It was back in 1993, when an unknown company, Microprose, released “X-Com: UFO Defence” or “UFO Enemy Unknown” as I knew it. Most games of that time were really basic, in fact the only other memorable games was Wing Commander and Alone in the Dark. But this new gaming era spelt doom to the platform based games, and the games geeks created in their spare time. What would follow over the next few generations would be less and less home made, and more business orientated products. Things people would go out and spend their money on.
Of course your graphics card will be able to handle it, no matter what make, or version, or even the amount of ram you have. Even if you don't have a graphics card and use an onboard one, all are welcome here. How often do you get a promise like that? So that's another thumbs up. Making you wonder, in about 10 year's time, what kind of computers will we have? Also, will Crysis look dated or even run properly, because computers are too fast?
The screen resolution is a pityful 320x200, which was then blown up to the CRT monitor size you had. For most computers of that time it meant a screen of 640x480. Nowadays the same is still true, but it now means a 320x200 screen is now blown up to a screen size of 1024x768 or greater. This means that you will notice the poor resolution on screen, but on the up side, the fps ran at about 700 to 1000.
Another issue will be the speed the game runs at. Of course the game was designed to run at a CPU speed of around 100 – 200 MHz, so today's processors, running at GHz, will find this as easy as pie. On the down side, this game will probably run a little too fast. So bullets, movement, and other objects in motion, will be fast so don't blink. So it is advisable to slow all the object movements to the lowest settings, which can be accessed in the game map options menu. Some patience is required with the scroll, even at the lowest setting it is way too fast. A steady hand and a gentle temperament, is required!
Even with all the above issues, there is something about this classic, something that still rivals today's games. If you do get your hands on a copy, keep it! All the X-Com games after, not to say they don't have their own merits, only cashed in on this great classic. This aging title still has plenty of the right qualities, which makes it as enjoyable today as it was 15+ years ago.
You are X-com, set-up by all the governments of the world, to investigate, and ultimately to do something about the increased alien presence. You start off with one base, waiting and investigating the UFO's in the skies. Soon you'll have your chance to capture, destroy, and probe them (See how they like it!) as you work your way through the game. Missions come in several forms from shooting down alien crafts, cleaning up the mess when they land, save terrorised humans, and Base attacks.
The first mission is normally to shoot down a UFO. In the early stages this is fairly tricky as you use earth bound technology. UFO's tend to be faster, stronger, and have better weapons. So don't be too upset if your craft is destroyed. Later on, with more research you can better equip craft, protect them, and/or replace them with UFO modified ones.
Once you have an UFO craft on the ground, you can send in a team to retrieve the alien technology. But be warned as some aliens may have survived, and won't respond to diplomatic solutions. “Great, just the way I like it!” Plus there are other ground type missions, for example, if a UFO lands on its own accord, if they terrorise cities, attacking their bases, or if they attack yours. The goal is always the same, to neutralise the enemy, and bring home the goodies. Neutralising the aliens come in two forms, first by killing them, or by stunning them. They can also flee the mission area, but it rarely happens.
A simple turn based game; I think it was the first real one, and probably the best. You are given a set number of points to perform movement, firing, and other such abilities. Once you have finished with your chess like move, you hand over to the alien side. Your finger nails at the mercy of your teeth, just like your men at the mercy of the aliens. As your men go through missions, they are awarded points, ranks, and level up. Soon, your little squad gain more points and are able to deal much more alien death! Later on, this does make it slightly too easy, as you will probably find out yourself. There are a few certain tricks of the game, one being that using the mind control; you can complete the whole mission from the safety of your ship. But again this also is one of the games joys!
After completing a mission, and bringing all the alien items home, from bodies to whole UFO's. This is when the real fun begins, because now you have alien technology to work with. Investigating the alien menace, first you have to research the alien devices, then to manufacture something to counter this problem. At first with just one base, this is quite a challenge, but later on with more bases, you can dedicate a single base to being pure research or manufacture. However in later stages, Aliens will start to attack your bases, so a word of warning you should have some soldiers to protect it, even if they are rookies.
There is a huge amount of things to research and exploit, almost becoming a game in itself. Ultimately, this is a good reason to dedicate an entire base to research and one just for manufacturing. Later on you will have access to Plasma Weapons, Hover Tanks, Remote Control Missiles, Mind Control Devices and other such weapons. This brings extra dimensions to what was an already atmospheric game. While these tools and can make it too easy at times, it never loses its sparkle, only gleaming brighter until the end.
There are other screens, tons of stats on every possible thing you could ever need. Things that range from your Base Stores to the amount of Production you have going on; it's a real statistician's delight. The funding screen shows how well you are doing against the alien invasion. The world comes together, as every nation contributes a small sum of money, to your funding which is revised every year. So a country may reduce its funds to you if you do badly, i.e. if aliens land on their soil and you do nothing about it. A country can even be taken over completely and the funding will be reduced to zero.
The main goal is to stop the alien menace once and for all. I really want to spoil the ending for you. However it occurs to me that many will already know, the rest are in for one big treat! But lets just say, you end up going to the Aliens home world and putting a stop to them, once and for all....? Or maybe not, well seeing as they made, many, sequels to this game!
Created in a time when sound cards where basic to say the least. You'll find the musical score very minimal. In fact the majority of the games music comes in a four beat repetition. Not great by today's standard, but arguable just as good. It's the musical heart beat track, played while hunting for aliens, striking terror deep into your soul. If people were to talk of atmosphere, this game has it by the bucket. It's simple sound track, playing a major role in this classics fame.
This game is addictive and worth playing, though the graphics may put you off a little. If you can bear with that minor point, you'll be able to see why the game did so well. It's amazing when you consider the space required is 10Mb, and barely a 100k for saved games.
Most minor points of this game stems from the fact it is so out dated. For example there is no zoom out function, but there is a map. The musical score is unbelievably simple, however it was invented for PCs that did not even know the meaning of polytone. Even though, the sound is as gripping, as when I first played this game. There is only one point I can remember being annoying, and the only one I could find today. The “Equip Soldier Screen” it doesn't remember the soldier setup you like, and they are automatically equipped. While this is a small point, at times it can be very annoying having to re-equip every soldier, the way you like it. However most of the time you'll be giving all your soldiers standard weapons, which makes this problem easier.
Old Man Rant: You young'uns! You don't know how lucky you are! In my days a computer, with a Hard disk of 100Mb, 4Mb of Ram (EMS or XMS), and more than 600Kb of (free) Base Memory was considered top of the line! You don't know how lucky you have it with your Giga Hertz this and your GUIs that (Graphic User Interfaces!). In my day it was DOS, that's Disk Operated System to you sonny Jim! You had to work for every scrap of memory! Don't get me started on the date problem, y2k bug, you young'uns make a mountain out of a mole hill!
Ahh the memories! Oh and play the game if you get a chance. It's worth a trip back in time just to see how we did things in the old days. Even if you just laugh at the state of the graphics, the quality is still 100% there. Old Man James
System Requirements Funnily enough, there is only one requirements in the readme file, but it doesn't mean it will work! 80486 Processor or Greater (Yes you have one!) About 12MB of Hard disk space (2MB being for saved Games) 2MB Ram or Greater (You don't require Expanded Memory, ie EMM386.sys, if you don't know what that is, it doesn't matter anyway!) Graphics Card (What's that? That hasn't even been invented yet!) This program may use TSR (terminate and stay resident), something I last saw on the 486. Again your can ignore this!