UFO RETROSPECTIVE Sarky Takes on the Alien Hordes!
20 years ago, I was introduced to UFO: Enemy Unknown (in the US, it was called X-COM: UFO Defence. You don’t defend a single UFO in the game. What the hell, America?). It wasn’t terribly pretty, and it certainly wasn’t easy. All the same it blew me away, and I was still playing it until I got my hands on the new X-COM: Enemy Unknown a couple of weeks ago. The game had a simple premise: UFO sightings and alien attacks have become prevalent. World governments are taking action. X-COM (Extraterrestrial Combat) is formed: A global initiative funded by a council of nations, comprised of the very best humanity could offer; scientists, engineers, pilots, weapons and soldiers. The player is the commander of the project, your mission: counter these alien attacks, recover their technology, learn who they are and why they’re attacking Earth, and eventually stop them. There were two core phases to the game. The 3D globe and its menu system was the first. From this rotating, day/night cycling world map you could build bases in any country, build research and manufacture facilities to understand and reproduce alien technology, hire scientists, engineers and sol-
diers and track UFO activity. Once a UFO was spotted, you could scramble interceptors to try and shoot it down. If you shot it down, you could send a transport craft full of soldiers out to secure the wreckage.
The aliens’ leaders ... were the most terrifying force you’ve never met.”
And this is where the game shines: When the transport touches down the game becomes turn based strategy, where you move your soldiers, wait for the movement of the aliens and any civilians present, and so on until everyone on one side is incapacitated. This part of the series remains thrilling and scary to this day. Each soldier had time units to spend on movement or using weapons, so if you moved too far you couldn’t shoot anything. It became a tense game of hide and seek, trying desperately to make sure you were covering every possible angle before ending your turn, and pray-
sarky Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien is originally from Galway, where he spent long nights in front of a computer screen ranting about how amazing Baldur’s Gate was before he first got bitten by the tabletop gaming bug. After a brief fling with wargaming he settled down into an relationship with tabletop RPGs and video games. He writes for any convention willing to pay him in single malt, hugs and baked goods.
ing your soldiers had enough time units remaining to shoot any gribblies that leapt out during theirs. The aliens were usually tougher and better equipped, so it was always dangerous; a successful mission where every soldier sur-
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