2K Games and Firaxis have announced the first downloadable content for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Entitled "Slingshot," the DLC packs in three new Council missions with a unique story arc. The story takes place in China and, says designer Ananda Gupta, revolves around a "badass Triad operative named Zhang." Said badass will be a playable character and, unlike other XCOM soldiers, will feature a pre-designed face and a unique voice.

We spoke with Gupta and Firaxis producer Garth DeAngelis to learn a little more about the Slingshot DLC and the developer's future plans for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The first of two planned pieces of DLC, Slingshot features three new missions on three new maps, which promise to be visually distinct from the maps already available in XCOM (unfortunately, they won't be available in multiplayer). Triad operative Zhang has had "an attack of conscience regarding some interesting technology," says Gupta, "and he's offering it to XCOM." In addition to the new locales, the missions promise more varied objectives, which DeAngelis says are "riffs on some of the existing gameplay objectives," but with "new mechanics."

The missions will be offered via the shadowy Council in the single-player campaign. In fact, it will be the first Council mission offered in a new game, though players can choose to tackle it at any time once it is offered. Incidentally, starting a new game will be the only way to access the Slingshot missions, though the rewards may be worth it (more on that in a bit).

Why add missions instead of new aliens or weapons? Council missions are "a good way of offering new stuff to the player that doesn't distort the core experience," says Gupta. "If we add new weapons and new tech, then we're expanding the tech tree, and that adds research time – and that's on a fairly finely balanced pinpoint right now." XCOM, he says, is unforgiving of players that fall behind in research, and adding even more options to the existing tech tree could be problematic.

Instead Firaxis decided to allow players to unlock an existing piece of tech much earlier in the game than would normally be possible. Specifically, the DLC offers early access to the incredibly powerful Blaster Launcher. Normally, players won't research the Blaster Launcher until very late in the game (if they research it at all), so completing Slingshot definitely comes with a concrete reward. Zhang himself is something of a reward, with Gupta referring to him as a "hero" character

As for the future of XCOM, Firaxis is open to the possibilities. Regarding the potential for mods and user-created content, DeAngelis notes that "it wasn't one of our core pillars when we started the project," but the team understands how important it is to the community. "It's something that we'd like to resolve going forward, but we still have quite a few things on our plate that have been planned for a while."

I ask if we might eventually see some updates to the relatively bare multiplayer mode – one of my only complaints in our XCOM review. DeAngelis says updates aren't on the "short-term plans," but it could happen in the future. "We're very excited to see people having fun with multiplayer – and if that continues, we should certainly address that by providing more content."

Firaxis and 2K aren't talking sales numbers yet, but both DeAngelis and Gupta have been encouraged by XCOM's positive reception. "It has been one of my great professional experiences to read the fan reaction to this game," says Gupta, "I have been very bowled over by how people have engaged with it."

The price and release date for Slingshot will be announced soon.


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Alien Invasion Continues with Two Add-On Content Packs for XCOM®: Enemy Unknown
Slingshot Content Pack featuring all new missions, maps, characters and more available soon
New York, NY – October 23, 2012 - 2K Games and Firaxis Games announced today that the critically acclaimed XCOM®: Enemy Unknown will be supported post-launch with two pieces of single-player add-on content that will be available for purchase for Windows PC, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system. In addition to these two add-on content packs, the Elite Soldier Pack, which was free to those who pre-ordered XCOM: Enemy Unknown or purchased the game at launch, is now available for purchase. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has critics raving, including review scores of 9 out of 10 from PlayStation: The Official Magazine, 9.1 out of 10 from GameTrailers.com, and 9.5 out of 10 from Game Informer, earning "Game of the Month" honors in the November 2012 issue.

The Slingshot Content Pack, the first of two add-on content packs for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, will be available soon. In this new set of linked Council missions, gamers will meet an enigmatic Triad operative, divert an alien ship's course, and do battle with the aliens in the skies over China. The Slingshot Content Pack includes three new maps tied to the Council missions, a new playable squad character with a unique story and voice and new character customization options. The release date and pricing of the Slingshot Content Pack will be announced soon.

The Elite Soldier Pack, originally free for those who pre-ordered XCOM: Enemy Unknown or purchased the game at launch, is now available for purchase for $4.99 (PlayStation®Network) / 400 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network) / $4.99 (Windows PC). The Elite Soldier Pack provides the ultimate tools for soldier customization in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, including:

 Classic X-COM soldier: Players will instantly receive a new recruit in their barracks inspired by the original X-COM: UFO Defense. The iconic soldier with the blonde, flattop hairstyle will return fully modernized.

