UFO Enemy Unknown (1994) – PC Retro Review

ufo screenshot
© Microprose

No other game has captured my imagination and time more so than UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as XCOM: Enemy Unknown stateside and on the PS1) so rather than spending ages going through everything before getting to the summary I thought I’d get straight to the point.

This game is the master of all turn based strategy games and you need, nay, absolutely, categorically must play this game. Many have tried to emulate its awesomeness; some got closer than others but most were like a mongrel versus a pedigree at Crufts.

This game is the master of all turn based strategy games and you need, nay, absolutely, categorically must play this game. Many have tried to emulate its awesomeness; some got closer than others but most were like a mongrel versus a pedigree at Crufts.

So with the news that this strategy classic is a diamond in the rough you might think you don’t need to read anymore, well you might want to as we are now going to divulge why the game is so good. Don’t worry you can read on as you have clearance commander!

The plot of the game is simple. It’s 1999, UFO’s are being seen by people all over the world and it’s getting out of control, you are a part of XCOM (Extra-terrestrial  Combat) Repel the alien invaders from by shooting down, recovering, researching, manufacturing and replicating alien technology to ultimately defeat the multiple unified races of aliens who want to call your home planet theirs.

It sounds like standard alien invasion fare, however, it’s the non-linear way you get to the end that will keep you coming back time and time again!

The game starts out with you choosing the location of your base on a global map (known as the Geoscape) this is where you can see the bigger picture and intercept UFO’s who are on a variety of terror-inducing missions including alien abduction, government infiltration, alien base supply among many.

When a UFO is detected you will send one (or more) of your fighter jets to intercept and hopefully shoot down the unknown craft or you can shadow it until it lands so that you can capture it intact, this is where it gets very interesting.

Once you shoot down or see a landed UFO you will need to retrieve it and eliminate or capture its occupants and this is where the squad based tactical element comes into play (which is known as the Battlescape), after all, someone has to mop up after the air battle!

You send your troop carrier craft to the crash zone and land when you do, you will be able to arm your soldiers with the weapons and equipment you put into the craft prior to the start of the ground assault. Once you are satisfied that your armed force are as armed to the teeth as they can be you start the ground mission.

Whilst the Geoscape works in real-time the battle scape is completely turn based and each of your soldiers has time units that will give a limited amount of movement across the map or fire a weapon a certain amount of times. This is where the tactical elements comes in as you have to

The ground missions are what make this game so compelling as they are randomly generated every time on each level be whether it be UFO retrieval on either farmland, desert, ice pack, jungle, city or when you attack the secret alien bases that you either get informed about by XCOM agents at the start of a new month or by sending one of your jets on patrol and they come across one.

As the game progresses so do your soldiers. They get promoted and get more skilled as they survive more missions and this is where you have to be really careful not to get them killed as replacements soldiers will not cut it when up against stronger and more dangerous aliens.

Talking about the aliens, there are quite a few to contend with, naturally they start easy. First off you’ll be facing Sectoids, these are your standard Grey aliens (they do return later on in the game with mind control powers) and then there are the amusingly called Floaters. Later on, though you’ll get some very tough opponents and for those that have played it before the very thought of going up against Crysallids and Muton’s with only earth based weapons will probably make you break out in a cold sweat again.

As this is a strategy game there are other things to consider, the main one is research and this is vital to progress the game and start taking back control of Earth from the invaders.

Every time you complete a mission, be it a UFO retrieval or Terror Mission you’ll come back with a horde of alien goodies that need to be researched before they can be manufactured and used on the battlefield. You’ll be investing in additional labs pretty quickly alongside a huge science-based payroll to pay for but it’s worth it.

The alien blaster missile is a sight to behold even today and is a mission winner as are researching new craft to fight in the air and ground with.

You also get to research who the aliens are and what they want and even where they came from and not to give too much away becomes very important at the end.

Finally, you’ve got to manage your resources wisely. You get funding from participating countries into the XCOM program but sometimes they leave which will leave a hole in your budget for nice things such as more weapons and research. Luckily you can sell alien tech on the black market to keep things going.

Considering this game is from 1994, it really does play great today still.

For veterans of the game it will be a huge nostalgia trip and for new players, once you get past the aged graphics you’ll find a deep and addictive game that will be on your top 10 list of the greatest strategy games ever, don’t believe us then go and get it. You won’t be disappointed.

Up Next: Looking for adventure in the distant future? Check out our review of Dune for the PC.

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Child of the 80's, teenager through the 90's and raving party animal in the 00's. Loves old cars, games, sci-fi movies and skating. He also owns too many pairs of Reebok Pumps.


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