UFO: Enemy Unknown – Tactical action from the genius behind Rebelstar.
When you have ghosts who you going to call? Ghostbusters of course, but what if invaders from Mars have camped out on your lawn and eating all those coy carp granddad got for you from the garden centre? You call those nice people from X-Com and then your insurer to settle the inevitable property damage bill. Taking control of this super secret organisation that wear purple jumpsuits and think nothing of deploying weapons of mass destruction into urban areas you must dispatch the alien scum back to Mars and take care of day to day management using that most deadly weapon, the spreadsheet.
Starting out with a single pre-fabricated base placed at your discretion, although having it in North America or Europe is a good idea as they provide the bulk of your UN funding complete with a pair of jet interceptors to shoot down any detected UFOs and a single troop transport to get your soldiers to any crash sites or landings. You start finding small four man craft that can easily be shot down with conventional weaponry. Once they are on the ground you can send in your soldiers for what makes up the bulk of UFO’s gameplay.
With your first encounter with the alien menace, one thing will immediately become clear. Humanity as it stands is doomed. The first species of alien encountered while psychically weak all wield plasma weaponry that can kill with a single shot and grenades that can reduce a whole buildings to rubble. Any mission in the first few months of the game with less than 50% mortality can be considered a success. Assuming you complete the first mission without everyone dying you can then fly everything back to your base and start the second most important thing in UFO, the research phase.
At first, you may be overwhelmed by the different options. Do you research alien alloys to make better body armour and improve your soldier’s odds of surviving an alien attack or do you research the scavenged weaponry and fight plasma with plasma? So what about the aliens themselves. Only by performing autopsies or studying live specimens can you discover their origins and weaknesses and ultimately their point of origin.
‘brain-rape your solders turning them into paranoid wrecks’
As the days and months tick by and you become more adept at countering the alien incursions. By reverse engineering their technology in your labs, Plasma rifles and powered flight suits can be used by your solders to new aircraft that can fly faster and further while carrying more firepower to intercept bigger and bigger alien craft. However, as your competence increases greater numbers of aliens start to appear with new species each with their own abilities from the psychic Ethereals that can brain-rape your solders turning them into paranoid wrecks to massive Sectopods that will ignore all but the strongest weapons and charge across a map to gore you.
From time to time, the aliens are not content with just skulking around the countryside probing cows and abducting rednecks. When they need more victims or just want to fuck shit up they instigate a terror attack. Rather than the isolated rural surroundings of normal missions, these attacks take place in major cities across the globe and have a much different feel to them. Most become a desperate fight try to protect innocent civilians or prevent any that have been implanted by the aliens into turning into zombies and infecting others. Open fields and trees are replaced by narrow streets and rows of stores making it harder to root out the invaders, unless their stupid enough to stand next to what we know to be petrol pump.
‘the UN funding doesn’t go far enough’
Alongside with the combat sections and research and manufacturing other resource management needed includes recruiting new solders, building new base facilities from bigger radar arrays to holding cells for live aliens and the selling of excess materials for a few extra bucks for when the UN funding doesn’t go far enough. When building new facilities you chose where to place them on the base, which at first seems a bit of a pointless detail until the aliens come calling…
Striking even closer to home, the aliens will sometimes attack your base/s you did remember to build so defences right? Depending on how well you can damage the incoming craft your base will become the battleground for up to two dozen invaders along with any aliens you may have locked up in containment. Here simple choices you made during the start of the game like placing the hangar next to the living quarters will have huge implications as your solders desperately scrabble to find their equipment from the stores on the other side of the base.
After a year or so of game time, you should have enough information and good enough spacecraft to take the fight to the aliens and strike at their hidden base at Cydonia. Here you fight your way across the surface of Mars and down into the planets core and ultimately to the alien’s commander.
Turn based strategy was nothing new when UFO was released which itself was a highly developed version of the old 8-bit Laser Squad game. What UFO added was more depth and gameplay outside the battlescape along with evolution of the battlescape itself including a day to night cycle that made equipping flares a must and destructible scenery later in the game when the fusion launcher became available.
‘isn’t abandonware any more’
As with older 16-bit era games its considered abandonware* and can be found for free here* it’s well worth checking out and when you’re done you can play its sub-aqua sequel UFO – Terror from the Deep.
* Yeah sorry but since writing this PP feature UFO isn’t abandonware any more but on the upside you can now download it for just a few shekles from Steam along with the entire X-Com backcatalogue.