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XCOM 2 diaries: seven men, one save – and humanity is now doomed…

XCOM 2 diary

We’ve all been playing a lot of XCOM 2 in the PCGamesN bunker. Even Jeremy, who has already finished it once for his XCOM 2 review. On top of our own campaigns, we’ve decided to play one together… after a fashion.

We’ll each complete a mission and pass it on to the next person. And just for laughs, we’ve made the PCGamesN team in the game so it’s extra heartbreaking when someone dies. We’ll be updating this diary regularly until we inevitably fail and doom humanity for good. But for now, let’s lay out the mission parameters.

Our objective

We’ll be trying to complete the campaign on Veteran (normal) difficulty, one mission and one player at a time, while attempting to keep as many people alive as possible.

The rules

There will be no save scumming, since we’re playing on Ironman mode. No mods, either. And we won’t be making plans together or conferring about tactics, research paths, builds or what we should construct next.

Previously on XCOM 2 diaries…

If you’re just joining us on the inevtiably doomed journey, then this is the place to catch up – links to all our previous missions are right here.

Mission 9: Joel

XCOM 2 diary

Well then. Matt has left us in quite the awkward spot. It’s not so much ‘rock and a hard place’ as between the jaws of a vice that’s a half-turn from making our collective skull go pop.

But there’s still hope, and as long as there’s hope there’s fight – it’s not for nothing that the PCGamesN motto is aut vincere, aut mori. However it was a choice between that and ‘There’s a lot of joy in Chips Ahoy!’, so maybe we are completely stuffed.

Basically anyone who knows the danger end of a gun is currently in the infirmary, rocking back and forth and muttering “Never again” to themselves, or nothing more than a star on the memorial wall. I try to pass enough time to get at least a full squad together, but it’s no use. We need fresh blood.

And so steps in our esteemed leader, PCGamesN co-owner Tim Edwards. None have ever seen his face, and some contend that he exists merely in our collective conscience. But he’s had enough. He’s not about to let his cabal of content creators slip away without resistance.

XCOM 2 diary

With a rookie, two squaddies and a Corporal, the last thing we need is a Blacksite mission. Especially one named Operation Hell Fall, a moniker which will prove to be horrendously apt.

We’ve to cross a large railway yard and investigate the ADVENT facility on the other side. With so little battlefield experience on show it’s very much a case of softly softly killee alien, and so I move the troops carefully forward through a building and around the left flank.

A patrol suddenly pops up, yet we somehow remain in concealment even when a codex and a sectoid are close enough to smell Joel’s Lynx Africa. With the drop on the pair of them we’ve the upper hand… until another three-man patrol pops up on the other side. Now we’re flanked, and another word beginning with F.

XCOM 2 diary

Still, they haven’t seen us yet so we can fire the first shots. Tim pops out of cover and does some solid damage to the codex, who responds by cloning itself and jumping onto a roof. Kirk guns the sectoid, and Jordan rushes in to finish it off with his sword. Joel, in overwatch, pings the second codex on its next turn.

The other patrol prove trickier. A shieldbearer buffs himself, a trooper and a viper, and they all close in. Jordan is brutally gunned down – and so young… – and Tim is suddenly in the snake’s clutches.

Joel heroically blasts him free, and Tim polishes the scaly sod off. The shieldbearer, though, charges forward, ready to mince Tim from close range… Missed! The trooper gets even nearer to finish the job… Missed again! Perhaps dressing all in black and wearing a balaclava actually makes you harder to hit.

XCOM 2 diary

And now our enemies are sitting ducks. We slay the trooper, the shieldbearer retreats but doesn’t get far. We’ve survived. Somehow we’ve survived.

All that’s left is to flank around to the left and head into the Blacksite. Jordan may have fallen but you can’t make an omelette without breaking some intern skulls, and one loss isn’t…

Oh. Oh look. Two Mecs, two troopers and two stun lancers. Well, it was fun while it lasted…

XCOM 2 diary

NB: This mission deserves a post-script, as its climax was remarkable. While Kirk got gunned down almost immediately, one man did in fact make it out alive. Tim dashed, dashed and dashed again in an attempt to reach the evac zone.

On his final charge he had just 3 HP left and there was a Mec on overwatch… but once again his cat-like dodging skills saved the day, and the Skyranger pulled him out. Joel, meanwhile, died the saddest death imaginable: being alternatively prodded by stun lancers while a Mec just watched on, laughing.

Goodnight, sweet princes.

XCOM 2 diary

The end.

