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X-COM series logo.png
  • MicroProse (1994-1998)
  • Hasbro Interactive (1998-2001)
  • Infogrames/Atari (2001-2005)
  • 2K Games (2005-present)
Creators Julian Gollop
Platform of origin PC
First release UFO: Enemy Unknown
March 1, 1994
Latest release XCOM 2
February 5, 2016

X-COM (sometimes stylized as X-Com) is a science fiction video game franchise featuring an elite international organization tasked with countering alien invasions of Earth. The series began with the strategy video game UFO: Enemy Unknown created by Mythos Games and MicroProse in 1994. The original line up by MicroProse included six published and at least two cancelled games, as well as two novels. The X-COM series, in particular its original entry, achieved a sizable cult following and has influenced many other video games; including the creation of a number of clones, spiritual successors, and unofficial remakes.

A reboot series entitled XCOM was published by 2K Games, beginning with the strategy video game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, developed by Firaxis Games and released in 2012 to critical and commercial success, with an expansion to Enemy Unknown, called Enemy Within, being released in 2013 alongside a prequel, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. A sequel, XCOM 2, has been released in 2016.


Title Release Platforms Developer Publisher
UFO: Enemy Unknown
(a.k.a. X-COM: UFO Defense)
1994 Amiga
Mythos Games
X-COM: Terror from the Deep 1995 3DO
MicroProse MicroProse
X-COM: Apocalypse 1997 DOS
Mythos Games
X-COM: Interceptor 1998 Windows MicroProse MicroProse
X-COM: First Alien Invasion 1999 Windows Hasbro Interactive Hasbro
X-COM: Enforcer 2001 Windows Hasbro Interactive Infogrames
X-COM: Genesis Unreleased Windows Hasbro Interactive None
X-COM: Alliance Unreleased Windows Hasbro Interactive
XCOM: Enemy Unknown 2012 Android
PlayStation 3
PlayStation Vita
Xbox 360
Firaxis Games 2K Games
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
(previously known as XCOM)
2013 OS X
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Irrational Games
2K Australia
2K Marin
2K Games
XCOM: Enemy Within
(expansion of XCOM: Enemy Unknown)
2013 Android
PlayStation 3
PlayStation Vita
Xbox 360
Firaxis Games 2K Games
(sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown)[1]
2016 Linux
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Firaxis Games 2K Games
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
(expansion of XCOM 2)
2017 Linux
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Firaxis Games 2K Games

X-COM games[edit]

Aggregate review scores
As of November 17, 2011.
Game GameRankings
UFO: Enemy Unknown
(X-COM: UFO Defense)
(PC) 94%[2]
(PS) 93%[3]
X-COM: Terror from the Deep (PS) 100%[4]
(PC) 86%[5]
X-COM: Apocalypse (PC) 87%[6]
X-COM: Interceptor (PC) 70%[7]

The X-COM core series consisted of four main games published by MicroProse: UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as X-COM: UFO Defense, PC and Amiga in 1994, Sony PlayStation in 1995), X-COM: Terror from the Deep (PC in 1995, PlayStation in 1996), X-COM: Apocalypse (PC in 1997) and X-COM: Interceptor (PC in 1998). The premise of the franchise is that an alien invasion beginning in 1999 prompts the creation of a paramilitary organization codenamed X-COM (an abbreviation of "Extraterrestrial Combat Unit") by a coalition of funding nations. The player is charged with leading this secret force and tasked to engage and research the alien threat. The sequels, against new alien invasions, are set underwater (Terror from the Deep, set in 2040), in a futuristic megacity (Apocalypse, set in 2084), and in space (Interceptor, set in 2067 and making it a prequel to Apocalypse).

UFO: Enemy Unknown, featured a turn-based ground combat system, and remains the most popular and successful game in the series and has been often featured on various lists of best video games of all time.[8] The first sequel, Terror from the Deep, was quickly created by MicroProse's internal team; based on the same game engine and used largely identical gameplay mechanics. Apocalypse took several new directions with the series, introducing an optional real-time combat system and shifting the aesthetics to a retro-futuristic style. Interceptor, constitutes a hybrid of a strategy game and a space combat flight simulator.

