I'm going to start out by saying that I fully support this game and reccomend it. Despite any and all flaws it is well worth the money.
It's been years since people have been trying to bring new life into this genre. Many sequels and clones have gone by with mixed success. Games like XCom: Apocalypse changed the formula too much, while a good game in it's own right, it alienated fans. Other games like UFO: Afterlight and the series tried a different approach, but suffered from clunky menus and combat felt artificial. The recent addition of XCom: Enemy Unknown introduced excellent graphics and animations, but this hid the fact that the strategic map was dumbed down to the point that UFOs that you didn't shoot down were not the cause of missions, in fact it was possible to shoot them all down and still have missions so long as you had a country somewhere you didn't have a satalite over. The tactical was also super simplified. I would call that one an XCom-lite if anything.
Xenonauts does not have the flashy graphics of XCom: Enemy Unknown, nor does it vary far from the original. However it is improved from the original in many ways and is what many fans have wanted. It could be used as another start to evolve this hard to capture genre.
Once again, UFOs are the sole source of missions on the strategic map. If a UFO is ignored, it can generate a terror mission during a landing, or build an alien base. No longer is there effects without causes. In fact the atmosphere of the game is even enhanced by reports of UFO activity across the globe, such as new crop circles, missing ships, and cattle mutilations being reported in areas where you cannot track the UFOs. Also every UFO comes with a mission of their own, something you will discover later in the game. These missions affect their behavior, and you will have to adapt if you want to control the invasion before it's too late.
Many clones/sequels allowed the player to overpower the aliens far too much. This gave the aliens the feeling of being the underdogs despite the fact that they are the ones with the technological advantage. Not so in Xenonauts. While the majority of the alien fleet cannot attack immediately, buying you some time to prepare, their progress is at least in part based on your success. If you are doing well, expect to see harder UFOs and aliens sooner than you otherwise might. This leads you to having to make tough decisions like "Do I let this UFO perform it's missions for a while before shooting it down?" "Do I want to raid every UFO for the bonus cash" etc. because doing so can speed the rate of the invasion if you are successful. In short, go to slowly and risk losing funding and nations. Go too quickly and the Aliens will bring their main fleet before you're ready. Can you walk that line?
Even further you are quickly forced to decide between building better interceptors or getting better equipment for your troops. Bullets will not do for long once aliens with armor start showing up. Some will simply laugh off sustained fire if you aren't ready for them in time. Defense is important too, as even the basic armor could be the difference between a shot instantly killing a soldier or not. Even here, you cannot be reactive, as you stand to lose too much. You have to learn to predict what you will need and when, and if you are wrong, you will pay.
This game is a hard strategy game. Every decision you make will have repercussions you might not have dreamed of down the road. Your soldiers, while they improve, will never be the super soldiers you had in other games. Tactics will always be important, with armor only saving you from a mistake or two if you are lucky. A skilled player might be able to forgo armor completely, though I doubt he would do so flawlessly. I personally am almost a year into my game and I have never used combat shields, something a lot of players say is a staple in their forces. My body count isn't that high either, roughly at about a dozen.
All this praise does come with a cost. This game does have it's flaws. If you need glasses, or have trouble reading small print, the fonts on the strategic map will kill your eyes. I can barely read them as it is on 720p. It may be better on 1080p, but that's not how I stream it. This needs to get fixed.
The graphics look like something out of Fallout 2 days. They are excellent 2d graphics, but do not expect full 3d modelling here. They spent more of their time making sure the gameplay worked well than actually building 3d graphics. Still if you can overlook the graphics, there is a great game underneath.
The interface, while greatly improved, is still very clunky.
1. Double clicking on a soldier in the management panel sometimes takes you to that soldier, sometimes not. It's partly to do with how soldiers are organized on the equipment panel, partly to do with the double click speed required.
2. Planes that need to be refueled/repaired/reloaded cannot have any characteristics changed. Even their name, or loadout. It would be nice to be allowed to change a loadout while loading the plane with ammo. This goes double for positioning soldiers on the dropships.
3. This is also a feature easily missed by most players, as it is hidden almost completely. Placing a button from the loadout screen for the troops in the dropship to link to the positioning would help a lot.
4. The inability to rotate the map or hide walls makes it impossible to throw grenades on tiles behind them.
This game takes place in 1979-early 80's. Some things are anachronistic or inaccurate.
1. The basic starting rifle is the M16A2, which came into use in the 1980's. It had a 3 round burst option and 30 round magazine. The weapon that soldiers should be using is the M16E1 which had fully automatic options and a 20 round magazine.
2. The starting precision rifle pictured is a M16A4 which introduced a modular rail system to a rifle similar to the M16A2 allowing for the addition of scopes, laser targetting and the like. It would have had a 30 round magazine as well, instead of the 6 rounds given. Instead they should have used the M16E1 fitted with a scope off to the side, with a 20 round magazine.
3. The machine gun pictured is the M249 squad automatic weapon. This weapon is designed to fire ammo from a belt in a drum underneath the barrel. It can use M16 magazines, however this is not reccomended due to severe jamming issues. A M249 belt comes in 3 sizes: 100 round for training, 250 round infantry drum, and 500 round vehicle mounted drum.
4. Night vision scopes were around for the Vietnam war, and should be available for snipers in night missions in the game. Full night vision goggle(s) however will not be seen till later in the 80's. A possible tech to research and produce them would have been a nice touch as necessity is the mother of invention they say, and something to counter the alien's advantage at night would have been a welcome choice. Night vision goggle(s) do however restrict vision, and accuracy due to the way they operate.
5. The starting grenade pictured is a fragmentation grenade. It has a kill radius of 10 meters with an effective radius of 5 meters. It does not do it's damage by concussive force, but by shards of metal, like bullets, flying out in all directions. I cannot speak of how alien grenades work, but a rework of basic grenades should be in order to make them effective in this regard.
6. Flares burn can start fires easily but do not do so in game. Smoke grenades produce smoke slowly, and will only burn your hand if you aren't wearing leather gloves. They should not be starting fires in this game.
7. Bazookas are not easily reloadable in field. Carrying one as a side implement should be an option for a soldier, but ammo preloaded. The M25 rocket launcher however could fire multiple rockets, but was a mounted weapon.