Mission 8: Matt

XCOM 2 diaries Matt

Phil solemnly looks over the battlefield, littered with the punctured and plasma-burned corpses of his brothers-in-arms, before pulling on the Skyranger’s rope. He’s hoisted from the combat zone and flown to safety, but this is no victory.

One hour previously…

As Ben noted in the last diary entry, our strategy game was pretty poor. Thankfully he’d put us on the right path, and I continued his work by purchasing magnetic rifles and shotguns, plus an arc blade for our rangers.

XCOM 2 diaries

The next task is a Blacksite mission, but it’s rated as ‘difficult’ and I’m concerned a four-man squad won’t be enough. I order a training facility to be constructed, but before I can get the squad size increase perk unlocked aliens are attacking. The Blacksite will have to wait: I send in myself, Ben, Fraser, and Phil to complete Operation Night Valley. Our task: destroy an alien relay within eight turns. I’m also equipping Fraser with a Skull Jack so we can complete the main campaign objective to hack into the ADVENT network.

With boots on the ground, a machinegun turret is immediately in the way. Thankfully our target is in a building just behind it, so using concealment the squad moves up. I send my Gremlin over to the turret to do a little hacking and disable the turret for a couple of turns. As the first round ends, an ADVENT Commander and Lancer walk into view. We need that Commander for the Skull Jack hack.

XCOM 2 diaries

To draw the attention of the ADVENT troops we blow up the turret. While Phil tests out the increased power of the magnetic rifles by taking down the Lancer in one shot, Fraser runs up to the Commander and thrusts the Jack into his lower law, impaling the creature’s brain and downloading the data we need. Phenomenal work! Unfortunately the ruckus has caught the attention of a Muton and two Sectoids, who jump from the house across the street and get ready to rock. Fraser’s position is now upsettingly vulnerable. To make matters worse, our hack on the Commander’s noggin has summoned in a Codex: a digital avatar that’s frightfully dangerous.

Our new enemies thankfully make a cock-up of their first turn, dealing no damage but resurrecting two ADVENT troops. I fix the squad into new positions, but that’s not to last: the Muton hurls a plasma grenade at the wall Fraser and Ben are hiding behind and destroys both the cover and half their health bars. They scramble to safety on their next turn, but it’s all for naught. Ben fires on the Codex, which causes it to split into two. The clone instantly teleports behind Ben and takes aim. The stream of superheated plasma slices the heart out of him.

XCOM 2 diaries

The remaining Codex summons what looks like a magnetic storm, but I’m not entirely sure because the game bugs out and doesn’t display the graphical effect. If I’ve judged it right, me and Phil are caught in it. The storm jams our weapons and will detonate in one turn, meaning to get away from the impending explosion and be ready for combat I need to move and reload. That’s a wasted turn. I decide to take a risk: they’re both at full health, so will survive the blast. I have them reload and kill the remaining Codex clone.

XCOM 2 diaries

The invisible storm erupts, injuring both me and Phil. Deciding this mess has been going on long enough, the Muton charges at Fraser, reaching over the wall and beating his skull to paste with the butt of his plasma gun. Then, in the most upsetting turn of the mission, a lucky shot from a Sectoid pistol sends my brains splattering across the windows of a sedan and my corpse collapsing in the street.

XCOM 2 diaries

Devastation draws near. The Muton takes aim and fires at Phil, but he takes cover behind a tree to avoid the blast. Determined to bring him down in the most gruesome way possible, the Sectoids resurrect Fraser and Matt, and send them lurching towards Phil.

Command radio through: “The mission’s screwed!” they cry. “Get your troops out of there and abort!” Flares fire up and designate a fly zone for the Skyranger. Taking one final shot at an exposed Sectoid, Phil flees to the drop zone and evacs, the mission in absolute tatters.

Arriving at base, Phil hands over the brain of the Codex we destroyed, and reports in the details of the Skull Jack, meaning we fulfilled at least some objectives. But there’s no denying it: this mission was FUBAR. After a string of remarkable victories, XCOM are finally on the downhill path to destruction, and it’s all my fault.

Mission 7: Ben

XCOM 2 ben

Self-appointed XCOM rank: Beard
Tactical genius level:
Routinely makes it to the bathroom ‘in time’
Survival training:
Lived on super noodles and pasta for weeks, fattening himself up to be eaten later.

Originally I wasn’t planning to take part in our little revolution adventure, but I desperately wanted to seehow many people I could kill how I matched up against the tactical acumen and strategic minds of my colleagues. In an attempt to one-up them all provide some variety, my mission has been recorded as video with live commentary and uploaded to our wonderful YouTube channel.

