Review by chris2001
"A great, if somewhat dated game"
This is the game that launched the X-Com series, which is still going strong today. With games like this, you can see why the series has such appeal. The game amalgamates two main types of play - the resource management section which is heavily strategic, and the combat missions, which operate like a turn-based strategy game. Both are enjoyable.
The game places you in the role of head of X-Com, an agency created to terminate the alien threat to Earth. The aliens purpose on Earth is unknown, but as you proceed through the game and perform extensive research on the aliens and their technology slowly you will begin to understand more. This ''plot'' development is sure to keep you plugging away at the game until the end.
I will deal with the two main aspects of the game separately. Firstly, the resource management and base-building section. You have quite a large degree of control over your base and its staff - you can construct new areas in your base to make life easier on yourself (such as living quarters, training areas for your soldiers, and Storage areas for weapons and the like..), you can hire and fire staff (soldiers, researchers and engineers), you can buy and sell weapons, you can build more bases across the world - there is a lot to take care of. Of course, all this has to be done with a limited budget to adhere to, so planning is very important. Your income is provided by a group of funding states, who may at the end of every month either raise or lower their funding to you based on your performance - especially your performance in their area. For example, Japan will more than likely lower their funding to you if you let UFOs run rampant around Japan but shoot them down everywhere else. This is a nice touch, and contributes to the overall difficulty of the game - it's hard to keep everyone happy.
Research and development is also important to your success. When you successfully complete UFO recovery missions you will obtain alien artifacts which you can use against the aliens once properly researched. This is important because as the game progresses the aliens tend to get tougher - and your crappy machine guns and Interceptors aren't going to be effective for long! This adds a certain feeling of pressure to the game, you know if you don't succeed at the ground missions and don't research effectively you will become toast as larger, more powerful UFOs run rampant and more advanced aliens appear on the scene.
The air-to-air combat system is very, very basic, but it does the job. Once you send one of your fighters to intercept a UFO and they come in contact with each other a window with 2 blobs (your aircraft and the UFO, dummy!), a radar-style thingy, and a few buttons pops up. You use the buttons to set your aircraft's level of aggressiveness and that's basically it. You exchange a few rounds of fire, and you either shoot the UFO down, get shot down yourself, or one of you flees. Very basic, but you have to take into consideration the age of this game.
The ground combat is where this game really shines. You take a large troop-carrying aircraft to a UFO crash scene and have to eliminate all alien presence in the area so you can recover the alien aircraft. Your soldiers have ''time units'' (TUs) which govern everything from their movement to equipping and firing weapons. Once your men are out of TUs, you click end turn and the aliens have their go. Simple, but wonderfully effective. In combat, with most weapons you have a choice of shot, you can use more accurate shots which use more TUs or less accurate ones that cost fewer TUs, depending on the situation. Grenades, smoke grenades, and a whole assortment of other equipment are available to add variety to the combat.
You don't just engage in combat at UFO crash sites either. From time to time, you may detect a UFO that has landed, and you can send a team to investigate there, although there will be more aliens present in this case, and the mission will be more dangerous, but with greater rewards in terms of researchable equipment, your mission score, and suchlike if you succeed. If you neglect an area, the aliens may send a large craft to a civilian area and create a ''Terror Site''. Here, if you choose to investigate, your objective is to eliminate all aliens in the area while also protecting the civilian population of the area. Your base may also be attacked by aliens if they manage to locate you, leaving you in a situation where you must defend the base but must take care to protect your scientists and not do too much collateral damage. These different mission types are great - adding yet more variety to the game and keeping boredom at bay.
Okay, here's the summary. I know you didn't read all that, so here's the important stuff!
Yuck... very pixelly and not very eye-catching, especially on the world map and menu screens. Combat scene graphics are better, but still nothing to write home about, even considering the game's age.
Ugh... the menu music is absolutely awful and the sound effects are practically non-existent. Just keep the sound down - your ears would thank you if they could talk.
Brilliant - has gameplay elements which will appeal to the total strategist and the more action-orientated person. Gameplay is simple, but the game itself is most certainly a challenge to complete.
Replay value: 9/10
Will take you a while to play through, and doubtless a few failed attempts, even on the easiest difficulty level (of which there are a total of 5). Even then the game is fun enough to ensure you keep coming back, maybe to try it on a harder difficulty, maybe just to enjoy the game again.
The good, the bad, and the ugly:
The Good - Insanely enjoyable, will keep drawing you back.
The Bad - Looks and sounds very outdated - but then again it is...
The Ugly - Mutons, the ugliest alien race in the game. They even make me feel attractive.
Overall (not an average): 9/10
Buy, borrow, steal - just get it!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/17/02, Updated 05/20/02
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