In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, each player you control can be killed off permanently. It’s a feature that adds a lot of suspense and drama to this turn-based strategy game, and it’s also a feature that makes you care about your digital avatars. This is a recount of one battle from my most recent play-through of XCOM.
- Maj. Ayaka “Devil Dog” Nishimura
- Lt. Maria “Specter” Xenakis
- Sgt. Christine “Deadbolt” Elliot;
- Corporal Mikhail “Mack” Vinogradov;
- Squaddie Chidi Jalloh;
- Squaddie Olver Taylor;
- Rookie Li Wei Xu;
- Rookie Christine Matthews, Et al.
Eighteen dead soldiers but only one I truly care about. Only one I remember since the beginning. Pena. They killed Pena. Those lanky, grey-skinned bastards.
Pena was a burly and bearded soldier from Mexico. He reveled in the chaos of the battlefield, but he was also a leader, a man who reached the rank of colonel at a young age, a man who inspired leadership and heroics. Many individuals gave their lives for their colonel. Many rookies served as plasma fodder just so Pena could get patched up by way of a med-kit. They didn’t want to let their commander down, and neither did I.
But this last mission–this was the mission that counted. We had to use our Hyperwave Relay station to discover a cloaked alien UFO. After losing a firestorm, fighter command was able to knock the cloaked ship out of the sky on a second attempt. Pena and his squad knew this would be a dangerous op. Command planned accordingly and sent a S.H.I.V. (a robotic drone fighter) in with Pena and his five other squad members. The team of two majors and four colonels equipped Titan Armor and advanced alien tech for the job. With Pena in charge, we thought we had a shot at getting in and out without any casualties.
Rockets flew by Pena as he lead the assault on the Lazy Giant. Two brutish aliens outfitted in durable red armor had him locked down and flanked. Pena took two shots in a row and eviscerated one of them. The other was taken out by Major Jesus Delgado of Argentina, a gifted sniper who excelled at head-shots in tight spots. As the other alien went down, I imagined Pena wiping his brow and giving Delgado a nod of approval and appreciation; that was a close one.
Breach and clear. Two-by-two formation. Kong Zhou, a heavy weapons specialist outfitted with our latest stealth tech, was in position. Using his cloaked armor to scout ahead, he’d made it behind enemy lines and into the room with our objective, some mysterious new device guarded heavily by our alien enemies. Zhou, or “Crater,” as he liked to be called, hailed from China. One of the last soldiers to join before we lost his home country to panic and the void. He identified two more brutes in red armor and a tall lanky alien in a flowing red robe. He had the drop on them; now we just needed to start the assault.
Pena moved into position. The crowded room offered only two options for cover: a hip height barrier and a set of ingresses near the back where Zhou was hiding out. Man, I wish my S.H.I.V. hadn’t blown up on the way in. It was time to begin.
Zhou took the first shot at one of the red armored brutes. It missed. Fuck. So much for the element of surprise. Pena shot next. He connected, but his target was still standing. Double fuck. Delgado couldn’t get a clear shot, so he moved to a better position; it’s hard to snipe in such close quarters. That’s when Zhou was hit. Not by plasma, mind you, but by something else, something more nefarious, something that made him lose his mind.
The tall alien in the red robe had taken control of Zhou. Plasma spewed forth from his gatling gun towards Delgado, Carpenter, and Cissoko. Triple fuck! I need Zhou, I can’t lose him. Focus all fire on that tall alien! Two shots missed, one hit. He still had half his health. Zhou suppressed Delgado, eliminating him from the fight. Carpenter and Cissoko concentrated on the two other aliens; they didn’t have a shot on the one controlling Zhou.
Pena was under assault by mister tall, grey, and red-robed. He screamed in agony but never panicked, even as he was down to his last ounce of health. I’ve got one shot before Zhou hits me with another barrage of plasma. One chance to take out this red-robed manipulator. I miss. Thankfully, Zhou does too–maybe he’s fighting their leader’s control. The alien leader doesn’t miss. He rips Pena apart. I look on and hope to hear the steady beep indicative of a heartbeat. The speakers are silent. There is no chance of recovery or stabilizing him. Pena’s gone. Delgado panics, but Zhou is back under my control. I’m furious, and even though I know I could damage the mission objective, I command Zhou to fire a shredder rocket at the red-robed bastard. I don’t want there to be anything left of him. Fuck the lab geeks.
We secure our objective, and before researching the new item, I take a visit to the memorial. Somber bagpipes play as I examine all that is left of the man–his service record:
Col. Gabriel “Psycho” Pena – 71 kills, 32 missions, KIA at operation Lazy Giant on November 13, 2015.
For more on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, check out the latest edition of the D Pad D Bags podcast.