In it, I take on the alien hordes in another retaliation mission, facing down not only Advent and the terrifying Faceless, but some new aliens as well. The brave vanguard commander that I am, I took myself, Fraser, Matt and Joel on this wilderness romp. Come see me complain about our meta-game decision making, mistake one Muton for two thanks to some nifty engine teleporting action and be utterly flummoxed by that most deadly of XCOM opponents – a wall.

We’re chocking this one up as a success, with plenty of deliberate actions taken. No mistakes whatsoever. Stop limping Joel, you’re fine. If you like our video stuff and want to see more, do sub to the channel.

We return to the delightful, calm hands of Matt Purslow next week – and the Blacksite is calling…

Mission 6: Jordan

XCOM 2 Jordan

Self-appointed XCOM rank: Whipping boy
Tactical genius level: Doesn’t understand the days of the week
Survival training: Spent an entire summer digging a hole in the garden, called it a trench

When I was told I would be taking part in a collaborative XCOM 2 playthrough with all my superiors I was elated. That was before I bore witness to one of the most harrowing scenes of my young life, as deputy editor Phil “Better you than me” Iwaniuk did everything in his power to get my in-game self killed. Not to worry though, Phil, the intern wouldn’t dream of seeking revenge – the intern only wants what’s best for you.

XCOM 2

And what’s best for Phil is more combat experience. That’s why I chose to take a leisurely break from missions and ensure Phil is healed and ready to deploy for Operation Faceless Omen. With my character holed up in the infirmary after one too many snake attacks and Jeremy now entering the rotting stage of post-mortem existence, it would be up to the old guard to deal another decisive blow to ADVENT. Will I be sending Phil, Matt, Fraser and Ben to their deaths? Not intentionally.

The mission is simple: recover an item from an ADVENT train before it self-destructs. A turn-based countdown gives me limited time to waste, meaning suitable cover would have to wait as I send Fraser sprinting towards the objective, the rest of the squad not far behind; but with actual cover to keep them from dying should Fraser run into any alien nasties. It takes a single turn to uncover a sectoid and his ADVENT buddy. With Fraser totally exposed the sensible thing to do (other than retreating to safety) is go on the offence.

XCOM 2 fraser

Predictably, Fraser lands a solid hit, but it’s not quite fatal. The Sectoid points and laughs.

xcom 2 sectoid

Not to worry though, because Matt and Ben have advanced just enough to mop up. Matt takes aim and dispatches the Sectoid with ease, it’s mucusy innards repainting a nearby car. Ben’s turn now. The corporal moves up to within back-patting distance of his marooned comrade and finishes the job, executing the ADVENT stun lancer without causing any collateral to a nearby traffic cone. That’s professionalism.

XCOM 2

If you’re wondering where Phil is at this moment, he’s hiding on a rooftop. Typical. Meanwhile Fraser continues the assault, uncovering another Sectoid/ADVENT soldier combo. The team (excluding Phil) take their places and take it in turns firing at the devious duo. Ben metes out the majority of damage with grenade launcher shots to both enemies, before Fraser and Matt deliver the necessary killing blows.

XCOM 2

With no more enemies in view and limited turns with which to secure the target, it’s double time for the whole squad – even Phil. The team quickly arrive at the objective and secure the target in good time, but there’s still the matter of – OH MY GIDDY AUNT THEY’VE GOT A GIANT MECH – calmly finishing off the remaining enemies in the area.

XCOM 2

With an as yet unharmed team all in perfect cover I enter this final skirmish with the kind of confidence that usually gets an intern fired. (Please don’t fire me.) With Phil still not ready to get any blood on his hands – save for the innocent blood of an intern – the rest of the team open fire on the mech with a volley of bullets and grenades, defeating it with surprising ease.

There’s but one ADVENT soldier left and it’s Phil who steps up to take all the glory with his only aggressive move of the mission.

XCOM 2

Despite opening fire with his eyes closed, Phil lands every shot, killing the final soldier and sealing a flawless victory for the team. Literally flawless. That’s a hell of an intern you’ve got on your hands. Just one final amendment to the squad and I sign out.

XCOM 2

The fate of humanity is now in the hands of news editor Ben Barrett. May God have mercy on us all…

Mission 5: Phil

XCOM diaries

Self-appointed XCOM rank:General Haig
Tactical genius level:Garth Crooks
Survival training:Thought he saw Bear Grylls in WH Smith once

If there’s one thing I know about XCOM 2, it’s the game’s title. The last time I played the series was at a preview event for the first game, and while I was there I made the developer watching over my shoulder very sad indeed. Is this guy’s ineptitude somehow a failing on our part? His tired eyes seemed to say.

