Xenonauts – Preview (PC)


Can you save the world from the Xenos invasion in Xenonauts?

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Xenonauts is a turn-based strategy game set for release on PC. Xenonauts is developed by Goldhawk Interactive. With the intention of bringing traditional X-COM into the twenty-first century, how will it stand up?

When you first boot the game up, you are greeted with three figures looming over you at a strategy table. At the bottom of the screen you have the options: New Game, Load Game, Game Options and Exit Game. There’s already something incredibly interesting that happens at this point. My first reaction was to press ‘Game Options’. When I did this, the tab containing the options scrolled up and a hand holding the tab appeared. It wasn’t a tab at all, it was a clipboard. Without having reached the actual game itself, Xenonauts had already begun to immerse me. The options are a lot more in-depth than I’d have imagined. Mouse and keyboard scroll sensitivity, music and sound effects can all be change on slider bars. Every key can be re-bound. While this options menu is up, the ability to click the ‘New Game’ – and any other – tab at the top of the clipboard remains.

Upon clicking ‘New Game’ you are greeted with difficulty options. There are four difficulties and an ‘Iron Man’ mode. The first course of business it to place your base. Upon doing so, it instantly becomes apparent that in comparison to X-COM the interface has been made much more user-friendly. Everything can be accessed from the main screen and the earth is laid out flat in front of you. The map can be scrolled, zoomed and has a nice shadow effect rolling over it, showing the day/night cycle. You’ll want to familiarise yourself with the User Interface before committing to doing anything. Across the top of the screen are some tabs you can access: Bases, Research, Workshop, Xenopedia, Build Base and Intercept. Bases, Research and Workshop will all take you into a new screen in which time will stop. While on this screen you have access to all of the management aspects of all of your bases. From adding rooms to a base to researching or building to outfitting troops and vehicles, it is all done here. Xenopedia will show you information on everything you have discovered in the game. Intercept will allow you to send out troops to intercept xenos and hopefully return with plundered technology to advance your research.

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Enough about all that, the xenos are here! We’ve spotted a UFO and now we must react. Some birds have been sent out to intercept it, but the UFO is flying over water and we’d lose any salvage if we dropped it out of the sky here. There’s only one thing for it. Using some modernised options that have been implemented in Xenonauts, it’s possible to tell your planes to tail the UFO until it flies over land, meaning you can swoop in for the salvage when it’s grounded. But before you can get your hands on that xenos technology, you better be prepared to deal with any surviving xenos. A select squadron of Earth’s finest have been sent in for the job and they mean business. Armed with the best Earth has to offer, will it be enough to get the tech and get out alive?

Your men need you – and your fine strategical mind – to survive. Order your men the only way you know how; selecting them and clicking where you want them to move. Finding where exactly the enemy is will be your first priority, but just like you, they can move around during their turn, so it won’t be easy. If you play it too safe, you could be putting innocent civilians’ lives at risk. Rush in too quickly and you could wipe out your whole squad before you even see the xenos. Finding that balance is important – especially in the beginning when you only have weak equipment. When firing at a xenos, you will be shown a line of sight which will display the chance of hitting the xenos or anything that may be blocking the shot. Forty percent change to hit that lamp post with only ten percent chance to hit the xenos? Better get closer or duck. Ducking increases accuracy slighty. Missions have goals – such as eliminating all xenos and securing and holding the UFO – and will end when the goal has been completed.

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The art-style of Xenonauts is rather unique and I absolutely love it. In some places it looks cartoon-y and in others slightly more realistic, but this is done in a way that doesn’t clash. The interface is well-organised and easy to navigate, but the font size is a bit small and I found difficulties reading some parts (mainly entries in the xenopedia). The music was excellent and really added to the feel of the game. I can’t say I enjoyed the sound effects as they felt somewhat out of place in the mix of everything else. Weapons-fire just… didn’t sound right.

Xenonauts is incredible fun to play and really yanked out that X-COM nostalgia. It really scratched that that X-COM itch and I highly anticipate the full release. If you loved the original X-COM, if you loved the new X-COM, or if you like turn-based strategy; this game is for you. Look forward to the full release in late 2013.

  • Realkman666

    It’s great to see the game be finally playable after all these months of shoddy alpha.