X-COM is a series of video games, started by Mythos Games and MicroProse in 1993. The first three titles in the franchise were tactical games while the fourth was an action-based space combat/strategy game. All titles were developed for the PC, with a few ports to the Amiga and PlayStation. The first three games were originally developed to run under DOS, and have subsequently been ported to run under Microsoft Windows.
The first installment, UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe (also known as X-COM: UFO Defense in North America) was written by a team led by Julian Gollop. MicroProse quickly had an internal team create the sequel X-COM: Terror from the Deep. Subsequently, the Gollop brothers went straight to work on X-COM: Apocalypse, which would end up being the third in the series when released in 1997. Soon after Apocalypse, MicroProse was bought by Hasbro Interactive, which released two more X-COM games.
The original series
The premise for the original series is that hostile extraterrestrials have begun invading the planet Earth. A clandestine, international military organization Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (variably abbreviated X-COM or X-Com through the series) is set up in 1999 to counter the UFOs, capture and research the alien technology, unveil the mystery behind the attacks, and ultimately stop the threat. Inspiration for this setting was drawn from the TV series UFO, and Timothy Good's book Alien Liaison.
The X-COM series included the following games:
- UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994)
- X-COM: Terror from the Deep (1995)
- X-COM: Apocalypse (1997)
- X-COM: Interceptor (1998)
- X-COM: Enforcer (2001)
The first game is undeniably the most popular and most successful of the series. It was often voted to be one of the best video games of all time by many gaming magazines and websites, including #1 on the IGN's list of Top 25 PC Games of All Time in 2007 and again in 2009, #2 on the list of Best Video Games Since 1992 by Pelit in 2007, #3 on the list of Top 50 Games of All Time by PC Gamer in 2001 (and #11 in their 2010 "Top 100 Games of All Time" list), and #3 on list of Best Games of All Time by Computer Gaming World in 2001. The series has since then developed a large and devoted cult following.
Apocalypse took several new directions with the series: it introduced a real-time combat system, in addition to a modified turn-based system, and the aesthetics were shifted to a less grim and more futuristic style. Despite being developed by the original creators of the first X-COM (Terror from the Deep was developed by MicroProse's internal team), it failed to repeat its success.
After Interceptor, Hasbro Interactive purchased MicroProse and acquired the X-COM brand. In 2001 Hasbro released a poorly-received action game named X-COM: Enforcer, loosely based on the events of Enemy Unknown. There was also a budget range multiplayer game X-COM: Email games, released in 1999.
Two more titles were planned for this series: X-COM: Genesis (a strategy game) and X-COM: Alliance (a tactical first-person shooter). Both projects were aborted when Hasbro shut down Hasbro Interactive studios in 2001.
There were also four compilation releases:
- X-COM (Collector's Edition) (1998)
- X-COM Collection (1999)
- X-COM: Complete Pack (2008)
- 2K Huge Games Pack (2009)
On April 14, 2010, 2K Marin announced a PC and console re-imagining of X-COM (relabeled as XCOM). Though it will be a first-person shooter, they said they will try to keep some main concepts from the original game, such as Elerium. As of June 2010, XCOM is expected to be exclusive to Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 with a projected release date of 2011.
Intellectual property rights
The trademark for the X-COM name was filed on May 25, 1995, by MicroProse Software. Following the acquisition and subsequent merger of MicroProse with Hasbro Interactive, the X-COM IP was also transferred to Hasbro Interactive on August 19, 1998. Due to financial difficulties, 100% of Hasbro Interactive was sold to the French concern Infogrames Entertainment SA on January 29, 2001; as part of this transfer, the X-COM IP was legally transferred to Infogrames on December 21, 2001 (shortly thereafter, Infogrames was renamed Atari Inc., able to do this since acquiring several Atari IPs from Hasbro Interactive). In 2005 Atari transferred several IPs to Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. and X-COM was transferred with them on June 12, 2005. The X-COM IP is currently owned by Take-Two and its subsidiaries; in 2007 there were unconfirmed rumors that Irrational Games (who are owned by Take-Two) were developing a new X-COM title.
