XCOM: Sentinels of Earth, Part 1
For this game diary, I’ll be playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Impossible difficulty with Iron Man mode enabled — so if I make a mistake, that’s it, no do-overs. Wish the Sentinels luck!
Top Brass weren’t so sure about putting together such an ethnically diverse squad, but alien invasions have a way of bringing people together. After some initial distrust and petty squabbling, our heroes picked up a few harsh but fair life lessons and engaged in a few alcohol-lubricated fraternizing and bar scuffles, and have now earned the trust and affection necessary to watch each others’ backs. They call themselves the Sentinels, largely because they dislike being called XCOMmers.
The Sentinels are Hadiya Mabuza (Nigeria), Patrice Girard (France, male, make fun of his name and he’ll beat you), Christine Smith (USA), and Ali Aziz (Saudi Arabia). They’ve been summoned from their plush dormitories a mile beneath the surface of Johannesburg to investigate a reported alien sighting near a diner in Cape Town. Marveling at their luck that a UFO sighting should be such a short flight from home, they hop into their awesome armored dropship and thunder across the early morning sky. They’re in high spirits. After all, the XCOM Initiative is a joke, a multinational coalition founded in order to investigate the ramblings of ufologists and intoxicated farmers.
High spirits, that is, until they land and see a whole mess of bodies covered in green goo. Oh, and nearby there’s something metallic that could only be adequately described if the words “alien” and “pod” were included.
“Well, I guess we’ll be working for our living today,” says Hadiya, except in South African.
THE FIRST MINUTE
The squad spreads out, Patrice going left into the diner parking lot while Hadiya peeks around the corner of the building and Ali stays a ways back to cover the others. Central orders Christine to move up and take cover behind the alien pod, which she thinks is a horrible idea considering the fact that they aren’t wearing hazmat suits and whatever covered the civilians in goo was possibly distributed via aerosol, but Central is persistent so she does it anyway.
As soon as Christine has moved up to the pod, she sees three squatting grey figures. They are intently examining the tiles of the sidewalk as though the seams and cracks in the cement are some sort of written language in desperate need of decoding.
Christine thinks to herself that she’s probably the first human being to see an alien, discounting all the goo-swaddled civilians that probably saw them first. Unfortunately, she spends so much time looking at the aliens that they notice her face peering around their pod. Turns out that aliens don’t like being stared at.
The instant the creatures notice Christine, they scuttle off, leaving the Sentinels waiting around for orders.
THE SECOND MINUTE
“Let’s go get ’em!” shouts Patrice. Patrice is the gung-ho member of the group.
“What if they’re peaceful?” Hadiya asks. “Shouldn’t we attempt communication?”
“They covered our people in goo!” retorts Patrice. His grin is infuriatingly smug.
Ultimately, the course of action isn’t determined by the boots on the ground, but by Control. And Control wants Patrice to channel that can-do attitude into flanking around the left side of the diner. “Can do!” shouts Patrice into his headset, making everyone wince. He runs off around the building, peeking out from behind a car to see three more aliens.
“Girard,” says Control (because although the Sentinels refer to one another by their first names, Control insists on “professionalism”), “let’s give these alien bastards a taste of earthling diplomacy!”
“Uh, I’m not so sure that’s such a good idea,” says Hadiya, but Patrice is already happily following his orders.
Patrice manages to shoot through two windows and land three rounds right into the center of the first alien’s torso. Then Patrice’s can-do melts away when he sees that not only has the alien not gone down, but now it’s staring back at him with an expression that is truly universal, one that says, “Oh, it’s on.”
Patrice calls for help, and although Hadiya thinks he’s a dork, she kicks down the back door to the diner and charges in.
Hunkering down by a rotating dish dispenser thing, which is just as alien to her as the pod outside (being a strict vegetarian, she lacks all experience when it comes to greasy spoon diners), she begins shooting at the same cluster of aliens that Patrice is firing at, but her aim isn’t as impressive as her squadmate’s. Still, her fire provides a distraction for Ali to sprint into the room, vault the counter, and set up a good defensible spot.
Outside, Christine has been left to guard the alley. She obeys the order, of course, but elects to move away from the alien pod, which is still spraying a fine green mist, and take cover behind a large metal dumpster. It’s a good thing she didn’t follow her squad, because as soon as Ali disappears into the diner behind Hadiya, two of the greys sprint out into the alley from wherever they had scuttled off to.
Christine fires at the first one and knocks it to the ground. It appears dead. She feels pretty good about that.
Inside the diner, Hadiya and Ali become the first human beings (they assume) to be fired at by alien plasma weapons. Unfortunately, this distinction, while cool, proves fatal for Hadiya.
THE THIRD MINUTE
Even though Patrice is feeling a bit deflated that his champion shot to an alien’s center mass wasn’t fatal, he’s not done playing hero. So he breaks left, taking cover behind a stone planter with a very respectable bush growing in it. It’s the perfect position for flanking the squad of three aliens that just killed his squad leader.
Since bullets haven’t worked for him, Patrice decides that a grenade ought to do the trick.
He aims the grenade to land right between the two aliens closest him, but it falls just a bit short.
As the grenade goes off, Dr. Vahlen from the office starts complaining about how explosives might ruin the alien tissue samples, to which Ali replies, “They killed Hadiya! We’ll do whatever we want to them!”
Aliendom is introduced to humanity’s absurdly powerful grenades, which not only hurls one of them into the air, but also crumbles much of the diner’s front. Unfortunately, the other two creatures are completely unfazed and unimpressed by this display of might, and instead perform a strange ritual that leaves the entire squad perplexed, except for Christine who is still watching the alley. Which means two people are perplexed.
Strange blue tendrils writhe in the air, bridging from one alien forehead to another.
“Sweet Buddha,” mutters Patrice. “I think… I think they’re pollinating each other!” Disgusted, horrified, and perturbed, Patrice raises his rifle and tries to shoot the theoretically-mating creatures, but his disgust, horror, and perturbation have left his hands shaky. His bullets travel wide of the mark.
Unfortunately, whatever process the aliens have just engaged in has left them calmed and satisfied, and their plasma bolts are depressingly accurate.
THE FOURTH MINUTE
Ali is still holed up behind the diner counter, firing sporadically at the aliens whenever they venture a peek into the room. He misses every shot, and suspects that the aliens are toying with him.
Outside, Christine has had a mild altercation with an alien, whose plasma blaster has melted the dumpster she was hiding behind, and has eaten a hole into the wall of the diner.
So she makes a tactically-sound decision.
Tragically, as Christine stumbles away from the battlefield, Ali is caught from two angles. Two aliens fire at him from the diner entrance, and two more enter through the hole behind him. Ali manages to survive one blast of plasma before the second one brings him down.
THE FIFTH MINUTE
When Christine hears that Ali is dead and she’s the last Sentinel on the field, she starts to panic. Getting a grip, she takes cover behind a garbage can on the left side of the building. Her in-suit computer tells her that she has a 70% chance of hitting the alien that is standing not ten meters away. She takes careful aim and
Christine knows what’s coming, so she starts mulling on some last words that maybe Control would get back to her family. She’s thinking that maybe she should tell her father that she just didn’t want to learn fiddle, but she doesn’t blame him for encouraging her, not anymore. She just wants to come home, and see him and his new wife.
But she takes too long thinking of something, and the alien blaster takes her off her feet.
The failure of the Sentinels is so complete that the XCOM Initiative is terminated, and within the year the aliens have enslaved basically everybody. Pretty darn embarrassing is what it is.