Three ways in which XCOM went horribly wrong
Just a bit more than a week ago, gamers were treated to a revival of a beloved series called X-COM. This new strategy game is something that has been sorely absent on consoles, and something that PC gamers always welcome with open arms.
However, I was a bit leery about the new X-COM title. I grew up with X-COM and replaying the original is a yearly tradition for me. There are plenty of things to like about Firaxis' take on the series, but three things are such massive departures from the original I can't help but shake my head.
1) Line of Sight and shooting: You may not have noticed, but the new XCOM game doesn't have true line of sight mechanics in terms of what you can shoot. I can't count all the times I've shot (or been shot) straight through a stack of crates. In the original, you could shoot at anything, anywhere, at any time as long as you had line of sight. The game let you choose how to attack an enemy, and it let you try to pull off (no matter how impossible) those across-the-map shots that end up winning the entire mission. However, in the new XCOM, the game has to tell you "yep, you have line of sight to this guy, so you can go ahead and target it", which brings me to my next point...
2) Destructible Environments: The new XCOM has AWESOME environments! It really does. Firaxis nailed the atmosphere and multi-dimensional aspect of the original. Yet, what's the point if you can't shoot it all up? See, with the exception of rocket launchers and grenades, you can't "free shoot" in the new XCOM. Not only does that prevent you from doing all the cool trick-shot stuff detailed in #1 above, but it also keeps you from cutting up the environment to open up lanes of fire. An example? Ok, you need to kill an alien on the other side of a wall. You have two soldiers. One blasts the wall (using free shooting). The other blasts the alien. In the original XCOM, such a thing was commonplace. In the new XCOM, it's impossible.
3) Fewer soldiers, fewer items, fewer choices: Okay, I understand why Firaxis cut down on some aspects of the original game. Having to make individual loadouts for twelve soldiers and then spend the first three turns of a mission unloading them from your Skyranger CAN be a bit tedious. But the problem is Firaxis cut too much. Yeah, I understand the need to cut down to a squad of 4 (up to 6 with upgrades). That's fine. But why did you limit the inventory so much, too? Items take up your turn, so it's not like you can use every single item simply because your soldier is carrying them all. What ends up happening is that your soldiers are TOO limited, TOO specialized, and your equipment becomes less important. In the original, you could give a soldier several grenades, a medkit, a scanner, a few clips of ammo, a rocket launcher, and a backup assault rifle. In the new XCOM, there is always a limitation. Assault Rifle or Rocket Launcher, not both. Grenades or Medkit, not both. Scope or underarmor, not both.
Am I just some old curmudgeon who needs to get with the times? Perhaps, but perhaps not. No one would claim that Civilization: Revolution is on par in complexity with Sid Meier's Civ V, would they? No one would claim that Final Fantasy XIII lives up to the complex and satisfying designs found in previous Final Fantasy games, would they? In the same way, while I can admit that XCOM Enemy Unknown is a great game, I have to say that it isn't really a true XCOM game. It has SOME of the franchise's elements, but it is missing many others.
Anyway, I hope that one day the mod community will be able to make some optional tweaks to the game so that perhaps one day we will see a true revival of the XCOM franchise.