Have You Played… X-COM: Interceptor

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

There was a time when I’d buy anything X-COM. I sometimes look at people who have an entire room dedicated to collectibles and tat based on a specific franchise and think, “there but for the grace of Gollop go I”. If there’d been X-COM cereal, I’d have bought it. Action figures, of course. Comics, watercolour paintings, boardgames, plushies, chocolate bars…the Saturday morning X-COM cartoon would have been a precious thing indeed. Actually, yes, I’d still like an X-COM cartoon.

As it turned out, I just ended up with a copy of X-COM: Interceptor. Enforcer too, but Interceptor is the one I remember best.

The disappointment wasn’t that I’d bought a crappy spin-off, it was that I actually wanted a space sim set in the X-COM universe. For, you see, that’s what Interceptor was. Set after the events of the first two games but before Apocalypse (though it was released afterwards), Interceptor sees humanity looking for resources in space, having burned through everything back on Earth. Idiots.

Aliens are waiting for them out there in space, of course, and they’re planning yet another doomsday event that will shatter our planet into pieces. So you manage space stations, send Interceptor squadrons out on missions, and then zip around in flight sim mode shooting down alien craft while trying to coordinate your wingmen. It could have been great, or mediocre even, but all I can remember is bad jokes, tedious combat, and no real sense of flight.

If the spin-off cycle begins anew, I’d like a survival horror X-COM game about a civilian trapped in a city during a terror event, but if there is another stab at an Interceptor style title, I’d give it a shot. No more Enforcers though, please.

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30 Comments

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    I actually have fairly good memories of this. It was no where near as good as X-wing/Tie fighter, or Wing Commander, but it was interesting enough to my young teenage brain.
    Never played Enforcer tho. I read the reviews of that one and steered clear.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Same here; I remember it being rather fun. I do find this bit of the article odd though:

      “I actually wanted a space sim set in the X-COM universe.”

      I mean, why? What about previous X-COMs led to thinking of that particular genre wish? It’s sort of like saying ‘I’ve always wanted a Mario 4x game’. And Interceptor itself pretty much bears that out because wasn’t really about X-COM any more as it had an entirely new setting and plot.

      What we really need, is a Stargate SG-1 game that’s like X-COM.

      • tour86rocker says:

        VERY, VERY YES to the Stargate idea.

      • Nosada says:

        “a Stargate SG-1 game that’s like X-COM”

        Thanks, you just ruined gaming as a hobby entirely. Simply because when playing any game from now on I’ll be thinking “How much better would this be if it was X-COM in the SG-1 universe”

      • beleester says:

        XCOM is a game about shooting down UFOs and taking their stuff. So a game focused on the part where you shoot down UFOs instead of the part where you send ground squads to clean up doesn’t seem like a bad idea on its face. It’s just that Interceptor was a crappy implementation.

        I’m ambivalent about putting it in space – I feel like flight simulators lose a bit of their charm when there’s no gravity and no solid ground to crash into when you fly too low – but I do want a flight sim where you fight UFOs with cool weapons and abilities (and maybe the ability to maneuver in ways a real plane can’t) instead of the standard Flankers and Fishbeds.

      • ooshp says:

        Wait, no one’s going to run with the Mario 4x thing?

        • tour86rocker says:

          On second thought, Fallout 1/2 would be a better model for an SG-1 game (or possibly Tactics since you’d want to control each member in turn-based mode). It wouldn’t be SG-1 without dialog, solving puzzles, skill checks to determine ability to read an alien text or fix alien technology…

          That’s another thing: I’d really love another Fallout game with turn-based combat (well, and a computer that would run Fallout 4 or XCOM 2, but that’s another story…)

      • napoleonic says:

        I’d play a Mario 4X, yeah. Good idea.

  2. JonasKyratzes says:

    My friends and I had a running joke about how each new iteration of X-COM would be less of a strategy game, until eventually X-COM 27 would be a toaster.

    But actually, applying the X-COM formula in different ways would be awesome. Am I the only person who thought “The Bureau: XCOM Declassified” was actually pretty cool, and combined with a properly dynamic strategic dimension would be utterly incredible?

    • tour86rocker says:

      On principle I skipped The Bureau because I didn’t want the franchise to go in that direction. Remember that for a while it looked like that game was going to be the ONLY new XCOM and it looked like there was going to be nothing in common with the original X-Com. They may have just presented themselves badly. It didn’t even show any UFOs you could board in previews (at least early on? I have no idea how the game turned out). They seemed to violate the franchise at every turn, it looked like a ridiculous travesty and I never forgave it for that.

