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UFO Enemy Unknown (Amiga CD 32) Review


Ok, let's Begin!


UFO Enemy Unknown (UEU) was developed by Mythos Games in conjunction with MicroProse in 1994 the earliest release I believe been in March on MS-DOS of that year. The Amiga CD 32 release was probably around the same time from what my research tells me. UEU is basically the precursor to the game Xcom for PC and Xbox. Initially, it was supposed to be the sequel to Mythos Games 1988 Sci-Fi tactical game Laser Squad. Supposedly MicroProse were the ones who pushed Mythos Games into developing a more ambitious project resulting in UEU. As far as the modern Xcom sequels go though, I would still argue that UEU has some of the greatest micro-management freedom when compared to them. An example of this is the fact you can literally send people out with no ammo. Yep, good luck fighting that alien trooper Rick because I had to cut your bullets from this month's budget. That's the level of micromanagement we're talking about, and I love it. So what is UEU in terms of game theme? I'd argue it's primarily a strategy game with part of the game set in an overview mode where you can track your bases, UFO sightings and the nations across the globe. This is also where the majority of the micromanaging takes place from hiring, firing, researching, building, buying, selling and budgeting. The other part is an isometric turn-based strategic combat system. This is when you command your troops on the ground to fight the aliens, gather intel and scavenge for alien tech.



Plot

In the year of 1998,  UFO sightings have drastically increased. Stories about abductions and alien attacks became more and more widespread among the populace. Eventually, after many independent governments across the world have tried and failed to intercept these UFO menaces.  A conference is called of global importance in Geneva, Switzerland. It concludes that a secret paramilitary group named the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit or X-COM for short should be created and be funded by all nations of the world. X-COM's primary goals are to seek, learn from and destroy the alien menace. 


Nerdy C's Pros & Cons


Pros

UEU is deeply complex and in-depth for the time, requiring you to micromanage pretty much the entirety of the X-COM organisation, not only on a global level but all the way down to the individual foot soldier. On the global level your concerned with tracking and intercepting UFO sightings and keeping the nation's of the world safe so that these nations don't start pulling your funding because of your lack of effectiveness. On department/base level you're focused on the logistics, development and management of individual X-COM bases, of which you appear to be able to construct three. This can be hiring and firing of staff, development of new technologies, manufacturing of specific X-COM equipment and ensuring equipment is maintained and stocked. Not to mention where it's stocked, don't make the mistake I made of sending a Skylander out with no equipment on board. Yep as I say everything has to be taken into account otherwise your ground missions are going to be tricker then you bargained for. Speaking of ground combat this is where you work on the individual level. In order to get to this stage, you'll have had to have shot a UFO out of the sky over land, using your interceptors, or sent your Skylander into an alien hot zone. Upon landing, you'll have to choose your soldier's loadout based on what's stored in the Skylander, do not forget this! Then evacuate your soldiers from the Skylander and deal with the alien threat in the area. If you think your soldiers have any sort of brains between them, don't! You will have to manage everything with them from shooting, crouching and firing. I'm serious when I say they have no sense of self-preservation. I literally order one of them to throw there fully loaded rifle at an enemy. Instead of the game telling me "no you can't do that" as it does with movement half the time, the soldier willingly threw their rifle right at the alien's feet. What was more insulting was it was on target. Incidentally, that particular soldier didn't get another turn, especially when the alien unloaded a barrage of laser fire into his dimwitted defenceless ass. So yes, UEU is an incredibly complex strategy for the time, giving the player a real wide range of freedom within the game. Even if that freedom is to throw your weapons at the enemy instead of actually using the bullets or grenade strapped to your belt. I can't deny it, I love it just for the many stupid moments like that.



UEU is a consequence heavy game and does a good job at making you feel the impact of your choices; from permanent deaths of your individually named ground troops to the funding counsels monthly reports on your efficacy. Even small things can have a consequence. One example that comes to mind is when I rearmed an interceptor with new missiles to deal with larger UFO's. I initially did this as a precaution but typically the rearming took time. So a situation arose where I had two planes grounded one refuelling the other rearming. So, of course, that's when the big UFO comes. I can't scramble my planes so it ends up attacking a city. This now leaves me to risk soldiers lives and obtain some poor press for allowing citizens to become targets. As a result, this affected my monthly funding as that country attacked didn't think my defence of them was particularly good. So yeah it really makes you think carefully about your actions. 


