First off, I could not give less of a crap what critics think, this is the same bunch of chunderheads that give boring banal crap like battlefield and call of duty 10/10 scores. Their opinions are immaterial.
Second: congratulations, you looked at the same boring play through everyone is doing and where they fail to exploit the game to it’s fullest because the UFO series never in it’s history had a comprehensive tutorial. There is a cover system in the UFO games, it’s just far less … actually, it’s not introduced to the player at all, and at no point does the game teach you, unless you teach yourself, that terrain and exposure of your silhouette in various different soldier stances lowers or increases the “to hit” score of aliens, thus simulating a cover system. The system was not exploited or expanded due to lack of funds and time, something common to the series, and it was mostly abandoned from later iterations, but those critic opinions just prove those morons did not play past the first 5 minutes, because the game’s complexity is hidden behind the apparent simplistic nature of things and a complete lack of tutorial. Well that and limited unrealized scope due to funding.
Soldiers in UFO can be told to stand up, go prone, or kneel, and the terrain on a lot of maps features organic cover placement, not the boring video-game logic of nuXCOM where chest high walls are strewn across the terrain and boxes are left all over the place because nobody cleaned up. That means you won’t always have it, but on maps where it’s present, standing behind a tree makes you harder to hit, kneeling behind a car or a pallet of boxes does the same thing. Cover exists in the game. The abundance of melee focused enemies and unbalanced nature of the power creep, as well as lack of teaching players this is even an option (no kidding, the tutorial teaches you that you CAN sprint, and then says “there’s also more advanced things like crouching or going prone, but you can read more about those later on your own, let’s move along now”), coupled with a map design that wanted to create realistic locations, not chest high wall shooting arenas, means the cover system is hidden in plain sight of players, and most people won’t ever see the animation work that went into leaning posses and resting guns on boxes to fire (bearing in mind the limitations of the time). Even in latter games, soldiers were physical entities in the world, and 2 soldiers standing in a line with an alien meant the one in the back can’t shoot the alien unless his friend in front went prone. Which lead to an interesting way of creating on the fly cover, via bringing drones that can serve as mobile cover, or just using one tough lad in power armor crouching to cover 50% or more of the waifish lightly armored sniper behind him. and eating shots that should have hit his friend behind.
TL;DR: play the damn game and learn it’s intricacies. It’s a crying shame how under-rated that series it, though in fairness they did it to themselves quite a bit with the obtuse lack of tutorial.
On a more personal note: is your purpose here to crusade for not changing anything and shooting down all suggestions made? Seriously, every thread where you pop-up, you can be summarized as “game is fine, game is perfect, don’t change anything”. You do realize that is the exact opposite of what the devs want right now?