      I’ve been told before that I should give it a chance though. I never wanted recurring, speaking characters in an X-Com game either but XCOM went that way anyway.

      I haven’t been able to play XCOM 2 due to hardware limitations and I’m the rare bird who would love to see more Terror from the Deep. I loved that game. Back when I was a kid, you bought what the store had when you caught onto something years too late and the store only had TFTD, not X-Com Ufo Defense.

      • tikey says:

        X-Com: The burro is pretty much a standard 7/10 action game. It’s well done, it’s entertaining and it has a few interesting ideas but in the end I don’t think it gets any benefit from the X-Com name.

      • JonasKyratzes says:

        My initial response to the announcement was also, to quote Spoony, BETRAYAL! I eventually bought the game during a sale, and fell in love with its perfect evocation of the time period, surprisingly absorbing combat, and some pretty fascinating story elements. I just really, really wanted it to be longer and more dynamic (insert naughty joke here).

      • rab357 says:

        Yup, same here. The first I ever heard of XCOM was Terror from the Deep. I truly believe that game had some of the most creative monsters/aliens I’ve seen.

        • tour86rocker says:

          This is one of the reasons I find digital distribution to be such an interesting disruption to The Way Things Were When I Was a Kid. Your local store could run out of a game or simply never carry it. I had to mail order DOOM for what I remember to have been $50 because I couldn’t find it in a store and then a month later I saw it in a store for like $20. Another example is that I heard about Maniac Mansion in Nintendo and the stores didn’t have that BUT on the other hand eventually I discovered a re-released edition on PC (I never would have guessed it wasn’t an NES exclusive, much less that it was created for, what was it, Apple?) with four other classic LucasFilm games that I would never have known about otherwise, inspiring a lifelong passion. But could that same scenario could certainly happen, perhaps more effectively, via digital distribution.

          Back to X-Com, back when we accepted whatever we were given, I purchased the Prima Strategy Guide weeks before Apocalypse came out and devoured the weapon stats and lore. Still a great memory. I think that was another game I had difficulty finding in the store.

    • poliovaccine says:

      No, you’re not the only one! That game had some cool bits, and some definite potential. Really dug the atmosphere, too.

      It was tactical-lite compared with the other big XCOM games, but I always liked squad-based tactical games like the Ghost Recons or Rainbow Sixes, and The Bureau just reminded me of a wackier, sci-fi Rainbow Six Vegas. Nothing wrong with that, in my book.

      It had its problems, but most of all it suffered unduly for simply being an XCOM game when it didnt need to be. I think people might have given it a more charitable reception if it werent leading them to expect all the things they typically (and rightfully) associate with the “XCOM” name and just tried to be its own IP instead.

      Lotta times publishers seem to think name/brand recognition can only help a game along, but that’s only really true when the game meets the expectations the name presents. Otherwise, the other edge of that sword is that failing to meet those expectations counts massively against the game, even if those expectations were essentially misplaced (and in the case of The Bureau, it wasn’t gamers, but rather just the “XCOM” in the title that misplaced them).

      Anyway yeah, I thought that game was some great fun at points – what I’d call a solid “7/10 game,” in the RPS vernacular’s sense of the term.

    • dethtoll says:

      No, you’re not alone. I’m admittedly a sucker for the mid-60s aesthetic, but it was honestly not a bad game, and it had a few fun moments. I thought it kind of fell apart towards the end, but most games do so no big deal.

    • ooshp says:

      If you slap an X-COM 27 sticker on an old toaster I’m pretty sure Adam will buy it.

  3. tour86rocker says:

    I wanted to say “Adam just doesn’t get it” but Interceptor does have some problems yet I would totally play another game like it. The spoken dialog was TERRIBLE; I always turn off wingman comments basically immediately. So obnoxious The tone of the wingmen all wrong, seeing their helmeted heads as they complain of taking damage reminds me of a more vulgar power rangers or something. Too whiny for X-Com soldiers.

    Missions can get a little repetitive but there is still so much variation. Perhaps pilots of a certain rank should have been able to command a mission without you having to fly it. Pirate nests were a favorite of mine but I always thought that if you stunned their ships and carried them home, you should get to keep and use them or at least sell for a higher value than just the modules netted. I thought they should have been more of a cash cow although as a kid I still often refrained from destroying their bases just to farm the fighters’ modules for cash.

