From Academic Kids

X-COM is a series of computer games, started by MicroProse in 1994. The first three titles were strategy games while the fourth was an action-based space combat/strategy game. The first two installments, X-COM: UFO Defense (also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe) and X-COM: Terror from the Deep, were written by a team led by Julian Gollop and are considered the hallmarks of the series. These first two games also show strong similarities to games such as Rebelstar and Laser Squad for the Sinclair Spectrum.

All titles were developed for the PC, with a few less-successful ports to the Sony PlayStation and Amiga. Though the first three titles were originally developed to run under DOS, they've been ported to run under Microsoft Windows using DirectX. X-COM: UFO Defense was the best selling computer game of 1995 and is considered a true classic, and despite its age, still has a good-sized following.


UFO Defense description

The premise for the first game is fairly simple and straight-forward, and is repeated in the subsequent ones with some variation: armies of hostile aliens have begun invading the Earth, killing and enslaving the human race.

Despite the cliche setup, the implementation is serious and carefully detailed to give an "authentic" impression:

Since public announcement can result in massed panic, the leaders of the world decide to solve the problem in secret. However distrust is rampant, none of them willing to share or cooperate in fear of a backstab. As an intermediate measure, an international task force, X-COM, is formed. With dedicated research, maintenance and production personal of their own, it can act independently with international authority under a complete media blackout. The player is put in command of "X-COM," the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit. By defending countries from enemy invasion, the force gains monetary support. Any nation may quit, if X-COM's service is deemed unsatisfactory. Through research of recovered alien artifacts, X-COM is able to develop better and more powerful weapons, armor and vehicles to combat the alien menace and eventually uncover their true nature.

The game takes place within two main views: the Geoscape and the Battlescape, a dichotomy that's the hallmark of the entire series. The Geoscape is where the player waits for enemy alien activity and makes strategic decisions. While in the Geoscape, the player can view the X-COM bases (located in various locations on Earth), make changes to them, equip X-COM craft, order supplies and personnel, direct research efforts, schedule manufacturing of advanced equipment and sell alien artifacts to raise capital. The Geoscape is continuous and not turn-based.

Gameplay switches to the isometric combat view of the Battlescape whenever X-COM personnel come in contact with alien units. This can result from investigating downed enemy crafts, combatting alien terrorist activities or attacking alien bases discovered during play. Aliens may also be encountered if they manage to attack and infiltrate one of the X-COM bases.

In the Battlescape view, X-COM combatants are put versus the alien enemies. In addition to personnel, the player may have vehicles such as heavy weapons platforms outfitted with powerful lasers or rocket launchers. This mode is turn-based and each combatant has a number of "time units" which can be expended each turn. When all alien forces have been neutralized, the mission is scored based on number of X-COM units killed, civilians saved, aliens killed or captured and the number of alien artifacts obtained.

Though the premise was simple, it was executed exceptionally well and the game became popular among strategy and war game fans, for reasons such as the excellent squad-based tactical interface, the combination of tactical and strategic elements and the ability to discover and create new weapons and other items. By researching the alien items recovered following combat missions, much better equipment can be built to combat the alien threat.

A final reason for the game's success is the creepy atmosphere the game evoked. Soldiers are fragile with or without armor, and the use of line of sight allows alien snipers and ambushes. Aliens strike both in day and at night, forcing nighttime battles with scurrying figures unknown in the darkness. UFO mythology was used well in small touches like adding mutilated cattle on the operating tables of downed UFOs and the naming of a new, mystical element "Elerium." The enemy comes in numerous shapes and forms, and players run into new, deadly aliens repeatedly without knowledge of their capabilities.

The series

The complete series includes these titles:

The first two games are undeniably the most popular and most successful of the series, and the first was named Game of the Year by many gaming magazines. Apocalypse took some strange twists that disappointed many fans of the series. It introduced a real-time combat system, in addition to a modified turn-based system that was close to useless, and the creepy atmosphere was almost no longer present. After Interceptor, Hasbro Interactive purchased MicroProse and acquired the X-COM brand.

Two more titles were planned for this series. Both were aborted when Hasbro shut down Hasbro Interactive in 1999 and 2000.

Hasbro sold all of its Hasbro Interactive intellectual property to Infogrames (now Atari) when it shut down the studios. Atari now owns the X-COM label, but according to insiders, never plans to revive it.


Although there are no actual cheats for the game, there are a few loopholes that can be exploited.

  • Never squander Elerium - never ever sell it. Anything else can be manufactured and will be probably later on captured in great quantities.
  • Try to develop "Hyper-Wave Decoders" early on - a single one will replace the entire radar network on the base, and their data will tell you a lot about the UFO - type, mission, destionation and carried troops!
  • Keep a keen eye on supply ships - they will lead you to a base. Instead trashing the place, you can bandit its monthly supplies for a steady stream of elerium and tons of equipment to sell off the black market.
  • Produce "Laser Cannon" craft weapon and sell. The amount of money these weapons cost to produce is far lower than they cost to sell, thus creating a profit. This will produce a steady stream of money well above what the world governments can provide.
  • Beside the "Laser Cannon" other items produce a net profit as well - a steady "Motion Sensor" and "Medi-Kit" production can give the needed money to keep things steady in the early part of the game when your force is unsuited to take on all the UFOs you may encounter.
  • Change the names of soldiers to reflect their strengths. For instance, "Sniper" given to those with good firing accuracy and "Scout" to those with good endurance, reflexes.
  • As the game progresses, do not enlist soldiers with a 10 or lower bravery as they are very subject to alien mind control.
  • Strict recruitment limits on critical stats can quickly saturate your forces with able and fast developing soldiers. Be prepared to pay several times the cost to finally get the "best". Simply fire anyone who doesn't meet the limits - even though you waste the recruitment cost, you would waste it each month while an inferior rookie fumbles around with expensive equipment or end up as cannonfodder demoralising the rest of your troops.

External links



fr:X-COM pl:X-COM


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