"It's not an easy decision, Commander, but it's one you'll have to make."
Serving as the middleman between the Commander and the rest of XCOM, Bradford communicates your orders to everyone else and performs the administrative work, leaving you free to focus on defending Earth. In addition, he coordinates XCOM field operations, monitors the strategic situation and gathers intel on possible alien activity from XCOM's Mission Control center.
Took a Level in Badass: In Enemy Within, he beats the crap out of a mind-controlled operator during the base defense mission.
If you fail the Base Defense mission, there is a cutscene where the XCOM command center is shown in ruins. Bradford's body and pistol are seen lying near the Hologlobe console, next to a dead Sectoid that seems to have been shot at close range.
"These weapons... these abuses of science, we still have an opportunity to use them for a greater good."
XCOM's Chief Scientist, Dr. Vahlen and her team of scientists are responsible for all research and development carried out under XCOM's auspices. She also oversees the "interrogation" of captured aliens.
Beware the Nice Ones: Officer Bradford mentions that Dr. Vahlen may not look like it, but she is without a doubt the worst nightmare for any captured aliens that get brought back to the base. In Enemy Within, this applies to the captured EXALT operative as well.
She also seems to enjoy it a bit, seeing as she calls the Elite Muton interrogation "dangerous and exhilarating", although that may just be her eagerness For Science!
Deadpan Snarker: Shows a dry wit on occasion, such as her autopsy report on the Muton:
This is the most physically aggressive specimen we've encountered so far, which the troops 'fondly' refer to as the "Muton". I can only assume there's a colorful back story for such a designation.
Foil: To Dr. Shen. They are both scientists, but Vahlen is analytical/destructive while Shen is creative/constructive. Also, they represent two different approaches to science: the younger Vahlen is against any restrictions on research and while she acknowledges that her work may be used for evil, she firmly believes that everything will ultimately sort itself out; the Older and Wiser Shen, meanwhile, is much more cautious about the moral implications of their work. The game's plot ultimately lets the players decide for themselves whose attitude is correct.
For Science!: Downplayed. She's always eager and interested in what she's researching, no matter how morally questionable, and will be annoyed if soldiers use explosives (which destroys valuable research material). She's also the inventor of the alien "interrogation" device and personally oversees each interrogation. That said, she'll also thank soldiers for the risks they take in recovering live specimens, acknowledge that their survival can come before retrieving research materials and is disgusted by the aliens' callousness and their misuse of their advanced technology, which could have been used to do so much good.
In Enemy Within, she's appalled at how badly mutated the EXALT Elites are. While she does experiment on XCOM soldiers, she never goes that far.
Genre Savvy: Unlike Bradford, she thinks that the downfall of the Sectoid Commander and the Alien Base is not the end of the war; simply another chapter in the conflict, and that the Sectoid Commander has superiors it answers to. After you research the Hyperwave Beacon, interrogate the Sectoid Commander and, build the Hyperwave Relay,she's proven right.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: She is in charge of both alien autopsies (xeno-biology) and interrogations (psychology). Also, she can reverse engineer and discover the basic principles behind captured alien weaponry and devices (electronics and engineering). Might be explained in that she is the head researcher working with other scientists that might covers the fields that she is not an expert on.
Torture Technician: She personally oversees all interrogations of aliens. In Enemy Within, some of the in-game dialogue indicates that she did the same to the EXALT operative captured during the first mission in Operation Progeny.
What the Hell Is That Accent?: Her accent remains consistent throughout the game, and she does use German phrases, but it doesn't quite sound German. There's a bit of French in there too.
"We have to keep moving forward with the project, but the thought of treading the same path as the aliens... is troubling."
XCOM's Chief Engineer, he and his team of engineers manufacture everything XCOM may require, ranging from Medikits to Satellites. They are also responsible for maintaining and expanding XCOM's HQ and its fleet of aircraft.
