23 November 2007

UFO: Alien Invasion

ufo:aiI have strong feelings about this game, so I'll start by stating my bias: I was introduced to the X-COM series with UFO2 X-COM: Terror from the Deep, which I liked a lot and played for years. After that, I tried X-COM: Apocalypse and not liked it enough: it was too complicated, too hard and had too brighter graphics (which have not helped with the mood). Only after that I discovered X-COM: UFO Defense (A.K.A.: UFO: Enemy Unkonwn), the first game of the series, which was about the same as TFTD but smaller and uglier.
Later I tried the demos of a two spin-offs, X-COM: Interceptor and X-COM: Enforcer and did not liked them: they were different kind of games.

ufo:aiEnter Open Source clones: I found UFO2000, a Free implementation (with multiplayer!) of the battlescape portion of UFO1 but nothing more and UFO: Alien Invasion about which I will talk in depth.

The franchise was revived with UFO: Aftermath, a games I skipped without even looking at a demo, based on reviews with its two sequels: UFO: Aftershock and UFO: Afterlight.

ufo:aiNow back at UFO: Alien Invasion. It uses a heavily modified Quake II engine and despite this it manages to re-capture the feeling of the classic UFO: Enemy Unkonwn.
My first encounter with the game was years ago, when I saw a small preview, containing (IIRC) only a single battlescape area, with fixed team, no inventory management, no bases, no geoscape, no strategy.

ufo:aiI keept in my mind and checked the progress from time to time, in 2004 the project had the so-called "x-mas release", another tech demo. I was so disappointed by its status that I totally lost my confidence in the project and completely forgot about it for a long time.

ufo:aiA few days ago I got a reminder about the game and went to the website and noticed the release number, 2.1.1, which gave me hope. Also, the screenshots look cool. Do I downloaded the binary installer (the game is not yet packaged in Fedora, but is on the whishlist and the Loki installer is working).

For about a few days I play it heavily and I like it: the look and feel, the engine, the implementation, the attention to detail, the faithfulness to the original, the improvements. Instead of a long review, here are some more shiny pictures:

ufo:ai ufo:ai ufo:ai ufo:ai

But the conclusion is not very optimistic: I played it for a few days already, but the games does not appear winnable. It is so complete in some areas that it hurts, it could be the best Linux game I ever saw.
The hopes? According to the TODO, the developers evaluate even an engine change, so fat chance to ever see the game in a "complete" stage.

Now back with me to the playing field to see what happens next (not much, I think I exhausted the research tree)...

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