So, want to spice up your email without contravening
any federal or international pornography laws? Then
this is the game for you.
X-Com was one of the best games ever made. I still play
it despite the fact it was written for a 486, and these
new -angled Pentium III’s add a whole new dimension
to the game. But as good as X-Com’s original mix of
research, financial planning, and gut-wrenching turn-based
combat was, there was never a multiplayer aspect to
the game. Until now. Kind of.
X-Com Email (XCE) takes one simple aspect of X-Com,
the combat, and turns it into a simple, fun, and enjoyable
little game. Don’t get me wrong- this is not Unreal
Tournament. Hell, it’s barely X-Com, but it does have
Here’s the game. Take 50 missions, six different alien
and six different X-Com units, add power-ups and traps,
put on one of five different map types, and let friends
email little moments of tension and death to each other.
This is more fun than hate mail.
The main difference between this version of X-Com and
its earlier incarnations is that the map is top down
as opposed to the ¾ view you may be used to. This makes
it easier to move your squad, but I still found myself
yearning for the old maps.
Is this going to be a stand up fight or another bug
Each mission is pre-set with respect to starting units
and starting position. I looked through the files in
the XCE directory, but could not find any readily editable
files. However, all the graphics were present as JPEG’s,
and I wonder if a little editing could put a different
look on the game.
Each Unit has a starting weapon:
Captain- Rocket launcher
Colonel- Flame Thrower
Muton- Helium Weapon
Ethereal- Psionic powers
On each map are crates and red barrels. Obviously if
you shoot a crate you get a power-up and if you shoot
a barrel it blows up real good. The power ups can be
good: 2x damage, grenade, Spy sat, 2x Action Points,
Medi Kit, Mine, Shield, X2 range; Or bad: Mine (armed),
Mega-Mine (kills anything), or Man Trap. All power-ups
are one shot deals, use them or lose them.
Oh, Man I was getting short!
Game setup is simplicity itself. Load the game, all
5MB’s, and choose either an E-mail or Hotseat game.
In E-mail you then choose one of five areas: UFO, Urban,
Alien Base, X-Com Base, or Ice, and one of the ten maps
in that area. Once that is done, it’s your turn.
To give a unit an order, just right-click on it and
you will be presented with two or three choices: Move,
Move and Shoot, or Shoot. Once you decide, you click
the path you want the unit to travel or click on the
target if you want to shoot. If you can not hit a target
or move, the cursor with be a red x and a default ‘no
can do’ noise sounds. Once you’ve finished your move,
click on ‘send move’ button, write some pithy comments
to your hapless opponent and off it goes. Then the game
plays your turn for you. Hotseat is the same, but with
no time delay to send the turn. .....Here’s the cool
part- the person you want to play with does not need
the game. The e-mail they get has full instructions
on downloading the 1.13 MB file that will allow them
to see the turn then send one back. When they open the
file it plays your move, then they plan, move, and send.
It plays their move for them and then they wait for
That’s it. Deep it’s not. Just e-mail after e-mail of
footsteps, power-ups, and quick deaths.
Games take between 10 and 15 turns, depending on the
skill and deviousness of the players. At the end of
a game you are presented with a screen that rates each
player on Mobility, Stealth, Firepower, Bravery, and
a Final Rating. This is a nice little touch and it does
drive you to develop some strategies other that run
and shoot. Remarkably for such a simple game there are
some fairly complex strategies. The bounding overwatch
is the best way to cover yourself, and the good old
cover-fire-cover move that worked so well in X-Com still
does the job.
Oh, You want some too?
The best way to play this game is to chat with a friend
on ICQ while sending the turns back and forth. I wasted
an entire afternoon doing just that. I caught up with
a friend and played 5 games of X-Com. But the old spice-up-your-e-mail
way is great as well, as the emails are not too large
and won’t bog down your ISP.
There is not a lot of depth here. Don’t go looking for
the original X-Com in this game, because you will not
find it, but you will find a simple enjoyable time-waster,
and at a cost of $14.95 US you can’t go wrong.