Review by Adanis
Reviewed: 01/01/01 | Updated: 01/01/01
Ahhh, a truely engrossing classic
It turns out that all the loons out there who reckon UFO's exist and are invading Earth are actually right about it all, (and let us get this straight now, in reality UFOs don't exist outside of some attention-seeker's imagination). With the increased sightings and reports of abductions the world's governments have no option but to work together and pile a load of cash into a project known as X-COM: UFO Defense. X-COM is a special operations group designed to investigate and combat the alien threat; it consists of the worlds finest scientists, soldiers, engineers, air-fighter craft, weapons and technology. So guess who's in charge of it all? That's right, you. You control every little aspect of it from whom to hire/fire, what facilities to build, who does what in both air & ground combat (both of which are fought very differently) and amongst many other things the spending of the cash. It's mainly a turn-based strategy game at the end of it all with loads of stuff to discover and do, and the main emphasis of the game is placed on tenseness and atmosphere.
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first shall we? Whilst not abysmal (in fact the graphics actually do the job suitably) in today's day and age when you first play the game you wonder if someone's taking the mick. Pretty flat, repetitive and uninspired the graphics are far below par when compared to even your shabby-looking games nowadays. The only really redeeming feature of the graphics is the globe sphere which moves quite smoothly, but even that's of a low standard. Having said all that, you don't really notice how bad they are after about 5 minutes of playing.
Great stuff here. Nothing spectacular or even special, the sound has been brilliantly worked to give the game a real tense, sci-fi feeling. The ''Geoscape'' (when you're out of combat) music is great and you can let it play over and over without it becoming repetitive, it really makes you feel as if your waiting for some disaster or event to happen. In-combat music isn't really music at all, it's just a beat in the background that keeps the hairs on your neck standing. It's not all good though, the screams and explosions aren't bad, but there could have been a little more variety with the effects, as well as a bit more ''omph''.
Now let's get to the nitty gritty of the game, this is good - real good. It takes a few goes to get into it and it can be a bit unforgiving at times for the beginner, but bloody hell this is addictive stuff. Managing your facilities and resources is enjoyable enough, but the core element of the gameplay comes in preparing for and taking part in combat on-foot. Combing and securing crash-sites, infiltrating landed alien spacecrafts and alien bases, protecting your own bases from alien raids and protecting cities from alien terror attacks are all immensely tense and fun experiences. It's hard to convey in a review just how good combat feels, but the best way is as ''edge of your seat stuff''. After combat you research the alien technology and species you have acquired to become bigger, richer and harder which makes the game very, very rewarding. When you first play you don't know quite where everything is going and surprise after surprise pops up, and after finishing several times playing on the ''Superhuman'' setting without returning to previous saves presents a good challenge.
However the game is not without it's faults though, when your soldiers go up a rank they are killed far to easily for veterans and even the stronger armour you acquire doesn't make enough of a difference. They also can decide to do their own thing and move totally illogically now and again (which can be a right pain when it happens at vital moments) and having to re-arm your troops every time you enter combat is a bit repetitive. The time-units allocate for certain actions are also a tad bizarre, but although these bad points are noticeable they don't actually affect the gameplay to a great extent.
You'll come back, oh yeah you'll come back. It's one of those games you get an urge for and, even though you'll uncover most of the secrets the first time around, there's always different options, tactics and goodness to try out. Man, this game is good.
Buy or Rent?
You can probably buy this for a fiver nowadays, possibly cheaper. But even if it was around £30 I'd still say splash the cash and buy it ASAP.
Summary: After my first play I was left thinking ''what a pile of crap'', four years later I've just finished it for the ump-teenth and can't wait for my next urge to play it. If your not to much of a trigger-happy freak and like your games with oodles of gameplay and depth then look no further, X-COM: UFO Defense is for you.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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