After Interceptor, Hasbro Interactive purchased MicroProse, acquiring its studios and the X-COM brand, and, according to GameSpy, "there was wild talk of X-COM toys, comics, and cartoon shows."[9] A budget range, turn-based tactical play-by-mail multiplayer game Em@il Games: X-COM was released in 1999. In 2001, Hasbro published X-COM: Enforcer, a poorly received third-person shooter loosely based on the events of Enemy Unknown, marking a low point in the series. The X-COM games were also released as part of four compilation releases: X-COM (Collector's Edition) (1998),[10] X-COM Collection (1999)[11] and X-COM: Complete Pack (2008),[12] as well as in 2K Huge Games Pack in 2009.

Cancelled X-COM games[edit]

At least two more major titles were planned for this series: X-COM: Genesis (a real-time strategy and tactics game "going back to the roots but in full 3D"[13]) and X-COM: Alliance (a first-person shooter tactical game). However, both of these projects were cancelled after ex-MicroProse Hasbro Interactive studios were all shut down in 1999-2000 (although Alliance has been later abortively reactivated in 2001-2002). Years later, Terry Greer, a senior artist and head of game design at MicroProse UK, disclosed: "We'd also discussed other avenues for future [X-COM] games including time travel, retaking the solar system (with interplanetary distances playing a significant role in recruitment and resources), and resistance movement concept where you had to fight back after the world was taken and humanity was totally under the alien yoke."[13]

XCOM games[edit]

Aggregate review scores
As of September 27, 2016.
Game Metacritic
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360) 90[14]
(PC) 89[15]
(PS3) 89[16]
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PS3) 69[17]
(360) 68[18]
(PC) 66[19]
XCOM: Enemy Within (iOS) 92[20]
(360) 88[21]
(PS3) 88[22]
(PC) 86[23]
XCOM 2 (PC) 88[24]
(PS4) 88[25]
(XONE) 87[26]

In April 2010, 2K Marin announced they were working on re-imagining of X-COM, relabeled as XCOM,[27] to be released for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was described as a tactical and strategic first-person shooter that would combine elements from the original X-COM alongside a new setting and viewpoint while keeping some main concepts from the original game series. The setting received a complete overhaul, now based in the early 1960s, with the XCOM being a U.S. federal agency. Originally planned for 2011, the game was released on August 20, 2013 as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.

In January 2012, Firaxis Games (led by MicroProse co-founder Sid Meier) announced the development of a PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a "re-imagination" of UFO: Enemy Unknown with real-time strategic view, turn-based combat and destructible tactical environments more in vein of the original X-COM game and set in a more contemporary setting than the XCOM game by 2K Marin.[28] XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released on October 9, 2012 to critical acclaim, winning multiple "Game of the Year" awards. Julian Gollop hailed it as "a phoenix rising from the ashes of the X-COM disaster", saying that "it’s amazing that after 20 years, a brand that had gone so badly in the wrong direction has finally been put right."[29] In November 2013, Firaxis released a downloadable content for the base game XCOM: Enemy Unknown titled XCOM: Enemy Within.[30] It was made available on Steam (which requires Enemy Unknown to play),[31] as well as for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (both versions are standalone and do not require Enemy Unknown). In 2015, Firaxis announced that a sequel, XCOM 2, would be released in November of that year.[1] However, this release date was later pushed back, and was finally released in 2016 on PC.[32]

Other media[edit]

The X-Com board game being played at the GDC 2015


There are two X-COM novels based on the first game in the series: Diane Duane's X-COM: UFO Defense - A Novel (1995, ISBN 0-7615-0235-1) and Vladimir Vasilyev's Enemy Unknown (1997). According to Rock, Paper, Shotgun's negative review of Duane's novel, it is hampered by a poor understanding of the game, a lack of focus, emotional resonance and tension, and an unstructured plot.[33] MicroProse's John Possidente also wrote three short stories ("Decommissioning", "Manley's Deposition" and "Moray in the Wreck") taking place between the events of the first two games in the series. A new novel titled XCOM 2: Resurrection will be written by Greg Keyes.[34]

