UFO: Aftermath

a game by ALTAR interactive
Platform: PC
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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UFO: Aftermath
UFO: Aftermath
UFO: Aftermath
UFO: Aftermath

Few Games are certain to melt old-timers into a sticky puddle of nostalgia as much as UFO: Enemy Unknown - the first and best in the legendary XCOM series. Offering a different angle on the most cliched of all gaming premises (Earth is invaded by aliens and you must stop them), it was a turn-based strategy of massively addictive proportions to rival Champ Man for sleepless nights. There were a couple of sequels -the last proper one, Apocalypse, all the way back in 1997 - before it disappeared like everything else beloved by us anti real-time strategists. We were finally going to get an update a few years back, when the Gollop Brothers (the brains behind the original) started work on Dreamland Chronicles. The game got canned, the brothers moved on to Laser Squad Nemesis and X-COM-heads everywhere wept bitter tears - until Czech developer Altar Interactive landed the job, that is.

But enough with the history lessons. What matters is how Aftermath stands up right now. And I can tell you right now, it is impressively erect. Not that I was convinced straight away, mind you. Despite the warm glow of recognition you get upon first seeing the world globe on the main strategy screen (an XCOM staple), Aftermath has little of the charm that Enemy Unknown possessed in such vast buckets. After the first couple of hours and half a dozen missions, it seemed the cynical snarl etched on my face was doomed to be permanent. Twelve hours later and I could have posed for another feature article on gaming addiction: no sleep, gaunt eyes, poor diet and even worse hygiene. Those damn aliens had got me again.

It's easy to see why, really. Aftermath has its fair amount of flaws, but no one can take away the things that make XCOM truly great: the very best technology research, RPG character development and world expansion, all wrapped up in a succulent apocalyptic X-Files scenario.

Unreal-Time

As the title suggests, your job isn't to repel invading alien forces as much as finding a way to kick them out after they've succeeded in making Earth their new home. You start off with only a couple of bases and two soldiers, but already there are plenty of things to do. You have to begin researching new technologies to combat the aliens, investigate what's going on, send off jets to down UFOs and go on tactical missions. Since downing saucers is pretty much automatic (with success depending on research), the meat of the game is the 3D missions, and you will be underwhelmed when you first start playing them.

Like XCOM: Apocalypse, the action isn't so much turn-based as real-time with lots of pauses, and it's these pauses that are the first cause of irritation. Reaching a waypoint, seeing an alien, running out of ammo and a plethora of other things all trigger a vocalisation from your soldiers, after which the camera automatically moves to them. This means you can't take two steps without a cacophony of voices and constant interruption as the camera flies off in all directions. You soon realise you can filter most of this, but you'll need a couple of missions before you know what you need switched on. The second annoyance is that your soldiers' voices are unbelievably irritating, boasting some incredibly idiotic accents. Add to this a restrictive 3D camera and outdated graphics, and you can see why there's no love at first sight.

I Think You're Growing On Me

Luckily, Aftermath gets better with every passing moment. The more bases you capture (you can't build any) the more missions there are, and the more varied they become: kill a certain number of aliens, rescue a downed pilot, infiltrate a crashed UFO, capture alien bodies for autopsies or live ones for experiments and interrogation... This has a knock-on effect for the things you can research and, as your weapons and armour grow and improve, the missions become more enjoyable. The information your research uncovers keeps you wanting to find out more and, most satisfactory of all, your soldiers improve all the time through experience and training in a wide variety of skills and attributes.

Soon enough, you find yourself not caring what's happening in the real world. All that matters is that you complete one more mission and maybe recover a more powerful laser rifle this time. Or that your best soldier reaches his potential in every area. Or that you get enough bases to expand to other continents and thus get to see different backgrounds for the tactical levels. And then you discover there's an alien biomass spreading across the globe, which you have to research and stop before it consumes you. Oh, and you start developing psychic abilities. And could you just go away so I can play some more?

It might not have Enemy Unknown's charm and there are some annoying niggles (those voices, poor pathfinding), but there's more than enough here to keep the XCOM spirit alive. Let's hope we don't have to wait so long for the next one.

Your Murderous Little Babies

They're Ruthless Killers. But You'll Grow To Love'em

Few things are as addictive as levelling up (how else to explain the popularity of Diablo?) and there is great satisfaction in developing your own set of characters through a variety of missions, watching them improve in the areas you want them to. You end up growing so attached to your favourites, not even their intensely irritating voices can stop you from mourning their deaths. But dying is what new recruits are for. For everything else there's the reload button. As you can see, there are tons of skills to work on, from marksmanship to healing and stealth. What weapons and gadgets you kit your men out with will also have a great impact on the missions. And add even more to the dressing-up-Barbie fun of it all.

Download UFO: Aftermath

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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