Battle of the X’s.

Xenonauts is finally on Steam as part of Early Access. While I picked up the game within a few days of it originally coming on sale through the developers website I haven’t played much of it simply because I am a Steam gamer and it was the only thing in my Desura library.

Anyway, now I have Xenonauts in a location where I won’t forget it exists I’ve been playing it more. However, with Firaxis’ XCOM appearing from no-where (in fact I picked up Xenonauts *because* there was no Enemy Unknown style games out there worth playing apart from the original which hasn’t exactly aged gracefully) is there space for two such games to co-exist.

(I am obviously discounting the “other” XCOM game that is coming out as it is a cover based shooter/RPG thing rather than a more accurate representative of X-Com.)

So lets start with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Good game? Yes. Yes it was. How good? Well it is one of the few games I’ve actually completed from start to finish. Played it on Iron Man mode as -to me- that is the way to play a game like this.

The UI was well implemented, the base was interesting and the connection to your team makes the ground assaults incredibly tense and dramatic. Speaking of ground assaults they are beautiful, fairly colorful and filled with great looking terrors of the Unknown variety.

How unknown? Hmmm, well, after playing the original X-Com (badly) most of the Enemies are actually Known. Most being rather well documented. Hell the word Chryssalid has been terrifying gamers since 1994! This removed a lot of the tension, however, it is like a remake of a film. It is a lot more shiny looking and a lot has changed. In this case though, it worked magnificently. It is not perfect. The DLC, the All American Voice Actors, that damn camera and the single base were all massive blows to a game that could have been much more.

It was dumbed down a little and much of the complexity was stripped away but the core was UFO: Enemy Unknown that I remember.

So here ends this discussion already, right? Big Budget XCOM Beats Xenonauts, right?

Not quite.

XCOM is a HELL of a game. No denying that, but Xenonauts has something that makes it punch massively above its weight. It feels like UFO: Enemy Unknown. The aliens are different so it feels fresh. It is based in the 1970s so the actual world feels a little alien. How the ground and aerial combat plays out is beautiful. It looks beautiful and it is wonderfully -and happily- functional. They still have a long way to go but the game is not finished yet.

So if XCOM is the Big Budget Blockbuster remake, Xenonauts is the HD Remaster of the original. When I watched Alien on Bluray for the first time it was like watching it again for the first time. So much more detail and clarity that I just can’t watch my old DVD versions now.

Xenonauts is like that, it is a beautiful remastering of the game that is still played today almost 20 years on from its original release. While XCOM was built from the ground up by people who obviously respected the original franchise (and created a game that almost plays like a board game), Xenonauts is being created by people who obviously respect and have a pure love and passion for the original material. An amazing bonus is they have a pure love and passion for the game they are creating.

Really excited for the finished game, because both XCOM and Xenonauts are two sides of the same coin and deserve a place in every X-Com loving gamers Steam Library!

Guess we just need to find out if that shooter one falls on the other side of the coin, eh?

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