Given its pedigree, you might expect XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the October-scheduled throwback to a classic computer strategy, to be playable only by mouse and keyboard.
I played the new turn-based strategy game on a PC last week in Santa Monica. I played it with an Xbox 360 controller in hand. That’s the option the developers gave me. (Mouse and keyboard will be available, too, for the PC version).
It’s fine. It plays well.
I explain as much in the video here, so please give it a look. Character movement is on the left stick, camera movement on the right. Camera turns and elevation perspective shifts with the d-pad. Zoom in to attack with the right trigger, then check the stats and commit.
I played a tutorial level which you won’t see in the footage above, because the folks selling this game didn’t offer any. It laid out the basics of the game. I brought a squad of four soldiers to Munich to investigate a nascent alien invasion. I learned about character movement (two moves per turn unless you’re rushing to the extremes of movement range), attacking (all position and stat-based, not reflex-based) and dying. Almost everyone dies in the tutorial. Then I was introduced to the game’s very cool base, which you see from a cut-out perspective. In there, you promote soldiers, research alien tech, and choose which countries to help. If you help one with their alien problems, it raises the anxiety of the others (which, I assume, is a bad thing). In a follow-up mission, I learned how to send my troops out to attack or defend from elevation — the top of a building, for example — and from within buildings. I stubbornly played on until I could fire a rocket with my heavy trooper. Than I had to watch the E3 stage demo, previewed early for us.
In the E3 demo, we see a much later level in the game. At this point, our squads can use jetpacks that can shoot from about four or five elevations in the air and plasma weapons. Some alien enemies have psionic powers which they can use to control our units; but we’ve got psionic troopers too, so we can take control of them. A ghost unit can turn invisible, climb with a grappling hook and murder aliens from behind.
In a world starved for strategy games (dearest Nintendo, where the hell is the next Advance Wars) a new X-Com by strategy-game makers Firaxis (Civilization) is water for the thirsty. And it’s water you can drink well with an Xbox 360 controller. If that makes sense.
Sure it does.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown will be out this October on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.