Another Pro of UEU is that it's compatible with a commodore mouse and considering that the vast amount of the inputs are "click here" and scroll down or up. It's nice to be able to have a cursor to actually point and click. I'm not saying that you can't play this without a mouse but much like Red Alert Revelation on the PlayStation, it's just much simpler having a cursor. Though I have played with the controller as well and it's perfectly acceptable. I just prefered the Commodore mouse on this one.




Cons

Okdoky so what is the biggest Con of UEU? I think that the biggest problem with UEU is the load times really. I'm serious this game chugs quite a bit and I know it's not the Amiga CD 32 because it plays other games on the system far smoother, admittedly though these games may not be as complex. So where are the main loading issues? Well, mainly it's the ground combat. Moving across the map is quite a struggle and waiting for the enemy to complete there turn is torturous it gets faster when their's less of them but quite often I'm staring at a black screen that simply says "Hidden Movement". So how much does this slow the game down well the longest stint I've done on this is about 8 hours and I managed about 3 ground missions in total. My advice, if you don't plan on a long stint, is to limit yourself to one ground mission and save before and after as the game doesn't allow you to save during the ground combat. 


UEU's sprites are fairly distinct, varied, colourful and for the most part, do give you an accurate idea of the environment. You're probably wondering why this is a Con? Well, it comes down to that word "most". UEU is a game that can infuriate you as you find out things you can't do, which otherwise seem perfectly possible. From posts and fences that seem to provide aliens cover, but if you try that then prepare to lose soldiers. Then there are the dessert terrain sprites that give the impression of what appears to be flat land giving you a direct line of sight to your target only to obstruct it. This is I suspect down to the fact that most things in the desert are yellow. I'm guessing due to limited colour palette or just simple laziness there's very little gradation in that colour making the land all appear flat when it's actually has dunes. So yes that's frustrating especially after you've waisted your soldier's energy and Time Units (TU's) lining up a shot that you now can't take.




The final Con with UEU is its reliance on probability to hit your opponents, which leaves you with some tense and frustrating moments. This is especially keen on the nerves when you're down to the last two soldiers and they seemingly can't hit a broadside of a barn between them. Alternatively, you can end up with an alien who's just out of site and snipes half your men when he's sat camping just out of view. All I can say is thankfully the game has grenades and they're vital in the early game because throwing most things is more accurate than using any of the early start weapons. My advice to you is to make sure that each of your soldiers has at least two grenades, preferably one in hand to save TU's. When you get the opportunity, stick the fuse to zero and chuck it. It'll blow up on the aliens turn and if it doesn't instantly kill them it'll definitely near kill them, but be warned it has quite a wide blast radius about 4 or 5 tiles from where it lands.



Nerd O Metre Rating


A marvellous 4 out of 5


Yes UEU is a very entertaining game for the Amiga CD 32 and if you love strategy or indeed the other X-COM games or if you want to play one of its earliest incarnations then I definitely recommend it for you. For the most part, the game runs ok. It's only its ground combat screen where it's greatest frustrations occur. However with some practice and relevant in-game tech upgrades; armour, medkits and grenades you'll be able to mitigate the more annoying problems. Other than that the only other odd glitch I found was at least two menus that had white buttons with white lettering. Both I believe are in the ground combat screen. One happens if you press the "dust off" button which allows you to abort the mission. So if you need help with that I pressed the left option to abort the mission. The other I'm sure was about screen scrolling but since I couldn't see the options clearly I left it as it was, and clicked the lower-left bar that seemed to back out of it. Not sure if this is just in the Amiga CD 32 copy of the game or whether it was an issue across all its platforms. Either way, they're not really important menus to actually play the game with. O, and one final thing if you get a copy without a manual I advise you to look one up. This is a rather complicated game and there's no in-game tutorial to help you know what button does what on the screen.


Cheat/Glitch?


Free Manufacturing


Select the item to be manufactured, but assign no engineers and leave the number to produce at zero, make sure too ok this. Then come out until your back into current production. You should now see your production of the item with zero engineers assigned. Right, now click on this and assign as many engineers as desired but only manufacture one item. This item will now be produced at no cost which equals 100% profit upon selling the created item. This is good for at least laser pistols and rifles but I bet could be used on higher cost manufactured items like tanks.


Reviewed by

Nerdy C

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