by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Sometimes your expectations of a game are too high. Perhaps it is actually not that uncommon at all really. You unwrap the shiny DVD box, put the disk in your PC, get a fantastic intro movie, adjust your settings and dive into the game. Next thing you know, you're disappointed. Maybe the game was over-hyped, maybe it does not run properly on your machine. These are valid reasons but nothing is as scary as playing the successor (or in this case the spiritual successor) to a game that has burrowed itself deep into your heart. Those who have played one or more of the original UFO (also known as XCOM) games will understand exactly what I'm talking about. Those who haven't, you've missed out. Fortunately all is not lost. There is still a way to get a taste of what made the original games so fantastic. It comes in the form of UFO: Aftershock, the second attempt of publisher Cenega to revive one of the greatest classic series of all time.
Cenega's first attempt, called UFO: Aftermath, was hardy worth being mentioned in the same breath as UFO: Enemy Unknown and UFO: Terror from the Deep. Although never officially endorsed by the creators of the originals, it was touted to be their spiritual predecessor. Unfortunately the game was unfinished, gameplay was too simple and it lacked the depth that fans of the series were hoping to find again. I tried it and tossed it back into the hands of the sales clerk that sold it to me and he dropped it like a hot potato. Apparently he hadn't been impressed either. Not long after though, word of a sequel came out and it was starting to look like Cenega had taken the complaints to heart. UFO: Aftershock was to be what Aftermath should have been in the first place. Did they succeed? Read on...
In Aftershock, a group of humans get hold of an alien craft called a Laputa. It provides everything they need to start restoring Earth to its former self. What's wrong with Earth you ask? Hard to explain. Let's just say that Earth's population is barely surviving, that the planet is crawling with aliens and that a faction called The Cultist is trying to prepare the planet for the return of 'The Masters'. The aliens still remaining on the planet are hardly more than a band of rabble but the Cultists believe that a second invasion force will arrive and bring salvation to those who believe. The only ones that stands between 'salvation' and the survival of the human race, are the humans who now call themselves The Laputians. It's up to the player to guide this group to victory.
The story is told as you progress in time and discover new facts and technologies. Whenever something important is about to happen, the game will pull you out of the action and into a cut-scene explaining what is happening. The voice acting in this is fairly well done and the background story is interesting enough to keep you from pressing the escape key to skip t he movie.
We're not alone...
One of the first noticeable changes in Aftershock is the addition of the Laputa. Hovering over the Geoscape screen, this ship is your 'mobile home base'. You are only able to go on missions that are within its range. Steering it across the globe, you'll find pockets of resistance fighters who need help staying in control of their territory. In return for your help, they may join your cause and your diplomatic standing with the faction they're attached to may increase. There are three potentially friendly factions, the Humans, the Cyborgs and the Psionics.
Each has its own strengths and abilities and it is up to you how to mix your squad. Humans are the jack of all trades and can for instance wear armor. Cyborgs are natural born killers, can be enhanced with all kinds of 'plug-ins' and can sustain quite a bit of damage. Having a Psionic on your squad enables you to use a number of special weapons and attacks unavailable to anyone else.
No Pros and Cons at this time