Ambiguously Asian: Has a subtle maybe-Chinese accent and his last name is Chinese, but we can't get more specific than that.
The Engineer: He's the head of XCOM's entire engineering team.
Foil: To Dr. Vahlen. They are both scientists, but Shen is creative/constructive while Vahlen is analytical/destructive. Also, they represent two different approaches to science: the Older and Wiser Shen is very cautious about the moral implications of their work and advocates taking it slow, lest their discoveries be used for evil purposes, just like the aliens did; the younger Vahlen, meanwhile, is all for free research and believes that everything will be alright. The game's plot ultimately lets the players decide for themselves whose attitude is correct.
His position on this is tweaked in Enemy Within to cautious but optimistic.
The Professor: This is the guy that takes maybe ten seconds looking at a chunk of Outsider crystal whilst listening to Dr. Vahlen's technobabble, and figures out that it's an antenna or receiver of some kind.
"Your efforts will have considerable effects on this planet's future. We urge you to keep that in mind as you proceed."
The Council of Nations is the financial backer behind the XCOM project, comprised of 16 member countries and their allies. They provide funding, operative recruits, scientists and engineers for the common defense of Earth. They also occasionally request XCOM's assistance with special matters. Keeping members in the Council is a vital long term objective of the game. If too many members leave, you lose. They are represented by the mysterious Council spokesman.
Divided We Fall: Invoked to punish the player. If you don't keep worldwide panic levels in check, countries will withdraw from the Council, taking potential funding and their continental bonus with it (you need EVERY country on a continent to have satellite coverage to secure the bonusnote unless it's the continent XCOM HQ is on). If half or more of the Council withdraw, the XCOM project is terminated and its game over for you, and the human race.
Game Over Man: Fail to keep the allies happy, and he'll close the book on XCOM and announce Earth's new alliance with the invaders.
Puppet King: In the game over sequence, the spokesman disavows all connection with the XCOM operatives and writes it off as one big "misunderstanding." The camera pans to show a Sectoid Commander feeding him those lines via hypnosis.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Is generally positive and optimistic about you, saying they're sure you'll improve when Council Missions go wrong and are O.K. with less-than-perfection in monthly reports, only saying that XCOM is clearly not going well if you mess up the month really hard.
Escort Mission: They're the ones being escorted. Since you have direct control over them, the usual AI problems don't crop up, but they're very fragile (only 3 Health) and don't carry weapons.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite their extraction missions or statements having foreseeable future implications, you never learn any new information relating to them and they are never even mentioned again, whether they are successfully extracted or not.
The only person to escape alien captivity, her extraction may allow XCOM to find out what the aliens are doing with their abductees.
Few will survive to see the end of this conflict. Fewer still will possess the skills necessary to end it.
— Council Spokesman
Constantly outclassed, outgunned and/or outnumbered, these green recruits are nonetheless XCOM's most valuable resource. With experience, the raw, untapped potential within each one could become exactly what is needed to save mankind. All Rookies are equipped with assault rifles and handguns, and are only issued more specialized weaponry and equipment once they have gained sufficient combat experience.
A-Team Firing: It's not unusual, particularly on the higher difficulties, for rookies to miss. A lot. It's especially not unusual to have every rookie you brought along unleash their barrage on a single Sectoid (the weakest enemy in the game), only for every single round to miss.
Magikarp Power: Even the mightiest Colonel started out as a Rookie at some point. Unless you bought the "New Guy" upgrade, in which case they all start as Squaddies.
Master of None: They lack any special traits to their complete misfortune.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: The soldiers you hire can be male or female but the only thing this affects is their character model and voice snippets.
Front-line units specializing in offense and mobility, allowing them to close in on the enemy and flank more easily. They can be equipped with either assault rifles for mid-range combat or shotguns for close encounters.
