Free Game: X-Com

By Shamus Posted Friday Oct 26, 2007

Filed under: Game Reviews 117 comments

Widely regarded as one of the greatest strategy games ever, X-Com is a game with compelling gameplay and generous depth even by today’s standards, and was an amazing achievement given the technology available in 1993. IGN calls it the #1 PC game of all time.

The world map is astounding.  It’s a real 3d world you can spin and view in real time, like Google Earth.  No, you can’t zoom in and see things in detail, but you can see national borders and major cities.
The world map is astounding. It’s a real 3d world you can spin and view in real time, like Google Earth. No, you can’t zoom in and see things in detail, but you can see national borders and major cities.
You can Google around and read tales from fans who lost huge blocks of their lives to this thing when it came out, and who would forego sleep and food in lieu of playing more XCOM. They talk about games lasting weeks, although on modern machines I think a decent run-through of the game clocks in at about 20 hours or so. (Those 1993 loading screens and unit movements must have been killers. Today, both are more or less instant.)

Unlike in the movies, the aliens aren’t just here to conquer New York or LA.
Unlike in the movies, the aliens aren’t just here to conquer New York or LA.
I discovered the game late. I didn’t play it until the title hit its tenth anniversary. I came into it cold, without any sort of rose-colored glasses or nostalgia, and without much of an idea of what the game was all about. (Also without reading the directions, and I do not recommend doing this.) After a rough start I managed to get what the game was all about and how it worked. I have to agree with longtime fans: This is an amazing game with a lot to offer.

Here one of my units has entered a room with a couple of filthy alien scum.  You can tell they’re evil by how purple their funiture is.
Here one of my units has entered a room with a couple of filthy alien scum. You can tell they’re evil by how purple their funiture is.
The game takes place in the distant future of… 1999. The premise is that you are in charge of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-Com) which has been created to counter a dangerous and growing threat from a race of aliens in flying saucers. Your job is to shoot down alien craft when you can, and then send in a squad of specially trained soldiers to engage them in a a little turn-based, hide-and-seek gunplay. The force you lead is multinational, and individual nations will adjust their monthly contributions to your coffers based on how well you protect them. You can try to protect clusters of small countries if you like, or you can put all your eggs in one basket and suck up to one of the big, rich countries. You’ll probably want control of the whole globe at some point, but it will take you a while before you have the budget and technology to pull that off.

The game begins with the geoscape, a map of the Earth where you can see your bases and order your forces to move against any enemies you’ve managed to detect. There is a running day / night cycle, and you can plan missions to take place at day or night, depending on your preference. (Super-secret expert hint: It is dark at night.)

The base view screen.  You can have up to eight bases anywhere on the globe. All of them are belong to us.
The base view screen. You can have up to eight bases anywhere on the globe. All of them are belong to us.
From the Geoscape you can go to the base view, where you can design the layout of your individual bases and decide what facilities to build. You’ll need labs for doing research. Workshops for manufacturing new gear. Radar for detecting alien craft. Housing for your personnel. Containment for holding captured aliens. Hangars for your interception craft and troop transporters. Storage space for holding all of your sweet alien swag. Note that all of this cool stuff costs a lot of money, both to build and to maintain on a monthly basis. You’ll have a budget in the tens of millions, but it’s easy to go broke if you bite off more than you can chew.

Your soldiers gain experience and improve with each mission, assuming they survive.  You can hire more soldiers whenever you like, but constantly marching into battle with a collection of pants-wetting noobs is not recommended.
Your soldiers gain experience and improve with each mission, assuming they survive. You can hire more soldiers whenever you like, but constantly marching into battle with a collection of pants-wetting noobs is not recommended.
The aliens, for their part, will be doing classic flying saucer alien stuff like abductions, cattle mutilations, infiltrations, and good old-fashioned city invasions.

There is a lot here, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I can’t believe this game even fit into memory back then. (It only requires 2MB.) There are two or three strategy games layered together here, and all of them are compelling and fun. I went through the game last weekend in preparation for this post, and it was just as fun now as it was four years ago. The patched version is also easy to get running, without needing to fiddle with DOS emulators or slowing down your CPU. The graphics, while old, are still nice to look at.

If you’re running Windows, you can get a working version of the game from The Underdogs. It’s just a 3MB download, although that site is throtled back so much that it took me 15 minutes to get the file. If that site is too slow or you can’t get to it from where you are (I’m talking to YOU, people surfing the ‘net from work) then I have the file mirrored here. Just run the installer and then run xcom1fix.exe for Win 2000/ME/XP.

 


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117 thoughts on “Free Game: X-Com

  1. Poet says:

    Damn you, Shamus. I had this out of my system, then you come along and remind me that it’s cool, and free.
    Goodbye, my friends. You shall not see me again in this lifetime.

  2. mark says:

    You have it mirrored WHERE? :P I see no link…

  3. guy says:

    hm, i really should play some more Xcom. I have also played Xcom3, and i hear that if you haven’t played Xcom2 you aren’t missing much. (it’s Xcom1 underwater with stat tweaks)

  4. Shamus says:

    Mirror fixed. Sorry.

  5. Seaners says:

    I’ve spent many hours and days on this game. I look forward to many more. Thanks for the link.

