Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Some images from Jade Star's Let's Play

The Transgenants of UFO: Aftermath.

   "UFO: Aftermath" was a PC game released in 2003 as part of the "X-com" series, set in the far-flung future of 2004 after aliens called Reticulans seeded our world with mutagenic, infectious spores, a disgusting undifferentiated "biomass" taking over entire vast areas of our planet and transforming wildlife into twisted, vicious monsters. It's yet another of those games I've never played, but have admired the designs of for some time, and neither the previous nor subsequent X-com titles seem to have ever featured such a wild array of horrific beasties.

The Morelman

   Let's start with the game's basic infested human, its "zombie" equivalent, leaps and bounds more interesting and unnerving than any Resident Evil zombie. The thing erupting from its back really does look a lot like a morel, though there's also some sort of root or spike projecting out from this poor sap's rib cage. Whatever these growths represent, they've sucked everything they can out of their human host, leaving just enough to still get around. That shrunken, ghostly face is so perfect, I feel like it would only be ruined if the in-game model were any higher resolution. Some things just work better when they're a little more crude.

The Cudgel

   This more advanced "zombie" is so overgrown with new flesh that its arms are beginning to atrophy, and its head blends almost completely in with its many featureless lumps and boils. Obviously, these monsters are developing into something else, but it doesn't sound like the game is totally clear on what. There are actually several different monsters that could be the next step in Cudgel's metamorphosis.

The Deathbellows

   It's impossible to tell what the Deathbellows used to be. Its limbs are reduced to little more than tendrils, its eyes are grown over with skin and its bloated body looks more like a huge maggot than a mutated vertebrate, which is fitting, because it also serves as the living, immobile nesting site of parasitic, bloodsucking inse-hey, that's MY schtick! They're even mutated flies!

The Firetick

   I've vowed to review every monster that I can, but some of them are less impressive than others. I can't not like a mutated bug of any sort, but the "fire tick" doesn't look that much like a tick, and as cute as it is, it's probably the least impressive enemy in the game, except for maybe the "scuttlebugs," which are so small, simple and nondescript I hardly need to show them.

The Flapper

   This is one of my favorite types of video game creature; one that just exists for atmosphere and can't actually hurt you. Demonstrating that alien spore mutants might not always turn out competent, this blind, naked, legless bird apparently just flops around helplessly, unable to even fly with its distorted little wings! I'll take ten.

The Chomper

   These gangly, towering creatures, on the other hand, are among the game's faster and deadlier foes. These could have mutated from humans, reptiles, dogs, cats, horses, deer, who knows. I'm just not sure "chomper" was the right name for something whose elongated legs are its most striking feature and the majority of its mass. I might have gone with "loper" and saved "chomper" for a mutant shark or snapping turtle or something.

The Man O' War

   While named after a marine hydrozoan named after a boat, this thing seems to be covered in chitinous plates, so I'm going to say it's probably another arthropod, its legs mutated into long, dangling "tentacles." It also apparently fires bolts of electricity.

The Jammer

   This thing looks like a cute little pillbug sitting on a rock, but apparently even the "rock" is part of its body, and can't move at all, except to rotate like a turret. It's actually something grown directly from the alien biomass, which, spoiler alert, eventually turns out to be part of the Reticulan's plot to turn our entire planet into one giant, organic computer, repurposing an entire world's worth of life into one gigantic brain of god-like intellect. That's actually a pretty kick-ass plan, and even kind of makes sense compared to your average alien invasion. Of all the silly reasons aliens have come all the way to our planet just to fuck it all up, I think this might actually be one of my favorites.

The Watcher

   Another unsettling, pupa-like entity, and another specialized biomass growth, often going hand in hand with the Jammer. While not dangerous itself, the Watcher uses its psychic powers to temporarily immobilize intruders, leaving them vulnerable to the attacks of other creatures, which is honestly one of the creepier things a sessile cocoon-man can do to you.

The Muckstar

   I know this is the laziest design in this whole game, but I actually like it quite a bit. Yeah, more than the firetick, even though the firetick is way more elaborate. There's a point at which a creature is so simple that I love it even more, and a ball of spikes with a name like "muckstar" is a good example. Muckstars are another electrical enemy, and apparently, the biomass grows long, thin spines just to keep the muckstar from touching it. The game mentions that Muckstar tissues don't even match biomass tissues, so we may be looking at an unwanted parasite of some sort.

