UFO Aftermath PC CD-ROM Official Website
Developed by Altar Interactive
Released: Out Now
The word 'tactical' is often overused these days. A lot of strategy and FPS games claim to be tactical when in all honesty they aren't really. One of the first true tactical games was X-COM: UFO Enemy Unknown, in which you had to combat alien forces who were attacking the earth. In many ways UFO Aftermath is very similar to the aforementioned X-COM and those of you who enjoyed the X-COM games all those years ago should also enjoy what's on offer here.
The game is set in the not too distant future, May 25th 2004 to be exact. A UFO approached the Earth and released masses of spores into the atmosphere. These spores multiplied at an alarming rate and eventually blocked out the sun. Finally they began to rain down on the Earth and infested the water and wiped out virtually all humans and animals too. Few humans managed to survive and only did so by sheltering in bases that were stocked with food and essential oxygen. The remaining humans decided to form the Council of Earth in order to combat the alien invasion. You have been made the commander of Earth's military and leader of the spearhead military unit called Phoenix company.
If you've played Enemy Unknown, then Aftermath will seem very familiar when you start playing the main game as once again you're faced with a rotatable, spherical overview of the Earth. Time can progress at three different speeds and from time to time you'll have incidents that need to be investigated. You can choose to investigate them yourself (which we'll cover in a moment) or delegate them to someone else. Eventually you'll be informed that new squad members are available and you'll be able to add these to your squad. You can also carry out research and development, which are essential if you are to be successful at the game. You can also use the time outside of the tactical battles to train your squad members, which is also recommended.
Eventually you'll have an incident that you're going to want to investigate yourself. On accepting the mission (the missions are randomly generated so it's highly unlikely two games will ever play the same) you'll be given the chance to assemble your squad before it's time to move out. Your squad can consist of between 1 to 7 members. Each of your squad members will have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Squad members have 3 physical attributes (strength, agility and dexterity), 3 mental attributes (willpower, intelligence and perception), combat skills, defence skills, detection skills, medical skills, etc. Like in most strategy games some of your units are better at ranged attacks and some at melee/short range attacks. One of my niggles with the game is that you don't have any idea of what you're up against before you go into a mission and it's possible to leave out a squad member that might have been useful. Of course it's more 'realistic' not to know what you're up against but from a gameplay standpoint, it can be a little irritating.
The tactical missions/battles are in pausable real-time as opposed to the pure turn-based environment in which the X-COM games operated. Whenever you give your units orders or they spot danger, the game will pause and allow you to make decisions. Each of your units routes are colour coded so that you can always see what directions you have given them. Pausable real-time doesn't feel that much different from turn-based to be honest, but it does allow battles to move with a little more fluidity as both you and the enemy units can move at the same time rather than alternately. Tactical missions are not just about wiping the enemy out though and sometimes you'll have to bring back a live alien for interrogation purposes and at other times you're simply performing a recon exercise or more importantly a base capture as, if successful, these enlarge your control of the planet. As we said earlier though, the missions are random so you never know what you're going to get. After you've researched UFO detection technology, you'll also have to contend with air combat. Any wrecks that result from this can also be searched in a tactical mission, which is a nice touch.
Graphically UFO Aftermath looks OK. The game is in full 3D and you can zoom in and out and revolve the tactical map to allow you to see exactly what is what in your environment. You'll encounter rural, urban and UFOs etc., in the tactical missions and they all look fairly good. It's a shame that you can't enter any of the buildings though, as it would have bought a new tactical edge to the game. You could send your sniper on to the rooftops for instance to take out some unsuspecting enemies but alas it's not possible. It would have been better if you could have zoomed in closer too, to get a closer view of what your units could see but this is a personal preference rather than a problem.
Deaf gamers have nothing to worry about with UFO Aftermath. The tutorial is fully subtitled and all information within the game is shown in text, usually in dialogue boxes that need to be clicked off, so you'll have as much time as needed to read them. When any information does appear the game is paused and you will have to continue the game yourself. The only speech that isn't subtitled is what comes from your squad members and these are simply comments to your orders. Any problems or statements such as your unit has completed his orders, is shown at the top centre of the screen.
Whilst not an official sequel to the X-COM games, UFO Aftermath certainly has an X-COM flavour to the gameplay. Some areas could do with improving and allowing your units to enter building and making more use of their environment in a tactical mission would really allow you to create more elaborate strategies. The enemies whilst strong do tend to show brute force rather than complicated attack plans, which is a little disappointing. Overall though UFO Aftermath is an enjoyable game that should please fans of true tactical gameplay.
Game Rating: 7.9/10
It may not be an X-COM title but it manages to capture the atmosphere, to a large degree, of the classic series.
No problems for deaf gamers as the text provision is excellent.