My first month in charge of X-COM was a busy one, with four UFOs and a terror mission to keep me busy. While this has cost me the lives of many soldiers, it has also resulted in the capture of a variety of useful alien technology. From Alien Alloys to Mind Probes, all of this stuff will require careful research back at base before it can be put to use.
The research tree in X-COM is of great benefit to the game. It allows you to make a judgement call on what you'd like to research, opening up different benefits depending on your choices. In the early game, these choices can be very important. With few scientists to begin with, your progress will be slow on any items of alien origin, but there are a few other options to begin with.
Motion scanners tends to be my least favourite choice. They have the benefit of being quick to research, and quick to manufacture, but are best used for making a profit than for use in battle. It is rare that you will be hunting aliens and require the use of one, most aliens will make themselves known at an early opportunity. In those maps without civilians, liberal use of explosives is often the best way to flush an enemy out of cover.
A more preferred choice is Medikits. These have little use in the early game (as your soldiers will often die in one hit) but can be vital in the later game to patch up injured troops. They are also quick to research and produce for profit.
Finally, the last of the starting choices is Laser weapons. This is a more time-consuming option, as you first research a general topic, before researching each weapon in turn from laser pistol to laser cannon. The benefits are many though, with laser weapons being more accurate and more powerful than the standard weapons. They also require no reloading, which can be exceedingly useful during longer missions. I generally try to outfit my squad with laser rifles until I can afford to upgrade to plasma. Laser cannons are very good for aircraft too, and with a good sale price are one of the best options for money making.
The final choice is to wait until your first alien captures. Then, start researching their weapons as soon as possible. It is quite possible to start using plasma weapons very early on, but ammunition can be scarce for a while.
Just to make things more interesting for myself, I've decided to take a varied approach to research. I started with the motion scanners, then medikits, and now I'm working on the various laser weapons, alien alloys and alien corpses. While I could begin on the plasma weapons now (as of February I have 60 scientists and two laboratories), I've decided that laser rifles will be more than suitable enough for my rookies until I can get some experienced soldiers.
It's been a quiet February, allowing me this time to research as much as possible before the next encounters. I'm hoping that recent advances will turn themselves into combat advantages, and that things will go more smoothly from here on out. I've lost about eleven soldiers so far, and the sooner I can get new arms and armour for my troops the better. I also need to find time to have a chat with the captured Sectoid Engineer I managed to grab on a previous mission.