The games we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Xbox 360
I had no interest in playing XCOM Enemy Unknown. But then Dave came in to work saying it was "a game of the year contender", and this was him talking about the one game coming out this year that he hadn't pre-ordered. The flood of positive reviews came in, and I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.
I chose to play with squad members named after the Tottenham team, and this lead to Gomes, Kaboul, Vertonghen and Dempsey venturing out while I was still learning the ropes. This was bad news for Kaboul, and his replacement, Huddlestone, who both met their maker early on. More recently my high-ranking Gomes got blasted to an early grave, which hit me hard and has made me reassess things.
On Thursday night I planned to send the guys out on another mission, but Gomes' departure was weighing heavily on my mind. I didn't want to go through that again, so instead chose to watch a maddeningly addictive talk by David Icke about the reptiles that run the world. It sounds crazy, but I simply didn't fancy another night of despair at the hands of XCOM.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor – Hotline Miami, PC
I was going to write my VG Plays on XCOM once again, but to be honest I only have one thing to say on that front: Don't try to play that game if you've been drinking. I sent six rookies to a downed UFO, and only one of them came back.
In any case, I have a new game vying for my affections. Hotline Miami is the most provocative thing I've played all year; if you've not heard of it yet, the chances are you're going to read a lot about it over the next two weeks. It's an extremely violent and worryingly addictive score attack outing, wrapped in a deliberately weird 80s-tinged aesthetic. It clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Drive, last year's Ryan Gosling vehicle, but Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho also comes to mind – not least because it has a similar tendency to get into your head. Every level is a festival of twitchy slaughter - sliced necks, blown-off limbs and caved-in skulls – and somehow the top-down perspective only serves to make things more disturbing. The whole thing feels a bit wrong, but I can't seem to drag myself away from it... Oh, and the soundtrack is superb too.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor - XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Xbox 360
Whenever I'm not playing XCOM, I'm thinking about playing XCOM. And whenever I think about playing XCOM, I think of Gery Baboona. Who is Gery Baboona? I'll let the video below explain...
The frequent thoughts of Gery's grammar haven't soiled my experience of XCOM, though. As I mentioned on the podcast, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the type of game that I thought had long been forgotten by the big publishers, and it's encouraging to see 2K taking risks when other publishers are playing it safe.
It's taken me by surprise, too. Before playing, I had pre-conceptions of Enemy Unknown being an impenetrable, hard-as-nails strategy title that would require weeks of practice to fully understand, a fear that others I've spoken to seem to share. But it's far from it. The learning curve is well-balanced, the gameplay is tense and exciting, and the concept doesn't feel anywhere near as alien as the videos or screenshots may suggest.
But while I have my doubts, I hope it's a risk that pays off. Because if there's any game that's the product of God's sperm this week, it's XCOM. Or sutin.