avatar Project, which involves processing kidnapped humans and turning them into raw material to build new bodies for themselves, called Avatars. They also track the Elders' headquarters to an underwater base, accessible only by a special psionic portal. With their hand forced, ADVENT decides to accelerate the project and process all "non-essential" humans into the Avatar project, under the guise of curing all disease at their gene clinics. The Spokesman is presumed killed when he sacrifices himself to warn XCOM about the plan, ordering them to hijack ADVENT's global communication network before they can make the announcement. XCOM manages to hack the network and transmits proof of ADVENT's crimes to the entire world, causing a mass global revolution against the Alien occupation.

With ADVENT busy trying to maintain order, the Commander takes psionic control of an uninhabited Avatar stolen from one of ADVENT's facilities, and XCOM stages a raid on the Elder headquarters. The Elders plead with the Commander to stop the fighting and rejoin them, claiming that they are only trying to strengthen themselves and humanity against a greater threat. The Commander ignores the Elders' pleas and destroys all of their Avatars, triggering the destruction of the base. The Commander's Avatar stays behind to battle the enraged spirits of the Elders as the rest of the squad escapes.

Afterwards, the Commander wakes up in their own body, and learns that without the direction of the Elders, ADVENT's grip on Humanity crumbles. The ranks of the Resistance swell as people abandon the ADVENT-controlled cities, and the Resistance begins to overwhelm the remnants of the ADVENT forces. However, in the ocean underneath the ruins of the Elder headquarters, a strange energy begins to glow.

Development[edit]

On May 18, 2015, a new but untitled AAA title was announced by Take-Two Interactive in its annual earning reports.[15] On May 25, 2015, approximately a week after the announcement, a teaser website called "Advent Future" was launched. It featured an advertisement of the "Advent Administration", whose aim was "creating a world free from hunger, pain, sickness, and war", but later revealed that the Administration had more sinister plans.[16] The game was officially revealed on June 1, 2015 by IGN and its debut cinematic trailer was released, while the gameplay of the game was revealed during Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015 on June 15, 2015.[7] Jake Solomon, the creative director of Enemy Unknown, returned to direct XCOM 2. According to him, players' feedback of Enemy Unknown "played an important role in the development of XCOM 2."[16]

XCOM 2 is set in a future where the organization XCOM failed to defeat the aliens, and were forced into hiding. Adding to the guerrilla nature of XCOM 2, XCOM's technology is no longer on par with that of the aliens, and thus has to work with 'old world' weaponry. The Avenger, a mobile airship named after a ship in the original UFO: Enemy Unknown was introduced as the player's base; an alien supply-ship retrofitted for XCOM's resistance. According to Jake Solomon, the game's creative process is "gameplay driven". As a result, the setting was introduced after Firaxis decided to make changes to character classes and add stealth to the game. Despite the introduction of stealth, players will not be able to complete levels with stealth, or to use stealth as a way to replace combat.[17]

The concept of procedurally-generated levels had been previously scrapped in Enemy Unknown, as Firaxis had reason to believe that it would prove disadvantageous and buggy. They also thought that those procedurally-generated objects did not fit in with the atmosphere. Resultantly, Enemy Unknown features hand-crafted maps that were all designed by Firaxis. While the reception of these maps was generally positive, players complained that these maps eventually get repetitive. As a result, Firaxis decided to introduce a system called "the plot and parcel system" to alleviate the workload of the team. The game's producer, Garth DeAngelis, described the game's maps as "quilts". Each maps features holes that are randomly generated, which are of different sizes. Each hole will fit in an object or a building, which is crafted by Firaxis. According to Firaxis, these buildings are all destructible, and are expensive for them to make. In addition to scenery items, side-missions, enemy placement and reinforcements and multiplayer maps are also randomly generated.[18]

DeAngelis and Solomon considered the lack of mod support in Enemy Unknown a regret for the team. As a result, the game's modding aspect will be significantly expanded. Furthermore, Firaxis will release the Unreal Development Kit for players upon release, allowing players to create their own content. Solomon considered mod support a "win-win" method for both players and the company, as they thought that such solution can effectively expand the game's lifespan and longevity. Firaxis realized the modding potential of the series when the team discovered a mod for Enemy Unknown called Long War.[19] Firaxis also partnered with Long War Studios (now Pavonis Interactive) to develop three day-one mods for the game.[20] On January 19, 2017, Pavonis Interactive launched Long War 2 for XCOM.[21]

