Have You Played… X-COM: Enforcer?

so that's where Battleborn gets its inspiration from. THAT WAS GRAHAM'S GAG NOT MINE OK

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Dear God, why?

Every time anyone whines that XCOM is not sufficiently like X-COM, I want to grab them by the lapels, or if, as is likely if they’re in my unbearably attractive presence, they are naked then by that fleshy bit near their armpits and bellow “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO HAVE THIS LOOK AT WHAT THEY THOUGHT WE WANTED INSTEAD LOOK HOW BAD IT GOT NOW LOOK WHERE WE ARE NOW AND REALISE IT’S A GODDAMNED MIRACLE” right into their faces. Then we’ll both put our rubber Sectoid bodysuits back on and do some more kissing, I guess.

By the crank ’em out standards of 2001, X-COM Enforcer is not the worst shooter in the world. But after years of promise that there would be an X-COM shooter, after years since the last real X-COM game (1997’s Apocalypse), after the similar abomination that was X-COM: Interceptor, it seemed the clearest death knell for X-COM that there could possibly be.

Enforcer bore almost no relation to any previous X-COM, other than having aliens in it, so its very existence was bewildering. While not truly an outright disaster, it felt cheap and retrograde upon release (remember, these were post-Half-Life times), was deeply tedious, was somehow simultaneously lurid and bland to behold, and we somehow had to live with the knowledge that two far more interesting-sounding X-COM games had been cancelled in place of it. It was a disaster, commercially and critically, and turned the X-COM name into all but a laughing stock.

It is a God-damned miracle that we got XCOM: Enemy Unknown 11 years later, and don’t you bloody well forget it.


  1. Turkey says:

    I remember PC gaming in the early ’00s went through kind of a genre purge. For a while it felt like RTS and shooter games were the only genres that mattered.

  2. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    I was one of the 5 people who bought interceptor.

    It was worse.

    & I am sorry for my crime.

    • theblazeuk says:

      I got Interceptor with the originals in a big bundle of CDs way back when (along with Xcom Email, which was bloody great fun to play, particularly given modem speeds at the time).

      I liked Interceptor. It was a broken game with crap flying (and a stupid, stupid research system). But it took one of my favourite bits from XCOM and made a whole game around it. I think if done well, it could be remade to excellent result – Freespace 2 style dogfighting missions interspersed with policing trade lanes and colonies, trying to hunt down marauding fleets of alien ships… There’s a great concept for a game hidden away in that crappy shell.

      • SomeDuder says:

        Yea, I… Somehow have fond memories of Interceptor. Building the spacestations seemed fun to my uncultured mind, and the research kept you interested.

        But all of the XCOM stuff that isnt antfarm-basebuilding and tactical combat is extremely forgetable, which isn’t a bad thing.

  3. Jackablade says:

    Awright Enforcer. Do what you were Pwogwammed for.

  4. Idealist says:

    I was so embarrassingly into X-COM in the 90s that I wrote epic poetry about the first and second X-COM games.

    I thought Interceptor was decent. It had gameplay issues, but the but the basic formula was still very faithful to the spirit of X-COM, as was the fluff. The last moments of the video for completing testing of the Nova Bomb, are a perfect example of this.

    • Idealist says:

      (It’s worth noting that the seemingly odd motion of the fighter in the video is actually appropriate, as the “end game” fighters were inertialess.)

  5. tour86rocker says:

    X-COM Enforcer was ridiculous junk. Interceptor was great, I’ve never understood the hate for it…once I disabled the awful voice acting. I would play another game like it if I could find one. An X-Wing game where you could place and administrate starbases, manage research, but didn’t have to manager production? The lore in the news broadcasts was very thoughtful and consistent with the universe. I wish the Steam/GOG versions weren’t buggy…

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Dunc says:

      I hever got round to playing Interceptor, but I seem to remember it was relatively well received on release. Unlike Enforcer, of course…

  6. Sardonic says:

    Not only did I play it, I played through it multiple times through, as it loops when you beat it.