    I actually liked that they added base management and research to an X-Wing-like and it was nice to cut out the manufacturing and the scientist/engineer hiring and management aspects of the traditional X-Com formula. The game probably should have led into X-Com Apocalypse a little better, but I thought the in-game news releases were great. And getting to change the modules/weapons in a ship and choose which ships go on a mission was great. Should have had carrier ships in the game before the final mission, too! They could have done so much more with this universe. Including Terror From The Deep races (Tasoth pilots or Xarquid space monsters?) could have been interesting too. Would have made sense to begin seeing some Apocalypse aliens too.

    I liked that unlike the first two games, the number of financially supporting entities could actually increase throughout the game, IIRC. It would have been interesting to have other legitimate, competitive entities like MarSec/MegaPol out there though.

    Also, every re-release of it I’ve played has a bug where datalink jammer probes are like…directly behind you or inside your fighter when you go on missions to destroy them? You can never get them in front of you. Didn’t happen in the original.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Maybe the timing algorithms were broke so you could only get the enemies in front of you at specific clock frequencies. Because that’s my problem with the game.

      I had no problem beating every Wing Commander and Descent: Freespace, but the enemies in XCom: Interceptor warped around like crazy.

      • tour86rocker says:

        Well, it is a stationary object at 0.0km and my target lock was constantly blaring without anything in sight so I’m pretty sure both Steam and GOG have/had that bugged.

    • tour86rocker says:

      I wrote this in haste when I should have been working. I was once a good writer. My apologies to those who had to parse it.

  4. NickAragua says:

    Yep, played it to death. I was at an age where it didn’t matter how crappy the game was objectively, it was X-Com and I wanted more X-Com. I had a lot of fun, and got repeated cramps in my joystick arm. As I recall, it was very twitchy, with the damn UFOs spazzing around all over the place like cybernetic korean teenagers on methamphetamines. Once you got better weapons though, it became pretty trivial, and most fights would be over in under a minute, even the big alien base assaults (an alien base generally took less time to destroy than an alien fighter, go figure).

    Anyway, “I brake for Sectoids”. Don’t know if I could go back to it now, it’s been twenty years and my reflexes can be diplomatically described as “suitable to turn-based games”.

  5. Sin Vega says:

    Yes! I’ve been playing it recently in fact, for secret reasons. I have Opinions About This Game. I won’t lie and say it was great, but a game with the same concept damn sure could be.

  6. Raoul Duke says:

    “If the spin-off cycle begins anew, I’d like a survival horror X-COM game about a civilian trapped in a city during a terror event”

    If the spin off cycle begins anew, I’d like a proper updating of the original UFO/XCOM, one which doesn’t treat the player like a moron by mandating ‘classes’ and ‘actions’ and rigid inventory slots and instead restores the player’s ability to mould their squad in a freeform way and then approach combat in a freeform way. Also one which actually models shots moving through the game world rather than rolling an RNG dice and then artificially pretending to show the outcome in the game world. Also one which doesn’t involve aliens magically getting extra turns to attack you or dropping in behind you.

    Also, for the love of god please fix your login system!!!

    • tour86rocker says:

      I agree with a lot of that. Walking a soldier too far and making a group of aliens pop was ridiculous. I also miss turn units and intentionally destructible environments!

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      MajorLag says:

      So you want Xenonauts then? I get it, the old X-Com series, which I adore, was like that and the new series isn’t. But honestly I think it’s a much better game for it. I didn’t realize how much I hated dealing with Time Units and weight and all that shit until I played Xenonauts after XCOM.

      • tour86rocker says:

        Yeah, Xenonauts is alright. I never had time to finish it. But I’ve finished XCOM, both Enemy Unknown and Within. I don’t know if that’s instructive, I think I was hoping “Within” would go to Mars and my last few years have marked a steep decline in time to play anything so perhaps not that significant that I didn’t finish something that takes a long time.

  7. tour86rocker says:

    I loved/love X-Com Apocalypse too. It was very different from what came before and might have caused the franchise to begin dying but I regret nothing. Out of hundreds of missions I’ve only attempted turn-based twice in it, but I actually do love the turn-based and time unit based predecessors in a different way. I have an odd lack of desire to try and reconcile liking both despite the fact that they seem to demand that you take a side.

  8. OrangeSpy says:

    This was by far the easiest X-Com ever.

    I recall reading in game how you should be careful about what you sell as the enemy might end up using it against you. So i found that if you manufactured tractor beams they actually sold for a hefty profit. Gave me enough money to research and buy my way to victory rather quickly…

    I was never tractor beamed once by any aliens…

  9. satan says:

    This game was such a pleasant surprise back when it came out, not perfect, but a hell of a lot of fun, would love a remake.

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