    1. gamer dude says:

      when i try and play this i hear sound but i dont see anything and idk but when i click on the fix it brings up the actual game but like i said no visual just sound…help?

  6. Downtym says:

    X-Com is where I discovered the term “expendable asset”. I still cringe whenever I think of those damn Chryssalids.

  7. Carra says:

    So much games to play, so little time.

    I’ll first get myself through portal!

  8. Nick says:

    Nooo!!! I have a job now! I couldn’t resist the “ah, just one more mission” pull the game had on me in high school, and I definitely shouldn’t try starting now (especially since I’ve started playing Fallout and Fallout 2 again…).

    There’s a few game projects around that are trying to recapture the feel of this original, like UFO: Alien Invasion for an open-source 3D remake.

    There’s also the UFO series from Altar Games, the latest release being UFO: Afterlight.

    Though some of them are looking good and actually improve on the original X-Com in several ways (The most important to me is the better inventory management where you can assign specific weapons to each soldiers), they still seem lacking in several ways compared to the original.

  9. InThane says:

    Xcom2 was Xcom 1 with stat tweaks, one new (annoying) mission type, and bugs that were never fixed. Don’t bother.

    Also, a hint: The money from the various nations is just there to bootstrap your real economy.

  10. guy says:

    it was once said about storming UFOs that SWAT teams had full body shields for that sort of thing and XCOM had rookies. I find that the worst part of storming UFOs is those damned interior doors and gravlifts. although Apocalypse had EXPLODING fastmovers who charged down those gravlifts. and those mind controlling brainsuckers who moved like chryysailds. I hates them, i does.

  11. Hugo says:

    I thought only “rose-colored glasses” keep this game beautiful for me. I’m glad that newcomers also find this game great.

    Loading times in 1993? I spent minutes between every turn waiting for aliens to make their action. Most of the time this meant staring into dark screen praying aliens won’t appear behind my soldier.

  12. guy says:

    i just started playing this year. i have only recently started playing other games again. that tells you how awesome it is.

  13. Alex says:

    Important things I learned from my first through play-throughs of X-Com:

    -Start the psychic training going as quickly as possible. As soon as you capture a psychic-capable enemy (Navigators, IIRC), put your whole research staff on the job.
    -Don’t be afraid to hire on a job-lot of soldiers, and sack all but the best few. Paying the hiring fee for ten soldiers is worth it if you get two good ones.
    -Grenades are cheap, and throwing one into a suspicious-looking room is FAR cheaper than losing a well-trained trooper.
    -Laser weapons may not be as strong as Plasma, but they have infinite ammo.
    -Armour. To paraphrase Randall Munroe (http://xkcd.com/54/) – Armour. It works, bitches.
    -Shooting down UFOs is difficult, plus it damages them. Capturing them intact when they’ve landed is harder (and scarier) but massively more profitable.

  14. Zyzzyva says:

    What about Mac? Please tell me there’s a version for Mac. Please?

  15. Rich says:

    X-Com has been on every computer that I’ve owned since it came out. If I wasn’t in 2 betas and putting up a POS in Eve Online these days, I’d be playing it right now.

    Hmmmm… I could go to bed a bit later…

  16. Gbyron says:

    “Unlike in the movies, the aliens aren't just here to conquer New York or LA”

    Hell yeah! I usually let North America to rot, even though they paid handsomely.
    What really paid however was the loot. You got REALLY good money from the stuff (and the aliens) you got from the UFO crash locations (and even more from the bases).

    Additionally, I have played the UFO:Aftershock, where you try to reclaim Earth from the aliens and the mutants. Nice game, but somewhat slow in its progress (lots of alike-looking missions).

  17. guy says:

    indeed. loot makes you filthy rich, and NA is infiltrated by the time i could get around to it, but much money comes from europe as well.

  18. Dev Null says:

    There are a couple of sequels that are mostly just copies with slightly different plots, better graphics, and a more involved skills system. Theyre called UFO Aftershock, and UFO Aftermath, and UFO Aardvark or something, and they may not be free but you can collect the set for about $20.

  19. guy says:

    http://www.ufopaedia.org/index.php?title=Main_Page the wiki for the XCOM series. little light of apocalypse stuff, but good.

  20. James says:

    Dammit. There goes my weekend.

  21. Jimmie says:

    What about Mac? Please tell me there's a version for Mac. Please?

    I wish I could report good news but I’ve not been able to find one. I would love to. When I had a PC I used to come back to XCom over and over again. It is one of my favorite games (alongside Civ2 and Railroad Tycoon 2). I lament that I won’t be likely to play it ever again.

  22. Roy says:

    Oh, man. X-Com is a total time-sink. I can’t track the hundreds and hundreds of hours I’ve plugged in there.

    I totally agree with Alex at 13: Hire more soldiers than you need, and sack the total bums. Generally, I’d suggest sacking anyone with a bravery of 20 or less- they’re just too cowardly to take a chance on- they’ll panic and shoot your own soldiers, and that’s no good.

    Another suggestion: if you’re building a new base, but the hanger in the very corner, and the elevator next to it, then build everything else off of the side of the elevator farthest from the hanger. If/when aliens invade your base, they always come from the hangers and elevator. If you arrange your base so that the main part of your base is connected to the hangers and elevator by only one door, it’s much easier to defend.

