2K Marin has had some recent success in the emerging genre of narrative-driven first-person shooters with the BioShock games, and it looks like they hope to carry that momentum into their reboot of the XCOM series. Taking place in the 1950's, the supposed "Golden Age" of the USA, XCOM hopes to tell a story about the terrors of the unknown.
In XCOM, you are William Carter, a special agent who has discovered a strange alien artifact. After studying said artifact, Carter does what any red-blooded American would do he founds an organization to fight the unknown alien threat, and calls it XCOM. Our E3 demo began in a large airport hanger, which serves as XCOM's base of operations. It's here where you can stock up on weapons and gear, research new alien technologies, and choose missions to undertake.
After receiving an emergency call from a screaming woman, it was time to jump into the action. We arrived in a typical suburb with shotgun in hand, and checked out a few of the peaceful looking houses. It didn't take long to discover a few dead bodies, covered in a thick coat of black ooze. Similar to BioShock, Carter carries a research camera with him. By taking pictures of things like the ooze-covered corpses, the scientists back at your base will conduct research that will help you in combating this alien menace.
We eventually caught up with the alien slimes responsible for disrupting the quiet suburb, and had no choice but to fight them off. The classic shotgun wasn't all that effective against the alien sludge, but our lightning gun evaporated them quite nicely. After clearing the houses of the aliens, a very hostile UFO showed up and disintegrated a few of our colleagues, forcing us to flee.
2K Marin is taking on quite a challenge by trying to create a scary atmosphere in environments like sunny, suburban America. There also wasn't any music playing, which really would've helped set the mood. I'm not sure if this was intentional, in order to create an isolated feeling, or if it was just because the soundtrack wasn't completed yet. But all of the other audio, like the voice acting and sound effects, were top notch. There were also a lot of subtle graphical touches, like the reflection of light on an NPC's glasses.
Considering XCOM isn't due out until sometime next year, the game is pretty far along. With BioShock, 2K Marin had the wonderful setting of Rapture to help tell a compelling tale of mystery and fear. Only time will tell whether or not they can work the same magic with 1950's America.