The Stinger for the Combat Pre-Visualization video. A Muton charges the last surviving XCOM soldier, one Squaddie A. "Spicy" Currie, and the video fades to black just as a heavy impact sounds out. After the logo flickers away, Squaddie Currie is still alive and is pulling a knife out of the Muton's neck.
Creating the Firestorm. "I think we've just leveled the playing field," indeed. The entire cutscene is pure awesome.
Equipping said Firestorm with an EMP Cannon or Fusion Lance lets it easily bring down Battleships by itself, even on the hardest difficulties.
Getting an entire squad through a mission without anyone even getting injured. Your NPC advisers will even comment on it.
Earning the "As A Scalpel" achievementnote Complete a Terror Mission with Excellent ratings in all categories. You're pitted against the deadliest the aliens have to offer, ranging from Chryssalid swarms to the devastating Sectopods, and given a Sadistic Choice, take it slow to try and keep your soldiers alive (which will result in more civilians being gunned down), or rush to try and pull them to safety (putting your valuable troops in the crossfires of the aliens' strongest soldiers). In the face of all that, you manage to get the drop on the aliens and mow them down so quickly they only manage to kill a few civilians at most, without losing any of your soldiers. You've beaten the best the aliens can throw at you, all of the troops you sent and most of the civilians are still alive, and you get a massive, well earned, morale boost across an entire continent. You will never feel like a bigger badass.
Getting your first psionic soldier. Even better if you find multiple psionically-gifted people in your FIRST round of testing.
The odd pathfinding can lead to some pretty cinematic moments, such as a civilian in a Terror mission jumping through a window to get away from an alien or a XCOM soldier dropping through a skylight to get into a building instead of using the door.
Or deliberately invoking this sort of thing in the name of Dynamic Entry. Have a bunch of aliens cornered in a small building? Have one of your heavies get the door...with a shredder rocket, then have your assault troops rush in with alloy cannons blazing as your snipers mop up the rest before the aliens even know what happened. Single-Stroke Battle at its finest.
A quiet one, but the Thin Man you interrogate handles being tortured to death rather awesomely. As opposed to panicking and trying to force his way out like the other species, he'll rather calmly observe his surroundings, give his captors a particularly powerful death glare that works perfectly thanks to the way the camera angle shows his reptilian eyes behind the glasses, and stride right towards the camera as the containment unit seals up.
And then successful interrogation remarks on how the science team was surprised to find how "pliable" the Thin Man was. Either he was unusually cooperative, or their torture techniques got really inventive when they found out about his segmented spine.
Meta-Example: While praised on the internet, X-COM has been a dead game series for the better part of two decades. The majority of gamers in 2012 wouldn't even know it existed, and wouldn't readily embrace it if the game came out today. Add to the mix that the developers constantly praised the original game, and there was a high chance that Enemy Unknown would be the counterpoint to BioShock and Fallout 3, making the die-hard original fans love it and alienating everyone else. And it didn't happen, for the most part. Firaxis managed to take a dead game series, burn off everything that didn't belong, replace it with modern technology and mentalities, and make new people feel what the die-hard fans felt so long ago.
A Sniper with a Plasma Sniper Rifle and Double Tap is concentrated awesome that reaches out and touches the enemy. Having two of them on an open map turns it into a literal shooting gallery as, with the right talents, they can just stand (or hover in the sky with Archangel Armor) at the spawn and are nearly guaranteed to kill or badly wound an enemy or two every turn, without being fired upon in return because they are firing from beyond visual range.
A Sniper with a fully loaded rifle and the Squadsight 1 (their sight radius is extended to that of the furthest-out squaddie, so they can target any enemy that another squaddie can see so long as line of sight isn't otherwise blocked), Damn Good Ground 2 (+10 Aim bonus and +10 Defense bonus against enemies who are on lower elevation than the Sniper) and In The Zone 3 (a shot that kills a flanked or uncovered enemy does not use up an action/turn) perks. Combine with the Assault's Flush ability 4 forces enemies to change position or cover-destroying explosives for lots of dead aliens in one turn.
