Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I am not the least bit surprised that there is a multiplayer mode for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Firaxis has managed to create, refine and distill the joy of the Civilization series’ single-player content into a compelling cooperative-until-I-crush-your-empire experience. Bringing player vs. player to the high-stakes alien invasion of XCOM therefore must have been a challenge the team was eager to take on. Also, when speaking with the game’s producer, Pete Murray, at E3, I could just tell he wanted to talk about it. Right now, he must be feeling a huge relief to be able to give everyone one more reason they should want to play our E3 Best of Show winner.
While we don’t know everything about the mode yet, what details have been shared have us very excited. The setup is limited to one-on-one death match. Players will be able to draft a team of soldiers and aliens (even combining them for a fearsome squad). As long as you are under the specified point cap, you can configure your squad to your heart’s content.
As a tabletop gamer, the point system is familiar. It’s what Games Workshop, WizKids and others use to balance combat, giving players strategic decisions before ever hitting the battlefield. You won’t be able to just load up your team with the most powerful characters. Instead, you’ll have to either spread your point allocation out amongst a larger number of weaker troops, centralize your strength into a more elite fighting force or balance the approach. Teams are limited to six members, and the field of play will feature the same fog of war found in the single-player campaign.
This is smart implementation of multiplayer in a traditionally solo play environment. It doesn’t distort the core game experience, while at the same time offering those that want to pit their strategic expertise against friends a great way to do it. Congratulations 2K and Firaxis, you proved us wrong. We didn’t think we could be any more excited for XCOM: Enemy Unknown than we already were.