1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Better than the best ... maybe ?,
This review is from: UFO Trilogy (PC DVD) (Video Game)
In the beginning, after the Garden of Eden but before computer games, there was Gerry Anderson and he was good. In fact he was one of the most brilliant and innovative creators of children's television ever - "Joe90", "Firebird XL5", "Stingray", "Thunderbirds", "Terrahawks", "Space 1999" and "UFO". Unusually "UFO" was largely live action (most of Anderson's work used, for the time, very life like puppets). It was a cold war era excerise in tension with Earth spending huge amounts of money on space tracking systems, space interceptors, submarines, space stations, and tracked armoured vehicles (mobiles) and Delorean cars to stop UFO's from kidnapping humans to harvest them for body parts. Bearing in mind they never seemed to kidnap more than six people even in a busy week I'd have queried whether the expenditure was justified but in the 1970s it all made for very exciting television.
So what you ask ? Well "UFO" the TV series inspired "UFO: Enemy Unknown" a 1996 PC games, to which these games are the very clear spiritual successor. And "UFO: Enemy Unknown" is rated as one of the best PC games EVER.
One of the other reviewers has done an excellent job of describing the games in the trilogy so I'll refer you to his fine job. But are the games any good ?
Firstly at this money the games are insanely good value. This is, what, £60 - £90 of software at under a fiver.
All the games split between a strategic level where you control research and production and a tactical level where your squad of up to six or so soldiers search a map. NOTE - unlike the original "UFO" game and most of the other sequels and imitators this actually IS NOT turn based. Like the Total War series you give your soldiers their orders (in this case individuals not units) and then unpause the game to see what happens. Also like Total War you can pause the game at any time to give new instructions. All the games have the same fun of trying out new combinations of kit and equipment on your soldiers to see what are most effective. As the games go on your soldiers (if they survive) become better soldiers, and more deadly weapons become available, but opponents become tougher too.
So... the games. Spoiler alerts for what follows. If you want to stop now if you like tactical role playing games at under a fiver these are a must. Buy now.
The good. Alien design. The opposition look like what Giger and Bosch might have come up with after a George Romero all nighter. Wonderful little cut scenes when they first appear. Nice, eerie city scapes and wildernesses where most of the action takes place. Game balance is good. The adverseries split into animal like and intelligent. Most of the first type are easily handled by your troops after the first few missions where you are very lightly armed indeed. I say most - one is very nasty indeed and needs careful strategy to avoid your squad being badly hammered. The intelligent opposition are a lot more dangerous. At the start they are faster, better armed, and better armoured than your troops - staying alive on their levels is a real challenge. Particularly there are two essential intermediary missions the second of which was so hard that I deliberately avoided it until my team had got better at combat and had far better kit. Despite the "urgency" of the instructions to do these missions in fact you can delay without apparent harm. I really enjoyed the conclusion of the game where after apparently beating most of the opposition I suffered a reversal where virtually all my highly trained, well equipped squad were wiped out leaving one injured female character to save the day. "Aliens" anyone ?
The bad. The design of the game is such that you spend most of the game looking down from above. The human animation may be great but it's irrelevant. What I'm watching are blobs highlighted in different colours. INSANELY repetitive. There's maybe a dozen different maps tops. All alien spaceships and all bases (alien or non alien) look virtually identical. And by my rough guess there must be somewhere in the region of 200 tactical missions from start to end. You don't have to do them all although it's wise to do most of them. By the end once you've seen all the dozen or so variants of opposition boredom does set in. The final mission graphics are disappointing and there is more of a "Is that it ?" moment at the end than you'd really like ( I know I had a good finish but that was unique to the way I did it rather than good design). Compare that with X-Com Apocalypse - the third of the original trilogy - which had a truly epic conclusion.
The good. My favourite for the strategic level. Difficult to manage at first but very satisfying once you do. Graphically far better. The view angle is no more than a storey or two above your team so you can actually see your team far better. The combat animation is great - you can see projectiles strike, the jerking of bodies as they hit, the collapse of the dead and dying as they hit the floor. Played at standard speed the battles are ridiculously hectic splurge fests with your team dying quickly. However SLOW the combat down and every firefight has the balletic majesty of the final minutes of Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch". Seeing an enemy cartwheel through the air after a head shot from your elite sniper is one of the game's great moments. The battlezones look great. And again there's very good game balance here although towards the end your team does begin to dominate.
The bad. Very badly repetitive. There appear to be even fewer overall terrrain maps here than on Aftermath although there are a couple more options on base levels. And the end. It crashed. Couldn't get it to work. From the websites a lot of people had similar problems and I'm not aware of an easy patch to fix it.
OK, I'll come clean. I had all sorts of problems trying to get this one to work and never really got well into it. There's a definite change to original X - COM style cartoony graphics which I didn't like. Line of Fire seems ridiculously short. It MIGHT come good later on but there's a fair degree of chatter about various bugs in this one.
They are flawed but they are flawed versions of masterpieces. Aftershock in particular played wonderfully. The original "UFO Enemy Unknown" WAS a great game, but it's a 1996 great game and I think that once you'd played UFO Aftershock you wouldn't want to go back. If only I could finish it...