 Soldier Deco packs: Players can customize their soldier with several aesthetic upgrades to armor suits, including the new Hyperion and Reaper soldier armor kits.

 Complete color customization: A variety of colors and tints for all armor sets in the game allow players complete control to customize their squad's look.

A free playable demo* of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available globally for Windows PC via Steam, and for Xbox 360 and PS3TM. Gamers who download the demo will be guided through two levels of the single- player tutorial campaign, experiencing the combat controls and effective tactics for defending humanity against the alien threat. The two tutorial missions will also introduce players to the XCOM base, where soldier training and researching alien technology takes place, and offers a chance to experience the tactical and strategic layers of XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Released in 1993, the original X-COM still reigns as one of the best PC games of all time and has been reimagined as XCOM: Enemy Unknown by the strategy experts at Firaxis Games. XCOM: Enemy Unknown expands on the X-COM legacy with an entirely new story, enemies and technologies to fight hostile aliens and defend Earth. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, players will oversee combat strategies and individual unit tactics as well as base management and resource allocation while playing as the commander of a secret global military organization, XCOM. With equal emphasis on deep strategy and intense tactical combat, XCOM: Enemy Unknown will allow gamers to control the fate of the human race by defending against a terrifying global alien invasion.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available now for Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PS3TM. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.

For more information, please visit http://www.xcom.com. For the latest news and information on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, become a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/XCOM.
* Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network, PlayStation®Network for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system or Internet connection and acceptance of Steam Subscriber agreement required to access demo.
2K Games is a division of 2K, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO).
About Take-Two Interactive Software

Headquartered in New York City, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. is a leading developer, marketer and publisher of interactive entertainment for consumers around the globe. The Company develops and publishes products through its two wholly-owned labels Rockstar Games and 2K, which publishes its titles under the 2K Games, 2K Sports and 2K Play brands. Our products are designed for console systems, handheld gaming systems and personal computers, including smartphones and tablets, and are delivered through physical retail, digital download, online platforms and cloud streaming services. The Company's common stock is publicly traded on NASDAQ under the symbol TTWO. For more corporate and product information please visit our website at http://www.take2games.com.

About 2K
Founded in 2005, 2K develops and publishes interactive entertainment for console systems, handheld gaming systems and personal computers, including smartphones and tablets through its three divisions: 2K Games, 2K Sports, and 2K Play that are delivered through physical retail, digital download, online platforms and cloud streaming services. 2K publishes titles in today's most popular gaming genres, including first-person shooters, action, role-playing, real-time strategy, sports, casual, and family entertainment. The 2K label has some of the most talented development studios in the world today, including Firaxis Games, Visual Concepts, Irrational Games, 2K Marin, 2K Australia, 2K Czech, Cat Daddy Games, and 2K China. 2K has achieved many key industry milestones, including launching the 2007 Game of the Year - BioShock®; publishing the critically acclaimed Borderlands® franchise; continuing the award-winning Sid Meier's Civilization® series; delivering the #1 rated and #1 selling basketball franchise with NBA® 2K*; and breaking new ground in the family entertainment market with its multi-million unit selling hit Carnival Games. 2K is headquartered in Novato, California and is a wholly owned label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO). For more information, please visit www.2K.com.
*According to 2008 - 2012 Gamerankings.com and The NPD Group estimates of U.S. retail video game sales through September 2012.

About Firaxis Games
Firaxis GamesTM is one of the world's premier game development studios, and home of legendary designer Sid Meier. Firaxis has developed some of the most successful and award-winning computer and video games on the market today including: Sid Meier's Civilization® RevolutionTM for console, iPhone®, iPod touch®, iPad® and Nintendo DS, 2005 PC Game of the Year - Sid Meier's Civilization IV®, the expansions Civilization IV: Warlords®, Civilization IV: Beyond The SwordTM, and Civilization IV: ColonizationTM, the blockbuster Sid Meier's Civilization® III series, Sid Meier's Pirates!® (PC, Xbox® and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system), Sid Meier's SimGolfTM and Sid Meier's Railroads!TM. Firaxis legacy titles include the Sid Meier's Civil War Series!TM (Gettysburg!, Antietam!, and South Mountain), and the Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri® series. In 2005, Firaxis Games was acquired by Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., joining its 2K publishing label. The company has just released the award winning Sid Meier's Civilization® V for the PC, as well as the critically acclaimed expansion pack, Sid Meier's Civilization® V: Gods and Kings. .

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This article was originally published on Joystiq.