A cut scene triggers as Kim pulls the pin on his frag grenade and lobs it in amongst the Advent patrol. It detonates, vaporising the two troopers and relieving the officer of most of his health.
Our presence revealed, the officer sprints toward a nearby parked three-wheel car (because future) and gets into cover. Naturally, the sneaky alien sympathiser has run in the opposite direction to Bauer and Farisani, so they don’t have a shot at him. Lebedeva has a decent aim percentage with her pistol on the crouching officer and I take it: she hits but only removes one segment of health. With no other options, I set Farisani and Bauer into overwatch and end the turn.
The Advent officer crabs around the side of the car, putting it between him and Lebedeva before marking her, an ability that confers an aim bonus to himself and other Advent units (another patrol is nearby, perhaps?). The camera shifts to the store where whatever enemy is lurking in it fires on the transmitter again, reducing it to just below 75% health.
I’m working out my options and waiting for control to return to me when the car the officer is taking cover behind quite unexpectedly explodes, a cloud of flame billows into the night sky knocking him backward and out of this plane of existence. Kim’s grenade must have damaged the vehicle earlier. Dumb luck.
With no visible threats , I move Farisani and Bauer northward toward the transmitter through a rubbish strewn alley but don’t end their turn just yet. With Lebedeva in an excellent elevated sniper position that gives her line of sight on the store housing the transmitter, I’m content to let her do her lone wolf sniper thing so I move Kim down off of the raised road and into cover next to what looks like a prefab housing structure. He’s on his own which isn’t great at street-level but only a block from the other pair. With still no threats, I place the three soldiers in overwatch and end the turn.
As expected, the transmitter takes damage but Farisani is also alerted to sounds of movement to the east of her position. This is a neat mechanic where comic book-style sound waves emanate out to the affected soldier from the general direction of an as yet de-fogged (that’s a word, right?) enemy if you’re moving your troops slowly enough. Not so much if you dash into an area. Remember, this is X-Com: the good things always come with a caveat. After playing for a while, you become accustomed enough to the various enemy sound effects that you know what the unseen threat is but I am really hoping it isn’t the particular foe I’m envisaging this early in the game.
Otherwise, all is serene. (Yeah, right.)
‘WHERE DOES HE GET THOSE WONDERFUL TOYS?’
I advance Kim northeast to rendezvous with Farisani and Bauer, desperately hoping that this will unveil the enemy in question but with no luck. Again, I leave him in cover but don’t use his remaining action point owing to the growing knot of dread in my stomach and tentatively move Bauer further east of Farisani to scout out the cityscape.
The far side of the building Bauer is using for cover is revealed and an Advent MEC accompanied by two troopers and the ubiquitous officer scatter like roaches when you turn the light on. Imagine a Star Wars trade federation droid on steroids spliced with Robocop II and you’re not far off the design for the MEC. Oh, and imagine it carrying an obscenely large magnetic rifle and a shoulder-mounted micro-missile pod while you’re at it.
The advent troops dash west into cover behind the opposite side of the building from Bauer while the MEC just turns to face him, mainly because MECs can’t take cover but just a little because the AI wants it to be a badass. It works.
I leave Bauer in position for the moment, undecided over his next play. Farisani has a 68% shot on one of the troopers taking cover at the other end of the alley to her, Kim can move to take a shot at the officer who is hiding at the northwest corner of the building but I suspect his hit percentage will be woeful, Lebedeva’s elevated position has paid off however, giving her a 78% shot on him with her sniper rifle.
She takes her shot and immediately I’m bummed out. A kill will always be punctuated with a cut scene but the game retains the normal isometric view as her shot connects and reduces the officer to 2 hit points. The experienced and wise part of me sagely advises that a critical damage one-shot kill would have been nice but is not to be expected with a squaddie class soldier. The impulsive and petty part of me elects to smother the wise part when it’s not looking.
Next up is Farisani, and thankfully she does get a cut scene as her mini-gun reduces the cowering trooper to wet meaty chunks. I put Kim into overwatch covering the officer and I’m left with Bauer and his ten-foot mechanical quandary. Caution wins out and I pull him back into high cover behind a quasi-futuristic dumpster thingie, ending the turn.
The AI is let loose and wastes no time getting some payback. The officer stays in position at the corner of the housing and marks Lebedeva, an action that doesn’t trigger Kim’s overwatch as he stays in position. The remaining trooper sprints out of cover across the road back into cover behind a bus stop which does trigger Kim but infuriatingly he misses. Somewhere in the back of my psyche I can hear something wise being deprived of air.
The trooper takes a shot at Lebedeva and wounds her thanks to the aim buff from the officer. She survives but is reduced to half health. Meanwhile, a block to the east, the MEC stomps down the street and rounds the corner to face Bauer before opening fire with it’s magnetic rifle. Predictably, the specialist is hit but miraculously survives. I mean, I would call one remaining hit point properly banjo-ed but he seems to be all in one piece surprisingly.
The transmitter takes some damage from its unseen assailant and the turn ends.
GOVERN YOUR PASSIONS
I’ll be honest; at this stage I was feeling a bit petty and maligned. I know, I was shocked too.
I immediately move Bauer as far away as possible on one action point and administer heals from his first aid kit that sees him not completely restored but definitely better off. I run Kim across the rain-slick street to a holographic advertising hoarding that doesn’t flank the trooper completely but is wide of him enough to give a 71% shot which I take and grin maniacally as his little Tron cosplaying ass tumbles to the ground.
Lebedeva scores a little revenge by finishing off the Advent officer, leaving me with my favourite grenadier. I move Farisani back up the street, further away from the MEC and into high cover behind a street light before launching a grenade at it.
One thing I forgot to mention about MECs is that they have armour, a nifty trait that reduces incoming damage by however many armour points they have. I’ve also neglected to mention that armour can be shredded by grenades. (You can see where this is going.) The frag arcs into the droid, removing one point of armour and doing nominal damage to it’s hit points.
The AI starts it’s turn by inflicting some retribution on Farisani with the MEC’s mag rifle, an act that luckily misses (not that I was sweating bullets or anything) and commits the usual violence on the transmitter.
So now things are serious. I’ve only got two turns left and two enemies that I know of to dispatch.
The MEC is the immediate problem so I get Bauer to toss a grenade it’s way, removing it’s last point of armour and not too much else. Lebedeva then spectacularly disposes of it with a well-placed rifle shot, leaving me with two soldiers to converge on the store where the transmitter is.
Farisani moves a block north within range of said store and Kim does likewise to her west. Having had umpteen turns of watching the transmitter getting shot from a particular direction within the store, I have a rough idea of where the enemy is and that allows me to indulge one of the more fun aspects of X-Com.
Anyone reading who has listened to the podcast will know that I go a big rubbery one for deformable scenery and the X-Com games excel at this feature. Troublesome enemy giving you aggro from behind cover? No problem! Violently remove said cover and show them the error of their ways. Like, a lot.
And so it is with a giddy heart I watch the grenadier launch a grenade into the east wall of the store, which promptly disintegrates revealing a sectoid that scurries out of the way and into cover behind a magazine rack. While the grenade has done some damage to the sectoid, the rack blocks it from Farisani’s view for the next turn.
Kinda leaves the sectoid’s arse hanging out for Kim though.
The rookie takes the shot and ends the mission in spectacular fashion by spraying the sectoid all over the back wall of the store.
If anybody needs me, I’ll be having a lie down.
NEXT: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!