    I’m not sure why.

  7. ChairmanYang says:

    Anyone remember the excellent Front Mission strategy RPGs? Instead of translating the apparently amazing Front Mission 5, Square saw fit to release a third-person shooter based on the series. I’m not sure if I should be sad or glad that it flopped and destroyed the series.

  8. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I always hoped for a X-Com version of Rainbow Six. A tactical shooter about those tense moments when you breach a downed UFO, hoping the guy behind you doesn’t get mind warped into pulling the pins on all of his grenades.

    Enforcer was not that game.

    • Durgendorf says:

      At first that sounded dreadful, but then I realized the grenade scenario is actually more dependent on player input than most of my failed R6 single player missions.

      *breach* *snuff film*

    • bill says:

      You mean X-Com: Alliance?
      I think that’s one of the cancelled games that led to this being dumped out.

      I was always excited for that one.. it sounded great in previews.

  9. Shaun Green says:

    Interceptor’s the runt of the X-COM litter. Enforcer is the pet rock.

    I played through Interceptor at some point in the 2000s. It’s got a lot of issues, not least the fact that the space sim component is virtually unplayable at the start of the game – it’s only with a few techs under your spacebelt that you can fly your interceptor’s manually and hope to hit enemies, let alone destroy them. Before that it’s advisable to switch the autopilot on and watch the ridiculousness unfold. But yes, once you’ve got a few techs, the spacesim missions can actually be fun, and whilst the strategic layer is quite sterile, it has its own charm, particularly for massive nerds like me who lived and breathed X-COM at the time.

    Enforcer is a meritless piece of garbage. It’s uninspired and lazy in every way conceivable. Its one redeeming feature is that it serves as a fitting monument to Hasbro’s shitty takeover of Microprose.

  10. misterhalloween says:

    I was in QA for this train wreck. We actually made it fun, since we had to test it 8+ hours a day. Edited the fire rate on guns, made it possible to spawn mobs during multiplayer matches, tweaked jump and fall speeds, modded it to make it almost fun.

    Piece of trivia you won’t care to know: the mall in the game was designed around the Towson Town Center Mall in Towson Maryland; not far from Microprose. In game, there was a niche in the wall that, with perfectly timed jumps, one could use camp other players. That niche is still there and brings back fond memories. Okay, maybe not fond, but memories.

    • tigerfort says:

      How did the QA team modding the game to make it fun not strike some kind of warning with the developers? Seriously?

      • rmsgrey says:

        I’m pretty sure no-one involved with Enforcer (except possibly high-level management) had any illusion that they were making a good game, let alone a great one.

        Hasbro had decided that they should expand from toys and board-games into video-games and as part of expanding their digital arm, bought out the publisher/developer. With Hasbro Interactive collapsing as the late-90s dotcom bubble burst, the ambitious XCOM: Alliance project got canned, and, in an attempt to recoup something from the work invested in it, Enforcer was mandated using the existing assets to throw together a game as cheaply and quickly as possible.

        The fact it’s as playable as it is is a testament to the work ethic of the people stuck with making it…

  11. SableKeech says:

    I liked Interceptor. Filled the gap after X-Wing etc.

  12. apa says:

    Still waiting for The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge… I think it was this preview that got me excited: link to gamespot.com

  13. Flopdong says:

    I’m surprised no one has bothered to mention the god-awful controls for this turd of a game. You could only use mouselook on the x axis, and had to use a separate pair of buttons to aim up/down. I remember buying this game, playing it for about 5 minutes, and returning it because the shitty controls rendered the game nearly unplayable.

    Not only was it an XCom game that nobody wanted, it was an awful game, period.

