Review by EmP

"Invading aliens forces, and the fun destroying them brings."

X-Com: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense
Turn based Strategy


X-Com is a PC turned PSX game; not exactly uncommon, I know, but this is worth pointing out for several reasons which we will touch upon later. For the PC, this game is easy to find, it has been released and re-released in several different packages, but the tag you've seemed to have clicked on said Playstation did it not? For the PSX, this is a hard game to find, being one of the first few waves of games to be released in fact, so tracking it down might be a problem. So, is it worth finding and how does it stand the test of time?

Big gasp! Aliens are invading! Curse their scaly green hides, what are we to do? Why, how about we fund a world wide defense against the ET wannabe menace. Following my awesome logic, this is what is done, and thus X-Com is born.

Perhaps not very original, but it gets the job done. Do not expect many twists and turns as the story plays out, it's simple; the aliens want you dead and you don't want to die. But will stopping these invaders, and putting a halt to their dreaded famed probing fetishes be any fun?

This is where X-Com comes into its own, the game works like this; you will start of in a menu, with earth floating harmlessly in the middle. Choose where you want your first X-Com base to be built. Once you have the location, you have your first HQ.

From here you can build up you base, adding defenses, radars, training facilities for troops, storage, research labs, manufacturing workshops, living quarters for troops and personal and so on. You also get a hanger in which sits one of two types of aircraft. You have an attack craft, for bringing down those pesky UFO's, and a carrier, for transporting your troops to the aliens crash site/invasion location etc.

This part of the game is just as important as the battles. It's during these stages that you can develop better weapons/armor/crafts/defenses, and so on.

You can also stock up on those ammo clips and weapons that you are lacking, hire and fire troops and staff, transfer goods; the list goes on. Needless to say that you have to oversee pretty much ever aspect of the smooth running of X-Com. Used up all your grenades killing an alien? You'll need to buy and restock. Finished the level with said dead alien, and brought him back to the base? Research its rotting corpse (or indeed, interrogate it if you capture it alive) or any unknown artifacts it may be carrying. Finished researching? Know how their weapons works? Then build it, and use their own technology against them! That'll learn 'em!

You will need all the help you can get, seeing as you are being funded by the world government. Fail to do well, and your funding will be cut, or even worse, world governments will sign treaties with the alien leaders. The back stabbing, untrustworthy swines!

So you have been alerted to an alien invasion point, or downed a UFO, and your troops are ready for battle. How does this pan out you ask? Very well, I'll tell you.

The battles are turn based. You take your turn, they take their turn - simple right? Well, yes and no. Simple in theory, but it plays out in a very well worked out and affective way. You and you alien counterparts each have time units. You use up units moving from point to point, so you use units for shooting, you use units for climbing, for kneeling etc. The amount of units you use up doing these task depends on several things, the strength of the character, the amount of weight they are carrying, the terrain they are moving on; all this is taken into consideration. Also, the battlefield is blacked out, and the only way to access more is to go out and explore it. Everything your troops can see, you see. This means you have to explore those dark corners and sinister looking barns, but beware, for the aliens are doing the same.

So you have taken your go, and it's now the aliens turn, making you are just helpless targets? No, because of a little thing called reserve shots. Save some time units from your turn, and if your troops see an alien, they will take a shot at them. This gives you the option to camp out and wait for aliens you feel are hiding somewhere, but beware, for they can do the same. Many a time will you walk round a corner only to be greeted with a wall of plasma fire, which will probably be the last thing your hapless troop will ever see. But worry not; with every battle won, the better you troops will become. They will even gain promotions in military ranks.

Remember when I said this is a PC port? You will notice this now. This game is best used with a mouse, but makes full use of the PSX pad if that option is not available, even to the extent of using the shoulder buttons as shortcuts. Moving your troops is as simple as clicking on the desired troop, and then clicking where you want them to move to. Controlling their attacks, defensive posture and auto reserving time units is all done via the sub menu below the field of play. It's a little strange to begin with, but once you have it figured, you will wonder how anything else functions without it. There's a similar menu driven system outside of battle which again is quickly learnt.

The graphics make it clear it's a PC port; old PC graphics are on display, but they get the point across. Humans looking spites = good; scary looking aliens = bad. Lasers and bullets fly across the screen as you pray they hit or dash your hopes as they miss. But this is not a graphical game. Thank god.

The music does its job well. It's spooky and sets the mood of something lurking round the corner. That said, you will probably tire of it quickly as it's quite repetitive. Your guns blast and zip well and explosions also sound realistic. Again, does what it needs to do without any frills.

For strategists, X-Com is a must have. If it grabs you, prepare to lose large chunks of your social life. This is a well thought out and tense game, and you even start to care for you little troops and want to do well for them. You will, by contrast, also learn to hate those cursed aliens, and their deaths will bring a strange happiness [at least it did for me.] The game may suffer from being too deep, and again the sound and graphics only just do enough to stop them being bad points, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in a deep, addicting game in which you will need to think as much as you need to blast.

But best of luck finding a PSX copy.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/29/03, Updated 12/06/04


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