Ole Solskjaer has gone Beserk

The original UFO: Enemy Unknown (a.k.a. X-Com: UFO Defence overseas) was released in 1994 by Microprose for PC and is fondly remembered by many not just because it remains a high watermark in strategy game design but also because I spend most of my weekends banging a large drum and giving out leaflets on how awesome it is.

Sometimes I get Bono to cover for me, for no obvious reason.

If you’ve never been exposed to UFO, and like pixels, you can download the game right now from Steam for a few pounds. It’s what I did a while back when my craving to jump back into it became too much.

It looks like I wasn’t the only one with that craving, though. A few clusters of developers and publishers seem to have noticed that there is one influential series in particular that hasn’t yet been remade, and so are looking to plug that gaping hole with a release of their own (ignore that). I’ve already written about the new XCOM FPS title, which regrettably appears to have slipped off the edge of a very large cliff.

You can play the beta of Xenonauts right now, which is Goldhawk Interactive’s exciting community-fuelled re-imagining of UFO in a cold war setting.

Also looming onto the horizon is Firaxis’ (the studio behind Civilization) recently announced XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which will release for consoles and may offer an interesting alternative approach to that taken with Xenonauts.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

None of that is the reason I’m here, though. No, the reason I’m here is to relate to you a story of extreme bravery in the face of extraordinary peril. I’m here to tell you the story of my recent revisit of UFO.

When I first fired up the game I chose the hardest difficulty setting. Not because I’m confident, or because I am in any way proficient at the game. No, I selected the hardest difficulty setting because I am an idiot.

UFO essentially boils down to arming and equipping a group of multinational soldiers and sending them into battle with the alien forces in an attempt to fight off their gradual invasion of Earth. As in life, it can be difficult to remember the often seemingly random combinations of letters that make up foreign people’s names. So before I did anything else, I renamed my squad of soldiers so that, in the heat of turn-based battle, I could remember which ones to protect and which to sacrifice.

What was needed was a simple naming convention. Obviously, I chose to name the weaker, less accurate soldiers after Manchester United players. Naturally, the stronger and more accurate soldiers were named after Liverpool players. The players with French-sounding names were left as they were, because in battle they can be instinctively disregarded as Arsenal players.

As you can see, they all look exactly like their namesakes, with the possible exception of Ryan Giggs who looks like Guile.

My merry band of X-Com operatives named after famous footballers (and Dirk Kuyt) initially fared well against the alien horde. The only soldiers we lost were French. Ryan Giggs was leading the charge with Paul Scholes, and they formed a formidable partnership, until on a mission in Jamaica Ryan Giggs was shot in the groin by an alien had to recuperate back at base for two weeks.

He actually took out a super-injunction on me. He was really shot in a far more embarrassing place.

As it goes, I forgot to put Giggs back in the squad after he recovered, so he missed a lot of action. I like to think that he was running around the base on his own with a football the whole time. Meanwhile, Paul Scholes killed three aliens with one grenade on one mission and was accordingly promoted.

'You can take back all the medals I've won in football – the finest moment of my career was when a fictional and poorly rendered represention of me was promoted to Sergeant.' – Paul Scholes, last week.

The whole tactic of sacrificing Manchester United players in favour of Liverpool players was failing horribly, mainly because Paul Scholes was killing everything with grenades before the Liverpool players could get there. This changed, though, on a mission to secure a landed UFO on a farm near Chicago.

As soon as Paul Scholes wandered out of our plane he was shot in the knee, suprisingly not by an arrow, but instead by searing green alien plasma. Two aliens were holed up in a farmhouse right next to our vehicle, and were taking potshots at my poorly rendered representations of professional footballers, who simply couldn’t return fire accurately given the superior position of their foes. I had one more soldier left to try to kill the aliens before the end of our turn (and certain death for most of my squad). I’d given dependable Dirk Kuyt the rocket launcher, and he’d carried it into battle on every mission without even using it. However, he was now my only hope. I peeked his head out of the plane, and he took aim and fired. Did he do us proud? Did he step up?

Yes. Yes he did. For none can stand against the might of Kuyt.