Alternatively, with careful use of high ground and positioning, a Snapshot 1 (Allows Snipers to shoot post-move with a -20 accuracy penalty) Sniper with In The Zone, Damn Good Ground, and a suit of Ghost Armor or Archangel Armor can snipe an exposed enemy for a free action with ITZ, move into another position, then snipe several now-flanked enemies with more ITZ snapshots, then move again, reload, or take one last potshot at any enemy still in cover and alive.
From the Let's Play series Iskandar's Travels in XCOM EU, a character who, at least in some circles, is becoming a Memetic Badass - or perhaps the Chuck Norris - of XCOM, Colonel Crossblade. Starting out as just one soldier of many, he becomes an Assault, and from there...well, he Assaults his way through aliens like a hot knife through butter. Alien Grenade to the face? You just made him angry. Muton plasma blast to his center of mass? All you did was piss him off. Panicked teammate sending plasma his way? A dodge and a calm report of being under fire. His player normally gave all his soldiers helmets, but as he passed Major he decided Crossblade was badass enough to go without, and gave him the Guile hair. Then comes the psionics lab...and guess who the first soldier out with the gift is? Even when his player decided to try and not have him hog all the XP, using him to shoot to wound a Muton so another soldier can finish it off, Crossblade shoots the alien stone dead. It's reached the point where even the AI seems to recognise how scary he is; in one case a pack of three Mutons all shot at targets further away in better cover, as if afraid of drawing his attention. Writing IC as The Commander, his player states that he's considering retiring him due to the effect on morale his possible loss would cause, but he can't due to his sheer brute competence at killing aliens.
And guess who wound up being the only psyker on the base, and thus the Volunteer? And who ends the Temple Ship mission by running up to the Uber Ethereal and applying plasma directly to its face.
Another LP example: From TheStalinator's XCOM playthrough, we had the Memetic BadassWilliam "Viking" Wilson of the UK. He started as something of a Butt Monkey, as he always took a lot of hits. But he would simply refuse to die. Poisoned by Thin Men? He would walk it off. Trapped behind an exploding car? Pshaw. Plasma to the face? He would stay up and kill a few aliens for good measure. He would oten limp back tot he Skyranger, hanging on by one HP. By the time he got his nickname, his badassery had caught Stalinator's notice, and he started growing a massive fandom in the comments section, along with the Argentine Heavy, "Tank," and Russian sniper "Hex" Ivanov. He usually wasn't the first in everything; "Hex" got a lot of the first kills (including the Sectoid Commander, the first Ethereal, and the Uber-Ethereal), and the "Italian Stallion" Riccardo Marino was the first psyker, but Will Wilson made up for it by being Made of Iron and being an awesomely powerful psionic trooper. His Crowning Moment of Awesome, however, was when he, of course, became the Volunteer, and made his Heroic Sacrifice to save the Earth. Stalinator himself responded with a Big "NO!" himself, followed by clips of the 'WILSON!' scene from Cast Away. And after all that, fans of the XCOM LP, this troper included, all posted memorials and shed Manly Tears to Will Wilson, the greatest hero humanity had ever known (at least in this playthrough). It shows you how good of a game this is, that an essentially randomly-generated soldier can become so beloved by the player and those watching.
Most games will have some real bad asses that crop up through the halfway point. Big protective MEC trooper that runs headlong, rocket punching enemies while taking lots of fire? Call him "Big Daddy." Mission reward sniper with a nickname of "Zero?" Defies statistics and NEVER MISSES. An assault named "Havoc" where the best thing to do is plant him in the path of the aliens and watch the destruction. The game is awesome just for the individual soldier stories that come out of it.
On Council rescue missions, enemies, usually Thin Men, start spawning by dropping onto a building, behind cover, or DIRECTLY BEHIND YOUR GUYS and going into Overwatch. While it never fails to make your heart skip whenever a lanky guy in a suit drops down from the sky behind one of your soldiers, if you're on Overwatch with multiple people, said alien will have about two seconds to realize what a mistake he's made before he's blown apart by two or three guys at the same time.