When developing the game's art, the team took inspirations from movies like Elysium, Oblivion and Blade Runner. When designing the game's weapons, characters and environment, the team looked at some science fiction-themed video games.[22]

Release[edit]

Unlike Enemy Unknown, which was released on PC and consoles, then later on mobile devices, XCOM 2 was initially a PC-exclusive video game solely distributed through Steam. Firaxis Games stated the reason behind the decision was the company's experience in developing PC games. Moreover, Firaxis believed that making XCOM 2 a PC-only title would allow them to introduce new features - such as procedural levels - and that developing for a single platform would be simpler.[23] The game featured gamepad support, added after the game was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux.[23][24] The game was scheduled for release in November 2015,[23] but on August 28, 2015 it was delayed until February 5, 2016 to allow Firaxis to further polish the game.[25]

The game became available to pre-order on September 10, 2015 and came coupled with the "Resistance Warrior Pack" which adds bonus soldier customization options.[12][13] In December 2015, Firaxis also offered a Digital Deluxe version which could be pre-ordered instead of the base game. Although it cost more than pre-ordering the basic game, it promised three DLC packages as they were released. The packages are "Anarchy's Children", which adds new soldier customization items, was released on March 17, 2016;[26] "Alien Hunters", a pack which adds a new mission, more powerful equipment, additional soldier customization, and new gameplay, was released on May 12, 2016;[27] and "Shen's Last Gift", ostensibly named after the chief engineer of Enemy Unknown and including a sixth soldier class, a new story mission and map, was released on June 30, 2016.[28]

A prequel novel written by Gregory Keyes titled XCOM 2: Resurrection was released on November 10, 2015.[29]

On June 7, 2016, it was announced that XCOM 2 will be released on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 6, 2016 in North America, September 8, 2016 in Australia and September 9, 2016 in Europe. The console versions of the game were developed by The Workshop.[30][31] It was later delayed to late September so that the team could further refine the game. The console versions were released on September 27, 2016 in North America and September 30, 2016 for other territories.[32]

War of the Chosen[edit]

An expansion for XCOM 2, titled War of the Chosen was announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017. It was released on August 29, 2017.[33]

The expansion adds several new enemies to the game, including the titular "Chosen", three elite alien warriors with unique skills and weaponry that appear randomly to attack and kidnap soldiers in their mission to recapture the commander. The Chosen appear several times during the game, even after being previously defeated, and also have the ability to interfere on the strategic layer, but carry exclusive equipment that can be collected to bolster XCOM's arsenal. Other new enemies include the "Lost", humans turned into zombie-like creatures by an alien bio-weapon that infest ruins of abandoned cities who despite being weak individually, attack in large numbers, and new ADVENT units with exclusive abilities.

The game also introduces three rebel factions that antagonize each other, but grant special hero classes once their allegiance is earned; the Reapers, specialized in sniping and stealth, the Templars, who developed unique psionic abilities and the Skirmishers, former ADVENT soldiers with exclusive equipment and tactics. Other new features include a revamped strategic layer and the "Bond" system, in which pairs of soldiers develop special abilities that are accessible when both are deployed during a mission, and when bonded soldiers are killed, their partners enter temporarily in a "berserk mode", ignoring orders but with a great boost in their stats.

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(PC) 88/100[34]
(PS4) 88/100[35]
(XONE) 87/100[36]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid7/10[37]
EGM7.5/10[38]
Game Informer9.5/10[40]
Game Revolution4.5/5 stars[39]
GameSpot9/10[41]
GamesRadar+(PC) 4.5/5 stars[42]
(Console) 3.5/5 stars[43]
Giant Bomb3/5 stars[44]
IGN9.3/10[45]
PC Gamer (US)94/100[46]
Polygon8/10[47]

XCOM 2 received "generally favorable" reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[34][35][36] Critics praised the new concealment system as adding a new layer of depth, as well as the procedural generation of maps that kept players from falling into set patterns. Additional praise cited XCOM 2's difficulty, addition of modding tools, and its retention of the old mechanics from Enemy Unknown, while criticism was mainly directed at its poor performance on many computers at launch.[48] It should also be noted that many of these issues have been patched since launch [49].

It sold over 500,000 digital copies on Steam within its first week of release.[50][51]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Golden Joystick Awards 2016 Game of the Year Nominated [52][53]
PC Game of the Year Nominated
Global Game Awards 2016 Best Sci-Fi Nominated [54]
Best Strategy Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2016 Best Strategy Game Nominated [55]

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External links[edit]