Never mind all that though. What I may lack in expertise, I more than make up for in absolute disregard for the sanctity of human life. Operation Blood Steed will be completed, regardless of the cost.

It’s with no small amount of relief that many of the mainstays of our campaign thus far remain rather too poorly for deployment under my command. Joel is resting up with a bowl of chicken soup and some ‘lifestyle’ magazines after taking a wallop too many a few missions back, and neither Ben nor Fraser are fighting fit yet either. As for Jeremy…

XCOM diaries

We don’t talk about Jeremy anymore.

Squaddies Kirk and Jordan, battle-hardened by their debut deployments last mission, join myself and Matt ‘The Redeemed’ Purslow in a chopper bound for an inhospitable stretch of South African tundra. The mission? Secure a derailed ADVENT train to comandeer its resources, and elimiate the hostile presence in the area. Difficulty: moderate. Confidence levels: recklessly high.

I’ll spare you the minute details of the first ten rounds, because they almost exclusively comprise of the four of us remaining very still in Overwatch until the enemy troops moved a bit closer. Basically, a lot of this.

XCOM diaries

The action doesn’t really begin until four ADVENT troopers show up, accompanied by a Viper. The Viper immediately incapacitates Jordan.

Trusty Kirk went and brought a rotary cannon along though, didn’t he? Good old Kirk. He’s got a good line of sight on the Viper too, making good on the 88% hit chance and freeing our unfortunate intern from his reptilian chokey.

XCOM diaries

Matt has meanwhile set himself up in an advantageous position behind a pile of wood, and takes out one of the ADVENT troopers with a minimum of fuss, perhaps wondering how easy it might have been to save Jeremy if he had another chance.

With three ADVENT troopers remaining, I position my in-game self on the other side of the train and, flanking a pair of hapless enemies, unleash precisely 0 damage on them before returning meekly to cover.

In the end it’s up to Kirk and Matt to mop up again, using their favourable positions to get a bead on the frankly lethargic troopers. That’s the first wave of enemies dealt with, and only Jordan bears the scars of battle. So far, a flawless operation.

Positioning all the other team members within the safety of the train, I send Jordan out on a bit of a reconnaissance run. It’s a reccie that involes some fairly daring dashes through quite a lot of open, unexplored map space. The way I see it is: well, as long as I’m alright.

His three team members now safely out of contact, Jordan uncovers the remaining enemy presence. And it has another one of these characters.

XCOM diaries

Jordan’s already quite low on health, so it’s quite imporant that I get him back to the rest of the group before –

XCOM diaries

Yeah, the Viper’s got Jordan again.

Not to worry, though. The rest of us are absolutely fine, let’s not forget. Once Matt and myself get close enough we buff the plucky intern’s health with our Gremlins, keeping him alive long enough for Kirk to once again get within range with that cannon of his.

At the second time of asking, I even manage to shoot an ADVENT trooper and kill it on the way. Kirk has a bead on the Viper again after another turn, so invoking the Groundhog Day spirits I once again set Squaddie Kirk to freeing Jordan. He makes brushing contact this time, not killing the Viper but allowing Jordan to wriggle free.

A somewhat shaken Squaddie Jordan nontheless has a turn available to him next. He’s standing right beside the Viper now, gun practically pressing against its sinuses. Given that there are other enemies nearby, the sensible thing would be to pull him out of there and let the other, well-protected, perfectly healthy squad members mop up the Viper. But the way I see it is: it’s a bird in the hand, isn’t it. Open fire, Jordan!

XCOM diaries

He misses.

The Viper’s got Jordan again.

The remaining ADVENT trooper has also closed in on our incapacitated intern, so things are looking especially grim at this point. Oh, I’ve just realised I didn’t mention the massive laser turret mounted to the train that almost killed me last round. That’s now pointed at Jordan too. I mean, the guy was this close to that Viper when he took his shot.

Ah, now hold on. There are only two enemies left now, and they’re very close to each other. Yes, Jordan is also esconced in that same area, but the kid had his chance to seal the deal. Kirk eyes his grenade launcher meaningfully.

XCOM diaries

A quick testing of the waters shows that there’s a great chance Kirk can get this mission done and dusted with a single grenade. There’ll be collateral, sure. But, look, he was this close when he took that shot.

Maybe there’s a way to do this without absolutely ensuring Jordan’s death, though. Before letting Kirk loose, I tell Matt to deploy his Gremlin and heal Jordan for up to 3HP. Then…

XCOM diaries

Then the game reveals that what I’ve actually done is taken the single greatest turn in XCOM history.

