I was jonesing for some squad-based tactical game-play several months ago while at the same time reminiscing about the X-Com series and so, after doing some quick Google searches, came across UFO Alien Invasion. This game is totally free, and is maintained and updated by volunteers (from what I can make out). That's right, there is no money being made by anyone on this nor will there. It isn't 'free to play', it is actually free. It is a labor of love- a dedication, if you will, to the memory of the fun had playing the original X-Com. The most recent update (as of this writing), in case you think these volunteers are lazy buggers, was July, 2012.
Did I mention it's free to download and play? Good, now lets move on. Note that all the screenshots that follow are taken from the UFO website because, unlike them, I'm a lazy bugger. The game is in English despite some German in the screen-shots.
I can't approach this brief review from any angle other than someone who loved the original X-Com and who enjoys tactical squad-based games. If you're not a fan of the original X-Com (and why the hell aren't you), will this still be a good tactical game for you? I think so, and I can happily offer you a 100% money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied (see 'free', above). If you've played X-Com, or are aware of what it was about, then UFO's game-play will not be much of a mystery. You are in charge of defending earth and must build bases, ships, and weapons to defend against the alien invasion. You will also be researching whey those pesky little buggers are here, and how we can use their technology against them. You will be equipping and controlling an 8-person squad in turn-based combat across a variety of missions and maps.
The graphics won't blow you away but they are an upgrade from the now-dated original X-Com series. The only drawback to game-play is the lack of a destructible environment. One of my favorite tactics in X-Com Terror From The Deep was to have two UFO entry teams. One would go in the front door, and one would blow a large hole in the back and go in that way. It may seem minor but I find it to be very limiting in a tactical game (and one of the reasons Jagged Alliance Back in Action eventually annoyed me).
In the end though, free is free, and (regardless of the lack of cost) this is a good game. It pays homage to a much-loved series and it does it well. I played it quite a lot (20+ hours), and it filled my desire for both an X-Com, and a squad-based tactical game. It is a good community effort and I recommend you check it out.
In the next part I will be looking at another self-professed homage to X-Com, the indie offering (still in Alpha) Xenonauts and asking if it can offer anything that UFO: Alien Invasion does not and most importantly, is it worth the kick-starter cost?