    I really like that you can rename troops- if I had particularly good soldiers, I made sure to rename them as someone I knew or would recognize, so that I knew who to give the best armor and weapons to, and, if a shot was really important, I knew who had to make it. The drawback is that I felt personally attached to those soldiers, and would have to battle my sense of wanting to protect soldiers I knew against my need to send my best units to do the dirty work.

    I think that there are a few fan-mods out there that add new weapon types and alien types to the game, which is pretty awesome. Good times, X-Com.

  23. X-Com 2 was totally stupid. “Neutral boyancy” was a technology you had to capture from the aliens; you weren’t permitted to just attach styrofoam to your suit so you could float.

    But the original X-Com — a masterpiece. It was always amazing to me that a turn-based game could be so terrifying. The first time I tried to invade an enemy base I thought I was going to die of heart failure, I was so scared.

  24. Cadamer says:

    Best game ever.
    I’ve also been playing UFO:Alien Invasion. Very similar game play with a few small differences. But the original is still the best. I’ll be downloading this when I get home…

  25. Vegedus says:

    My story is much the same. I played it for the first time… 4 years ago, actually, and loved it. Some deleted save games after I had gotten halfway through the game discouraged me and I abandoned it. Recently, I felt like picking it up again, and so I did… Except, I can’t get it to run under Vista. Major bummer.

  26. JohnW says:

    Best. Game. Ever. And like Roy said, that base layout is all dorked up.

  27. guy says:

    deal. base assults are rare, and it is possible to restructure the base to be easier to defend

  28. Trevor says:

    My wife and I sunk so much time into this game… Although equipping the electroflares for each night mission got tiresome.

    As for running it on a Mac, DOSBOX is the preferred way to run it for PC, and that should run pretty good on a Mac.

    Easily in the top 3 games of the 90’s, edged out by “Star Control 2” (Now also freeware/open source/on sourceforge under the name “Ur-Quan Masters”) and “The Longest Journey” (Ragnar Tornquist is my master now)

  29. nilus says:

    Man I love X-com, but I agree Star Control 2 has to be my single most favorite PC game. It’s sad that Star Control 3 was such a disappointment.

  30. evilmrhenry says:

    Hate to rain on your parade, but I don’t see anything about XCom being free here. The Underdogs is an “abandonware” site, so unless you got it from their freeware section, XCom still isn’t free.

  31. bkw says:

    Ah, the sweet words “Laser Rifle Economy” still bring back memories.

  32. krellen says:

    Mr. Henry:

    Abandonware is free. The copyright has expired and/or the holder has ceased to exist, passing the product into the public domain. Espousing anything else is simply dishonest.

  33. evilmrhenry says:

    The copyright has not expired, nor will it for at least another fifty years or so. If the maker wanted to put it in the public domain, they would have made an announcement. If the maker has ceased to exist, the rights to the software passes to another party, not to the public. Home of the Underdogs hosts a large amount of software that they do not have the right to distribute, which makes this legally the same as downloading Bioshock off bittorrent. (Morally? Not the same. Chance of being noticed? Not the same. Legally? The same.)

  34. Gnagn says:

    There’s also UFO: Extraterrestrials which is by a totally different company than the UFO: Aftershock/Aftermath/Afterlight folks. Extraterrestrials is so close to a XCom clone that I’m surprised they weren’t sued. It even uses the same sound effects.

    I haven’t had time enough to really get deep into it yet, but I can feel it getting ready to suck all the time out of my life.

    http://www.ufo-extraterrestrials.com/

  35. krellen says:

    Such pedantry is the same as claiming the various “blue laws” – and other old, obscure and unenforced laws throughout the nation and the world – are still legal. The law is more than what is written; in fact, most of the law is what is practised. For most abandonware products, no one – not even the people that originally wrote them – knows who the “legal” copyright owner is. In practise, no copyright exists; there is no court in the world that could enforce them, even if they wanted to.

  36. Hanov3r says:

    Krellen,

    In a word, “no”. Copyright, in the US, expires 70 years after the death of the author. Items created as a work for hire (for example, items created by corporations) don’t have their copyright expire until 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever comes first.

    Copyrights are tangible assets. Copyrights to programs created by MicroProse were acquired by Spectrum Holobyte, then by Hasbro, and ultimately by Infogrames. Those copyrights, including the one for X-Com, are still in force.

    Creating a word like “abandonware” in an effort to make “copying and distributing copyrighted material” seem legitimate is just a new version of doublespeak.

  37. kdorian says:

    Oh god. X-Com.

    I used to have it, but the disks got damaged somehow, so I had to stop playing. And now I can download it? And play without emulators?

    There goes all my free time…

  38. evilmrhenry says:

    I find it difficult to believe that the copyright system is unenforced. In any case, the issue I have is that Shamus is referring to the game as free, in the same manner as C&C, when that is plainly not the case. This is presumably due to a misunderstanding regarding the nature of the Home of the Underdogs.

  39. krellen says:

    Okay, so X-Com might have a traceable copyright. That doesn’t mean that the hundreds or thousands of other titles out there labelled as “abandonware” do actually have traceable (and thus existent) copyrights. The works of MECC (Oregan Trail, et al.) stand as a prime example thereof.