Kirk’s grenade instantly kills the sole remaining ADVENT trooper, doesn’t kill the Viper but reduces it to 1HP, and loosens Jordan – who is miraculously alive and on 1HP – from its grip. It’s now Jordan’s turn, and with a 100% chance of landing a slash on the Viper, he completes our mission. It’s a Hollywood ending.

Are all but one of us gravely wounded? We are. Does Jordan now have a deep distrust of just about every living thing? He does. But goddamn it, Operation Blood Steed got done.

XCOM diaries

Now over to our shellshocked, gravely wounded, Jordan. Who better to guide an ever-dimishing group of fighting-fit soldiers into an ever-more-difficult arena of war?

Mission 4: Joel

XCOM 2 diary

Self-appointed XCOM rank:Coward-in-chief
Tactical genius level:Really good at Football Manager
Survival training:Watches Die Hard every Christmas

I know that everyone was expecting to see the commandeering debut of Phil ‘Phil’ Iwaniuk this time out, but instead you’ve got me. It’s a tactical switch, and has no way been undertaken because I simply want to get my go out of the way now before the really hard stuff kicks in. That’s leadership right there.

Speaking of leadership, there’s going to be precious little on the battlefield this time out. Fraser, Matt and I are all laid up in hospital, so it’s going to be up to one-man-and-his-mingun Ben Barrett to guide a raw squad. Thanks to his exploits last mission, Phil will have a natty little drone to accompany him on our next excursion, as well as two rookie squadmates.

Preposterously green greenhorn and PCGN intern Jordan ‘Fast’ Forward is joining the fray – sporting a matching-sunglasses-and-gun combo, as all young people do these days – as is regular blood-/newshound Kirk. However while new to the squad, Mr McKeand’s combat experience is anything but limited:

XCOM 2 diary

The mission is simple: a data tap has been set up in a suburban home, presumably to monitor nefarious ADVENT activities as opposed to suspicious bandwidth spikes immediately after each new episode of Game of Thrones has aired. The alien nasties have gotten wind of it, and must be stopped before they wipe out our glorified router.

Dropped into a grim, alternate-reality version of Wisteria Lane, I opt for an overwhelmingly tentative approach to proceedings. Not because I’m scared, but because of… something else entirely. Also any deaths might result in the affected writer one day refusing to update our best Minecraft seeds article, and we can’t be having that.

Kirk moves up the middle, Ben scuttles into a garage, and Phil hops onto the roof of the house opposite our target. Jordan, full of the enthusiasm of youth, is sent on a solo flanking mission. The term ‘cannon fodder’ gets such a bad rap these days…

A lone sectoid is spotted trying to blast our data tap to bits, and we begin to close in. Our triple-pincer all go into overwatch while Jordan scuttles forth. He’s at the door of the house and we’re still in concealment – this is going to be a doddle.

XCOM 2 diary

Turns out Phil’s spot on the roof wasn’t as secure as it seemed – not one but two ADVENT soldiers burst through the window behind him, and it’s looking like curtains. Thankfully the Triumvirate of Caution(™) kicks in: one trooper is immediately killed, while the other drops down to ground level and is quickly polished off by a Ben-Kirk one-two.

The coast is suddenly a lot less clear. Ben takes a shock baton right to the beard, Jordan panics, running around and firing blindly like your dad at paintball, and not one but two deceased enemies are reanimated in dangerous positions. They’re closing in on Jordan, the end seemingly nigh…

Thankfully Kirk’s “HERO TIME” knuckle tattoo is more than just alluring body art. He pops out of overwatch and caps one goon, before lobbing a grenade at another. It’s seemingly suicide until Jordan, no longer dazed and confused, returns the favour with a bold dash into the open to save his comrade.

XCOM 2 diary

Ben shakes off his electrocution like a man regularly on the receiving end of a police tazer (the court records are still closed), emptying his massive weapon (steady) into his assailant’s face. Phil, his elevated position now free from hostiles, takes the final shot and the coast is clear, our data now secure like government records. Except, y’know, actually secure.

Promotions ensue – Jordan is set on the path of Ranger, Kirk shall be our Grenadier, while Phil’s caring nature sees him move into the medical profession. Except for a weird ringing in Ben’s ears, the team returns in perfect help.