Close Range Combatant: The domain of the Assault, being able to wield Short Range Shotguns or the somewhat farther-ranged assault rifles. Their abilities on the right side are used for offensive bonuses and abilities requiring the Assault to close in, flank, and Critical Hit aliens dead. The left side's defensive bonuses are a bit less strict in their application, but still generally benefit the Assault in trying to see aliens eye-to-eye (and then shooting them).
Critical Hit Class: They're some of the best at inflicting Critical Hits, since they'll be flanking quite often and shotguns come with above average critical chance rates. The right side of their ability tree is full of bonuses relating to it:
The Corporal "Aggression" passive ability grants 10% critical chance for every enemy the Assault can see, up to 30%.
The Sergeant "Close and Personal" passive ability grants 30% critical chance against adjacent targets, diminishing with increasing distance. Changed in Enemy Within to "Up Close and Personal", giving the Assault a free shot when they're within 4 tiles of the enemy, though it doesn't work if "Run & Gun" is active.
The Captain "Bring 'Em On" passive ability adds up to 1 damage to critical hits for every enemy the squad sees, up to 5.
And lastly, the Colonel "Killer Instinct" passive ability adds 50% critical damage from activating Run & Gun for the rest of the turn.
On the flip side, the Colonel "Resilience" passive ability makes them immune to Critical Hits.
Crazy Awesome: In-universe, going by their nicknames. Most Assaults end up with nicknames - which are usually given by their comrades - that essentially state that this guy/gal is totally crazy.
Death or Glory Attack: About three-fourth's of the Assaults tactics involve one version of this or another. If the Assault succeeds, he does devastating damage to an enemy. If the Assault misses, isn't supported, or gets bad orders, he's going to be in a position where enemy fire will tear him apart. i.e. ending a chain of attacks and movement right next to a Berserker who is still clinging to life and very unhappy.
Difficult but Awesome: The Assault's shotguns. While the Assault Rifle would be a better choice in the lower difficulties, the Shotgun is a must in Impossible. In the Impossible difficulty an instant kill is worth its weight in gold, and the Assault Rifle cannot reliably provide that, (even with a flank!) while the Shotgun can. The Shotgun however requires careful placement of your Assault so that he's up in the face of one alien while concealed from the rest, which requires knowledge of how the cover and concealment mechanic works.
Dodge the Bullet: Their Sergeant "Lightning Reflexes" passive ability lets them dodge the first Overwatch shot made at them per turnnote for example, if an Assault makes a movement that would trigger multiple but non-simultaneous reaction shots, the first one is a guaranteed miss, allowing them to close with the enemy by going through their field of fire.
Lightning Bruiser: Thanks to the "Run & Gun" ability. In a more subtle example, the Sergeant "Lightning Reflexes" passive ability lets them avoid the first reaction shot that targets them per turn.
Made of Iron: Has the highest health gain from level ups out of all the classes. Colonel-ranked Assaults are likely to be the toughest soldiers in XCOM, especially if certain abilities are chosen:
The Corporal "Tactical Sense" passive ability gives them more Defense for each enemy in sight, up to partial cover-level bonus for 4 enemies.
The Major "Extra Conditioning" passive ability give them extra health, increasing based on the type of armor they're wearing. note 1 HP for basic Body Armor, 4 HP for Titan and Archangel Armor, and 2 HP for everything else.
The Colonel "Resilience" passive ability makes them immune to critical hits.
Magikarp Power: The Assault's abilities that affect critical chance require consistent investment to be reliable and tend to be overkill against the earlier aliens, which are likely to be One Hit Killed even with the basic shotgun anyway (though said abilities become more crucial on Impossible, as all but the Sectoids require more than one non-critical shot to kill), whilst simultaneously being inadequate for One Hit Killing Mutons and Chryssalids on any difficulty. After the Assault has access to a Scatter Laser and the "Bring 'Em On" passive ability, though, they'll become unmatched at running up to things and obliterating them with one shotnote so long as they're not immune to critical hits. In contrast, the Assault's defense abilities pretty much always come in handy and require no prior investment to be useful.