    But Shamus’s post wasn’t about copyright law, so I’m not sure we should continue delving into the legalities, realities and moralities of copyright law. Until Infogrames comes along and tells people to stop distributing Micropose software, the issue is entirely moot. Absent a victim, as far as our legal system is concerned, there can be no crime. /Someone/ has to press charges.

  40. MintSkittle says:

    I’m sure if someone wanted to enforce the copyright on the games at underdogs, they would have been hit with a lawsuit or a cease & desist or something along those lines by now.

  41. Phlux says:

    I haven’t used Underdogs for a while, but don’t they generally have a policy such that if the game is available for sale through official channels (used-copy sales generally don’t count) then they will pull the game from distribution?

    Supposedly they had some actual legal grounds for being able to exist as they do. They’re far too big an operation to have gone unchallenged.

    At any rate, I’m hoping to give this game a look. I’m generally terrible at strategy games, but maybe since this is one of the granddaddies of the genre, perhaps it will give me a greater appreciation for more modern games. I’m not at all opposed to having a new genre to sink my teeth into.

  42. Jeff says:

    HotU does indeed have the policy that if a game can be purchased, a link will be made to that and the file won’t be hosted.
    In addition, if the IDSA requests it, it’ll also be taken off with a note to that effect, even if a place can’t be found that sells it.
    Companies who don’t even bother sending them an e-mail are presumed to not care.

  43. Jeff says:

    I also haven’t used it since, oh, 2006, when she stopped updating. :P

    The ‘related games’ link introduced me to a lot of things I’d never heard of, though.

  44. guy says:

    given that the game is no longer in publication and i already paid for an original copy, i care very little. terror from the deep, as it is currently in print, i feel differently about.

  45. guy says:

    basicly, i, like shamus, care about not pirating games which are in print, but don’t think the same about dead, unsupported games. if infogames puts it back in print, i will pay them the 25 bucks this is worth. or buy the remake.

  46. captain says:

    So many thrilling evenings of my childhood. Fond memories of storming ufos, alien-bases and fending off their attacks. Ufo and X-com are still excellent games. The new remakes are good, but not as challenging as the originals. Whoever doesn´t know those time-killers: Give them a try. You won´t regret.
    UFO was probably the first game where you could max your character-stats by exercising. I used to open every door with aimed shots and demolish the room with a satchel charge… :) Exception: Terror attacks – killing the civvies is a no go. Oooh yes!

  47. scragar says:

    I actualy had this on the origional playstation, the loading times were not too bad, proberly around a min or so at max(when loading save files of large maps like inside your base with loads of units and items).

  48. Myxx says:

    Fantastic! I sunk more nights (and days) into X-Com with my college roommates, and missed more classes, than I’ll ever admit. This was, and is, one of my all time favorite PC games.

  49. Jeff says:

    Is it just me, or did Terror from the Deep suck?
    It could be that I played them back to back, but the second one was just… annoying.

  50. xbolt says:

    An ancient strategy game, eh? My brother is big on strategy games. And so am I, to an extent. I’ll have to check this out…

  51. DKellis says:

    Weirdly, my first X-Com game was the third one (Apocalypse), and since then, I’ve found myself pretty much incapable of playing the earlier games, since turn-based goes way too slow for me.

    Also, I pretty much had to unlearn everything about X-Com 3 in order to play X-Com 1, so I put it off until… well, never.

  52. James says:

    I am ashamed to say that I have never played this.
    And that I have Vista (it came installed on my laptop), and it apparently doesn’t run on it D:
    And Dosbox doesn’t seem to be working either . . .
    So unless anyone has any ideas I’m just going to have to take you guys’ word on it.

  53. Shamus says:

    To clear up the copyright issue:

    The game was “given away” by the copyright holders in the same way C&C was a few weeks ago. Underdogs is indeed an abandonware site, but for the tenth anniversary PC Gamer included the full version of this game on their monthly “demo disc”. Which is how I came to play it originally.

  54. HeroForge says:

    I can give you a prime example of abandonware: the ’91 CRPG “The Dark Heart of Uukrul”.

    If you haven’t tried this game, you really need to. Nice thing about it is, you don’t have to worry about compatibility, as it has no sound (it doesn’t need it) and the animations are software-driven; it runs just as fast and smoothly on today’s computers as it did when there was only DOS.

    The publishing company, Broderbund, hasn’t listed the game on their website for over a decade. I’ve searched their entire site, and there is no mention of it whatsoever. I once sent them an e-mail asking about the program, and where I could acquire a copy of it, and got no response at all. For all purposes that I could come up with, they’re acting as if it doesn’t even exist.

    This title vanished from stores over ten years ago; you might be able to find a physical copy on eBay, but I don’t think it’s listed in major software stores like EB Games, which basically means that you can’t buy it commercially. And if you can’t buy it from a retailer, and the manufacturer doesn’t acknowledge its existence, there’s no way they can make money off it “” which also means there’s no reason for them to forbid it becoming available online.

