Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire
"Someone's been living on my Planet," said the Mama alien
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Firaxis
Posted: 11/16/1999
Written by: Lee Johnson
CHEATS: Sid Meier's Alpha Cent ...
DEMO: Sid Meier's Alpha Centau ...
FEATURE: Alpha Centauri vs. Ca ...
FIRST LOOK: Alpha Centauri
FIRST LOOK: Sid Meier's Alpha ...
FORUM: Alpha Centauri
NEWS: Updated Alpha Centauri D ...
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NEWS: Alpha Centauri Expansion ...
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PREVIEW: Sid Meier's Alpha Cen ...
REVIEW: Sid Meier's Alpha Cent ...
TIPS: Sid Meier's Alpha Centau ...
Shot One Land of the Usurpers. The white hula hoops are alien perimeter defenses
In Alpha Centauri, you were the leader of a group of space-going human colonists, locked in an ideological struggle with six other factions as you attempted to build a civilization on the surface of a hostile planet. The plot thickens with the release of Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, the official expansion pack for Alpha Centauri.

Alien Crossfire introduces seven new factions: The Data Angels (covert ops hackers); the Cybernetic Consciousness (cyborg technologists); the Cult of Planet (environmental extremists); the Free Drones (labor society); and the Nautilus Pirates (maritime dwellers.) Rounding out the list are two newly-arrived factions of an alien race known as the Progenitors, which engineered the lifeforms on Planet as part of a cosmic experiment in large-scale sentience. The Manifold Caretakers wish to preserve the original purpose of the Sixth Manifold—Planet—while the Manifold Usurpers see Planet as a resource to be exploited, in whatever way is convenient. These philosophies predictably put the alien factions at odds with each other, and with the human interlopers who find themselves caught in the middle.

Shot Two Here the Caketakers have established a foothold in Free Drone territory
In addition to the new factions, the game introduces a plethora of new tech advances, base improvements, and secret projects, complete with new voiceovers and movies. Many of these revolve around the aliens' "resonance" technology, like the new weapons and armor that make PSI combat a much fairer proposition in the early game. Several of the new base improvements enhance the exploitation of ocean resources, making sea bases much more attractive than before. Probe teams receive an added boost with the new Covert Ops Center, and with the Algorithmic Enhancement ability even the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm is no longer proof against probe attacks. Some of the new secret projects are destined for popularity—like the Cloudbase Academy, which counts as an Aerospace Complex in every base, or the Manifold Harmonics project, which confers rich production bonuses upon fungus and monolith squares.

Shot Three Nearly any combination of the old and new factions may be played, including random selections
That's not the end of the goodies Alien Crossfire has to offer: There are new special terrain features and new items in colony pods, including powerful alien Battle Ogre units. Fungal and tectonic payloads allow missiles to be used for "instant terraforming." There are even three new native lifeforms, including a submarine unit and an artillery piece that add some welcome variety to native unit combat. All of the new features are described in a comprehensive booklet that supplements the original Alpha Centauri manual.

The alien factions are fresh and fun to play. They have their own unit graphics and experience the game's fictional interludes from a completely different perspective. Instead of obtaining energy through trade, the Progenitors draw their income from an "energy grid" at a rate determined by the number of base improvements and secret projects they have built. The aliens do not participate in the planetary council and cannot achieve a diplomatic win; however, either alien faction can win by building a "Resonance Communicator" to summon reinforcements from their home planet.

Shot Four The Free Drones: A faction for the workingman
Because of their innate bonuses, the alien factions tend to dominate; to prevent them from getting too powerful, the game puts both factions in every game and permanently sets them at each other's throats. (Regrettably, an apparent bug allows games to be started with only one alien faction.) The game's AI seems to struggle even more with the human factions than it did pre-Crossfire, though they can still do well with a good starting position—this seems to be especially true of the Pirates, which are the unrivaled masters of the sea.

Shot Five The Cloudbase Academy is a gem for anyone pursuing an air superiority strategy
Alien Crossfire's new features don't come without a cost. While it includes all of the previously released fixes for Alpha Centauri, the expansion pack introduces a new crop of annoying bugs and quirks. Some of these are cosmetic, but others are a little more problematic—like the ability of units with the new Marine Detachment upgrade to capture ships inside enemy ports. The included faction editor is buggy and unreliable. Graphics performance is still lacking, if not worse—even on fast systems. Unfortunately, Alien Crossfire does not include low-resolution versions of its 3-D unit files to improve performance, as Alpha Centauri did. Firaxis has a good track record of supporting their games, however, so we will likely see many of these concerns addressed in a patch.

Alien Crossfire is a jam-packed expansion that seamlessly blends many new and interesting features into an already great game. The bugs are occasionally annoying, but not serious enough to prevent you from enjoying yourself. If you're a fan of the original Alpha Centauri, your return visit to Planet should be just as engrossing as your first.

OVERALL RATING: 4 of 5
Gameplay: 5
Graphics: 3
Interface: 4
Multiplayer: 4
Depth: 5
Stability: 3
It's Like: Alpha Centauri, with more of everything
 
REQUIREMENTS MULTIPLAYER
P-133, 16MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM
Sid Meier's Alpha Centaur
2-7 players, Internet, LAN
modem, direct connect
©1999 Strategy Plus, Inc.

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