The first missions are, in many ways, the toughest a player will actually face in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, even if the enemies seem weak and there’s little sense that the survival of all humanity is at stake.
Initially, the player can only deploy four soldiers and they have only assault weapons to rely on, maybe with a medikit or a nano-vest to help their survivability.
Snipers are initially weak, because they have no way of firing after moving or doing Overwatch, the heavy units can contribute with the rocket launchers but they tend to miss a lot and the assaults are restricted by the limited range of their shotguns.
This means that even the early sectoids and thin men are big threats, especially when they manage to work together.
The rather ramshackle state of Earth’s forces as XCOM: Enemy Unknown is even acknowledged by the various characters you meet inside the underground base where the team operates from.
The idealist scientist who understands that pure science is not an option and comments bitterly in her written reports and short voice snippets about the shortcuts her team needs to take in order to create research weapons and items.
Shen, the older and wiser chief engineer, has an even better understanding of the situation and talks about experimental nature of much of what’s happening.
This serves to reinforce the feeling of uncertainty and limited resources and contributes immensely to the atmosphere of the game, which in turn made me feel the importance of each shot my team made on the battlefield and each use of one of the items I was provided with.
Don’t forget that the big balancing factor in XCOM are the abilities to use cover and deploy Overwatch appropriately, so use them wisely to get through the first tough battles of the game.