The Second Wave "Absolutely Critical" modifier guarantees critical hits against flanked targets, which means less investment is required.
Refuge in Audacity: Many of the Assault's tactics run on this. Charging straight through enemy fire (possibly even deliberately provoking it so that allies can safely move), rushing into point-blank range, often vaulting over enemy cover to shove a shotgun into their face, all the while getting greater defensive and offensive boosts because of how many enemies they're dealing with, and then shrugging off half the damage they'd take from the inevitable enemy retaliation is all in a day's work for the Assault trooper.
A-Team Firing: Their light machine guns deal damage comparable to sniper rifles, but can still be fired after moving. However, the Heavy's Aim stat is the lowest out of all the classes and their shots will only become reliable at much later levels and a S.C.O.P.E. on-hand.
While their rockets are more accurate, there's always that 10% chance to miss... that is visually shown by the Heavy blatantly aiming off-target.
The Heavy's high accuracy cover-destroying rocket(s) and ability to fire twice or perform an action after firing with "Bullet Swarm", or boost Aim by 10 against a single target with "Holo-Targeting" are invaluable when your soldiers are still unreliable shots. The high damage of their LMGs and the utility and area-of-effect of said rockets means they're still useful to any squad much later in the game, but they aren't quite as much of a godsend then.
At a more specific level, your first soldier to be promoted from Rookie will be the Heavy that survives the disastrous first mission. As your first ranked soldier, he'll likely carry your team until your other units level up.
Determinator: The basis of their "Will To Survive" ability, which reduces any incoming damage by 2 as long as they are in cover and aren't flanked.
Mighty Glacier: The Corporal "Bullet Swarm" passive ability encourages staying still to fire two shots on one turn (or fire and reload, fire and move, fire and Overwatch, fire and Hunker Down) while rocket attacks require the Heavy to not move in order to use themnote just like Snipers who don't have Snap Shot. In addition, their durability is above average, while the Major "Will to Survive" passive ability reduces damage taken by 2 if in the Heavy is in cover and not flanked, and Heavies have the second-highest HP growth of any class.
More Dakka: They wield light machine guns, which put out even more rounds if the Sergeant "Suppression" active ability is used. It puts out so much dakka that it has the lowest amounts of shots before requiring reloading out of all the main weapons.
With the Corporal "Bullet Swarm" passive ability, they can fire twice per turn.
The Lieutenant "Rapid Reaction" passive ability lets the Heavy fire a second reaction shot if their first shot on Overwatch hits.
Pinned Down: If the Sergeant "Suppression" active ability is chosen, they can do this to any target of their choice for 1 turn. It does consume twice as much ammo as firing normally, but it reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Heavy a reaction shot should the target move.
The Captain "Danger Zone" passive ability increases Suppression's area-of-effect by two tiles.
The Colonel "Mayhem" passive ability adds 1-3 damage to all affected targets based off the tech level of the Heavy's weapon.
At the Squaddie rank, they can launch rockets with the "Fire Rocket" active ability. Does 6 damage to targets hit, fires in a straight line and can be blocked by terrain, always has a 90% to-hit chance, requires the Heavy to not move or fire during the turn to use, and can only be fired once a mission. Can cause Unfriendly Fire. Equipping them with a Blaster Launcher increases damage to 9 and allows it to fire around terrain.
Sergeants can get the "Shredder Rocket" active ability, which does 4 damage (2 less damage than a regular rocket) and increases damage dealt to affected targets by 33% for the next 4 turns. Otherwise identical to regular rockets, though a separate rocket supply is used. Equipping a Blaster Launcher upgrades it similarly to regular rockets.
The Lieutenant's "HEAT Ammo" (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) passive ability doubles all damage they deal to robotic enemies (Cyberdiscs, Drones and Sectopods), which tend to make even more explosions when they die. Nerfed in Enemy Within to a 50% damage bonus instead, due to the addition of more mechanical/robotic enemies.
