In the year 1998, the amount of reports of UFO sightings has been drastically increased. Stories about abductions and alien attacks became more and more widespread. Finally, after various nations of the world have failed to intercept the UFOs, their representatives met in a conference of global importance in Geneva, Switzerland. It was eventually decided to organize a secret paramilitary group, dubbed Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-COM). Starting with one base, two fighters, one transport, and a few soldiers, X-COM must locate the aliens, learn about their origins and technology, find out where their base is, and destroy it.X-COM: UFO Defense
is a strategy game featuring separate but interlinked elements. On the strategic side, called GeoScape, you get a rotating view of the globe, where you see all visible UFOs (those that are within your detection range) as well as major cities and your base(s). You order movements from here, such as sending out fighters to intercept UFOs, transports with soldiers to assault/recover UFOs, and perhaps assaults on alien bases (if you find any). You also control your research, as you must invent better weapons (the Terran weapons are just no match against the alien weapons) quickly, not to mention all the other cool tech you can recover from the aliens. You also need to control your budget, as you can't afford to overextend your reach. Researchers need to be paid, engineers (who build the new toys) need to be paid, base(s) need to be be built/expanded, planes need to be bought/maintained, supplies need to be replenished, and so on.
You can earn money by selling unneeded stuff, and you receive funding from the nations of the world; however, a nation can decrease its funding if it decides you aren't operating efficiently enough within its region. It's even possible that a nation gets so fed up with you that it signs a pact with the aliens and ceases funding altogether.
Once you join a ground battle, the game switches to Battlescape, which is an isometric view of the battlefield with realistic line-of-sight calculations and turn-based combat. Your mission is usually extermination of all aliens on the battlefield, though if you can capture a few it would surely help your research efforts. If you win, you also recover any alien artifacts left on the field, which can then be researched.
In combat, each of your soldiers has a specific number of Time Units. Doing anything (moving, shooting, turning around, rearranging objects in the inventory etc.) costs a number of TUs. Once a soldier is out of TUs, he cannot act any more this turn (he gets all his TUs back on the next turn, though).
The game aims to mix strategic considerations, resource management, and tactical combat considerations, along with plenty of authentic UFO lore.
- "X-COM 未知なる侵略者" -- Japanese spelling
- "X-Com: UFO Defense Collector's Edition" -- 1998 Windows title
- "X-COM: Terran Defense Force" -- Working title
- "X-COM: Michi Naru Shinryakusha" -- Japanese title
- "X-COM: Enemy Unknown" -- European PlayStation title
- "UFO: Enemy Unknown" -- European title
- "UFO: Der unbekannte Gegner" -- German in-game title
Part of the Following Groups
The Press Says
- The game has a bug in the difficulty settings. Regardless of which difficulty level you choose, you always start at the easiest level. Surprisingly, the official patch of the game does not correct this problem. However, there is an unofficial patch available for solving this issue.
- Both the Amiga 1200 and Amiga 500 versions of UFO:Enemy Unknown are uncompletable due to bugs. The US release (under the X-Com: UFO Defense title) reportedly fixes this, but is extremely rare, possibly unreleased.
A new version of the X-COM
series dubbed X-COM: Genesis
, focusing on some of the gameplay features found in the original, was in production at Hasbro/Microprose in 1999. The project was cut during mass-layoffs for the company.
The CD version may include a partial install version and a full install version, depending on which CD you got. The partial install version leaves some datafiles on the CD to save disk space. However, the "full install" version is also on the CD in the HARDDISK directory.
, designer of X-COM: UFO Defence tells how X-COM was created (taken from the Mythos Games
We showed a demo of ‘Laser Squad 2’ on the Atari ST to Microprose in 1991. The idea was to produce a sequel to ‘Laser Squad’ but with much neater graphics using an isometric style very similar to Populous. They liked what we had done so far, but they explained that they wanted a ‘big’ game. I said "what do you mean by ‘big’" and they said "well, you know – BIG". They also said that it had to be set on earth, like Civilisation or Railroad Tycoon, because people could relate to it much more. So we went away, scratched our heads and thought about it. Then we came up with the idea of adding on a grand strategic element to the game, very firmly set on earth, in which the player managed an organisation that defended the planet against UFO incursions. I bought quite a few books on UFOs for research purposes so that we could give the game an even more ‘authentic’ basis.