Sadly though, it was the last true moment of glory for my merry band of fake millionaire sportsmen. Just one day after Paul Scholes returned from knee knack, the aliens attacked our base. I hadn’t installed defences, because (as I think I’ve mentioned previously) I am an idiot. The aliens landed on the soil above our base, and poured in through the hangars and access lift. My squad were scattered all over the place. I formed them into two groups, and tried to hold down their respective sections. Rio Ferdinand, Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel and Dirk Kuyt were holed up in the west living quarters. Paul Scholes bravely led the other team, comprising the rest of my force, in the east storage area.

The west team were first to bite the dust. An alien popped his head around the corner and took a shot at Eric Cantona, who took a solid hit to the chest but was still standing. Before the alien could take another shot though, Rio Ferdinand instinctively dispatched the extraterrestrial fiend with a laser rifle headshot. The game doesn’t render it, but I like to think that the alien’s head exploded dramatically and wetly. It’s irrelevant anyway, because the very next moment, all four of that team were obliterated by what can only be described as a small nuclear warhead.

Those evil alien bastards.

So, it was down to Paul Scholes and my other five remaining soldiers.

I really should have hired more soldiers. I was employing 40 scientists at that point. 40 scientists! Not one of them was around at the time of the alien attack. Not one. I could have strapped live grenades to them and walked them right up to the aliens, but no. They were all out buying test tubes or something. Selfish.

Anyway. I still felt the situation could be salvaged. Paul Scholes had proven himself in grenadefare, and he was in a room filled with grenades. This was simple. I would instruct Paul Scholes to gradually and methodically throw grenades into every corner of the base until his arm got tired. Then I would strap live grenades to the remaining Manchester United players and walk them right up to any remaining aliens. Essentially, as long as my team still had the air in their lungs to strap live grenades to each other, and walk up to aliens, we were golden.

What I had forgotten is that aliens in UFO can use mind control to take over your soldiers and use them to kill your other soldiers. So, when I looked up from the sketch of Paul Scholes throwing a small grenade at a larger grenade that I was working on to see John Barnes being taken over by aliens, walking over to Ryan Giggs, and firing his rocket launcher directly into his back to kill both of them and Nick Barmby, it again dawned on me that I am an idiot. Yet, I still feel that much blame lies with John Barnes here.

Why, John Barnes? Why? Not this. Never this.

I’d packed my forces too closely together, and now they were all dead, apart from Paul Scholes, Luis Garcia and Ole Solskjaer. The next turn, aliens took over Luis Garcia and he shot Paul Scholes three times in the back with his laser rifle. It was down to Ole Solskjaer.

The first point of order was to kill the now alien-controlled Luis Garcia. Ole Solskjaer did so. The next point of order was to be shot at by every alien in the base, and somehow survive to the next turn. Ole Solskjaer did so. The following point of order was to start throwing grenades. My new plan became to have Ole Solskjaer pick up all of the remaining grenades, fight his way through to the hangar, and then hide in the corner and throw said grenades at the door until there were no more grenades.

Ole Solskajer did so.

To say that Ole Solskjaer went on an insatiable grenade-fuelled rampage of alien bloodlust would be to sell short the unbearable glory of what occurred. He killed five aliens single-handedly in hand-to-grenade combat. That is to say, he used one of his hands to throw grenades at five aliens until they all became green stains on the wall. Even the game itself had to pause proceedings and pass comment on the sheer awesome it was rendering:

Yes. I know.

At that exact moment, I received an email from an unknown sender, with just the below picture attached. I will never know for sure who sent it, but I am assuming it was God.

He also killed a man with a trident but it happened so fast I couldn't get a screen-grab.

All good things come to an end, though, even insatiable grenade-fuelled rampages. Especially insatiable grenade-fuelled rampages, in fact.

The aliens presumably got bored of being blown up and fired a small nuclear device into the hangar, rupturing the fuel tanks and turning brave Ole Solskjaer into such a fine mist that the game couldn’t even render it.

With my forces spent, the world was defenceless. The aliens had won.

This is the screen you're shown when you lose. It might as well be the title screen.

In fairness, though, that picture doesn’t look too bad. What you’ll essentially have is a bunch of people with extra arms, crouched around a campfire singing songs about Norwegian ex-Manchester United players. I’d call that something to aim for. Sounds a bit like Skyrim.



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