A Captain may choose between "Grenadier" or "Danger Zone" passive abilities, the former granting two grenades instead of one if the Heavy equips a grenade, the latter giving the "Suppression" active ability and all rocket attacks an area-of-effect two tiles greater.
At the Colonel rank, a Heavy can get "Rocketeer" for an extra shot per mission to the "Fire Rocket" ability (and "Shredder Rocket", if chosen earlier) or "Mayhem" to add 1-3 damage to "Suppression" and all area-of-effect abilities based off their weapon's tech level.
"There's something on your face... *boom* Got it."
Expert marksmen, they specialize in accurately dealing extreme damage at extreme range with sniper rifles and can also use special shots to hinder enemies.
Boom, Headshot: The first ability they learn, in fact, granting +30% Critical chance and extra damage on a Critical Hit, depending on the tech level of the sniper rifle wielded.
Critical Hit Class: Their sniper rifles have the highest base Critical chance out of all weapons. Further enhanced by some abilities.
The "Headshot" active ability gives their shot an extra +30% Critical chance and extra Critical Hit damage.
The Captain "Opportunist" passive ability lets the Sniper Critical Hit on reaction shots.
Combine these with the Second Wave "Absolutely Critical" modifier to turn the Sniper into an endless font of exploding heads.
Do Not Run with a Gun: Without the Corporal "Snap Shot" passive ability, Snipers are incapable of firing their sniper rifles on a turn on which they first moved, though they can fire their pistol after moving. However, Snap Shot snipers take a whopping -20 Aim penalty to sniper rifle shots made after moving! Enemy Within reduces the penalty to -10 Aim, making it more viable.
Finishing Move: The Captain "Executioner" passive ability aids the Sniper in this, gaining +10 Aim against enemies at 50% or lower health.
Geo Effects: The Sergeant "Damn Good Ground" passive ability lets the Sniper benefit further from this, gaining an extra +10 Aim and Defense for being at a higher elevation level than their target. They also benefit the most from the Depth Perception gene mod.
Handguns: While all XCOM soldiers pack sidearms, the sniper will probably be the class that uses them most frequently, since they cannot fire sniper rifles in the same turn that they move, and the "Gunslinger" Sergeant passive ability even boosts their pistol damage by 2 — which, considering that it's also the only pistol-specific ability for XCOM soldiers, actually makes Snipers the best pistol users among the four classes.
Kill Streak: The Colonel's "In The Zone" passive ability sets up a flanking Sniper to do this; a shot that kills an enemy that was uncovered or flanked by the Sniper does not take up an action, potentially letting the Sniper fire and kill over and over againnote or as with the Heavy's "Bullet Swarm" passive, fire and move, or fire and reload, or fire and Hunker Down. Rather conveniently, such tends to be the case with melee enemies, making them your potential best Chryssalid killers in the late game.
The farther and thus more improbable a shot is, the more accurate the sniper rifle becomes. Combine with Squad Sight for some really long-distance shots.
Long-Range Fighter: As one likely expect from a Sniper. Unlike all other weapons, sniper rifles are less accurate the closer the target is. The left side of the Sniper's abilities helps alleviate this weakness, but placing a Sniper right next to an alien still probably isn't going to work out that well.
Moreover, the synergy of the "Squad Sight"note allows the Sniper to fire the Sniper Rifle at enemies within the sight radius of a Battle Scanner or a teammate nearer to that enemy so long as line of sight from the sniper to that enemy isn't otherwise blocked; such enemies are indicated with a little yellow "crosshair reticle" over their icon when the Sniper is selected and "Opportunist"note removes the Aim penalty on Overwatch reaction shots and allows reaction shots to be critical hits abilities allows for shots and situations that would be impossible for any other class.
"Disabling Shot" lets the Sniper target an enemy's weapon, forcing them to reload before they fire again.
