X-COM: Apocalypse

apocalypseThere have been high expectations for the follow-up to X-COM: UFO Defense, one of the best turn-based strategy games ever for the PC. After a disappointing sequel, Terror From the Deep (which was little more than X-COM underwater), MicroProse has fired back with all-new graphics, a new story line, and some significant changes in gameplay. While X-Com: Apocalypse will certainly strike a chord with fans of the original, there are some minor drawbacks that keep it from eclipsing X-COM in terms of sheer fun.

For the uninitiated, X-COM stands for Extraterrestrial Combat Unit, a group of futuristic soldiers that you recruit to fight an alien invasion. As the supreme commander of X-COM, you manage your resources (budgets, purchases, research), and wage war on the aliens by commanding your troops in battle. Previous X-COM games were fought on a global scale. In Apocalypse, almost the entire game is focused within MegaPrimus, a futuristic self-contained city under constant attack from aliens.

MegaPrimus is run by a group of corporations that fund your operation. You have to make sure they’re happy if you want to keep the cash flowing in. One way to do that is to shoot down UFOs as they threaten the city. A neat feature lets you watch the battles over the cityscape between your interceptors and the aliens’ UFOs. Missed shots will damage buildings, which can seriously tick off the companies that own them, possibly resulting in a decrease in funding.

The game develops along lines that’ll be familiar to X-COM gamers. You have a base, troops, some basic equipment, and a little cash. From this humble beginning, you must hire new personnel, purchase equipment, improve your base, research new technologies, and build new bases, while fighting one alien intrusion after another.v

Snap101The other way to deal with the aliens is to take your troops out and face them head-to-head. As in the original, this is the real heart of the game. A successful mission means you bring home more experienced troops and lots of alien items that can be researched to give you new technology and better weapons. The standard turn-based combat that X-COM veterans love is still here with some handy new features: troops can be assigned to any of six squads, and you can now have troops lie prone for stealth and a steadier aim. You can also set their aggression level.

Real-time play is something new to X-COM. Without the need to worry about how many turns each unit has, your soldiers will fire at will when they spot the enemy. It’s a virtual melee, with shots going everywhere. You’ll still be able to click on any unit and set specific orders like throwing grenades and using medkits — you can even pause the combat to set new orders. There’s also a control option to group troops into small squads, which is especially handy for getting multiple soldiers to quickly fire at a specific target.

The shift in gameplay, Windows support and the sharper graphics are enough to pick up X-COM Apocalypse. It might not be as revolutionary as the first game, but it still beats the competition.

System Requirements: 80486DX4 CPU, 16 MB RAM, 50 MB HDD, Win95

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