Final level, Team S.H.I.V (Volunteer and 5 hovertanks). Not even the leader could withstand a barrage of 5 plasma guns bearing down from above.
Killing Sectopods with one volley from a Heavy with HEAT Ammo and a Heavy Plasma.
Or even more awesome, killing one with a single shot from a Plasma Sniper Rifle. Even the aliens seemed surprised.
An Assault using the right perks and Ghost Armor can guarantee that his Alloy Cannon will crit anything it hits. It only takes two crit AC shots to turn a Sectopod into scrap metal, so add Rapid Fire into the mix and the poor machine will never know what hit him.
In the opening mission of the Slingshot DLC, Zhang is telling your squad about the alien tech he stole from his former colleagues when he notices a Sectoid behind them. Cue Zhang casually shooting the Sectoid in the head.
Completing that mission on your first go, with zero casualties. Not only will this likely be your first encounter with Thin Men (you usually have more time to prepare for them), but it will also be your first encounter with a Chryssalid (Way before you're adequately equipped to deal with them). Getting through hordes of Thin Men and a Chryssalid with zero casualties this early in the game? Yeah, pretty badass.
Or lobbing in several rockets blind to either kill him outright (circumventing his speech) or weaken him so a sniper can finish him off with one lucky shot.
Or even better: Remember how the game started with an entire squad sans a Lone Survivor getting wiped out by a mind controlled soldier who then suicide bombed them? Mind control one of the Uber-Ethereal's lesser Ethereals. Walk it right up to its face. Use a point blank Rift to show it just how bad of a mistake it made by messing with humanity.
Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, but any time things go catastrophically wrong and you pull it out of the fire with only one or two troopers left standing.
Sometimes, a panicked soldier will shoot, hit and even outright murder an enemy. Bonus points if said enemy was the one responsible for panicking the soldier.
Doubles as heartwarming, but when a soldier gets panicked at the death of a comrade, before turning around and one-shotting an alien who was threatening another.
The Volunteer pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the Earth from being consumed by a black hole. The Fridge Brilliance of the ending lies in the fact that the Volunteer has no preset features—it can be a man or a woman, hailing from any nation on Earth and having had any military career path. He or she has probably started off as a rookie in the wake of the initial invasion with many more rookies just like him/her, yet rose up to the highest ranks of XCOM and became a member of the very small group of first psychic humans—where others died. It may appear strange at first to have to choose the "Volunteer", but only until you realize that every XCOM fighter must have volunteered for the duty. And then the Volunteer, the pinnacle of human evolution and the quasi-featureless representative of all humanity, uses his or her new-found powers to save the Earth over him- or herself. It's not just a MOA for the Volunteer—it's a MOA for the entire human race.
Yahtzee mentioned one of his own in his review, relating how most of his troops were trapped in a UFO with one of the more vicious aliens, and the only two with any moves left were a Heavy and Sniper out of range to get inside and cover. So he Took a Third Option - blew a hole in the side of the UFO with his Heavy's rocket-launcher, then Double-Tapped the alien in the tash for the mission completion.
Finding a battleship, the most powerful UFO in the entire game, and shooting it down with your basic fighter, then taking it on with a normal squad using just ballistic weapons, killing all the aliens without losing any troopers, all during the second month.
Capturing your first alien. Not only is it awesome in the sense that you have captured a living alien for all the benefits that provides, and the difficulty in capturing one in the first place, but it is awesome in the narrative as well. The aliens started off their invasion by abducting humans. Now humanity is returning the favor.
Turning Mind-Controlled aliens into suicide death seekers. One mind controlled Berserker rounded a corner and came face to face with a Cyberdisk patrol. The patrol lowered his health to almost dead. One assisting shot from a nearby Support lowered the Cyberdisk enough that the Berserker could charge and kill the Cyberdisk. The exploding Cyberdisk killed its Drone and the Berserker...on the last turn before the Berserker regained control of its mind.