Magikarp Power: The Sniper starts out unable to fire their sniper rifles after moving and a "Headshot" ability that tends to not reliably grant critical hits against targets in cover, while the extra damage granted is usually overkill against early-game enemies. Colonel Snipers have the highest Aim in the game and will either outflank aliens and score a Kill Streak of One Hit Kills with the "Snap Shot" and "In The Zone" passive abilities, or kill enemies from across the map with "Squadsight", which allows the Sniper to shoot at enemies any of the squad sees, barring any obstacles blocking the shot (with Archangel Armor to fly up to the highest vantage point possible, they can do so without ever moving from their starting location!). Both will slaughter aliens with contemptuous ease and be difficult to hit wherever they take cover due to the Major "Low Profile" passive ability making any cover they use count as full.
Sniper Pistol: Typically with Squad Sight, only sniper rifles can target enemies outside the Sniper's personal range. However, an enemy triggering an Overwatch will still make that Sniper fire, even if they have their pistol equipped and the enemy is across the map. Yes, they can use their pistols for sniping, but only when they act on reflex.
"This? Oh, it's gonna hurt!"
A Combat Medic/Fire Support specialist with support skills like smoke grenades and the ability to carry more gear. They wield versatile assault rifles.
Combat Medic: The left side of their abilities emphasizes the latter word, the right emphasizes the former. For the former:
The Corporal "Covering Fire" passive ability allows Supports to activate Overwatch when enemies fire in addition to moving.
Lieutenant Supports can get the "Rifle Suppression" active ability, elaborated in Pinned Down below.
The Colonel "Sentinel" passive ability allows the Support to fire two reaction shots on Overwatch instead of just one.
Dr. Jerk: Some of the lines when using a medkit fall into this territory.
"Rub some dirt into it, ya wimp."
Jack of All Stats: They tend to be average in most respects compared to the other classes, except movement speed if the Corporal "Sprinter" passive ability (increases walking range by 3 tiles and dashing range by an extra 3 tiles) is chosen. Their assault rifles also tend to be middle of the road in all stats. The "Deep Pockets" passive ability learned at Major rank also enhances their potential versatility.
The Medic: Technically, any class can use Medikits, but only the Support has abilities that emphasize this part of their job description:
The Sergeant "Field Medic" passive ability gives them 3 uses of the Medikit instead of just 1.
The Lieutenant "Revive" active ability lets them revive critically wounded soldiers at 33% of their max health instead of just stabilizing them.
The Major "Deep Pockets" passive ability in Enemy Within adds an additional charge to Medikits, among other items. In Enemy Unknown, it only added a second backpack slot.
The Colonel "Savior" passive ability increases the amount of damage healed by Medikits by 4.
When the Lieutenant "Rifle Suppression" ability is used, the Support's assault rifle tends to spew a lot of shots, even if it normally only fires a few rounds per attack.
The Colonel "Sentinel" passive ability lets them fire twice during Overwatch. Combined with the Corporal "Covering Fire" passive ability (which lets them shoot at firing enemies during Overwatch), they can fire off quite a few rounds when Overwatching.
Pinned Down: If the Lieutenant "Rifle Suppression" active ability is chosen, they can do this to any target of their choice for 1 turn. It does consume more ammo than firing normally, but it reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Support a reaction shot should the target move.
Smoke Out: The base ability for the Support is a one-use-per-mission "Smoke Grenade" ability, which provides a defensive bonus equal to partial cover for all units in the smoke, allied or enemy. It can be further improved by choosing certain abilities.
The Sergeant "Smoke and Mirrors" passive ability lets the Support get another use per mission.
The Captain rank lets the Support get "Dense Smoke" (increased area of effect and increased defensive bonus equal to full cover) or "Combat Drugs" (all units in smoke also gain +20 Will and +10% Critical Strike chance - and, most usefully but not documented in-game, +20 Aim) passive abilities.
