X-COM: UFO Defense

aka: Laser Squad 2, UFO: Der unbekannte Gegner, UFO: Enemy Unknown, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, X-COM: Michi Naru Shinryakusha, X-COM: Terran Defense Force
DOS Specs [ all ]
(prices updated 9/27 2:12 AM )

Description official descriptions

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).


  • X-COM 未知なる侵略者 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

24 People (22 developers, 2 thanks) · View all



Average score: 86% (based on 45 ratings)


Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 377 ratings with 26 reviews)

Still fun all these years later!

The Good
Jeez, where to start?! This game was an amazing breakthrough in turn based strategy games. The campaign aspect is long and complex, you need to worry about politics, research, base-expansion (and defence), and soldier training. The missions are edge-of-your-seat suspenceful, and at just that right difficulty. The missions vary from your basic clean up missions to the more complex terror missions. The aliens are creatively done, they have a wide arsonal of weapons for you to discover and research, and the psychic battles are just as important as the physical ones. Music is moody and well composed and the sound effects are superb.

The Bad
There wasn't really anything I didn't like about this game!

The Bottom Line
The greatest turn-based squad-based strategy of all time.

DOS · by Gene Davison (801) · 2001

It is fun, that's for sure.

The Good
I liked the turn based part of the strategy.

The Bad
The fact that the soldiers have time units that run out way too fast.

The Bottom Line
It is a pretty fun but very challenging over-head strategy game.

DOS · by The Big Ragu (2) · 2000

Up there for Best game Ever

The Good
Great Theming, Graphics (for its Time), AI, Weapon choices.

The Bad
Its hard, Real Hard.

The Bottom Line
X-COM is a Turn Based Stratergy, Military style.

In 1999 in order to counter an increasingly hostile Alien Force, the United Nations set up the eXtraterestrial COMbat force, or X-COM.

As the Head of this force, you are responsible for establishing XCOM bases, researching new Technologies (Alien and Human), Manfuacturing advanced weaponry and ships, and ordering your fighters and troops into the battle.

After shooting down a UFO, your task is to send your squad of troops into "Recovering" it, by eliminating all aliens in the battle map.

But however, them aliens are a heck of a lot smarter, and more numerous than you, its only a matter of time before they're building secret underground bases (which need to be destroyed, from the inside), Infiltrating Earths governments (and cutting your finding), and sending bigger and badder UFOs to invade your bases. The only hope is to find their Head Base, wherever that is.

DOS · by Chad Henshaw (27) · 2002

[ View all 26 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
in between ranks MerlynKing Jan 25th, 2019
The original X-COM was cancelled, but development continued in secret Freeman (62405) Apr 27th, 2017
Uh, shouldn't the title be UFO: Enemy Unknown...? Simoneer (29) Oct 8th, 2010


1001 Video Games

UFO: Enemy Unknown appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Difficulty Level Bug

DOS version of 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. Problem is also solved in The Collectors Edition Windows port (also commonly known as UFO Gold or CE).

The game contains many different other bugs. All of them are gathered on UFOPaedia.

Cancelled successor

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.

CD-ROM version

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.

The CD version of the game for DOS was not different from the original floppy one. However it contained animated introduction (the very same which was later used in Amiga CD32 version and (from the Playstation version) and the executable file was patched and some bugs were eliminated.


Jullian Gollop, designer of X-COM: UFO Defence tells how X-COM was created (taken from the Mythos Games web site):

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.

Element 115

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 problems

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.

Multiplayer Workaround

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.


  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 02/1995 – #2 Best Strategical in 1994 (Readers' Vote)
    • Issue 02/1996 – Readers' Special Award for 1995
  • 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)
  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • January 1996 (Issue 78) – Game of the Month (Playstation version)
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #35 Top Game of All Time
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #73 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • IGN
    • 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
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1995 – Best Genre Mix in 1994

Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Andrew Grasmeder, Der.Archivar, Entorphane, Kasey Chang, Lord FlatHead, Heikki Sairanen, Martin Smith, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual, robotriot, Rola, rstevenson, ZuljinRaynor

Related Games

Em@il Games: X-COM
Released 1999 on Windows
X-COM: Complete Pack
Released 2008 on DOS, Windows
X-COM: Terror from the Deep
Released 1995 on DOS, 1996 on PlayStation, Windows
X-COM: Enforcer
Released 2001 on Windows
Laser Squad: Nemesis
Released 2002 on Windows
Blast It
Released 1979 on Dedicated handheld
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Elite Soldier Pack
Released 2012 on Windows, 2012 on Xbox 360, 2014 on Linux...
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Complete Pack
Released 2014 on Linux, Windows, Macintosh
X³: Terran Conflict
Released 2008 on Windows, 2009 on Macintosh, 2013 on Linux

Related Sites +

  • OpenXcom
    An open-source clone requiring resources from the original game.
  • UFOpeadia
    A whole wiki-based Database containing nearly everything one wanted to know about the game and beyond...
  • X-COM Tactical Command
    X-COM Tactical Command has an excellent range of content, now including information on hexediting UFO's files, as well as strategy guides and more.
  • XCOMUTIL Homepage
    The homepage for Scott T. Jones' fantastic XCOMUTIL utility: Re-vitalise and expand your X-COM game! :)
  • XCommand
    One of the most popular fan-sites for the X-COM series.
  • XCommand
    XCommand features various files for editing UFO, as well as strategic aids and the full contents of the UFOPedia.
  • devisraad.com - X-COM Page
    Download complete sets of new alien spacecraft, for X-COM: UFO Defense and X-COM: Terror From The Deep.

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by IJan.

Windows added by Shoddyan. Amiga added by Rebound Boy. Amiga CD32 added by Martin Smith. PlayStation added by Adam Baratz.

Additional contributors: xroox, Kate Jones, Kasey Chang, Josh Day, //dbz:, Alaka, Игги Друге, 88 49, BostonGeorge, Patrick Bregger, mailmanppa, Rwolf, FatherJack, Evolyzer.

Game added December 4th, 1999. Last modified September 26th, 2023.