I was still finishing college when my classmates were playing the original UFO Enemy Unknown in 1994 (I could not play the game, due to various other social engagements at the time…). The game itself was a successor of a less known Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum game called Laser Squad (which I did play). Quaint old fashioned titles they were! The story harks back to the days when the plot was easy and the good guys were angst free. The brand new XCOM Enemy Unknown is worthy of its elders. Commander, you head a squad of elite soldiers from around the world, tasked with blowing up nasty aliens intent on abducting and enslaving humankind. The global battle awaits and you’ll need research and engineering acumen to turn the tide.
Playability: Walk in the woods
The tutorial does a great job of getting new players familiar with the workings of the game. The rules of XCOM Enemy Unknown are chess like clear and open up a world of tactical combinations to suit a variety of playing styles. On easy mode, the game is challenging enough for old video gamers without being fastidious. A fair amount of save and re-load will be necessary to blow up the mothership (yes, there is a mothership to blow up). On impossible iron man/woman setting, players in the prime of their teenage years will find enough meat to chew on.
Annoyance: Low on ammo
Games can conveniently be saved pretty much anytime, anywhere, except during combats. So before you open a hatch on a squad of alien berserkers, better check your weapons and click on the save shortcut. With enough patience, it’s nigh impossible not to save mankind on easy or classic mode. That means crawling and hunkering down, silently waiting for enemies to fall into a well planned ambush. Chess players and old video gamers will feel at home, while first person shooters will need to hold their horses unless they want to see their squad mowed down systematically. There are still a few minor bugs here and there, but overall XCOM Enemy Unknown is stable and playable on lower end machines (like your work laptop…).
Beauty: Good looking enough
A little more variety in squad composition (like piercings, tattoos, earrings, underwear etc) would have been nice. The members of the squad tend to be a little too similar, with haircut that’s not too fashionable. An Elite Soldier downloadable content (for a little extra cash) lets you customize your character a lot more, but it would have been great to have it in the base game. A few more maps, cityscapes and landscapes would have also provided additional variety to gameplay. Nevertheless, UFO Enemy Unknown has great character animation: both aliens and humans look real and likable enough (the game uses the Unreal game engine to make things more lively between turns).
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Excellent Remake 9/10
UFO Enemy Unknown is a great romp and a lot of fun. For old video gamers it brings back the nostalgia of days when time was not money (the game is still a time hog). The gameplay is neatly designed and the immersion near immediate. An engaging campaign that keeps you on your toes, great animation, accessible tactical gameplay and the occasional b movie punch lines make XCOM Enemy Unknown an instant classic.