Before you get too excited about the prospect of playing MicroProse's classic turn-based game by e-mail, you should know that this is a scaled-down, greatly simplified version of the original. The strategic and role-playing aspects are missing, as well as the variety of weapons. They have been stripped away in favor of a tactical game suitable for quick and easy e-mail play.
That's not to say this incarnation of X-COM can't be a pleasant diversion if you're looking for simple two-player gaming via the Internet that doesn't depend on how fast you click a mouse or how well you use a joystick. Hasbro Interactive makes playing by e-mail so easy almost anyone who understands how to send and receive a message can get into it.
In addition, the system requirements for the game are low enough that even those with a fairly fast 486 can join in the fun, as long as they have access to the Internet and an e-mail program capable of handling file attachments. And even without Internet access, you can still play the game on a single computer in "hot seat" mode, which is a good way to practice.
You'll notice the creepy music that gave X-COM its atmosphere is missing. In fact, there are no music tracks or cutscenes whatsoever in the game. The only sound effects are of aliens and humans walking, getting hit, and dying; weapons firing; and objects exploding.
You can play as either the aliens or as the human X-COM force, which has the mission of stopping the alien invasion of Earth. There are six different unit types for each side, each with different health and movement points and attack capabilities. The aliens have chryssalids, snakemen, sectopods, mutons, sectoids, and ethereals. The X-COM force has rookies, squadies, sergeants, captains, colonels, and commanders. The primary differences between these units are their armament, health, movement points, and leadership capabilities.
X-COM players will recognize most of the weapons available. They include pistols, rifles, autocannons, and rocket launchers. As in the original game, some alien units have psionic attacks that can cause humans to go out of control. Learning how to use the weapons and the units to their maximum capabilities while outmaneuvering your opponent is the challenge.
Giving orders is a straightforward process. Units can either move, fire, or move and fire. Some units with heavy weapons have the choice of moving or firing, but not both. A unit that moves and fires cannot move as far or fire as accurately as a unit that only moves or only fires.