A game of two well thought out halves!!
UFO has a long standing history in video games, first hitting the shelves in 1994. I remember playing X-COM: UFO Defence on my humble P75 many years ago!
Thanks to Altar games, UFO has been brought back to the masses, with this being its 3rd instalment.
The game follows a group of humans who, with the rest of the planet, have been displaced from earth following an alien invasion. But the aliens, being the fair minded chaps that they are give earth a choice. Die or bugger off somewhere else. Of course, we go for option 2 and head off to Mars to start a new life.
All is fine and dandy and the humans set up a nice little base camp and begin terraforming Mars. The only trouble is that no one informed the locals of our arrival and, as you may imagine, they are royally pissed and want rid of us. Looks like we are at war….again!
The game it self is split into 2 main sections, planetary management and squad based RTS/RPG tactical sections.
You start with a group of 20 scientists, engineers and soldiers. These all need to be carefully looked after in the early stages of the game, as they are all you have!
The tutorial, an essential part of the game, gets you used to the squad management aspect of the game. Starting with a single character you are shown the basics of moving about the 3D environment, using and collecting things from the map and fighting.
Eventually it will hold your hand to the first bout of resource management and global domination!
The resource and global management is handled very well. You are presented with a global map of Mars on which you can see territories you own, possible hotspots and territories you can take. You will be shown reports from your advisers and from potential allies or enemies.
From this main screen you can enter one of several sub menus that allow you to control the research and resources for your settlers. From these you will set up new research, train your teams, equip your squads with the latest weapons and manage your relationships with other races.
Although initially daunting, these menus are all well thought out and once you get the hang of it will become second nature to you. Read the manual and you will have no problems!
Once you have dealt with the management side of things, it is time to start exploring your territories and taking new ones. From the main global view you can move UFOs into new territories, if there is nothing there, you take it without a fight. If however there is already an occupant, you need to send in a squad to clear them out!
Cue 3D RPG/RTS mode!
Controlling your squad is quite easy. Select your member or members, click where you want them to go and off they go….if you remember to press the play button. And this is where I have a little complaint. The action in the game is very stop start, not turn based, but stop start. It is like watching American football. Just as something interesting is about to happen, it all stops. If there is a lot going on in you current mission, this can be a god send, but to start with it is very frustrating. A quick tweak in the settings though and I had turned off the most annoying causes of the pause and the exploration and combat started to flow nicely!
As with all of these types of games, squad management is essential. If you have a guy armed with just a buzz saw, you should not send him straight into the firing line (yes experience is talking here!).
Once a mission is over you return to you base. Depending on how you did your squad members should all come back with experience. This is where the RPG element comes in. As your squad members explore and fight, they become seasoned and better at what they do. You begin to care about them individually and so take greater thought in who to send out on missions!
The graphics in the game are acceptable. The backgrounds are nice and the characters are well realised, with a good variety of enemy units and environments to deal with. The biggest moan I have is the camera. It just never seems to put its self where you want it, often disappearing behind scenery! In reality this could have been done in an isometric viewpoint (like the originals) and worked just as well!
The game play is well thought out, with the tactical aspects and the action aspects very well balanced. It takes a while to get used to, but is worth persevering with. If you liked the originals, you should find enough familiarity here to get into it and enough new stuff to enjoy it!
If you are not a patient player, then this is not the game for you. This takes patience, a tactical mind and patience, so for RTS or RPG lover, this will make a good addition to your collection.
For me, well, I was pleasantly surprised once I got into it. Initially I was turned off by the pausing game play, but after a few hours I began to enjoy myself!
Russian translation of this review courtesy of Chaser at ufo-afterlight.narod.ru
The Bad: Frustrating camera and stop go gaming!
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