    This title isn’t one of those that the company made Public Domain or released for free (like what’s been done with Elder Scrolls: Arena or Ultima IV), it’s quite literally been abandoned by the company. I even told them I found it on a website, and they didn’t lift a finger.

    Hanov3r, given these circumstances, would you consider it stealing from the company to download this?

  55. Hanov3r says:

    HeroForge,

    Yep, I would. “Did not answer your emails” is not the same as “denied the ownership of”. Whether they acknowledged it to you or not, they are still the copyright owners and *could* prosecute people distributing their software.

    Something to remember: a copyright is not a trademark. If a company does not defend a trademark against every infraction, they can lose the right to defend it against *any* infraction. The same cannot be said for copyright – failing to defend a copyright (or prosecute a copyright infringer) does not invalidate the copyright or place the work in public domain.

  56. John says:

    Thank You. I prostrate at your feet. I used to play this when i was younger, and have been looking for it ever since that computer was lost. Before now I only had a vague idea of the storyline, but now….. youve improved my life, yet also dammed it to never going further

  57. Allan says:

    I really want to try this game but it crashes everytime I start a mission, is there a way to resolve this?

  58. guy says:

    you need to install it where it is allowed to create files. otherwise it can’t find GEODATA.bat. had the same problem when i grabbed it off the original disk.

  59. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Ah,X-com..One of my favourite games.I played terror from the deep first,but I never replayed it.As for the first one,I still do play it.A lot!

    And it has one of the best sound effects and atmosphere,which is quite an acomplishment,considering that its basically just *dun-dun-dun-dun*.

    UFO:Afterlight is a decent sequel to the game.Not as scary as the original.Ok,running into a bunch of beastmen and finding your rear is being cut of by spiders and rollers can be scary,but not nearly as scary as having a crysalid jumping you from the back.But still,it is worth playing.

  60. Palette says:

    I must be doing something wrong, because it’s not installing.

    The instructions tell me to run xcom1fix.exe, which I do — at which point my screen goes black, and my monitor declares “Out of Range,” whatever that may be.

    Please help me to fix this problem, and explain as if you were talking to a small child….

  61. Steve C says:

    PSI the way to go in that game. My squad would be all PSI guys with 2-4 good gunners. I’d keep everyone in (or very close to) my ship except the gunners who would explore slowly. When the gunners spotted an alien, I’d use the action units of the PSI guys to take over the aliens then explore a little more before walking them into the open and eventually to my ship. (Gives new definition to alien probing.) I’d toss their weapons away and make sure to use up all the alien action points.

    Eventually the aliens would walk up to my guys and get stun-sticked. No danger. Well 1 time they fired a lucky explosive shot *into* my ship and killed everyone… but a load screen fixed that.

    Getting all the aliens with no casualties (on either side) and no damage to the alien ship = lots of cash.

  62. guy says:

    I liked to have a group of normal troops and a group of PSI troop\s (who i like to call PSI Corps Troopers, but whatever) because it takes a game mouth to test for psi, before which you can’t use it, and sometimes ethereals can massacre your troops with psi attacks when they see anything of yours.

  63. Smileyfax says:

    Ah, X-Com. I’m rather fond of blowing the heck out of farmhouses (and watching with amusement as the second floor hovers over the ruins of the first floor).

    Star Control II…that was a fun game as well. I made sure to visit every star to see what was worth seeing.

    A strategy which exploded in my face when I realized the game had a time limit. So yeah, Star Control II loses.

  64. Allan says:

    Thanks guy, it works now. Only thing now is, first mission I got everyone killed.

  65. guy says:

    Yeah, first mission is tough, your guys all have >40 HP, poor stats, and no armor. the plasma guns can one-shot tanks.

  66. guy says:

    actually, all the missions until you have personal armor are like that but they get easier if you keep your good guys at the rear and have them snipe instead of fighting directly. it is also recommended that you keep hiring new guys to replace your losses.

  67. Rich says:

    Early on I suggest using 2 rocket tanks in every mission. Send them out first as scouts. Blast anything that moves, then use your squishy, unarmored troops to mop up.

    Rule Number One: Save often. Unless you are one of those types that consider savegames immoral or whatever. :p You have been warned.

  68. guy says:

    i usually just use one tank. by the time i start using two tanks, i’ll be using plasma hovertanks or laser tanks, depending on my elerium supply. stock up on elerium, you’ll need it. you can get 150 units easy from hitting supply ships. And stay away from those chryysailds. they are found in snakemen bases, snakemen terror ships, and somtimes snakemen battleships. they are also at cydonia.

  69. Jeff says:

    Hanov3r:
    Actually, the concern is less about copyright specifically than intellectual property in general. Anything a company or individual invents is owned by them, and they have exclusive rights to control its use and availability. Further, if you don’t enforce your legal rights, you lose them. A copyright grants exclusive rights on copying/reproducing the protected item. If a company doesn’t bother to even try to control the distribution of their intellectual property, their case (should it come to court) would become weaker and weaker. That’s the only reason for the ESA to target old software no longer supported or distributed by its members. They have to at least try to control distribution, or they effectively lose the right to do so.

