Xenonauts (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 16.10.2014

Review for Xenonauts on PC

Xenonauts is the latest major release of an XCOM clone, notable for being much more 'fan created' than Firaxis' XCOM Enemy Unknown, which was launched to much greater fanfare. Having nearly every major aspect copied directly from the old XCOM games, Xenonauts looks to be a solid offering in strategy and tactical alien hunting. However, though it contains the recipe of a great game, misses or changes in a few aspects, mostly for the negative, makes this hard to recommend to fans of the genre.

Xenonauts is notable for feeling much lower budget, but more true to XCOM's roots, than the Gears of War-esque XCOM Enemy Unknown released two years ago. Xenonauts deviates very little from the original XCOM script, and players will know what to expect coming into this game. The major problem comes from changes that were implemented, which severely impact the fun such a legendary game's clone might otherwise inspire.

The problems can be summed up as succinctly that there is very little choice or emergent gameplay in this game. The object is to defend Earth from an alien threat; the game bounces between the strategy/base management portion, and the tactical portion of hunting down aliens. Base management is a simple affair of constructing generally one type of building and never worrying about it again, research is linear, and combat repetitive. The few choices present to the player quickly become obvious what the ideal strategy is, and it becomes an exercise in patience simply executing simplistic strategies over and over.

Screenshot for Xenonauts on PC

An example of the simplification is in base management and UFO interception. There are no choices as to load outs or jets; it is simply based on pure quantity of jets, therefore the singular strategy is easily discovered to accumulate as many jets as possible. The interception is a new part, arguably the best, but is still insufficient. The screen switches to a 2D overhead of the jets chasing the UFO, and while there is light control over it, it essentially comes down to pure numbers like everything else in the game. Research is linear, there are no skips to advanced tech, and everything progresses in a 1-2-3 fashion that lends itself to zero replayability. There is no other strategy in the 'strategy' section of Xenonauts.

The problems mentioned above could be overlooked if the tactical section was better. This game is a simulation of controlling a small squad in isometric combat that takes turns as the player moves the soldiers forward, taking a shot a turn trying to kill the aliens. However, the engine Xenonauts uses leads to many problems. Bullet paths are not calculated in a true 3D fashion. For example, a short wall may block a soldier's leg or a light pole may block a tall vertical section, but instead in a strange 2D calculation. Objects are actually given a 25% or 50% chance to block, and the highest chance is the sole calculation to the shot, meaning a character might be behind multiple pieces of cover, but will only have a 50% reduction. Likewise, despite there being multiple stories, the game is still in two dimensions, which leads to extremely glitchy outcomes of being hit through the floor.

The entire tactical section is slow, tedious and unrewarding. The aliens have very high stats and this leads to aggravation as even the best plans are ruined by long shots from the shadows. To escape without catastrophic damage, the player is forced to play very, very slowly, leading to a map taking an hour or more. The major problem is, these sections are very frequent; a typical game will have over 100 of these sections, meaning over 100 hours grinding in a very slowly, often frustrating exercise.

Screenshot for Xenonauts on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


Xenonauts strove to both sticking to the XCOM formula, as well as striking out in some new directions, however, it fails on multiple fronts. Being a devoted fan there might be something to check out here, but the repetition, lack of choices, and lack of progress will wear on a gamer quickly. Anyone not a fan would likely give the game up very rapidly due to an unfriendly difficulty and little impetus to continue onwards.


Goldhawk Interactive


Goldhawk Interactive





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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