So I'm going for a walk, and my mind happens to wander towards XCOM. Yeah, yeah, big surprise, but stay with me. As I'm walking along, I'm thinking about how EU/EW is different to UFO Defense, a subject which many people have already covered, mainly in the range of "they dumbed it down for stupid console people" to "hey, I don't have to feel like I'm filling out a business spreadsheet with a nuclear sub's controls". However, as I pondered the game mechanics of both, and how they interacted with each other in their own environments, a pair of very interesting thoughts came to me:1.) UFO Defense is a Redshirt Simulator. EU/EW is Third-Person Shooter Commander
There you are, ordering a small horde of "highly" trained, "well" equipped soldiers in partially organized clumps around the map, vainly hoping that you would be able to spot the aliens before they spotted you. The aliens would then be stumble on to one at a time, at which point the soldiers would wildly fire in the general direction of the target. If the soldiers' bad aim, the poor sighting of their equipment, and the general ineffectiveness of their bullets don't get in the way, the alien goes down. If they do, the alien then likely kills a couple of the poor sods just to show how dangerous the threat really is.
One of the things that I always found interesting about the original UFO Defense when I first started watching let's plays of it was just how much it felt like you were playing the hapless military force sent to contain the latest alien monster on X-Files, particularly in the beginning sections. Even when XCOM's equipment starts to improve, it isn't so much in the way that they become ubersoldiers come to save the day, and more elite mook versions that are meant not to fall at the first punch, but are still likely to get wiped out at a moment's notice. In fact, one could say that they only become truly effective when they "fool the narrative" into thinking that XCOM are good-guy aliens. "Oh yeah, we're aliens all right. See? We got plasma weapons, psionic powers... we even got weird eyes, with one bigger than the other! Humans couldn't possibly have all that, surely not..."
EU/EW, on the other hand, as Yahtzee points out in his review, is a game dedicated to all those commanding officers in all those modern cover-based third person shooter games, like Gears of War and Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon. Up to four Co-op players, later with an additional two AI squadmates, move their big burly soldiers, with big burly guns, clad in big burly armor, cover to cover as they tactically position themselves to line up the perfect shot on the vast rogues gallery of Standard Sci-Fi Shooter Enemies. As they progress, they level up with an RPG light system, and over the course of collecting collectible collectibles unlock even better versions of gear they already have. The main difference is that you are all of those players at once, with the added benefit of being the one who determines the missions that you actually go on.
And compared to UFO Defense's tech progression, where you go from modern soldier redshirt, to star trek redshirt, to redshirt disguising themselves as aliens, EU/EW's progression goes from Call of Duty soldier, to near-future soldier/space marine light, to full on space marine.2.)EU/EW Reconstructs UFO Defense's Deconstruction
To quote the TVTropes page:
[XCOM in general is a] Deconstruction of children's cartoon series such as G.I. Joe and Transformers. X-COM is a team of elite soldiers who wear cool-looking armor and have a fancy Cool Ship that they travel the world in to save the world from goofy-looking aliens... and then suffer a relentlessly high fatality rate, crippling technological inferiority, and severe funding troubles. Anyone Can Die, often in rather brutal ways, and 50% or higher casualty rates are common in successful missions, with failures usually resulting in no survivors whatsoever. The cool-looking armor is good for little else besides appearance. The Cool Ship costs ludicrous amount of money to lease and is completely unarmed. The goofy-looking aliens outnumber us over a thousand to one and have technology that outstrips ours to such a degree that X-COM might as well be fighting them with sticks. The Man in Washington will happily cut funding at the drop of a hat, even if there's a UFO landing outside the White House. It is not a very pleasant situation.
A rather accurate assessment, when you think about it. The thing is, if you look at EU/EW, it is actually a re
construction of that very thing.
a team of elite soldiers who wear cool-looking armor and have a fancy Cool Ship that they travel the world in to save the world from goofy-looking aliens. However, even though the risk of death is ever present, to the point where you can have 50% casualties or higher, unlike UFO Defense where the only counter is to send as many people as possible to increase the chances of someone surviving, EU/EW's can be countered via smart tactics, proper skill usage, a cool head, and a little bit of luck. The cool-looking armor is actually useful this time around, and can actively save a soldier's life to the point of preventing downtime via injury. The Cool Ship still costs money, but you only have to worry about the one, and it is impossible to actually lose it. You also get to see the Cool Ship in flight, so that's a bonus (Wooooosh!
). Sure, the aliens outnumber us, with technology that is leaps ahead of ours, but we have the ability to adapt, both in physical growth and in technological know-how, with even our less experienced soldiers and weaker weapons still being useful in a pinch.
And even the man in Washington, the very council of vague shadow baldness, is remarkably understanding of our difficult situation, and is constantly giving us encouragement, even if we are not doing as well as we could be, to the point where they have to be in complete full blown panic to pull out of the project.
It is not a pleasant situation to be sure, but there is much more hope in EU/EW, which is further reinforced when you bring in the Genetically-enhanced supersoldiers and the large robot suit with the rocket fist. It might be a hard fight, but with courage, smarts, and a little bit of elbow grease, we can, and will, overcome.
Just something to chew on. I need to take walks more often.