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Q4 2003



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UFO: Aftermath

Score: 5.9/10

Iím going to throw Aftermath a bone, and give it a mediocre rating. Iím ignoring all my bias in doing so, and providing clean, objective criticism. Itís buggy, bland and repetitive, the graphics are nothing worthy of merit, and if it were made of wood youíd be able to see rusty nails sticking out left right and centre, but itís not the worst thing that the world has ever seen. So, thatís that out of the way; if youíre the sort of person who browses the Empire every so often in search of the latest high-scorer, then itís time to stop reading. I recommend Prince of Persia 3D, or something. Maybe one of the Fallout games, if you want to confine yourself roughly to the genre. Hell, you could do worse than the original XCOMÖ but Iíll get to that, in a minute.  

ufo-aftermath-1.jpg (55209 bytes)          ufo-aftermath-2.jpg (83745 bytes)

First, to expand upon the mediocrity, let me give you some background. The game is a third person strategy game, in which you control a real time squad, that feels turn based, in a post apocalyptic environment, against the hordes of some alien menace or other. Thereís not much to chew on, and itís hard to get pulled into the storyline. Itís pretty standard fare Ė bog standard in fact, with no bells, whistles or sphincter-clenching innovations. The environments are totally not deformable, the aliens are pretty bug-eyed, and the weapons pop like peashooters at fifty yards. Whatís missing is atmosphere.

As far as slick and polish goes, Aftermath poorly misses the mark, giving the sort of jury-rigged impression youíd expect to get if it were actually being held together with staples. Rumour has it the project changed hands part way through the development, so thereís likely to be a certain amount of meat behind the metaphor.




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About one third of the way through the game there is a sudden, inexplicable and totally unsubtle increase in difficulty. And thatís where, if I had to poll it, Iíd imagine the vast majority of players gave up and went to try something else. So thatís it. A mediocre experience, with poor gameplay balance. But waitÖ! Despite being in all ways average, I really do hate this game, and thereís just time for some vitriol.



You see, although for legal reasons Cenega may not be able to admit it, Aftermath is the obvious bastard child of the XCOM series and harks back to the very first two titles of the series. Thereís an alien invasion and a task force to deal with it, an expandable encyclopaedia of researched artefacts, a rotating planetlike geoscape ticking off UFO sightings, and which is followed by related tactical missions. Almost carbon.

For a long time in development, this game looked like the business. It looked like XCOM + one decade of computer enhancements. In every way this game seems intended to honour the memory of that distinguished title, and so itís my belief that Cenega did not merely create this shameful pretender in order to cash in on a legacy. Perhaps they just got kind of bored around the halfway mark, and decided to ship.  

ufo-aftermath-3.jpg (51066 bytes)          ufo-aftermath-4.jpg (59801 bytes)

One thing is crystal: when held to the light of XCOM, even ten years down the timeline, Aftermath absolutely pales. In every particular area in which XCOM excelled, Aftermath has taken devastating shortcuts. It is a bitter cup to drink. Aftermath  is like the skeleton of UFO Defense. Imagine, if you will, some enthusiastic youth taking the time to explain the original XCOM game to his half-deaf maternal grandmother. This is her impression of the game; the following Christmas sheíll knit him a sweater with three arms, and UFO Aftermath.

The game should probably better have been dubbed UFO: Afterbirth Ė itís ugly and sloppy and imposes itself on the heels of what you really wanted to see. 

- Matt BLB

(January 18, 2004)


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