Xenonauts 2, an old-school XCOM-like game, is tough as nails.

Xenonauts 2, an old-school XCOM-like game, is tough as nails.

Xenonauts 2: A Richer Take on a Classic

Xenonauts 2 - Command Room

A richer take on a twice-established formula

Ah, XCOM, the game that everyone loves to imitate. But there’s one game that wears its XCOM-inspired heart on its sleeve – Xenonauts. This love letter to 1994’s X-COM: UFO Defense added even more complexity to the punishing turn-based formula. And guess what? Xenonauts 2 is here and it’s doubling down on the depth, nuance, and difficulty of its predecessors.

Welcome to 2009, where the Cold War never ended and UFOs are wreaking havoc. As the commander of a multinational special forces team, your mission is to protect Earth and eradicate the intruders. The tech might seem slightly dated (hello, M16s and M9 Berettas), but once you start incorporating alien technology, things get crazy. The narrative tone vacillates between silly and grim, keeping you engaged and entertained.

Now, if you’ve never played Xenonauts or any XCOM games, fear not! This sequel excels at communicating its intricate systems. Gone are the days of little-to-no hand-holding. Xenonauts 2 features an in-depth tutorial and a fantastic tooltip mechanism that helps you navigate the UI. With a brutal difficulty level, you’ll want to consult these resources often, so keep them close!

In Xenonauts 2, the tension is palpable on two levels – local, squad-based battles and the global strategy. The war room back at base becomes your sanctuary as you monitor the geoscape, a global map displaying alien activity. You’ll scramble fighter jets to shoot down UFOs, but be warned, success is never guaranteed. With limited resources, you’ll often find yourself outnumbered and outgunned.

While aerial combat is automated, the real action happens on the ground. Every aspect of the game revolves around tactical battles that are equal parts disorienting and exhilarating. Line of sight, cover, and chance-to-hit are just the beginning. You can destroy terrain, carefully manage action points, and deal with the morale and panic of your troops. And that’s just on simple missions!

The variety of missions in Xenonauts 2 adds even more depth to the combat. Whether it’s hunting UFOs, raiding enemy outposts, or safeguarding VIP targets, each scenario challenges your strategic prowess. With fully destructible environments and a granular action-point system, you’ll need to be flexible in your approach. Oh, and did I mention the fully 3D environment? Now you can rotate the camera to gain new perspectives and spot hidden targets.

But here’s the thing – as much as Xenonauts 2 improves on its predecessor, it still feels familiar. The graphics are modernized, the systems retain their complexity, and the story is a broad rehash. For those expecting a revolutionary leap like XCOM 2, you won’t find it here. However, the delightful turn-based combat remains fully featured and potent, making it well worth the play.

Now, it’s important to mention that Xenonauts 2 is still in early access. Some features, like the detailed aerial combat layer, are unfinished, and there are missing sections in the story. But fear not! The reason to dive into this game is the combat, which is delightful and fully fleshed out. Yes, there are rough edges, but hey, no game is perfect.

So, get ready for Xenonauts 2: a conservative modernizing of an old-school tactical predecessor. It may not push the envelope further than its predecessor did in 2014, but hey, that envelope was already in a great spot to begin with. Mark your calendars for July 18 and prepare to defend Earth like never before!

Note: Xenonauts 2 will be released on July 18 on Windows PC. This review is based on a pre-release version provided by Hooded Horse.