X-COM: UFO Defense

Classic squad-level alien blasting.

Snap89_1While most strategy gamers would probably name the Civilization series of games as the “best” strategy games ever, a small but vocal minority would put the X-COM series on that throne (or, at least, the seminal X-COM UFO Defense). Few fans of turn-based games would argue against putting X-COM near the top, and it’s easy to understand why: it combines a fun, randomized tactical battle system with a strategic layer in just the right mix -you rarely got tired of either.

The series posits waves of alien invasions and the secret force—X-COM—put together to combat them. The problem with UFO Defense as designed was that it was built for DOS only, and assumed much more modest systems than we have today. You might encounter some problems while running the thing on Windows 95/98, as the game will run much too fast. Then, of course, there’s the graphics. If you can handle retro gaming, you won’t have a problem. If, however, you think of 640×480 as low-res, well, then, don’t expect a lot with this package.

The gameplay, however, is still the same wonderful stuff it was before. If you’ve played the games before, you’ll be able to dive right in. If you’re new to the series, though, you’ll have to go through the unpleasant task of reading the manual. You start the game with a base in a location of your choosing, and a certain amount of funds. You’ll have the entire globe at your disposal, rendered in full 3D. In the Geoscape mode, you’ll be able to look at an overhead view of your base, add facilities to it or manufacture various weapons and tech.

Sooner rather than later the aliens will start invading, and it’s your job – as the title hints – to form a solid defense against their onslaught. You can send your Interceptor to shoot a UFO down before it lands, for instance, or send in a Skyranger full of soldiers to clear an area. There’s also an isometric, turn-based tactical battle screen when things get personal between your troops and the aliens. But soldiers don’t always have to kill aliens – they can take it alive, and learn from their technology to boost your own.

Snap96_1The first few missions will be tough, however. You, as the puny humans, are basically analogous to the poorly organized Russian hordes at the outbrake of Operation Barbarossa. Your men gain experience through battle, but start off weak and have to face off aliens with superior firepower… not to mention their perfect aim. And you might expect to fight against just one race of aliens, but you’d be wrong. The first batch you’ll meet are called the Sectoids, but I counted six major races in all.

Once the mission is completed successfully, your soldiers automatically collect all the corpses and technology – and possibly unconscious aliens – that were not destroyed. The X-COM scientists can then study this stuff, improving the available technology and gaining information about the weird ways of the aliens. And that’s how it goes until either side vanquishes the other in this retro turn-based classic!

System Requirements: 386/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, DOS

Tags: XCOM UFO Defense PC Game Download Review