Monday, November 12, 2012

Counting Counts

Had an amazing victory in XCOM: Enemy Unknown multiplayer. It was the kind of overcoming of odds that dreams are made of, the kind that lifts video games from the depth of misunderstanding and stereotypes, through the dark woods of annoying FPS players, to the state of an art form. I was not recording the game at the time nor have I made any screenshots so here's the low-tech report of what happened.

I was fielding a five member team - two snipers (hunters - main feature is shooting after moving) with scopes, two assaults (scouts - only run and gun) with stims and a sectoid named Kenny for obvious reasons. Snipers had laser sniper rifles and assaults had scatter laser. Kenny was wielding a plasma pistol and a lot of guts.

My near bus location meant lower ground and tougher choices. I was to go second. I went easy. Move everyone to the edge of their blue and overwatch. The snipers go left to the flowerbeds and the assaults hide behind the bus. Kenny goes boldly forward, fearless and ever watchful.
Enemy turn - nothing happens.

More careful movement on my side - to the blue and overwatch. The assaults are now in high cover along the right side of the bus. I briefly contemplate stimming them up but dismiss the idea for the fear of wasting the precious drugs on a timid and absentee enemy troops. Of course, I quickly regret it.

Enemy turn - a cyberdisc floats over from behind the statue. Kenny, crouching behind the park bench, takes a reaction shot and hits for 4 damage. As I think "well, Kenny's dead", the disc notices my snipers in the back and ignoring the dauntless sectoid takes one of them out. Blood, guts, broken dreams, a widow at home, kids without a father. But the disc is just on the other side of the bus, almost directly above Kenny. The assaults can probably reach him without as much as looking in the direction of run and gun. You will be avenged, sniper with random name, you will be avenged! That's when two medic looking troops, one in titan armour, show up. My assaults miss their reaction shots, the enemy troops are too far away for their scatter lasers. The medic with plasma rifle misses (praise be to The Holy RNG!) and the one with light plasma lands a 6 damage on rehab-clean and fragile body of my assault. Curse the unlucky stars!

The remaining sniper takes a headshot (what?) on the cyberdisc for the massive critical damage that leaves it with 2 bars. Kenny misses on cyber. That's ok, everything is still manageable. The wounded assault runs into the bus and does drugs behind the high cover of the driver's seat partition. The healthy soldier moves a couple of steps down the side of the bus to another high cover spot and also does drugs.

Enemy turn - the cyberdisc turns another sniper into a corpse. Another life in shatters. More blood becoming dust. The enemy rejoice. The medic with the plasma rifle and titan armour dashes to the front of the bus. The other one takes a shot at Kenny and misses. "Shot wide!" she must be reporting to her handlers.

Kenny is as calm as ever. The kamikaze scout knows the price of victory better then any of his human partners. What do they know. They don't hear other people's dreams at night when all they want is to fall asleep. His psychic abilities may not be as good as those of the sectoid commander but he can read anyone's emotions like the first giant letters on the optician's chart. He knows about the resentment his colleagues sometimes feel towards him, he knows about the unease his otherness brings into every room he enters. He would rather not know but it's not his fault that humans spill out their brainwaves like so much diarrhoea. But more than anything, above anything, Kenny knows loyalty. He takes down the hovering cyberdisc - explosion rocks the Boulevard.

The healthy assault goes into run and gun and runs to the other side of the map as far as he can go, which is right behind the other enemy medic. The shot isn't critical, the medic lives to take revenge. The wounded but no less drugged up assault runs down to the edge of the bus and takes a shot at the titan. 5 damage, hardly enough for anything. Things are not going our way. Drugs don't fail us now! But they do. Kind of.

Enemy turn - the titan soldier moves behind the wounded assault and pumps his body full of plasma. Stims cannot save him against a weapon so powerful with only 4 health remaining. Hopefully he dies without feeling any pain. As his eyes close for the last time I lose sight of the titan. The other medic does 3 damage on the ex-healthy assault and the turn is ours.

My remaining assault takes out the weaker medic. Kenny stays put and goes into overwatch.

Enemy turn - the titan shows his face at the corner of the bus, and takes a shot at Kenny, misses.

"That's bullshit! I had 87%," writes the enemy in the chat.

Kenny suppresses and the assault dashes to the front of the police car, closer to the titan. 7 health remaining and jonesing for the fix that is not going to come.

Enemy turn - to shake off the aim penalty, the titan moves to the other side of the same car that my assault is using for cover. Kenny misses his suppression shot but the titan doesn't. Yellow alien blood everywhere and Kenny goes down in history as the only sectoid with balls.

Wounded and all out of drugs, the lone assault moves up to the enemy, takes a shot and lands another 5. The titan lives with more than enough health to potentially kill my assault twice. With a gun that big at that distance it would be very easy to send him flying in bloody pieces to the same tarmac that his ex-team mates are slowly but surely rotting on. It would hardly take more than pulling of the stupid trigger and releasing of the stupid plasma onto the stupid flesh. But there is something that I know that he only now may be realising. I've been counting, you see. And that last shot that took out Kenny, that was shot number 4. That gun is emptier than the heart of a sectopod. He only brought along a normal pistol, so that's not an option. He will reposition as far as he can and reload.

Enemy move - and so he does. Fully loaded behind the adjacent car but no overwatch to protect him.

I run and gun the assault right next to him. Two of them crouching behind the same car like two kids hiding from grown-ups. My kid has only enough energy for one shot in his scatter laser and only a critical hit will do. 5 or 6 of damage will leave him flanked and without ammo against certain death. He raises his gun at the face of the titan. This is for you Kenny.

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