* Prices may differ from that shown
Picture the scene, a UFO screams across the sahara desert, hotly pursued by two XCOM-Interceptors, who file off a barrage for rockets at it, bringing crashing into the dunes. An hour or so later, another aircraft appears on the scene, and the soldiers within start, ready thier firearms and start to disembark, only to come under alien laser fire.
Thus starts another day for the soldiers of the eXtra-terrestrial COMbat (X-COM) force.
In the early 90's UFO: Enemy Unknown was released to the unsuspecting public, an absolute masterpiece for its time.
The basic plot is that the UFO's have started to appear in the Earths skies and are not exactly friendly. Your role is the leader of the fledgling X-COM organisation.
The game is played on 3 levels.
The first is that of the management of X-COM, from buying in supplies and personell to building bases to make sure that wherever an UFO may appear in the world you can respond to it (very difficult when you can only have one base to start with). You must also manage the reasearch and manufacture of alien technology that you manage to salvage.
The second level is that of a small and basic real time air to air combat, although you can only select the style that your aircraft use to fight.
The third level and that which makes up the majority of the game is that of ground combat.
Borrowed heavily from a previous release from the creators (Laser Squad), ground combat is a turn based affair, taking turns between the forces of X-COM and the aliens. Just to add a bit off spice you can save part of your allotted turn, so that your soldiers can react and shoot at aliens that run from cover to cover. Of course, they can do the same to you to.
As you get deeper into the game, the enemy UFOs get larger and better armoured, and you must keep up with reasearching alien technology if you are to be able to repel these bigger UFOs. Once the aliens realise you are on to them they up the stakes, setting up bases and invading cities, both of which you must resolve as soon as possible.
Money is also a large aspect of the game, each country giving you funding, although if you perform poorly in thier country, they may well reduce funding, or in extreme circumstances cut it all together. Although this funding isn't your only source of income, it is very important as it is the onyl automatic income you have. Once you have reasearched alien technology you can build it for your own use (very handy when you have lasers) and also to sell outside your organisation for some extra capital.
Although this game is over 10 years old now, if you can find a modern PC that can play it without making the game run around 50 times faster than it should, I highly recommend it.
If current coders concentrated on gameplay as much as they they did back when UFO: Enemy Unknown was created games would be far better.
The best news of recent times ..... a remake is on the way
UFO Enemy Unknown is an ancient but truly timeless game that requires you to defend planet Earth from an alien invasion through a mixture of shrewd resource management and tense and exciting turn-based combat. The main game screen shows a view of the Earth that can be rotated around at will- a feature that was extremely innovative and impressive when the game first came out way back in 1993 and still looks good today. From this screen you can hire scientists to research new weapons and equipment, engineers to build them and soldiers to use them against the alien invaders. You can also build new facilities such as stores, workshops, labs, living quarters, aircraft hangers and radar facilities, with which you can detect UFOs in order to intercept them with your fighter jets. Once shot down you must then send a dropship full of troops to the crash site to investigate, at which point the game switches to an isometric viewpoint of the battlefield as turn-based combat commences.
Starting initially with assault rifles, bazookas and standard-issue grenades, your men must emerge tentatively from their transport craft to engage with the aliens your fighters have shot down, and this tends to be an incredibly tense and exciting experience as your men are picked off by their otherworldly foes at every turn as you creep forwards towards their disabled UFOs across terrain such as desert landscapes, forests and farmland. If successful, all the alien artefacts are shipped back to your base for study, allowing you to develop new weapons systems and conduct alien autopsies to identify your foes' strengths and weaknesses. Aside from developing new guns and armour for your troops you can also slowly develop new forms of propulsion craft with which to hunt down UFOs and ferry your men about, as well as ways to mimic the aliens mindcontrol techniques during combat. Alien artifacts can also be sold off to other nations should you be in need of a quick cash boost. The aliens also launch terror attacks from time to time on major cities in an attempt to turn the people of earth against you (in which case countries will cut off their funding to you and eventually fall under alien control), forcing you to fight it out amidst populated town maps as the aliens try to wipe out as many civilians as they can. They will also launch direct attacks on your bases, and you can in turn infiltrate and destroy alien bases, if and when you are able to locate them, that is.