  70. Rustybadger says:

    If the game has been abandoned by its owners (whether they be the original authors or some other entity who inherited it), I don’t give two figs for the morality of the issue. If I want to play it, and nobody is willing to sell me a copy, then by gum, I am gonna play it anyways. This whole “70 years after death” crap the US Copyright Office holds to is utter bollocks anyways, but aside from that, there’s literally millions of abandoned software titles out there that still have intrinsic worth to people who enjoyed them at one time, just like out-of-print books- but nobody complains that you can still read an out-of-print book at your local library, do they?

    Anyhow, it’s a moot point, since like Shamus said, they sent out the full version on a promo CD. Ergo, they have given it away. Free, as in beer, but not as in speech.

  71. DGM says:

    @ Steven Den Beste

    “X-Com 2 was totally stupid. “Neutral boyancy” was a technology you had to capture from the aliens; you weren't permitted to just attach styrofoam to your suit so you could float.

    But the original X-Com “” a masterpiece.”

    This strikes me as a bit contradictory, as the original X-Com required you to research med-kits! Not to mention other silliness like getting an endless stream of rookies instead of the best of the best.

    That said, I do agree that the original was fun. Still is, actually, despite showing a lot of age.

  72. DGM says:

    “Anyhow, it's a moot point, since like Shamus said, they sent out the full version on a promo CD. Ergo, they have given it away. Free, as in beer, but not as in speech.

    Actually, if that promo CD only comes with a purchased copy of PC Gamer, then that’s not free. That sounds more like a deal that PC Gamer cut to sell extra magazines. If so, then downloading it from HOTU without buying a copy of the magazine (or the original disk) would qualify as stealing.

  73. guy says:

    med kits are special. and you get the stream of rookies because your baseline is the special forces.

  74. Takkelmaggot says:

    Curse you, Shamus! You destroyed my plans for the weekend!
    Very few games have the cocktail of ingredients which are required to keep me entertained for hours and replaying for years. Civ II. Panzer General. Operation Flashpoint. And then there’s… XCOM. Perfect and everlasting, dated graphics included.

  75. Miral says:

    A webcomic I used to read a lot frequently posted little XCOM excerpts as filler (mostly screenshots with added humourous captions), which were quite fun. Unfortunately my brain is refusing to tell me which webcomic it was.

    The game looked interesting then and it looks interesting now, but I’m carefully avoiding it because I don’t have enough spare time as it is :)

  76. Phlux says:

    I don’t know what the really adds, but for what it’s worth I have two computers with Vista. It won’t work on my desktop, I get the same “black screen” problem someone described above, but it works fine on my desktop.

    Difference off the top of my head:

    chipsets: both are dualcore, but the laptop is obviously a mobile version

    graphics: Desktop has an nvidia 8800GTS and the laptop has some sort of nvidia Quadro (which I’ve learned is modeled after the same series as the 8800). I used the manufacturer drivers for the laptop and some nvidia beta drivers for the desktop.

    OS: Vista Ultimate on my desktop. Vista Enterprise on my laptop.

    Display: 1280×1024 on the desktop and 1680×1050 widescreen on my laptop

    So it’s not a lost cause: it DOES work on vista. I read that the patch included with this version is basically a loader that fixed some sort of directdraw problem with the game. It might be that it needs to load at a lower resolution than I am able to force onto my desktop monitor, but somehow my laptop can handle it.

    That could be a display issue, a graphics card issue, a driver issue or an OS issue. Hard to pin down.

  77. Phlux says:

    Oh, and curse these developers for their lousy, no-tooltip-having interface, and for their badly implemented “fog of war” system which sometimes reveals an entire acre of field, and sometimes leaves the square immediately adjacent to me pitch black even with no apparent viewing obstruction

    Also…have they ever heard of a tutorial level?

    I can tell this is going to be a fun game…but the learning curve is atrociously steep.

  78. ArchU says:

    I only played X-Com 2 (and wasn’t very good at it but it was fun). I had no idea how similar the two games are. Thanks for the pointers by earlier posters that it is a bit sucky in comparison!

  79. Dank says:

    I have always loved this game, it was truly incredible in terms of what you could do when it first came out, and I remember many nights of quaking in fear as my poorly equipped soldiers lobbed grenades into the unknown and invariably got sniped from the second story of some barn…

    I never managed to complete the whole game of the original UFO, and always intended to. I always had trouble about the time snakemen hit the scene!

    I just completed UFO:Afterlight (which I’d rate – pick it up cheaply if you can! – the terraforming is awesome and the game very much catches the feel of UFO) – but now the thought of playing X-Com again is making me excited :) I miss classic turn based strategy.

  80. Miako says:

    The plot for ‘Star Control 3’ was supposed to be SO COOL.
    A lot of games die like that (the end of Anachronox was gonna be great, too).

    Yes, the starcontrol3 got made, but they didn’t put the plot in.

    at least bioshock got plot!

  81. Deoxy says:

    Master of Orion 3 killed that franchise as well… the first was great, the second is still king of turn-based strategy, and the third… was beyond micromanagement. Very sad. :-(

    I’d like to play X-Com (never got around to it then)… but I surely don’t have time now! :-(

  82. James says:

    Good lord, all these posts and nobody’s mentioned Steam yet? You lot bickering over copyright, if you want to assuage your conscience, go install Steam (like you don’t have it already…), and I think X-Com 2 TFTTD is something like 5 bucks, on sale for 4. You can make sure *somebody* gets the money for it, and as several people have pointed out, 2 is basically 1 with “hover” tanks replaced by swimming tanks, and the added constraint that some guns work better underwater while some work better on land. Some didn’t like it as much, I guess, but I don’t feel like that much changed. So there’s your “buy it now” option.

