UFO: Enemy Unknown (Commodore Amiga, 1994)

(image from Caffeinated Pixels)

I’ve written before about UFO: Enemy Unknown, or X-COM: UFO Defense as it is known in the US.

As mentioned in that previous post, I have put an absurd number of hours into this game. By modern sensibilities, it looks very of its time, with the oddly complicated user interface and anime hairstyles, but the game itself has so many layers and intricacies that it has almost infinite replay value and shames plenty of more modern games when it comes to depth. Arguably, even the more recent entries in the series are not as deep, although those games are not affected negatively in any way as a result in my humble opinion.

But anyway, if you don’t know, UFO puts you in charge of a shadowy, covert global organisation, the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit, or X-COM for short. UFO sightings increase around the world, and Governments across the world agree to form X-COM as a way to investigate and protect the Earth.

As the Commander of the organisation, it is up to you to choose where you station your facilities, what research you carry out into the alien threat, which UFOs you intercept, and which cities you defend from alien terror attacks. And, when the time comes to go into battle, you choose which soldiers to take and what equipment to load them up with.

And it’s this part of the game, the so-called Battlescape (pictured above) that is responsible for one of the most frustrating moments of my gaming life.

You start off the game woefully underpowered and outclassed, and the aliens routinely make mincemeat out of your soldiers in battle. Injuries and deaths are very common in the early game. Eventually though, your R&D scientists come good and you gain the ability to use the aliens’ own weaponry against them, and the tide starts to turn.

The aliens, however, aren’t one to rest on their laurels and they start to throw stronger enemies and weapons at you as your own capabilities increase.

One of the weapons that you develop from alien technology is the Blaster Launcher:

(image from myabandonware.com)

This is one of the best weapons in the game, and it’s tremendous fun to boot. When you’re using it, you can set up to 9 waypoints on the map for the Blaster Bomb to move between before it detonates on impact, and the blast radius is huge compared to anything else in the game.

The first time I acquired a Blaster Launcher, I was excited at the prospect of using it. Shortly afterwards, my radar systems detected a Very Large UFO (a Battleship, the biggest UFO in the game) on a course to attack one of my bases. I dutifully loaded up my best interceptor (an Avenger) with my heavily armed squad, including a couple of Blaster Launcher-toting badasses, to take down the Battleship before it could reach me, and then start a ground assault on the downed spacecraft.

It would have looked something like this, minus the Hovertank at the front because I never saw the point in them.

(image from gamesradar.com)

I moved a couple of soldiers out of the Avenger, immediately spotting a couple of enemies, and ones that I hadn’t seen before. Strangely spooky looking aliens, wearing what look like orange robes. I decided to tread more carefully than usual, new aliens bring with them new methods of killing my troops.

So, setting up some soldiers with reaction fire and ending my turn, I watched with bated breath to find out what these new creatures were capable of…

“What’s that sound? And that weird flash appearing over my soldiers? That looks familiar… that’s something trying to mind control my soldiers, isn’t it? I should be OK, they’ve resisted Mind Control attempts plenty.”

“Gustav Alabaster is under Mind Control”

“Oh. That’s surprising. Hmm… hang on, he was holding one of the two Blaster Launchers, wasn’t he?”

And yes, you can probably guess what happened next. Gustav Alabaster promptly turned around and launched a Blaster Bomb straight into the face of the soldier stood next to him…

They're dead Dave, everybody's dead. They're all dead, Dave.

Mission Failed. All soldiers dead. Avenger lost for good. Bugger.