Now that is how you tackle a really quite easy early game mission lead. Over to you, deputy…

Mission 3: Jeremy

XCOM 2

Self-appointed XCOM rank: Magus
Tactical genius level:Passable Blood Bowl coach
Survival training:Evidently not good enough; deceased

In the course of Operation Earthly Fear, Commander Matt killed me. I mean, he didn’t pull the trigger himself, but neither did Charles Manson. It’s just a fact I’ve been left to deal with.

Corporal Barrett took a slug in the side during the sprint for evac. A surprising mistake for an Overwatch obsessive to make, but there it is. With him bedbound in the infirmary and my own doppelganger killed – just to recap – in an unconscious manifestation of Matt’s deeply held resentment of a colleague, I’m drafting in rookies Joel Gregory and Phil Iwaniuk.

Operation Vengeful Stroke is going to be a tough one. It’s a retaliation mission, designed to be harrowing, with no chance of the flighty combat avoidance tactics found in evac operations. I’ve got to rid a map of its marauding aliens – throwing squad PCGN in harm’s way if necessary to prevent the grim disassembly of the local resistance fighters.

XCOM 2

Knowing it’ll be a gruelling fight, I piece together a couple of nanoscale vests to boost our squaddies’ HP. There’s one for Joel, because without editorial hierarchy what’s left of humanity to protect, really, and one for our ranger, the newly nicknamed Fraser ‘Golden’ Brown. But gosh, wouldn’t you know it, the wardrobe’s empty by the time Corporal Matt Purslow steps into the armoury. Let’s hope he doesn’t catch a bullet.

“We’re in the pipe, five by five,” crackles the Skyranger pilot, meaninglessly, and we’re off. The good news is that the aliens aren’t short of targets that aren’t us – the desert base is teeming with civvies. The bad news is we’re to rescue at least six of them if we’re to keep the region secure and flush with supplies.

The squad is dropped on a high ridge, but with a promising sniper named Peel cut down in his prime we’ve no choice but to sprint for cover on the ground. Joel leads the charge, triggering our first sighting of an ADVENT stun lancer, accompanied by a sectoid. Lancers are psychotic creatures, keen as relay runners to jog up and stick you with a baton, so I position Corporal Purslow behind an adjacent rock in overwatch. Phil, angling for promotion to the vacant sniper position, finds cover up on the ridge.

XCOM 2

The sectoid moves first, chattering like a deranged dolphin, and Matt’s able to carve a handful of hit points from its back as it passes. Regrettably, that means he isn’t prepared to stop the lancer who runs up and jabs Fraser right in the tummy. Thankfully, however, years of similar assaults on Brown’s liver have left our golden boy with a sturdy stomach. Despite a stunning, he’s back on his feet in the next turn and able to slice the offending lancer in half. Another hangover dealt with in time for work.

The still-standing sectoid fills Joel’s mind with images of disorganised spreadsheets, sending him into a temporary panic. The editor fires wildly into nothing, but auditioning sniper Phil is readied on the cliff.

I order Matt into an ever-so-slightly vulnerable flanking position, with the aim of upping Phil’s percentage-to-hit and definitely not with any intention of getting him killed. Our would-be sniper puts the sectoid down, earning that promotion, but Matt’s also pulled a couple of ADVENT troopers out of the shadows. He’s exposed, crouched uncomfortably behind a fruit-and-veg stall. In what could be his last moments, he probably wonders about another soldier he once left in a similar position. Begins to understand.

XCOM 2

Fortunately for Purslow, the troopers are too busy felling unarmed civilians to issue rough justice. He manages to squeeze off a round at the nearest, knocking it out of overwatch, allowing the rest of the squad to edge forward. Phil finishes the job, and the other trooper scarpers for better cover. Success! Only, one of the civvies in sight turns out to be nothing of the sort, malforming into a 10-foot tall porridge-induced nightmare – the Faceless. Matt is back in jeopardy.

The cogs turn and team PCGN leaps into action. ‘Golden’ Brown leans out from behind a rock to take a chunk off the monster’s total, and Matt lends his rifle. The shapeshifting abomination slops to the ground, melted face filled with lead.

Never one to let the squad forget its objectives, Joel goes out of his way to evac a civilian – bringing the team back on track with the efficiency of a five-minute Skype call.

XCOM 2

There are screams in the darkness as unseen aliens pelt the locals with plasma. While we’ve busied ourselves endangering and then undangering Matt, ADVENT have murdered four friends of the resistance. A boom from a warehouse indicates that troopers are busy making holes in the rest and gives us our final waypoint.

Matt volunteers to go first, attracting the attention of yet another sectoid-lancer combo, with a trooper bringing up the rear. Phil lobs a grenade, depriving the sectoid of cover, and Purslow ensures it won’t be filling anybody’s head with excel nightmares. He’s punished with a near-deadly punch from the stun lancer.