The randomly generated names for your soldiers can sometimes come up with a name that may or may not be a Shout-Out, like an American sniper by the name of Sarah "Blades" Kerrigan (who went on to become The Volunteer, to add even more awesome) or a German assault trooper by the name of Jack Freaking Bauer. And yes, both of them were insanely good.
- India panic level 5 message: "Rogue Indian politician urges citizens to rise up against alien aggressors despite overwhelming dangers in facing powerful alien technology."
- Germany panic level 5 message: "Fighting erupts in parts of Southeastern Germany as some civilians attempt to fight aliens themselves in last ditch effort to protect homes."
Earning the "Ain't No Cavalry Coming" achievementnote Have a soldier survive every single mission throughout a full game: Somewhere amongst your ranks is one of the four first then-rookies to encounter alien life on Earth. (S)he was there when the first UFO was shot down. (S)he was there when the first alien was captured alive, and may indeed have been the one to do so. (S)he was there when the first casualty at the hands of extraterrestials hit - and may be the one who had to dole out revenge. (S)he was there when the aliens started terrorizing Earth's major cities. (S)he saw the good, old fashioned ballistic weapons gave way to laser-, plasma and alloy weaponry. When new armor was developed, (s)he was the first to take it out for a field test. When you gave the command to storm the alien base, (s)he was first down the hatch. As the bodycount kept rising, (s)he endured. (S)he saw friends, comrades, brothers and sisters in arms die to volleys of plasma time and again (S)he has seen The Greys, The Reptilians, half-man half-machine monstrosities, looked a Cyberdisk in its eye through their scope, faced 250 kg worth of muscle armed and armored to the teeth. When the Alien'esque Zombie Apocalypse happened, (s)he kept it in check. Throughout his/her countless missions, (s)he has racked up more kills than anyone in the entire organisation, cleared countless UFO's, defended countless civies, protected numberless VIP's and - aside from the odd grip of panic - has never even gotten close to quitting in spite of the dire odds. Finally, (s)he underwent psionic testing, and may or may not be gifted - if she was, she went on with yet another mission to save the planet one more time, once and for all. If (s)he wasn't, (s)he was the true image of the Badass Normal: The first one into the fight with Sectoids, and the last one out of the Uber Ethereal's Temple Ship, save for the Volunteer, who had to play hero. One thing is for certain, if (s)he is still alive at the end of the war, his/her children, grandchildren, and hell, the entire human race has one hell of a Shell-Shocked Veteran's story to hear.. if it all ever gets declassified. - but let's be honest here, no one would probably dare tell him/her that they can't tell that story to his/her children.
Doing so with the tutorial active forces you to do it with the Sole Survivor of Operation Devil's Moon. The rest of his squad was slaughtered in the blink of an eye, but that doesn't stop him from leading the charge against the aliens throughout the rest of the war, and surviving every single battle no matter how badly the odds are stacked against him. If he's responsible for killing the Uber-Ethereal, it means he fired the first shots of the war, and he fired the last. If he becomes the Volunteer, then the last Delta finally joins the rest of his squad, but not before ending the war once and for all.
Getting the "Lone Wolf" achievementnote clear a crashed UFO with just one soldier on Classic or Impossible means one of your soldiers has just pulled a One-Man Army. Already quite the feat on Classic, on Impossible it may be the most awesome thing you'll do in your campaign.
Central Officer Bradford gets one in the "Security Breach" trailer for Enemy Within. XCOM HQ has been infiltrated and sabotaged, and one of the people responsible attacks Bradford... who proceeds to beat the ever-loving shit out of him. Not bad for The Scrappy.
