We feel dirty. Dirty because what enjoyment we've taken from UFO: Extraterrestrials isn't of its own making. It's all very well treating it as its own entity, but when something is so knowingly a carbon copy of X-COM, the past can't be ignored. This is a straight copy, not the experimentation of the rival UFO: After series, though equally unpolished. Only the move to a butt-ugly 3D engine, a wonky interface and the same plot but in a different light mark significant change.
That it sucked us in at all is testament to the potency of the original X-COM brew of turn-based squad battles, base-building and the gently engrossing role-play of soldier and item tweaking.
The missions, though visually tedious, retain X-COM 's heart-murmuring menace. Running out of action points just as a soldier comes nose-to-proboscis with some hulking ET is true horror - he'll be dead next turn. Then a fluke shot by someone from our team scores a fatal hit, despite 8% odds of success. Joy. It's this irregular, tension-building that keeps the formula so fresh, even when packaged as shoddily as this.
The only major alteration is that cash now comes from building a base in each zone of the globe - occasionally contested by the efforts of aliens. It's simpler, but less satisfying than the old way of winning the purses of nations by consistently keeping their populace safe from rampaging space beasties.
UFO's fatal flaw is that it's shackled to the recessive as well as dominant genes of its ancestor. For all its daddy's firm chin or blue eyes, it also inherits the hairy ears and bed-wetting. The camera can't rotate, units remain eerily silent, and soldiers lack peripheral vision... This is a low-rent clone, barely an improvement, without a soul to call its own. UFO:E may muster much of that X(-COM) factor, but higher resolutions are the only reason to buy it over the cheaper, more charming Terror from the Deep.