In May 2007, a representative of 2K Games (a subsidiary of Take-Two) declared on the Steam forums that they had inherited the X-COM franchise. In light of this, 2K Games re-released Terror from the Deep on Steam with support for Windows XP only (in October 2008, an update was released through Steam, which enabled Windows Vista support for Terror from the Deep). In September 2008, UFO Defense, Apocalypse, Interceptor, and Enforcer were re-released with support for Windows XP and Windows Vista available on Steam and Gamersgate among others. As of June 2010, 2K Games subsidiary 2K Marin is developing the new X-COM game, XCOM.
Because of the series' popularity, other game developers have created games similar in theme and tone of the X-COM games. The level to which they borrow from the original series varies.
- The 1997 tactical PC game Incubation: Time Is Running Out was considered a spiritual successor to X-COM and "what X-Com Apocalypse should have been".
- The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge was a canceled game for PC and PlayStation 2 by Mythos Games (the authors of the original game), claimed to having been "essentially a remake of the first X-Com with 3D graphics". It was however canceled in 2001 and Mythos Games ceased to exist.
- UFO: Aftermath is a 2003 singleplayer PC game which was heavily influenced by the X-COM series and used elements of Freedom Ridge project; during its development, the developers solicited comments from the X-COM fan community. It has since been followed by two sequels: UFO: Aftershock in 2005 and UFO: Afterlight in 2007.
- In 2005, developer Codo Technologies (key former members of Mythos Games) and publisher Namco released Rebelstar: Tactical Command, very similar to the X-COM's battle system, for the Game Boy Advance.
- UFO: Extraterrestrials, released in 2007 for PC, aimed to be an unofficial sequel to the X-COM series.
- UFO: Alien Invasion and Project Xenocide are two free open source PC strategy games heavily influenced by the X-COM series.
- Xenonauts is a PC strategy game presently in development by Goldhawk Interactive, again heavily influenced by the X-COM series. It is marketed as a Cold War-era (1979 instead of 1999) re-imagining of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown and an answer to 2K's XCOM which has already alienated many fans due to its FPS-based gameplay.
- Laser Squad: a sci-fi tactical game by the developers of X-COM; immediate predecessor of X-COM.
- Laser Squad Nemesis: a multiplayer game from the original creators of X-COM.
- Rebelstar series: precursor games to the Laser Squad and X-COM series, created by the same developers.
- ↑ The Making Of: X-COM: Enemy Unknown. Edge (May 15, 2009). Retrieved on 2009-05-15
- ↑ UFO: Enemy Unknown#Reception
- ↑ "XCOM" (official 2K Marin site)
- ↑ 2K Games Browser
- ↑ Trademark Assignment Details for Atari from the United States Patent and Trademark Office
- ↑ Trademark Assignment Abstract of Title from the United States Patent and Trademark Office
- ↑ "Irrational Games Developing X-COM Title?" article from Shacknews
- ↑ Incubation Reviews. Blue Byte Software. Retrieved on 2010-06-23
- ↑ XCom UFO creators strategy game Laser Squad Nemesis. Codo Technologies. Retrieved on 2007-11-26
- ↑ Xenonauts capitalizes on XCOM rage | Joystiq
- X-COM at MobyGames
- X-COM at TV Tropes
- UFOPaedia: an extensive wiki containing information, analysis, strategy, and other resources for the X-COM series of games
- X-Com: the oldest X-COM website still on the web (has been dormant for years, but still hosts unique content including new ship maps for X-COM 1 & 2, plus a bunch of game tools and utilities for the first three games)
- XCOM: UFO Defense: another X-COM fan site with numerous resources and patches for the Windows versions of the X-COM games
- StrategyCore.co.uk (formerly X-COM.co.uk): news, fan-fiction, files and forums
- X-COM Trilogy UFOpedia: the original in-game encyclopedias of the first three X-COM games