Good game, good game. Aliens threaten Planet Earth, and only the X-Com project (think men in black meets starship troopers) stands in their way. They do this at linked strategic and tactical levels. At the strategic, you build up your subterranean bunker, research new technologies, defend against UFOs with fighter craft and generally manage and prioritise in an effort to repel alien attacks and keep panicky politicos off your back. At the tactical you command a 6 soldier squad against ever more deadly aliens in a variety of turn-based missions.
The tactical level is in some ways quite an old-school isometric affair, reminiscent of Fallout Tactics, though when shooting and charging around the camera occasionally swoops in to focus on an individual. Enemies are a little passive, generally just waiting to be discovered before starting to attack, but it can still be pretty testing, with caution being the watchword and the disastrous wiping out of your squad never all that far away. A soft touch, careful use of cover and a slow probing of unknown territory generally reaps rewards. Devil may care charging into combat will usually result in a bloodbath. Soldiers develop with experience and begin to specialise in one of four classes, giving you many options for tailoring your squad and approach. Unless of course they’re all massacred in a moment of carelessness, in which case you may find yourself painstakingly building them up once again. But that’s half the fun, right?
The link between the strategic and the tactical levels works nicely, with new technologies leading to new armour and weapons which make all the difference on the battlefield. I’m not convinced how much depth there is in some of the strategic decisions, though. I often ran out of money or resources of one kind or another but never felt under desperate pressure, and despite there being lots of options I’m not sure how much skill is really involved in the arrangement of your base or the deployment of your fighters. Perhaps on harder levels the choice of one research project over another can make the difference between success or failure, but who’s got time for harder difficulty settings these days?
Actually, you know what, this is one game I could foresee picking up again, as there really are a vast range of different approaches on offer and the missions are constantly varying. It’s hard to think of many console games that offer such an effective combination of the tactical and strategic without the interface being a total pain in the ass. There’s lots to explore, it looks good, it’s deep without being finicky, thoughtful without being pretentious, and there’s actually quite a lot of satisfaction to be had from watching your sniper blast an alien to sludge with a plasma rifle.
Earth is in safe hands…