April 26, 2013 at 11:08 AM ET
Rumors about a first-person shooter based in the acclaimed "XCOM" universe have been circulating around the Internet since at least 2006 when the video game publisher 2K Games first hinted that it was trying to make just such a game.
Seven years is a long time to wait for gamers, however, and many had all but given up on the project once fresh rumors started to dry up.
But now with the acclaimed reboot "XCOM: Enemy Unknown" under its belt, 2K has confirmed that it's bringing its extraterrestrial-fighting brother-in-arms back from the dead.
In development in one form or another since 2006, "The Bureau: XCOM Declassified" will finally be released on August 20 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.
While the game was originally supposed to be a third person shooter, Nico Bihary, a senior producer at 2K, told NBC News that the final game will be a "narrative driven third person tactical shooter" set in a Cold War-era United States.
"The spine of the narrative experience is essentially the tone and setting of establishing you in 1962 America," Bihary said. "It's a land filled with optimism because of the Space Race. But at the same time, there's this tension and fear based on the Cold War experience your average American is going through."
Alyssa Finley, VP of Product Development, told NBC News that the game will exist in the same story-world as last year's "XCOM: Enemy Unknown," and serve as a kind of origin story to show how the high-tech global alien-fighting conglomerate first got its foot in the door.
"Think about that ['XCOM: Enemy Unknown's] organization, world-wide organization set up to quell global panic and fight a huge variety of alien threats, and then think back to how that could have gotten started," Finley said. "This is a much more personal story."
"It's the story of William Carter," she added, referring to the main protagonist and player character. "It's the story of one of the very first field operatives in the XCOM operatives."
In the story, Bihary said that XCOM is first formed "in response to tactical positioning by the Soviet Union." Veiled under the not-at-all-suspicious moniker "The Bureau," XCOM functions to "weed out any instances of conflict—to defuse them as well as cover them up along the way." But after "a panic-inducing act" prompts John F. Kennedy and other suits to get ready to "pick up the red phone and launch an attack on Russia" where essentially people are getting ready to pick up the red phone and launch an attack on Russia," The Bureau discovers that "the threat isn't terrestrial."
"Now our fear of the four corners of the globe has extended into the far reaches of space," Bihary said.
Based on a brief description that Bihary and Finley were able to give, "The Bureau's" gameplay sounds a bit like "Mass Effect 3" meets "The X-Files." The player will have the most control over Carter himself, but will be able to issue orders to his two squad-mates and activate a "time-slowdown effect" called the "battle focus state" to help make tactical decisions while remain in real-ish time. Without going into too much detail, Finley said that players will be able to choose from four classes and level-up various abilities for Carter, and his squad mates will also unlock superpowers to help in their fight against the little grey men.
Sticking to the "XCOM" tradition, Bihary and Finley emphasized that while the game will unfold at a faster clip than its turn-based predecessors, the game will still try to preserve the ferocious difficulty that has earned "XCOM" a cult following. In addition to being "outnumbered and out-classed by an alien threat that's pretty much bigger than anything we've seen in the past," what this really means is that 2K is not abandoning XCOM's permadeath feature—a gameplay mechanic that's become unique for AAA games of "XCOM's" stature. During combat, Carter's squad-mates can become incapacitated during battle. If the player does not manage to revive them in time, they will die for good. But also in sticking with the "XCOM" tradition, players will be able to choose from a roster of new recruits and research different alien abilities at their home-base to be better prepared.
"This is a hard game," Finley said. "This is a game where the stakes are high and the decisions that you make on the battlefield are the difference between the XCOM and the sanctity of the American way of life and basically outright panic."
So after seven-odd years of undelivered promises, do you still believe in "XCOM?" I know I want to. Nerdy jokes aside, NBC News will be spending more time with 2K's upcoming shooter come May. You can watch "The Bureau's" reveal trailer below.