Xenonauts - Preview

Platforms: PC

We recently said that you should keep a beady little eye on X-Com re-make Xenonauts. Well, we have some good news for you - it’s now on Kickstarter and there’s a demo.
Xenonauts is a re-make of the 1993 classic X-Com: UFO Defense (known here as UFO: Enemy Unknown), in which players take charge of an elite anti-alien force and defend the world from invasion. Despite being almost 20 years old X-Com is regularly voted as one of the greatest games ever made and it has spawned a number of imitators - none of which have managed to capture that certain something which made the original so brilliant.

Xenonauts is the latest game to attempt to do this and it has been in production for a couple of years. The developers, Goldhawk Interactive, have decided to use fashionable funding source Kickstarter to get the money necessary to finish the game properly. They have already raised $75,000 (their original aim was $50,000) and have now set out a whole series of “stretch targets” which trigger more features for the game when they are met. A list of these targets and links to the demo are all on their Kickstarter page.
Kickstarter is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace, with lots of projects all vying for your attention, so what’s the game actually like? Well... I have played it and my considered opinion is as follows.

I don’t love Xenonauts. I am IN LOVE with Xenonauts. I want to take it home and do unspeakable things to it. I want to hold it and tell it that everything will be OK. I want it to have my children. I want to cherish it and keep it safe for all time. Am I making myself quite clear? Ever since UFO: Enemy Unknown was first released I have yearned for and dreamed of a proper remake. Something that does full justice to the brilliance of the original. I am pleased to tell you that this is it. Finally. All those years of heartache, all those pretenders to the throne, all those false dawns - they’re over. That longed for day has finally arrived.

Because Xenonauts doesn’t just slavishly copy what has gone before - it takes it, gives it a slap around the chops and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Not only have the graphics had a complete rework (and the hand drawn interface screens in particular look lovely), but everything has been redesigned and streamlined. A lot of the micro-management has been removed. There’s no more ordering missiles or running out of rifle ammo - you have an infinite supply, which arrives automatically. You can rename your troops and view them in order of strength, accuracy or any statistic you like. You give them their guns in base, with their attributes clearly visible on the same screen. When you move your troops in battle it tells you how many action points will be left. Your landing craft even have more than one door! Goldhawk have obviously gone through X-Com and fixed every single minor irritation that it contained - and that bodes very well for the finished game.

And, as well as the small things, a number of more crucial aspects have also been changed. For example, the interception process has been completely revamped. You now control individual fighters, with different characteristics and weaponry - and you can even combine them into a squadron to take down the more difficult enemies. You direct these fighters on a two-dimensional screen to outflank their targets, and gain missile lock whilst avoiding return fire. Even within the confines of the demo it is clear that different UFOs will pose different levels of challenge - with fighters proving more difficult to destroy than scouts, and the whole experience is much more interactive than in the original game.
So Xenonauts has kept what is great, tweaked what is out of date and completely changed what it thinks needs to be changed. And the most important thing is that all of these choices and decisions have, so far, been spot on. It really is looking like this is finally the game that we’ve all been waiting for.

But don’t take my word for it. Please don’t. Go and play the demo. It’s a bit buggy, yes, it is an alpha after all - but if you liked X-Com or if you have any kind of beautiful soul burning bright within you then play this game. It is quite simply wonderful and I cannot wait for it to be finished.

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