X-COM Interceptor, the fourth in the X-COM series, is a complex, real-time, space-based and strategy-laced war simulation against those pesky, persistent aliens who are determined to destroy Earth and gain control over the new frontier. That's right, they are back for more. Whether they are just slow learners or gutsy never-say-die antagonists, you'll have your hands full as you confront this space-borne menace in a series of campaigns and missions designed to test your mettle as an X-COM commander.
The game features both single and multi-player (two to eight players) modes, each containing specific elements and different types of missions. In single player mode there are three distinct combat mission types. Essentially, two are mandatory for winning the game. The first focuses on head-to-head combat situations required as a direct response to an alien threat and the second revolves around taking the initiative by conducting preemptive strikes against the enemy. The third mission type, while not mandatory, helps you earn and accumulate extra points in the final scoring of the game by presenting opportunities to take on special missions.
As the X-COM commander, you'll be required to hire new pilots, outfit your fighters with the newest and best equipment available and stay on top of new technologies by researching captured alien weapons. The game supports joystick, keyboard and mouse input and Internet play where the player hosting the engagement can control multi-player aspects such as who can join the game, how many can participate (up to eight total) and type of game (e.g., either solo or team free-for-alls). Both 3D accelerator cards and non-acceleration setups are supported. As a bonus (undocumented on the box), a complete copy of X-COM Apocalypse (the third game in the series) and its manual is included.
With little-to-no hype, the game had X-COM series fans excited from the day it was announced. The original plan was to take X-COM: UFO Defense, replace the tactical battles with a top-of-the-line space combat simulator, and throw in a good dose of X-COM Apocalypse's corporate feel for good measure. X-COM Interceptor should be a great game. The end result just doesn't live up to its promise.
From the beginning, Interceptor suffers from covering too many bases. It tries to be a space sim, economic sim, and strategic sim, with a research tree thrown in. If all of these areas had been done well, the game would be a smash success. Unfortunately, there is already a product out there that beats Interceptor in each respective category.
First, the space sim. Although Interceptor's combat engine is both fluid and relatively good looking, it doesn't hold up against Descent: Freespace and Wing Commander: Prophecy. The engine is very repetitive -- there are only six or seven different types of fight situations that you end up in over and over and over again. While it's kind of fun in the beginning of the game to hone your skills on the small groups of saucers, the appeal is quickly lost when you realize you've been through the same battle twenty times. To make matters worse, your wingmen are so efficient at hunting down the nasty little critters, that even when you are ready for some combat, you may only have time to pick off one alien -- they've already bagged the rest. Oh well, at least there's the resource management to fall back on. Right?
Interceptor's resource management is adequate, but not much fun. Players have to order all of their supplies from the bases they protect, and have to protect the craft carrying those supplies from alien attacks along the way. Although this is an excellent idea, in practice, it's just another excuse to enter the monotony of yet another space battle. It's also a bit questionable to me that the companies that you are protecting from harm seem to enjoy taking money away from you with so much glee. "Hey, I just lost three men protecting your base from an alien attack... Do you think I could get a discount?"
Finally there's the science tree. In a move that just baffles me, Interceptor stripped all of the fun out of researching by changing it to downloading. Now the research is completed back on Earth and you build special nodes to download the information. I don't know about you, but somehow the idea of downloading software just isn't as appealing to me as actually doing the research. I want my scientists back. I want some control over how fast I get my advancements. I want X-COM: UFO Defense back!!
Interceptor's not really all that bad in the grand scheme of things, it's just frighteningly mediocre. If a company can take all the excitement of the X-COM license, combine it with a space combat game, and still come up with a title that's this dull, I worry about what could be next.
People who downloaded X-COM: Interceptor have also downloaded:
X-COM: Apocalypse, X-COM: Terror from the Deep Collector's Edition, X-COM: Enforcer, X-Gold (X: Beyond the Frontier & X-Tension), UFO: Enemy Unknown Collector's Edition, X³: Reunion, X2: The Threat, Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger
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