In 1999, mankind faces an unprecedented threat of an extraterrestrial nature: violent human abduction by UFOs and hideous experimentation are increasing rapidly, creating mass hysteria amongst the world’s populace. All attempts by individual countries to resist the aliens have failed dismally; they were helpless in the face of vastly superior technology. For mankind to have a hope of survival, the world’s governments covertly created a global defence force to combat the alien menace — the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit: X-COM.

UFO DefenseUFO Defense is a game of great depth and complexity. Not only must you defend the planet against UFO incursions, you must capture alien technology, strengthen your position and ultimately take the fight to the foe. The enemy is cunning and insidious — while you battle them on the ground and in the air they will attempt to infiltrate Earth’s governments and launch terror attacks in key cities. These activities can undermine your political standing with the various countries, compromising your funding if not dealt with effectively.

Gameplay in UFO Defense takes place across two modes. The first is Geoscape, a strategic  overview of Earth where you launch fighters to intercept UFOs, build and upgrade bases, and allocate research of new technology. This research is a driving force that gives you a military advantage as well as providing insight into alien biology, culture and motivation. The second mode is Battlescape — isometric turn-based combat where you control a squad (up to 10 agents) on the ground as you investigate downed enemy craft for new technology and alien corpses. As the aliens become more aggressive you will also have to defend your bases from assault — failure means the base is lost, along with the substantial associated resources. Missions can be downright creepy, especially when you’re waiting for the aliens to complete their turn, not knowing where they are and what they’re up to. The turn-based approach of Battlescape missions is slow-paced  but deliberate, with intense tactical considerations at all times. Movement, morale, fatigue and ammunition have to all be taken into account. It is all too easy for your team to be wiped out due to a lack of caution. While this can be a little frustrating at times it is ultimately very satisfying.

Between the careful balancing-act of funding acquisition/allocation and very difficult tactical encounters, you will need to exercise skill and care to save the human race from extinction.

Bottom line: UFO Defense is a remarkably challenging but truly rewarding game.  Classic excellence. 89/100

Forty years after defeating the extraterrestrials in the First Alien War, mankind faces a new threat to its existence. This menace comes not from the stars but from the depths of our seas — a dormant malevolence has been awakened and has been biding its time since the conclusion of UFO Defense. X-COM is hastily reactivated and placed in charge of an underwater base, once again the last hope of humanity.

Practically speaking, Terror from the Deep is the same game as UFO Defense. The engine and game mechanics are essentially unchanged, with a new setting and foes and a fresh set of graphics. Instead of combating aliens on terra firma you can also fight them in the depths. The Geoscape interface is the same, but you now concern yourself with the oceans as well — you send submarines to destroy USOs (unidentified submersible objects), but the rest of the gameplay is identical. Battlescape combat primarily takes place in the muddy depths, your agents equipped with pressure suits and spear guns, but there is the occasional surface mission to defend a city or ocean liner from merciless aliens. Missions are also more complex, with some of them spanning multiple maps. This makes tactical resource and casualty management even more crucial.

Terror from the Deep

Terror from the Deep is a great deal more difficult than UFO Defense and brutally so. The aliens are ruthless and powerful, and from the outset you will have to fight very hard to prevail. Seeing it through to the end is a struggle, but very much worth the effort.

Bottom line: The game might be a copy-paste but the differences are sufficient, and the gameplay is brilliant, which makes it a great experience in its own right.  86/100