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X-COM: Interceptor

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:David Ellis

GAME DEVELOPER:MicroProse

GAME PUBLISHER:MicroProse

Copyright 1998, MicroProse

Fourth in the profitable X-COM franchise, X-COM: Interceptor is a detour from the familiar squad-level turn-based combat of the first three games. Given the current fad of 3D action games, some may argue that moving the franchise into that territory was a logical next step for MicroProse, but unfortunately X-COM: Interceptor doesn’t stand up to the best of breed.

It’s not that Interceptor is a bad game. Many of its elements are strong in isolation, but when taken together, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Many of the classic X-COM elements (tactical combat, research, and manufacturing) are either missing or lessened in significance. Not that the underlying is bad: you manage the strategic element, and then hop in the cockpit to fight the battles, creating and participating in a dynamic campaign. In practice, however, the idea doesn’t hold together well at all.

The problems with Interceptor aren’t obvious at the outset, but they become painfully clear over time. There is a limit of 8 bases you are allowed to build, and the research tree, while still exists, is woefully lacking in scope and breadth. Even with a strong offensive strategy, there will only ever be a few types of action encounters: interception, base defense, and base attack. Period. That’s it. You can patrol zones to keep an eye out for convoys and UFOs, and probe for enemy bases, but almost every combat sequence is identical, varied only by the types of ships encountered. The repetitive mission parameters are a far cry from the diverse and dynamic objectives in two under-hyped space combat/management sims, Star Crusader and Star Rangers.

Okay, so the strategic element is boring. But given that Interceptor focuses on combat, how does it fare in space? Sadly, only marginally above average, nothing the Wing Commander franchise should be worry about. The weird retro look of the ships and the clever and detailed modeling of the UFOs are both strong elements, but overall, the graphics are weak and repetitive. There are a few space stations and a few different UFOs, but the cut scenes and deep-space emptiness leave the game with a bland, uninteresting feel. Cockpit controls are the familiar stock we’ve seen in any other space shooter: weapon cycling, energy and shield settings, afterburners, taunts, and targeting options. You can send some rudimentary orders to wingmen, but the smart ones pretty much do the job on their own. A good crew can clean out a few UFOs in a minute or two, leaving you with little to do but pull your joystick.

Overall, Interceptor is an awkward title that does no justice to the high standards set by earlier games. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the Gollop brothers of Mythos Games, who created the first 3 X-COM titles, did not design Interceptor. As a strategy game, the other X-COMs are deeper and more satisfying. As a 3D space combat game, it is far inferior to the likes of Wing Commander: Prophecy. Hopefully MicroProse will not repeat their mistakes with the ground-based sequel.



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