Super Serum: The Captain rank ability Combat Drugs, which increases the will and critical chance of all soldiers in a smoke grenade.
"This armor has its advantages."
Brave volunteers who have traded their limbs to give humanity a greater fighting chance, Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuit Troopers pilot their MECs into the fray. Though they take significant resources to prepare, equip, and maintain, the firepower and finesse they bring to the field is unmatched.
Artificial Limbs: The soldiers have all traded their regular ones for crude replacements. This is necessary, as when they jump into their Mini Mechas, the suit's limbs effectively become their own, allowing incredible mobility and finesse.
BFG: The only kind of weapons they can use, which deal more damage than even the heaviest infantry weapons of the same tier. They burn through their ammo supplies incredibly quickly, though (unless you get the right upgrades).
Blessed with Suck/Cursed with Awesome: They trade all their limbs for cybernetic ones to allow them to interface with the MECs. Dr. Shen states that the base cybernetic limbs are too clumsy for a soldier to take them into battle, and require better development after the war to ensure the MEC troopers can lead semi-normal lives. However, once they interface with their MEC suits they become stronger, tougher, and faster than any human trooper could possibly be on their own.
Can't Catch Up: A problem for your soldiers, as MEC Troopers only earn half the experience from kills and often lag far behind in terms of promotion. To avert this, level a soldier normally, then augment them.
Combat Medic: The MEC-2 Sentinel "Restorative Mist" Tactical Subsystem makes them one. It heals 4 health (6 with 'Improved Medkits' research) to all allies within 2 tiles, including itself. Since using Restorative Mist is one of the few abilities that doesn't bring a MEC Trooper out of "One For All" mode, they can often prove to be as good or better than actual Support troops, depending on the situation.
Counter Attack: The Colonel "Reactive Targeting Sensors" passive ability lets them automatically shoot back at any enemy that attacks it.
Discard and Draw: Soldiers lose all their abilities and any gene mods they might have when turned into MEC Troopers, though they keep their rank and unlock the associated abilities, as well as their stats (useful, because Assaults gain more health and Snipers gain more Aim than cybernetic soldiers). Justified, since they are using completely different equipment from before, and they have much of their body replaced with cybernetics.
Duel to the Death/No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Using the Kinetic Strike Module to kill a Berserker, Mechtoid or Sectopod results in a custom scene wherein the MEC and target engage in one-on-one, close-range combat with the MEC trooper gaining the advantage and landing a spectacular killing blow, usually sending their defeated opponent flying.
MEC-troopers using Kinetic Strike finish off Sectopods in a particularly dramatic fashion. The trooper leaps two body-lengths into the air and comes down smashing the Sectopod with its fists, driving it into the ground. Then, as it attempts one last desperate attempt to fire its cannon at point-blank range, the trooper activates the Kinetic Strike Module and strikes directly into the priming cannon, detonating the entire Sectopod.
Fire-Breathing Weapon: The MEC-1 Warden "Flamethrower" Tactical Subsystem. It does 6 damage (9 with the "Jellied Elerium" Foundry Project) in a wide radius and has a lasting area effect, and is great for mopping up clustered aliens or keeping melee enemies at bay, with the added bonus of panicking any organic enemies (including Chryssalids, Berserkers and even Ethereals) in its area of effect that aren't killed outright. Does not work on robots.
Gatling Good: Their starting Primary Weapon is a handheld minigun.
Go Through Me: Lieutenant-grade MEC Troopers can take One For All, a skill that effectively turns them into a Hard Cover object until they move or fire their weapons. Additionally, Support troops that undergo MEC surgery gain the passive effect Distortion Field, which gives +10 Defense to nearby allies.
The Juggernaut: With Absorption Fields, a MEC trooper can sustain absurd amounts of firepower that would reduce normal soldiers to slag. Because it caps all incoming damage at 33% of the MEC trooper's max health, it can shrug off 15-damage crits with no personal injury, which would be enough to severely injure even the hardiest soldiers. Their endurance can be further increased by combining it with Repair Servos and Damage Control.