The resource management section is immensely enjoyable and engaging, and really draws you into the game's ever-expanding narrative as you slowly expand your influence around the globe and develop new weapons with which to fend off the alien menace. The turn-based sections are incredibly addictive and atmospheric, as you never know quite what is lying in wait for your men and will likely be both outnumbered and outgunned on the majority of missions. It plays much like a game of chess, with you and the enemy taking turns at moving your 'pieces', with movement and actions (such as firing weapons, reloading or throwing grenades) each taking a certain number of turn-limited 'action points' to carry out. The landscapes are all fully destructible, and both you and your enemy have a wide range of devastating weapons at your disposal, leading to some nerve-wracking battles as you lay waste to the countryside and buildings alike in an attempt to kill the alien combatants whilst watching your men getting wiped out before your eyes.
The alien craft and species are extremely varied and full of 50s B-movie charm, including bulbous-headed greys, mind-controlling Ethereals, cybernetically modified, hovering Floaters, green, musclebound Mutantmen, amorphous Blobs and Giger-esque Chrisalyds, who are all-but bulletproof andwho if allowed to get close enough will infect your men, who then turn into Chrysalids themselves. The game allows for detailed tactics and is full of cool touches- for example guns can be fired in snapshot, aimed shot and auto-shot modes, with each mode requiring different amounts of action points, and if a mission starts going really badly with lots of your troops getting killed your remaining soldiers will often panic, causing them to waste a turn by dropping their weapons and running around aimlessly or discharging their weapons out of fear, often with disastrous results.
The graphics, whist in rather low-res VGA, are nevertheless lovingly crafted and remain easy on the eye and full of charm and character, and are packed with subtle detail. This emphasis on detail and variety is present throughout the whole game, such as in the inclusion multiple ammo types (normal, explosive and incendiary) for your rocket launchers and cannons and the availability of Heavy Weapons Platforms or HWPS, miniature tanks which can be used as backup and armour for your troops. The combat is tremendously fun and packed will cool moments- for example when one of your troops is surrounded or is only a turn away from being turned into a Chrysalid you are sometimes left with no choice but to prime a high explosive and drop it at your feet, taking out both you and your enemies on a ball of (beautifully animated) orange flame.
Its an utterly addictive game that still looks beautiful and remains a joy to play today, and is one that I have fond memories of playing well into the early hours of the morning back in the mid nineties. The ending is a massive letdown after the nigh on perfect gaming experience that preceded it, and the developers had clearly ran out of time or were anticipating ending on a striking, heavily stylised cutscene such as the one with which the game opens, but other than this the game is pretty much flawless. Tense, thrilling and incredibly deep, UFO Enemy Unknown is a true gaming classic and easily one of the best computer games ever made.
UFO - Enemy Unknown.
~ History of the game ~
This review is for the Amiga version of this game, but since this is now outdated, I'm going to be reviewing it for the PC and PS2 Versions - which essentially are the same just different platforms.
As mentioned, this was first seen on the Amiga Gaming platform, and is where I first got to know about it, and like another of my favourite games on that (Worms) this is another game which I still play today and still enjoy, even though in many respects the graphics (and sound) are pretty dated, but what makes this game is the overall playing strategy rather than the environment you get around you. But I know this will be something some people would mark it down on, but I don't because my personal preference is it doesn't detract me from the game at all.
~ So what is this about then? ~
The premise is actually quite simple. UFO's are invading earth, and not only do people begin to disappear, but Alien Bases are being established throughout Earth as they attempt to overrun our planet.
XCOM (the name given to the unit charged with defeating these Aliens) is founded as an International force, which receives funding from a number of different countries and to begin with your resources are very limited indeed.
Your mission is actually quite simple; you must stop, capture and learn about the Aliens who are invading in order to protect the planet from being overrun completely. The International force that hired you in the first place monitors your progress, and so you gain or lose funding from these countries depending on how well you manage to achieve this.
The ultimate goal is to find out where the Aliens came from and mount a direct attack on their home base in space!
~ The Gameplay ~
So, what happens? Well you are basically on earth and you have a Base in which to start your operations from. You are on a planet that is beginning to suffer from Alien attacks, hence the need for a base. You are asked to choose your location for the base around the world, and to begin with I would recommend you decide on somewhere that isn't going to cost the earth.......
