UFO Online preview – never heard of it? You need to

In almost every alien invasion scenario we’re used to, the humans rise up as one and kick some extraterrestrial ass. Whether it be by simply sending a Spartan warrior after them, crashing a well-timed jet into their mothership, or hell, just shooting them with Super Soakers (thanks, Shyamalan), human beings tend to show a unified front against their potential alien overlords. It’s a pretty ideal looking future. The free to play UFO Online rejects that cute little idea.

In the distant future, an alien invasion has forced humans underground, where they’ve separated into three major factions. The Americas have teamed up against the coalition of Europe and Africa, who have their borders constantly threatened by a unified Asia. So, on top of having to deal with that pesky alien apocalypse, they’re also constantly at one another’s collective throats, vying for control over vast swaths of territory.

So why we fight each other if we’ve got such a horrifying threat to our very survival? Why, for the best stuff, of course! The human faction that manages to conquer over 50% of the available territories unlocks access to a huge amount of new resources, which they can use to build new weaponry and armor to take on the more powerful foes in the universe. Once players unlock PvP modes at the maximum level of 30, let the battle for land begin.

That fight takes place in a series of turn-based strategy battles. The level I saw was an underground, high tech tunnel that a bunch of ugly looking aliens floating around. Clearing out that little infestation was the primary concern, of course. Each class had their own jobs to do, and paying attention to their strengths and weaknesses is key for victory. Tanks are great front-line fighters as they can take a bunch of hits and use heavy weaponry, Snipers are better from the back, Soldiers are great all around fighters, and Grenadiers are the glass cannons of the world, being able to dish huge amounts of damage but aren’t able to take much themselves.

As far as we could tell, however, the most important class was the Scout. Because your enemies aren’t revealed to you right off the bat, it’s the Scout’s job to go and find them and report their locations back to their commander (hey, that’s you!). If you play them right, their quick speed, near silent movement, and keen listening skills can get the jump on your enemies, especially if you can hear them through doors or around corners. Letting your Sniper know that an enemy is about to turn the corner is a huge tactical advantage, and there’s no excuse to miss that.

Of course, to get your team to play exactly like you want it, there’s gotta be customization. And the amount of customization in UFO Online is certainly no joke. There are five classes to fill out your six-man squad – Soldier, Sniper, Tank, Scout, and Grenadier – and you can choose nine of 45 skills to customize each of them. They each have a variety of weapons to choose from that have three customization slots along with several different types of ammo to unload into your enemies’ faces. And then there’s the customizable armor, which has 2 upgrade shots per piece. Who says free to play titles lack in content?

For a free to play browser game, UFO Online looks fantastic. The super flexible camera takes full advantage of the fully 3D world, allowing players to check out every tactical situation they can before unleashing their plans on the battlefield. Characters are stylish and looking good, even in the early alpha build that was being shown. It’ll be interesting to see how such an ambitious free to play game looks as it gets closer to launch.

Jun 20, 2011

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