Meanwhile, the trooper clambers up a drainpipe to the warehouse roof, raining down fire on Joel. Our editor takes a wallop, and suddenly things are serious. I’m going to need to be careful if there’s to be a job waiting for me once this is all over.

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The last moments of the match tick along like clockwork. Phil, happily exploring a natural and previously unexplored proclivity for headshots, lands a crit on the lancer from behind his tree. Matt’s wounded and out of ammo, but now free to send his drone over to heal the editor.

Joel, the only PCGN soldier whose XCOM physique resembles his own and not a far-flung fantasy, hops up a ladder and stacks against a first floor entryway into the warehouse. Covering overwatch fire comes courtesy of ‘Golden’ Brown, but it’s not necessary. Against the odds, Matt makes the shot from two floors down, punching through brick, alloy helmet and finally yellowed skin to halt the trooper’s brain, and the ADVENT tactical machine with it. Vengeful Stroke ends in victory.

It’s promotions all round. Matt’s new nickname? ‘The Redeemed’.

Next time on XCOM 2 diaries: will Phil Iwaniuk’s good fortune continue under the command of his namesake, deputy editor Phil Iwaniuk?

Mission 2: Matt

XCOM 2 diaries Matt

Self-appointed XCOM rank: Rookie
Tactical genius level: Middling
Survival training:A decade in retail

Operation Dying Spear was a grand old success story for Fraser. I, on the other hand, am less good at XCOM. I’m a self-confessed save scummer in my own campaign, but can’t use those ‘skills’ here since we’re Ironmanning. So, a touch scared, I strap myself in for Operation Earthly Fear: a VIP extraction.

The squad rappels to the ground and lands without breaking a leg, but that’s about all the good news we have for today. Intel informs us that the VIP scientist we’re looking for is locked in the back of a van down the street, so Jeremy moves to get closer to the target. Some civilians see him dart into cover, and our concealment is immediately removed. (Seriously, do civvies tweet what they see? @ADVENT #XCOMarehere)

XCOM 2 diaries

My yellow-uniformed avatar joins Jeremy and spots a Sectoid and his ADVENT buddy. Since our concealment is ruined they quickly sprint forward to challenge us. Ben’s thankfully on hand with his ridiculous chaingun, and is able to mince the ADVENT trooper – who stupidly didn’t find cover – to paste. Fraser bolts after the Sectoid, but it scampers away. With a bit of distance between them, the Sectoid is free to resurrect his dead buddy.

We all move up to the van where the VIP lives, and Jeremy sets up by the back doors to get a good view of the street. There’s our Sectoid pal and his ADVENT zombie pet, but other than that it seems clear. Determined to shake my reputation from last mission, I unload a few rounds into the Sectoid, but it’s just not enough. Ben follows up the shot, but the bug-eyed monstrosity still stands. Fraser has a big decision to make: his shotgun doesn’t have the range, but if he heads into the open he can kill the Sectoid easy. No one else seems to be around, so he steps up.

XCOM 2 diaries

The move is a success! The sectoid is blasted back into a bush, and the zombie coughs up the last of its lungs as it crumples. But this is no victory. The fog of war clears, revealing a sneaky ADVENT duo hiding behind the van. Fraser’s in full view. There’s no way he’s not doomed.

Or is he? Jeremy’s got the drop on them; they can’t see him hiding at the back of the van. He hurls a grenade to their feet and sends the weakest troop pinwheeling across the street in a fountain of gore. A superb move, but the glory doesn’t last. The ADVENT commander sprints down the side of the van and unloads into Jeremy’s face. He collapses into the gutter, his internal organs dribbling into a storm drain.

PCGN XCOM CASUALTIES: ONE

XCOM 2 diaries

Reacting quickly, I run to the edge of the van to shoot back at the ADVENT commander.

Click. Click. Click.

There’s no bullets left in the magazine! And having moved already, I’d need to waste the turn reloading. God damnit, this is so typical me! Rather than waste the turn, I summon in my drone to hack the door on the van, releasing the VIP prisoner inside. The scientist bales out and sprints down the street, the evac site now in view.

Fraser steps in to sort out the mess I’ve made, eliminating the commander easily. The streets are now clear, but the skies are not. An ADVENT dropship swoops in and three fresh troops jump out, shrieking and aiming magnetic rifles at us. Things are rapidly going downhill.

