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I've been contemplating restarting and skipping the 'tutorial' so that I can choose my base layout, go through the first mission without losing 3 units, that whole thing, but, now that I've done a few missions, I get the sense I'm still actually in the tutorial. As I was building the Containment Facility (under direction from the main dude in HQ), I noticed some areas were strictly 'Disabled for Tutorial', and I think when choosing the next thing to Research, there was still stuff marked in red.

Which leads me to my question: just how long does the tutorial actually last?

If I restart, and skip it, am I really just allowing myself more freedom in base location, layout, and the first mission, or am I also just totally set free after that with no direction, instead of still having a bit of a guiding hand? Put another, what might I be 'missing' by skipping the tutorial?

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It took me 3 or 4 missions to get out of the "controlled tutorial" mode. See spoiler below.

The tutorial mode seemed to end (everything was unlocked) when I captured and investigated my first alien.

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Please do say more. Without these 'spoilers', your answer cannot be complete. – StrixVaria Oct 11 '12 at 21:01
@StrixVaria ok I added it as a spoiler quote – Hogan Oct 12 '12 at 10:39

As for differences between tutorial and not turorial: The Turorial gives you a free satellite which is pretty darn good.

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I started on the tutorial mode and it is definitely guiding me along the way (ie, build a containment facility, assault this base, research this device.) I get the feeling that the linear components of the game play are going to be presented to me throughout the full game. I'm looking forward to starting again in Hard difficulty without the tutorial for a more open game play option.

Research will be marked in red if you don't have the required components to complete the research. This is usually a combination of materials and personell. You start with 5 scientists and eventually research requires 20 or more scientists on staff to begin. If you are choosing missions which aren't getting you scientists you might eventually find a lot of things aren't available.

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That's called plot. The tutorial is pretty short. – kotekzot Oct 14 '12 at 15:12

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