The project started reasonably well with myself and Nick designing and programming, while the art was to be done by John Reitze and martin Smillie at MicroProse. Soon we had some problems because Microprose did not understand our game design and they asked for clarification. Several documents later we were not much better off and I had wasted a lot of time. Certain creature types were removed, including the ‘Men In Black’ and others added. Then the whole project was nearly axed when MicroProse made some cutbacks due to financial difficulties. Everything proceeded reasonably smoothly for a while until Spectrum Holobyte acquired Bill Stealey’s shares in the company. Our producer was made redundant and the game was nearly axed again. Finally we had to spend a couple of months working very long hours at MicroProse in Chipping Sodbury to get the game finished by the end of March in 1994.
Ten years after the game was released, a real element 115 was discovered. Unfortunately, it wasn't named elerium like in the game, but ununpentium.
GeForce owners have probably encountered display problems that render the game unplayable. This can be fixed though; go to the Windows Control Panel and the DirectX settings. Switch off DirectDraw hardware acceleration and the game should work fine.
Don't forget to switch acceleration back on afterwards, though.
The game is actually Geoscape
, the rotating globe and resource management, generating the battlefield conditions for BattleScape
, where you conduct tactical combat against the aliens. If you press Ctrl-C (as suggested by the hint "level skip") while in BattleScape
, you interrupt the BattleScape
program, preventing it from writing the "results" file. Thus you will get the same result as your previous battle. This is a result of the developement history (see the other trivia entries), whereas MicroProse decided that the tactical combat is not enough to be a game in itself, and asked Mythos to write a strategy game around it.
The game is heavy influenced from the TV series UFO
. It's about a secret UFO defense base which sends out military aircrafts to shoot down UFOs, sending out squads to seek the wreckage and kill or catch aliens to analyze them.
You can actually play "multiplayer" X-COM
long before e-mail X-COM
... By using sort of a "hack". As the game actually plays through turn by turn on both sides, it is actually possible to take the saved file right at the end of a turn, edit a pointer, and play the "other side" using the engine. And if you exchange files back and forth, you can have a multiplayer game.
A novelization of the game was published through the Proteus imprint of Prima Publishing. It written by Diane Duane
and first published in December of 1995.
The last offical patch changed the sound effects of the game. Many people didn't like the new sounds.
V1.4 patch removed the document check copy protection.
A complete version of X-COM
is available on Classic Games Collection CD featured with the July 2000 issue of PC Gamer Magazine.
There was a "Limited Edition" of UFO: Enemy Unknown for the Amiga CD32 that included a Microprose travel alarm clock.
X-COM: UFO Defense
is one of the few 256-color DOS games to implement dynamic lightning. By using 16 shades of 16 different hues (16 x 16 = 256) as the palette, artists could create isometric tiles whose colors can be gradually changed simply by incrementing each tile's palette entries by 1, 2 and so on. In this way, the same tiles can be shown darker and darker simultaneously on the screen.
Information also contributed by
- Computer Gaming World
- May 1995 (Issue #130) – Game of the Year
- May 1995 (Issue #130) – Strategy Game of the Year
- July 1996 (Issue #144) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
- November 1996 (15th anniversary Issue) - #22 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) –#1 Top Sleeper Of All Time
- March 2001 (Issue #200) - #3 Best Game of All Time (Editors' Choice)
- March 2001 (Issue #200) - #10 Best Game of All Time (Readers' Choice)
- GameStar (Germany)
- Issue 12/1999 - #73 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
- March 2007 - #1 PC Game of All Time
- PC Gamer
- April 2000 - #15 on the "All-Time Top 50 Games" poll
- October 2001 - #3 on the "Top 50 of All Time" list
- April 2005 - #8 on the "50 Best Games of All Time" list