The Carcrab

   These are pretty entertaining. They're some sort of gigantic arthropod using an entire broken-down car for a shell, and the appendages tell me they're probably an arachnid, rather than a crustacean. They don't scream "spider," but they could have easily been mites or opiliones. Maybe they were even palpigrades or ricinuleids? There are a whole lot of different arachnids, you know.

The Octopus

   Encountered only in the alien base itself, this enemy is little more than a floating head with tentacles, but puts a little extra effort into being weird by also being partially invisible, sections of its body just completely transparent and empty. Huh!

The Chrysalis

   We're getting into some of the creepiest ones here; look closely and you'll see the withered human body curled up like a fetus in this floating, gelatinous pod. It uses telekinesis to get around and defend itself, but is the human in control, or just sort of a power source?

The Plecton

   Oh man, this one is terrifying. At a distance, you could mistake it for a dead, gnarled tree, but it's really just a big mass of mutated human bodies all melted and mangled together. They allegedly have a core made of that same gooey, creeping alien biomass spreading over the globe, but they're never actually encountered on it. Maybe their purpose is to carry it farther, like giant, walking seeds. Naturally, their mode of attack is barfing wads of acidic slime.

The Balloon Fish

   One of my favorite things in the game, these poor things really do look like fish skeletons wrapped around balloons, and according to the in-game autopsy file, they use solar energy to produce hydrogen gas, keeping them afloat but also making them highly flammable. Yeah, these are yet another "living bomb" kind of enemy. As amusing as that concept is, it also tends to feel tacked on when designers just can't think of anything else for a particular monster to do. Still, explosive floating fish are a really fun notion, especially when we learn that most of the transgenants are, of course, completely failed experiments that were dumped back into the wild.

The Gobber

   Sadly, what we see here seems to be an early render, since the final "gobber" in the game is a whole lot less detailed, more like the Chrysalis model. Still, it's a beautiful design however you render it, a gelatinous "worm" almost shaped like a sea cucumber, with a human body held prisoner as part of its digestive system, and yes, this one's description is more explicit about the human body being a trapped victim. From its human core, the Gobber also produces and spews acid, which is deadly to regular humans, so we can presume this one has been modified quite a bit. Probably still hurts, though.

The Slimethrower

   It's really tough to pick my favorite between this and our very next creature. Slimethrower looks like a giant, alien head with four thick, segmented tentacles, and for some reason, it drags around a hunk of rotten wood everywhere it goes. According to its bio, it's derived from an ordinary earthworm, which shows just how far these mutations can go. Why the rotten wood? Does it keep its babies in there? Or does it just like it, dimly remembering its previous life in the soil? As its name implies, it attacks by spewing slime, which is true for a lot of these things, but I guess only the Slimethrower does it magnificently enough to be called the Slimethrower. Sure, there's also the gobber, but I'm pretty sure slimethrowing is a bit of a step up from mere gobbing. I would know.

The Danglefly

   Yes, seriously, this game has giant "flies" that are really just distended, mutated asses, the rest of their original bodies hanging limply from their engorged posteriors, but not lifelessly, since their arms will still operate guns. These things are brilliant. I am ashamed to have never thought of turning a butt into a fly monster. I wish I could turn my butt into a fly monster. I think I'd feel pretty satisfied if alien spores did this to me, but I'd be sure to show a little modesty and at least cover up my bughole with some oversized, novelty sunglasses.

The Flatster

   This is, sadly, one of our very last transgenants to review, and sadder still, one of the only new ones added in the sequel game, UFO: Aftershock, which drops most of the others in favor of humanoid aliens in shiny robotic suits. Boo. BOOOOOOOOO. Flatsters are apparently one of the few transgenant creatures that still survive generations after the invasion. Now, scattered remnants of biomass are the territory of mutated cultists, sharing the Earth with a number of other, less interesting factions.

The Brainman

   It's such a shame that the sequel was so stingy with the mutants, since they were doing so well when they came up with the Brainman. A barely recognizable human mutation, this beautiful thing has a blind brain for a head, needly fangs where its ribcage used to be, and legs that devolved into boneless, fat, wiggly slug-tails. It's too bad other Transgenants weren't brought back in this beautiful level of detail, but if they had to be pared down to just a couple species, I'm glad the Brainmen were among them. They're pretty fitting successors to Aftermath's selection of psychic embryos and pupae.

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