Drake's Game Corner: X-Com: Enforcer
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The adventures of android Rambo. Alien beatdown mode intiated.

With X-Com: Enforcer, developer Microprose decided to break from the X-com's series traditional uber strategic micro-managing formula and opted to shall we say dramatically simplify things. Players take on the role of the Enforcer, built by Dr. Able Standard, a researcher under the employ of X-Com, to be the earth's first and last line of defense. Players lead the Enforcer on a one robot war against the invading hordes of aliens.

Why such a dramatic change from what showed to be a successful formula? Playing the game I almost felt more like I was playing Unreal than an X-Com game, and the game in fact heavily uses the Unreal Engine. Before Enforcer, Microprose had been working on a very similar project, X-Com: Alliance, in which players would control an agent leading a 4 man squad in what would have been very similar gameplay to the result of Enforcer. But apparently they ran into trouble getting 3 AI controlled characters to fight intelligently alongside a player controlled agent, which given this was back around 2000, and AI tech wasn't quite where it is now, I can understand. The project had to be scrapped, and Microprose, being cash strapped may have had to rush Enforcer.

So Enforcer plays as a rather fast paced third person shooter. But not everything from the X-Com predecessors was left behind. Research is still a vital component to success, although that part compares to the research component of the previous games on only a very basic level. The Enforcer unlocks new weapons and enhancements by finding the hidden question marks throughout the levels, and uses data points collected in the field to "purchase" the newly researched weapons or powerups, or upgrade existing ones, as well as his basic systems. Also hidden in the levels are the letters to spell out "bonus" unlocking bonus levels, including an Enforcer version of Frogger, and Pac-man.

That was nasty!
That was nasty!

There is also a "hot streak meter" which fills up for getting consecutive kills without taking a hit, and when full, the Enforcer receives automatic power ups without having to run through them, even some that he hasn't researched yet. While not truly a significant detail, the Enforcer only uses his right arm, and can wield any weapon, no matter the size one handed, with no loss of accuracy. If he is that strong, I wonder why they didn't give him the ability to just pound the aliens to pulp with his fists.

I know to some purists, Enforcer's very existence will be viewed as an act of heresy. To an extent, I can relate. After all, why change what has worked so well. But why do I bring this point up at all? Well because I have seen something very similar before. Namely in the form of countless debates both over forums and with a friend who is like me is a huge battletech fan on the Mechwarrior series vs the 2 Mechassault games, and whether Mechassault 1 and 2 are in fact actual parts of the battletech universe. I would be hard pressed to argue that Enforcer doesn't seem like a red-headed stepped child when compared to the other X-com games.

Variety is in my opinion, oddly enough both the game's greatest strength and weakness. The games biggest weakness because players don't do much more than blast aliens to rubble. But there is a large variety of alien foes, and an equally large variety of weapons to trot out on the alien hordes. Oh are there ever some cool toys in this. While there may not be a gun that shoots shurikens and lightning, I think a gun that fires swarming homing serrated blades that collect the data points for you might be a close second.

Because of it's fast pace, Enforcer is really great for those times when you have 15-45 minutes to kill and need to blow off some steam. Particularly so if the reason for needing to blow off some steam happens to be frustration from UFO Defense. Why? Well because anyone who has played UFO Defense will probably notice that a lot of the aliens from Enforcer are the same ones from UFO Defense. Sadly though, the race that causes me the most headaches, the Ethereals, don't show up to be blasted into ribbons in Enforcer.

In all honestly, as a shooter Enforcer is rather average. It doesn't do anything truly groundbreaking. Graphically I felt it was decent for its time period, although the voice acting is fairly bland, the Enforcer delivers some fairly cheesy lines, and listening to the good doctor ramble as I tried to find the last bonus letter or two instead of annihilating the last transporter was a bit annoying to say the least. Yet what bewilders me is despite all this, I thoroughly enjoyed Enforcer. I had a flipping blast with it. I will say one thing about it, this game is an adrenaline rush! As close as one can get to one's computer giving you a straight shot of adrenaline, especially the first time I got on a hot streak and was running around at ridiculous speeds while invisible laying down demolishing levels of firepower. Even giving it a second play through, I had every bit as much fun as the first time through.

Bottom Line: This game is an adrenaline rush, pure and simple, perfect for when there is a bit of time to kill, or steam to blow off.

Recommendation: I will admit I am unsure here, as I enjoyed the game quite a bit, but at the same time acknowledge it has a fair share of flaws.
In the near future I hope to take a look at the entire "X-Com Complete Pack," once I have progressed far enough in all the games.

 

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