XCOM 2 diaries

I slam a fresh magazine into my rifle and shoot at the closest reinforcement, which thankfully goes down easily. Fraser obliterates a second with a grenade. Ben has started to panic, so can’t do anything this turn, opting to crouch down and scream instead.

The final ADVENT trooper moves in, but stays eerily stationary. Not thinking, Ben sprints past him in an attempt to reach the evac zone. The ADVENT trooper was, naturally, on Overwatch, and so fires three well-aimed shots at his moving target. Ben’s side bursts open. Thankfully he’s a hardy lad, so he’s damaged but not out. In an attempt to redeem myself, I lean out and fire at the trooper, who by a miracle goes down easy. Not that that’ll make me a hero in my peers’ eyes.

XCOM 2 diaries

And that’s it. With the VIP secure and every alien scumbag in the street dead, the three surviving PCGN XCOM members solemnly grab hold of ropes and pull themselves up onto the Skyranger to extract.

Rest in peace, Jeremy. You were a gentle soul, too good for this world. Probably best you’re dead, really.

XCOM 2 diaries

Next time on XCOM 2 diaries: Jeremy takes the commander seat, and will likely do everything in his power to make sure Matt dies.

Mission 1: Fraser

Self-appointed XCOM rank: Colonel
Confidence level:
Brimming
Survival training:
A lifetime living in Scotland

I have the easiest task out of all of us. I have been paintballing at least twice, being Scottish I’m used to being the underdog, and I’m not bad at XCOM. Also, being the first person up to bat, I get the easiest mission, though also the one with the weakest squad.

Confidence, I have in spades, but there’s a tiny bit of doubt in my mind as I accept the PCGN crew’s first mission: Operation Dying Spear. You see, ever since XCOM 2 came out, I’ve been boasting in PCGN’s team chat . Like, a lot. If I was on the receiving end, I’d be bloody sick of it, frankly. This would be the perfect time for the cocksure arsehole to mess everything up.

I won’t, of course, because I’m great. But what if I do?

My four-man squad for this mission is as follows: me, Ranger; Ben, Grenadier; Jeremy, Sharpshooter; and Matt, Specialist. We’re all very handsome and excellent and the ADVENT are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. The mission: infiltrate an ADVENT city, kill all the bad guys and escape with some data. No bother.

We enter the city concealed, with our objective just up the road. Close by, there’s one of those giant ADVENT sentry towers, so the first order of business is to hack the tower and maybe get a lovely bonus. Matt, you’re up! My feature-writing pal sends his adorable wee drone to the tower and starts working away. And by working away, I mean endangering the entire mission because Matt is the worst.

Our golden-haired specialist’s hacking skills leave a lot to be desired. Our enemies now know where we are, and they’re heading our way. They’ve also started firing on the device filled with all the data we’re trying to steal. Good job, Matt. Maybe he’s an ADVENT spy. Are you, Matt? Like he’d admit it if he was.

We’re now surrounded by Sectoids and ADVENT soldiers, but I suppose that means we don’t have to hunt them down. First blood to me, as I peek around a corner and introduce a new friend to my shotgun. They get along very well and now he’s dead. Not one to be outdone, Ben attempts to murder his own guy, but unfortunately hits air. Let it not be said that he doesn’t look very cool while missing, however.

Our foes thankfully have Stormtrooper precision, and miss all of their shots. Only the Sectoid manages to actually do anything, by raising the chap I just killed. It’s zombie time. Shooting a zombie is just a waste of bullets when you can just kill the Sectoid and get rid of both. Unfortunately, none of us are even close to the alien, and we’re locked down by overwatch. Jeremy takes care of that with his sniper rifle, thankfully, and we’re free to get rid of the creepy, lanky bastard.

It’s time for Matt to make up for his earlier cock up. He misses a point blank shot. Matt. Matt. God damn you. Ben’s got the right idea, though. Countless news shifts have filled him with rage, so he blows up the entire building that the Sectoid is hiding in, badly injuring it and making it run for cover.

The squad follows this dramatic attack up with another kill. Things are looking good. Really good.

Matt is now mind controlled.

Thank goodness Matt is useless, and misses his attack on Jeremy. The zombie strikes at me and is similarly not very good at XCOM 2. I save Matt’s life by blowing the Sectoid’s head off, and with a second attack, I take down his ADVENT buddy. There’s only one enemy left, and one final chance for Matt to redeem himself. He aims, he shoots… he misses by a mile. Jeremy finishes things up with a lucky snipe.

Despite Matt’s best efforts, the mission is a complete success. Indeed, you might even call it flawless. The game does.

Tomorrow, Matt takes over. God help us.

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