Everyone has cherished games. Some people think fondly of Ocarina of Time and would love a remake (it's on the 3DS). Others grew up with Cloud and Tifa in Final Fantasy 7, one of the most-requested remakes of the last 15 years.
Me, the remake I've wanted for nearly 20 years has been X-COM.
When I saw the news that Firaxis (of Sid Meier's Civilization fame) would be handling their own X-COM title, I was on the edge of my seat. "NO WAY!" I thought. 2K Marin had already broken my heart by announcing their title as a shooter. I mean, it would be like Square-Enix saying "We are remaking Final Fantasy 7, and it's a Chocobo Racing game! YAAAAY!"
A lot of gamers expected a Battlefront sequel when Game Informer began teasing a new game (I don't see how a franchise that started on the PS2 is "old school"...), but you folks have my sympathies. I know what it is like to have your favorite game teased in front of you and then snatched away. A lot of comments here on N4G have been along the lines of "pppfffft. XCOM? Who cares? Stupid PC game..." If you're willing to read on, perhaps you will understand why this new X-COM title is such a big deal for fans like me.
The main reason why X-COM was (and still is) such a great game is because it makes you care about the consequences of your actions. Yeah, it's a game about UFOs and alien technology and that's hella cool and all, but the gameplay wasn't anything revolutionary. There had been plenty of strategy games before. There had been other tactical games before. X-COM wasn't anything special. So, why do I like it so much?
To me, X-COM is the perfect game. Oh, it has its flaws, definitely. The research tree is fairly unbalanced on several branches, the AI can be straight-up stupid, and the end-game isn't as fun as the beginning/middle. Still, there isn't a game in the world that simultaneously lets you build a world yet makes you actually care about it as much as X-COM does.
The thing about most (if not all) large-scale strategy games is that they depersonalize everything. Soldiers are just numbers. The happiness of your empire is an adjustable stat. War, famine, and disease are simply problems to be fixed in a calculated fashion. Now, that's not a bad thing. Playing a god is part of what makes large-scale strategy games so dang satisfying, but what if a game made you care about your boots-on-the-ground soldiers? That's X-COM. When you go into battle, you're not just throwing numbers at the alien menace. You're using YOUR soldiers, your hand-picked soldiers. You are manually leading them through battle. If they die, it's your fault. Maybe these soldiers have been with you for several missions. Maybe you have great memories of Sgt. Harrison and how she managed to take down three Floaters with a lone grenade. Maybe you remember the time that Pvt. Bark single-handedly stormed a two-floor UFO and came away unscathed. Yes, it's thrilling to leave a mission and see all the look you recovered, but what's just as thrilling is to see your squad grow. And it's just as heartbreaking to see them bite the dust. You might have one of your soldiers - a Captain who has been with you since the beginning - die in a blaze of glory during an intense alien-base infiltration. As the mission ends, even if you get a ton of awesome loot, you'll still wonder if you should re-load your save and try to get your captain out alive.
It's not only that. For the entire game - from start to finish - you're always discovering new things. Ok, sure, the obvious example is the research: you're always discovering new weapons, armor, and items. But the most thrilling discovery happens on the battlefield when a new alien is revealed. Usually you'll HEAR it before you SEE it, and you'll stop and think "Wait. What was that sound? I don't recognize that alien noise". And then you'll turn a corner and BAM! The alien is right there, and oh no, you're out of action points. The thrill (and terror) of investigating the unknown is what makes X-COM so atmospheric. The game's atmosphere is just as tense today as it was back in 1993, even with the pixelated graphics and crappy sound effects.
That's what makes X-COM so special. Yeah, you have a TON of different things to manage including finances, base-building, research, UFO interception, scanning, weapon production, base defense, rescue missions, and everything in between, but what all ties it together is that squad of pixelated soldiers, YOUR soldiers. There are tactical games out there. There are strategic games, too. But there aren't many games that tie it all together.
A new X-COM means that perhaps a new generation of people will be able to see what made X-COM so special in the first place. I know that most gamers are not willing to go back and play the original. I don't hold that against them. But perhaps this new game will allow you to understand what made the original games so iconic.