    I got Apocalypse on release day (I think), having been a huge fan of the previous games. Somehow, I don’t think I liked it as much, but looking back, I can’t really put my finger on why. So, uh, take my very vague word of warning….

  83. James says:

    Brief follow-up: apparently, GameTap has the original Xcom, so if you *must* pay somebody for it, you can always subscribe there. If I had nothing to do all day but play video games, I’m pretty sure I’d be signed up — the Free games alone are enough to cripple the social life of an unemployed nerd; the Full version is like having instant access to the entire Underdogs catalog plus half the contents of the PC shelf at EB.

    Oh, and SC2 rocked (even held up swimmingly when I replayed Ur-Quan Masters last year!). SC3 was a lot of fun in its own right, it lives in SC2’s shadow. I’ll have to dig it out one of these days and give it another shot…

  84. kellandros says:

    XCom 2 was the equivalent of a modern mission pack- the publisher wanted a sequel, the authors were busy with a brand new game, so they got someone else to make it.

    XCom 2 took basically the exact same engine and tweaked the gameplay. Part of the process is to make the game much harder than the original(read – CHALLENGE) until you fully understand all the changes.

    The basic tricks differences are:
    Melee weapons are awesome if you can live long enough to use them. Lobstermen are far too armored(and show up far earlier in the game) for anything else to be very effective.

    Researching alien corpses is REQUIRED to get several tech advances(Aqua plastics and then all the body armors).

    The best gun types from the previous game are gone. No weapon with infinite ammo. No “heavy” guns with automatic fire. No 20-30 shot clips.

    The alien base missions are twice as big, visibility is much worse.

    I’ve learned how to survive both these. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent the time necessary to get the third game working yet.

    I’m probably going back through the links to the remakes/clones later; I had heard of some of them but never saw them in a playable state.

  85. Takkelmaggot says:

    This last weekend I split my game time between XCOM and Oblivion. In a sad commentary on the gaming industry, Oblivion crashed every ten minutes (no guessing why, perhaps driver bugs) and was slightly frustrating. XCOM crashed once and was a joy.

  86. Mark Caliber says:

    Good news Vista Users. Microsoft now offers an upgrade for Vista to XP.

    IIRC, I believe I still have my original CD for X-Com and I’ve been waiting for the XP patch for YEARS.

    Thanks for the Link, Shamus!

  87. Kujaku says:

    I keep getting an error while in the middle of a mission that kicks me from the game. Any way to fix it?

  88. guy says:

    what OS are you running? does the screen say anything? anything happen in the game a bit before each incident?

  89. rosignol says:

    Has anyone on a Mac had any luck getting it to work under Bootcamp/Parallels/etc?

    ps: concur re MoO3.

  90. Author says:

    I loved the game, but was unable to complete it. It starts crashing and crashes more and more often after every save, until it becomes unplayable. This was years back, under Win95, I believe. I wonder if anything has changed.

  91. guy says:

    yes, at least for me. the old version had a crash when renaming soldiers, but the collectors edition is fine with that.

  92. This game and the two Fallouts are the most engaging I’ve ever played. It’s rare to have a computer game literally make my heart race.

  93. RL says:

    I’m a Vista user, not having any luck getting this thing to run. I get music immediately, but nothing on the screen. I’ve tried giving the program permission as an administrator, and running in compatability modes for XP/98/95 … nothing works. Are there any Vista users who’ve been able to fix this?

  94. guy says:

    Look for a dos edition and find the dosbox emulator.

  95. AussieFella says:

    Abandon ware, an article of software of which the Legal Copyrighted owner, has Abandoned the development distribution, Update and Support. This means that they have no Future or current intention or plans to ever re-use the title, they remain the owner of the software and no individuals are allowed to alter or use the software in any other means than originally intended.

    All that it does mean is that the original and current owners relinquish the title to Public Domain Distribution and NOTHING else, if in doubt as to the legality of the acquisition of the software, delete it and contact the copyright owner,
    example – X-Tree Gold, abandoned by the owner, not released for open distribution, makers of Z-Tree -Bold, legally required to attain permission to recreate this File manager for Windows/OS2 Freeware/Abandon ware are the same thing only freeware is MADE to be free, Abandon ware was commercial.

  96. AussieFella says:

    if one bothers to look at Home of the Underdogs properly they will see that the site hosts only the titles they have confirmed are legally released for Public Domain Distribution
    ALL other titles they link to commercial links where the user of the site may buy the title.

    in some cases unreleased titles have been hosted and the Underdogs Site have taken action to remove the title from PDD.
    as soon as advised by the owner.

    if you have a problem with this method of distibution perhaps you should sell your modem and stay offline, and leave this stuff to those of us that lawfully follow the trend.

  97. Depravity says:

    Gnagn (34), regarding the sound effects, pay attention the next time you’re watching a horror or science fiction movie. Most of the alien noises seem to have found their ways into many many sound crews’ toolkits. It’s hard to pay attention to a movie when the noises make you want go loot that grey’s corpse.