  14. isyd says:

    I played it briefly. It has no X-Com feel to it, just a straight explosion heavy arcade shooter with pickups. From what i read, the game was made to make use of the assets of the chanceled Unreal Engine 1 X-Com Squad-Shooter from the late 90s. So its sole purpose was to squeeze some bucks out of the lost projects remains.
    It received bad critics, but i really enjoyed playing The Bureau X-COM Declassified. So to say the come to life vision of the chanceled shooter/squad idea from the late 90s. Loved the 60s setting and the mix between shooter and strategy elements played out really well to me. Even if its unlikely, i would really like to see a sequel.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, people gave The Bureau shit for not being the strategy X-Com they wanted, but at least it’s a far, far better X-Com-adjacent shooter than Enforcer ever was.

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    Imagine a world where Enforcer never existed. In this world, where X-Com was a simple trilogy of strategy games, there might have been insufficient fan backlash towards XCOM. Without the fan backlash, Ken might not have been able to convince those in charge that he should be doing something else. Meanwhile, the Enemy Unknown project that was quietly being worked on, might have been cancelled or at least re-branded to avoid confusion with XCOM The Shooter.

    What I’m saying is: In some parallel universe there was no Bioshock Infinite or Enemy Unknown, but there was an XCOM trilogy of shooters. We avoided that fate thanks to Enforcer.

    This is why even terrible games are so very, very important.

  16. ZedClampet says:

    My first XCOM was Enemy Unknown. I’ve loved these 3 recent games and might go back to the originals and give them a try. Sometimes I get frustrated with antiquated UI though and give up on classic games. I loved the first few Fallout games, but went back to play them again last summer, and it just seemed a struggle.

    • rmsgrey says:

      UFO and Apocalypse are the ones to check out. Terror From The Deep is UFO with a blue filter, increased difficulty, and some potentially game-killing bugs. Interceptor isn’t as bad as some say, but it’s unlikely to run on a modern machine.

      Enforcer… Do yourself a favour and play the original DOOM instead.

      UFO is the original, and the one the modern games most draw upon. The main differences come down to it being more of a simulation, so you have a lot more strategic freedom than you do in XC:EU – you can build entire bases in several locations around the world; rather than spawning a set number of events at set times each month, the aliens actually pursue their own strategic goals, and react to XCOM interference (one of the more visible examples comes in the form of alien bases – they send a series of increasingly heavy ships to scout for and prepare a site, then a Battleship and a couple of Supply Ships to build the thing, and from then on a steady stream of Supply Ships to keep the base supplied – shoot down the early ships and the base never gets built; let it be completed, and shooting down the Supply Ships can provide a comfortable revenue/training source for you). Another example is soldier ranks – in the modern games, your soldier’s rank is just another name for their experience level giving you rank structures that no sane military would ever accept – 6 Colonels in charge of a couple of Sergeants you got as mission rewards – where the original only promoted officers once there were enough lower ranks to support them (though any squad-level organisation that resulted was entirely player choice). That ties in with one of the bigger differences – in the modern games, you field a squad of 4-6 superheroes with incredible abilities; in the original, you started with a squad of 10 soldiers, could field 14 as soon as fresh recruits and equipment arrived, then, once you’d researched the Avenger, up to 26 (though equipment limits mean you’d be better fielding a smaller, individually better armed force and including some mini-tanks instead), who, while they can aim better and run further than most rookies, never unlock the ability to dodge bullets.

      Apocalypse, despite being reduced in scope to a single “city” has much deeper simulation, though you can easily miss most of it as a player. On the other hand, finding an alien-occupied structure owned by a faction you don’t like, when you’re armed with infinite-ammo weapons can be a fun way to kill some time – shoot out all the supports of the structure, and the whole thing crashes down, at a minimum disrupting any ambushes (more likely killing all the enemies) and setting back the enemy faction :)

  17. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    X-COM: Interceptor is to X-COM what Fallout Tactics it to Fallout and X-COM: Enforcer is to X-COM what Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel is to Fallout.

    Intellectual property death whimpers from publishers fading out of existence.