*you need to maintain a good balance on your funding for a start*
The location of the base is in the Geoscape operation of the game, which basically means you get to see the various continents and countries around the world. You start with one base, but the idea is to try and increase this number, preferably to more than one base per continent. You can also monitor where there might be Alien bases, Alien UFO's * either in flight, crashed or landed *. And other areas of activity going on around you.
The overall premise is really two fold. You have the strategic side of operations which needs you to monitor what is happening around your base or bases. You must build specific base requirements as needed (accommodation, laboratories, workshops and hangers etc).
You must also try and ensure research is carried out to help you defeat the Alien threat.
Research is particularly important in getting better weaponry to help you fight the Aliens since most Earth items are simply not good enough for the job.
You have Soldiers to command, as well as needing to ensure you have enough workmen and workspace to manufacture new weapons or personal armour items to help you.
You have a budget, which as already mentioned can be decreased or increased by the funding International nations depending on how well individual countries believe you are doing.
You can also gain additional funding as you go along by selling on items once you've researched or manufactured them to other people to help them with their battle.
This is useful not only to gain additional money, but to also help maintain a good working relationship with the International Council.
You start off with a base with limited facilities, one main craft which you can take troops out to fight the Aliens on the ground with, one Interceptor Craft, which is used to try and bring down UFO's, as well as a limited number of soldiers to start with to go out to the sites.
The other main aspect of the game is the Battle zones. Here you will need to go out to either areas where a UFO has crash landed (rather than completely destroyed), Alien Terror Bases, where Aliens have landed to bring about a short but intense reign of terror on an area, or the more permanent Alien Bases they might have set up.
To begin with, your really only going to bring down UFO's and then go out to the crash point. It's important you do this because you need to try and get as much information about not only the Alien technology you will find there, but also the Aliens themselves. You have the ability to build Alien Containment areas on the bases for this very purpose.
Without getting this information you won't then be able to pass on a lot of information for the researchers back on base to look at, meaning you won't then be able to develop viable weapons to help counter the Alien threat, and also then build Space Flight ready craft, which is what you will need to do if you manage to get to the 'end' of the game and attack the Aliens on their home territory.
~ The appeal of the game ~
As I've said, this is fairly basic to look at, with graphics that haven't really changed much since the original release of the game! And while that might horrify some people, the graphics are not what the game is about, and while it has a mix of 2 and 3 D graphics (depending on where you are in the game), the actual game is strategy, mixed with management of your resources, let alone the tactical combat situations you might have to think about.
The PC version is only XP compatible, and even then you will need to ensure you have patched version to ensure the graphics hold up! * Did I mention that the graphics are only basic? ;) *
You need to have money management hat on one minute, battle tactical hat on the next and before you know it, your then having to look at overall strategy of what is happening around you.
The game can end in a number of ways (usually not in your favour I have to add - But that is another reason I find it so challenging).
If the funding group of International Countries considers your performance poor for 2 months in a row, you run at a loss for 2 consecutive months or Aliens capture all your bases - You lose!
If you mount an attack on the Aliens main base in space - And lose - You lose the game (in other areas you can mount attacks on a base, lose that particular battle but still regroup and try again later).
If though you manage to win when you mount the assault on the main Alien base, then this means you finally win the game.
~ Final thoughts ~
This is another one of those games, which still hold up strongly in terms of how it plays today, compared to when it was released. But, because it was so well executed right at the beginning of its reign, its success is built on that. I can't think of many games today whether new or old which have such excellent tactical elements; strategic elements with the ability to still have something new and unexpected thrown at you as you play.
So, the graphics are nothing special, hell the overall look and sound of this is dated and yet if you're willing to look beyond that and dig a little deeper this is possibly one of the most addictive and satisfying games you will encounter. At least, it is for me. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of excellent games of a similar genre out there today, but not many can offer the same depth of satisfaction in playing them I've always managed to get from this game, no matter how dodgy it all might still look.
Cheats are readily available online if you really want to go in that direction, but personally I think if you did that you really would be missing out completely on what makes this game tick.
5 out of 5, not for the graphics or sounds, but for the game play and its longevity.
The game itself has come out in a number of different versions now, and my understanding is they are listed as follows:
* X-COM: UFO Defense
* X-COM: Terror from the Deep
* X-COM: Apocalypse
* X-COM: Interceptor
* X-COM: Email games
However, I've not played other versions of the game, so don't know how they might compare to this one.
UFO - Enemy Unknown is a combat simulation for one player.