  98. Oh man, X-COM. So much love.

    and not

    I have a sort of a love/hate relationship with X-COM. The game rules in all sorts of ways, but I suck at it. I’m just not very smart. And don’t know how fast to expand.

    Basically all my games whittle down to frantic global guerilla warfare with no real progress, because the aliens have set up shop all over the world once I get to seriously expanding.

    Power armour rules.

  99. sir_toast says:

    i can’t figure this out. is it me, or is it vista?
    i’ve tried running that file under every edition vista offers.
    do i have to have the original game? is this just a patch?
    oh thanks guy. where do i find that stuff?

    p.s. aussiefella is a weenie. if i can find it free, it’s freeware

  100. Johan says:

    *resurrect?*
    Shamus (or anyone), did you have problems with the game scrolling too fast to play in battlescape? I would nudge the edge of the screen and my view would go flying off into a void. If you did have the problem, did you find a way to fix it?

  101. Silfir says:

    Click the “?” button in the battlescape and set scroll speed to minimum. (While you’re at it, do the same for all the other stuff.) That should make it bearable unless your machine is absolutely godly fast. (Maybe you’ve got an old one around?)

    On my desktop, I’ve set all the stuff on minimum and the game is a little fast, but very much playable – I have to pay close attention to the alien movement phase so I can properly make out from where they just brutally murdered my captain and two sergeants though.

    My laptop (2,6 celeron, ATI RADEON 9000 – good thing I love old games so much!) is slow enough that I actually use medium settings.

    By the way, I played X-COM first about ten years ago, when it was only a demo I had on some crappy demo CD. (At that point, I wasn’t too good at English and I didn’t really get how to play properly, besides I was only ten and had no idea where to get it.) I decided on trying to find this game when people kept mentioning it in the comments here as an awesome turn-based strategy. Six days ago I downloaded it, and I am absolutely hooked. Even the constant crashing has not taken me away (guess I’ll have to save more often).

    One time I finished a terror mission with two survivors out of fourteen, and those two survived only because they had shit their pants and run away earlier – I had to loot corpses of fallen soldiers so they could get weapons. That feeling of being on the line between miserable failure and success… That heart-racing excitement… That feeling of satisfaction when you win after already having though to yourself “That’s it – but I’ll not go down without a fight, alien scum!”… This game is made of win and awesome.

  102. joe says:

    I really loved this game when it came out. Unfortunately, I cannot get this to run on XP. I followed Shamus’ directions and when I run xcom1fix I simply get a black screen and have to alt-tab out and kill the process manually – no sound, no graphics anything.

    I even tried right clicking and editing the properties but that did not work. Any ideas/solutions? What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

  103. Vadimirin says:

    I don’t know if you get an e-mail or a note for every post made to these old topics, but I hope you do. I found an incredibly interesting story about a crossover between the SGC (Star Gate Command, alla SG-1) and X-Com, it’s quite interesting, and there’s notes at the bottom that make even a lay person to the X-Com world understand it quite well.

    here’s a link: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-16092/Hotpoint+XSGCOM+Goa+uld+Defence.htm hope you find it as awesome as I do.

  104. Ted says:

    The X-Com link is broken.

  105. Volatar says:

    I also hope you somehow get notification of these comments.

    The Underdogs has gone under forever as of this week, so that link is now gone, and we must use yours.

    However, X-Com is now available on Steam. Most abandonware sites have taken X-Com off the download lists because of this. You may consider removing your own link, in favor of promoting the sale of the game.

    Or you could spite Steam and keep the link (which is now much more clearly illegal).

  106. Lonti says:

    I played these game long time ago. When my CPU broke (hdd death cos of short), i lost these game. After years playing many game, i found playing xcom still challenging. Very very amazing game …

  107. Manji022 says:

    I am trying my best to get this thing working in windows 7 ultimate 32 or whatever it is called. Anyone have any Ideas?

  108. Brutal Bob says:

    Ah X-Com, welcome back old friend, now if only I can get you to work on the new laptop with Windows 7…….

  109. Silfir says:

    There is a fix (the file is called “Xcom Vista Patch.exe” and is sized 138 KB, hell, if you write me an email I’ll send it to you) that will disable hardware acceleration just for X-COM, after which the Collector’s Edition will actually run on Windows 7. As a bonus, the bug that makes interceptions still impossible under Vista is not present in Windows 7 anymore – as if we needed another reason to know Windows 7 improved on Vista in basically every way, huh?

    If the colors are still wonky, you should check a couple of the compatibility settings in the desktop link properties, like “run in 640×480” and “run in 256 colors” and the one about disabling desktop styles or something (German menus here) and try again. Even then, I still occasionally switch to wonky colors all of a sudden, which an Alt+Tab might fix.

  110. Booknerd says:

    Epic game

  111. marc says:

    Hey, i got out of pcs along time ago. My wife checks my e-mails now but this game i played and liked it alot. Can you give an old timer the least complicated way to put
    X-com on windows 7? thanks and the best to all.

    1. Zanfib says:

      Buy it on steam. It costs very little and works perfectly.

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