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X-COM: Terror From the Deep (PC) artwork

X-COM: Terror From the Deep (PC) review

"This is the difference Terror from the Deep presents. It takes valid threats from Enemy Unknown and overdoses them with huge injections of improved AI, accuracy and toughness. The oppressive alien fleet is back to wipe humanity from the face of the earth -- but this time, they mean business. For returning X-Com fans, that's all you need to know. For the uninitiated, killing a whole new cast of intergalactic terrorists has never been so much fun!"

You don't know fear until you see your first Tentaculat.

Hulking masses of tentacles swarm beneath an enlarged, exposed central cortex looking disturbingly similar to a human brain, making up the bulk of this 7-foot tall Lovecraftian nightmare. This monstrosity glides eerily over the broken bodies and bloody corpses of raging battlefields searching for a live victim to terrorise. It's deadly, silent and swift, able to bypass any obstacle and happy to shrug off all but the must powerful of assaults. And it's smart -- it lies in ambush, obscured by the shadows, watching from far-away balconies or recessed doorways of abandoned buildings. And it waits.

But it won't wait forever.

Many an unfortunate soldier's final sight has been one of these beasts surging out of the darkness towards them, nimbly dodging gunfire and flying at them with terrifying speed. It will then wrap its elegant tendrils around its victim, inserting a parasite directly into their mind, effectively killing them with minimal effort. But that in itself would hardly be the very definition of terror now, would it?

Your former ally will be resurrected as a lumbering zombie, wanting to do nothing more than spread the parasitic infection throughout your ranks. Gun down this traitorous brain-muncher and a fresh Tentaculat will burst from its chest to continue the frenzied assault. They are the ultimate threat: they're hard to hit, harder to kill and can swell their ranks effortlessly by turning your own troops against you.

The first X-Com game, Enemy Unknown, had a similar virus-spewing monstrosity. Cryssalids were yellow-hued bipedular crustaceans that shuffled with the speed of an arthritic 80-year old granny sporting a replacement hip. They were easy to gun down and could be avoided effortlessly by a wily player. Compared to their new brethren, the hideous Tentaculat, they serve about as much danger as a partially dishevelled hamster.

This is the difference Terror from the Deep presents. It takes valid threats from Enemy Unknown and overdoses them with huge injections of improved AI, accuracy and toughness. The oppressive alien fleet is back to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth -- but this time, they mean business. For returning X-Com fans, that's all you need to know. For the uninitiated, killing a whole new cast of intergalactic terrorists has never been so much fun!

But never easy.

Once again, it will be up to you to stem the flow of superior forces armed with technology far beyond humankind's reach as they try to exterminate life on Earth. And it's you that must defeat them by taking control of Earth's defence forces, soldiers currently armed with only basic weaponry such as pistols and harpoon guns. It is you who must command the teams that travel to the depths of the ocean and fight the xenomorphic foes -- for this time, the wily swine have decided to take a more aquatic attack plan to mind. In doing so, they have made the bulk of your weapons from the last war obsolete, forcing your research teams to start from scratch.

Cheating bastards.

But in terms of the actual game, aside from a sharp difficulty spike, not much has really changed aside from the new oceanic environment that you see. You battle bravely on luxury cruisers, cargo freighters and even in the murky depths of the world's many seabeds, but you still play out battles in a turned-based fashion that utilises time units to measure your actions. This clever interface ensures you adopt a strategic attitude to every action you undertake. Simple things like taking a few exploratory steps into the blacked screen, which will slowly illuminate as you explore, eat away at these units and you need to save enough resources to take any of the three differing styles of shots you can employ should you find yourself in the company of a hostile.

These time units, as well as other important stats like accuracy and bravery, will increase as your individual troops gain in experience and rank. Keeping your teams alive means much more than winning the battles they enter, but it ensures that as the aliens employ harder and stronger units, you can counter with grizzled war-hungry veterans rather than green recruits.

The odds can be swung further in your favour should you wage your war cleverly. Early on in the game, you will have chances to down enemy UFOs and send them crashing into the sea. Send a team of aquanauts to extinguish the survivors and the wreckage is yours to salvage. Likewise, thwart an alien terror mission on any of the world's capitals, and not only can you harvest their advanced weaponry, but their mutilated corpses too! Invest in the correct facilities, and you can even capture unconscious aliens to interrogate at your discretion.

Even as you work diligently away at evening the playing field, further threats will be thrown your way. The timid and easily-killed Gill Men species will soon be replaced with Lobstermen, biologically armoured monsters that can withstand even the most frenzied of assaults and snap your soliders in half with steel-crushing claws. Acid-spewing Deep Ones, twisted and broken humans that have been herded like purloined cattle and sculpted into a throwaway army of mindless drones, may not be much of a threat, but Tasoths are. These mer-like beasts boast agility, cunning and a skill with any number heavy weapons that can eat through the strongest of armours. They pin you back with plasma fire, knock you out with thermal shock bombs or level hills with particle disrupters. Even the odds! Steal their own weapons and give them to your teams of scientists and engineers! Adapt their firearms and turn their barrels against them! That's the only way you'll win this war.

But always fear the haunting Tentaculat. Combating these monsters is indeed the very thing nightmares are made from, but taking them and their army down remains one of the most rewarding tasks in video game history. Slaughter an entire intergalactic race, but do it quick before they do it to you!

Gentlemen, genocide has never been so much fun.

Rating: 10/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 04, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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