In Enemy Within, earning the "Apotheosis Denied" Achievement explanation Defeat EXALT for good by finding and destroying their HQ. Your organization has just been forced by EXALT to fight a war on two fronts, against the invaders, as well as their treachery. In order to achieve this victory against what you could describe as an evil counterpart to your organization, you will need to:
Undertake Covert Operations to unveil their cells and stage tactical missions against EXALT agents, who are similarly armed to your team and use similar tactics.
Ensure their nefarious insurgency doesn't disrupt the world too much while hunting them down explanation They are capable of stealing funds and technology as well as raising panic in the countries of the world with terror attacks and misinformation, and ultimately turn out to be the ones who leaked your location to the Aliens, cumulating in the Base Defense mission.
Correctly point out the country where EXALT's central command is Hidden in Plain Sightexplanation Failure to choose the right country will make the accused country immediately terminate support for XCOM. Only then can you corner the last of their corrupt kind and stop them from making things worse for people in general.
The EXALT HQ has a lot more verticality than usual in this game, including several skylights that are just begging for a SWAT-style Dynamic Entry. Or you could just have your troops engage from the skylights. Or split them between skylights and ground forces. Or...
Speaking of Base Defense, surviving that and earning the "They Shall Not Pass" achievement. You only get a select team of field operatives against four sizeable waves of nasty enemies, from Cyberdiscs and Mechtoids to Chryssalids, Sectoid Commanders, and Mutons. While reinforcements are available, the bulk of the people helping are simply regular Base Security personnel, who are roughly as competent as your Rookie field operatives and only armed with conventional weapons and body armor. Nevertheless, your veterans manage to rally the defenses and organize a strong presence that stops the alien assault from destroying XCOM's command centre. Extra points if you get the "All Hands On Deck" achievement, which means your 'Rookie' Base Security personnel managed quite a few kills of their own, showing that while they don't enter the warzone like your regulars, they can and will pass muster when push comes to shove.
In Enemy Within, completing the Council Mission "Site Recon" and earning the "Zom-B-Gone" Achievement. In a scenario straight out of a player's nightmares, they are to investigate a fishing village that mysteriously went silent, and also swallowed up a group of government investigators. Turns out that said village has been overrun and effectively turned into a Chryssalid nest. Eventually Bradford will decide that it's too dangerous for your unfortunate operatives as the site is completely overrun by Chryssalids, and orders your team to use the transponder in a fishing vessel to 'mark' the site for a saturated bombing run in order to eradicate the Chryssalids - a fishing vessel with plenty of shark corpses and a massive whale corpse, all of which are incubating more Chryssalids than anyone would want to face. Even so, your field operatives perform excellently, not only getting to the ship's transponder to activate it, but also carving a path back out of the slowly amassing army of Chryssalids to safety and evacuation before the bombs start dropping. Well done, people, for preventing a catastrophe.
MEC Troopers are all-round Badass, but here and here we have footage of them beating aliens to death with their fists.
Sending a MEC-heavy squad on a Terror mission can be particularly awesome. Not only is the sight of multiple Mini Mecha rushing to rescue civilians impressive, they are the perfect counter to Chryssalids. They have the health to survive multiple Chryssalid melee attacks, they dish out plenty of damage at range to cut down both the Chryssalids and their zombies, and the Chryssalid tendency to make a double move right up to your units often puts said Chryssalid right in the path of a Kinetic Strike, which is invariably fatal.
There's also something awesome about using them to kill Sectoid Commanders. Especially the first one. He's just mind-controlled one of your soldiers, and Dr. Vahlen says that all your technology is useless against such power. Then a MEC Trooper stomps up and takes the damn thing out with one punch.
Sending an all-MEC squad to take down the EXALT headquarters is a very good and awesome idea. Given the confined environment and relatively low health of EXALT operatives, you'll probably just want to use your Kinetic Strike modules to pulverize them. The fact that this will do immense collateral damage to their lavishly equipped headquarters is just icing on the cake.
A MEC with a flamethrower invokes some deliciously grim satisfaction when you cut down Chryssalids, Mutons, or EXALT terrorists with a wave of fiery death, causing any survivors to panic and scramble away.