Board game[edit]

A board game designed by Eric M. Lang based on the 2012 reboot was released on January 28, 2015 by Fantasy Flight Games.[35]

Intellectual property rights[edit]

The trademark for the X-COM name was filed on May 25, 1995, by MicroProse Software. According to Julian Gollop, "They wanted us to do a deal where we would sign over any rights that we might have in return for some cash plus a high royalty on X-COM: Apocalypse. They more or less insisted on it, otherwise they were threatening to cancel the Apocalypse project, so there was a lot of bluff involved."[36] Following the acquisition and subsequent merger of MicroProse with Hasbro, the X-COM intellectual property ("IP") was also transferred to Hasbro Interactive on August 19, 1998. Due to financial difficulties, Hasbro Interactive was sold to Infogrames Entertainment, SA on January 29, 2001. As part of this transfer, the X-COM IP was legally transferred to Infogrames on December 21, 2001 (shortly thereafter, Infogrames was renamed Atari, SA). In 2005, Atari, SA transferred several IPs to Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.[37] and X-COM was transferred with them on June 12, 2005.

The X-COM IP is currently owned by Take-Two and its subsidiaries;[38] by 2007, first rumors emerged that Irrational Games (who are owned by Take-Two) were developing a new X-COM title[39] (this game eventually became The Bureau: XCOM Declassified). In May 2007, 2K Games (a subsidiary of Take-Two) inherited the X-COM franchise and re-released Terror from the Deep on Steam. In September 2008, UFO: Enemy Unknown, Apocalypse, Interceptor and Enforcer were also re-released as downloadable titles. 2K Games' XCOM, which had been in development since 2003 (prior to the IP acquisition),[40] was finally completed and released in 2012.

Spiritual successors[edit]

Because of the series' popularity, various developers have created spiritual successor games similar in theme and tone of the X-COM games (sometimes called "X-COM clones";[41] [42] Gollop also himself called turn-based tactical game genre in general as "sons of Rebelstar" in a reference to one of his earlier games[43]). The level to which they borrow from the original series varies.


The franchise was also referenced in the Civilization series of strategy video games that had partially inspired X-COM in first place. The original game received an unofficial sequel in the 1997 expansion set Civ II: Fantastic Worlds for MicroProse's Civilization II, in a scenario set on the Phobos moon of Mars.[69] Firaxis' Civilization V features a unit type called a "XCOM Squad".


Screenshot of UFO: Alien Invasion, a fully 3D-rendered fan remake of X-COM.
  • UFO: Alien Invasion is a free-to-play, open source cross-platform strategy / turn-based tactics game heavily influenced by the X-COM series.
    • A similar open source game still in pre-release phase is X-Force: Fight for Destiny.[70] Still another, Project Xenocide, was aborted in 2010.[71]
  • Fan-remake projects for UFO: Enemy Unknown include X-com - Last Hope (a mod of Half-Life 2 released in 2006),[72] UFO: The Two Sides (development halted in 2011 due to copyright issues),[73] UFO: Cydonia's Fall (canceled in 2012), X-COM: Origin (development still ongoing in 2012)[74] and The Rebel Squad, a defunct project by Sam Liu.[75]
    • OpenXcom is an open-source reimplementation of that game to fix all the bugs and enable modding.[76][77]
  • X-Com: Tactical is a board game reproducing the squad tactics element of the first game.[78]

See also[edit]

  • Laser Squad: a science fiction tactical game by the original creators of X-COM and an immediate predecessor of X-COM (UFO: Enemy Unknown began development as Laser Squad 2 at first[79]).
  • Rebelstar series: precursor games to both Laser Squad and the X-COM series, also created by the same developers.


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External links[edit]