Kill It with Fire: One of the voice options explicitly says "KILLING IT WITH FIRE." when you trigger the flamethrower.
Lightning Bruiser: Fully upgraded MECs have mobility on par with a Support with "Sprinter", with the resilience of an Assault and firepower similar to a Heavy. Bringing them in from a Major or Colonel Sniper/Assault also gives them incredible accuracy, almost guaranteeing that each turn they will be able to engage and kill at least one enemy, even on Classic difficulty.
Their movement animations depict them as being pretty fast-moving for their size.
Mini-Mecha: Clunky Mech somewhat bigger than the average human? Check. Enhanced strength and resilience over regular infantry? Check. Cockpit area that exposes the pilot? Check. Able to wield BFGs and rocket punch enemies so hard they cause vehicles to explode? Double Check!
More Dakka: MECs are designed around this. The starting weapon is a gatling gun, and they can wield large and powerful weapons that would be dangerous to use by any other soldier, at the cost of having even less shots per magazine than the Heavy.
Their basic "Collateral Damage" ability has them fire an extended burst at the targeted area, shredding any cover objects and causing Splash Damage equal to a third of their primary weapon's. At worst, it will shred whatever your target happens to be hiding behind. On the other hand, if your target chose to hide behind something explosive...
The Major "Overdrive" passive ability is identical to the Heavy's "Bullet Swarm", allowing for two shots each turn.
No Sell: Is immune to poison, strangulation and fire.
Robo Speak: Downplayed. They talk like other soldiers do, for the most part, but they sound like they're using a voice synthesizer. They also don't emote as much and use a slightly more formal lexicon (fewer contractions, no slang).
Shock and Awe: The MEC-3 Paladin "Electropulse" Tactical Subsystem discharges an electric pulse that deals 5 damage to all units in addition to disabling robotic units in a small radius around the MEC.
Shoulder Cannon: How many of their secondary armaments, such as the grenade launcher and mine mortars, are mounted.
Stuff Blowing Up: Second only to the Heavy for the amount of explosives they can carry. The MEC can choose to mount both the "Grenade Launcher" (that lobs grenades farther than a normal soldier) and "Proximity Mine Launcher" (which sets up mines that detonate when an enemy steps into them) Tactical Subsystems at the same time, for twice the explosive firepower.
Super Strength: They overpower Muton Berserkers and Mechtoids for the animations with the Kinetic Strike Module.
Take Cover: Averted, MECs can't take cover at all, instead receiving a permanent 10 defense bonus (half that of low cover), cannot be flanked, and the "Hardened" trait that the alien Cyberdisc and Sectopod have: significant resistance to critical hits. They can, however, take advantage of full cover's ability to break line of sight; the MEC can't see the enemy, but the enemy won't be able to shoot the MEC either. Inverted with the Lieutenant "One For All" ability, where the MEC Trooper becomes full cover for your troops to hide behind.
Walking Armory: It is possible for a fully upgraded MEC to carry up to four different heavy weapons at once.
You Require More Vespene Gas: Costs Meld to create and upgrade, which is extremely limited and valuable. Creating a pilot and providing him with a fully-upgraded suit costs a whopping 210 Meld, and most missions are only guaranteed have 20 Meld available. On the upside, if a pilot does go down, you can generally recover the cybersuit and repair it; while there is a Meld cost to create a new pilot, the cybersuit itself requires much more.
XCOM soldiers who bear "The Gift", as the invading aliens call it, their psionic powers can turn the tide of battle. Any XCOM soldier could have the potential, though those with strong wills are more likely to have it.
Psi Cat Suit: Psi Armor is exclusive to psionic soldiers, and as pictured above, fits the bill. It comes in different colors, but black is the most common.
Psychic Powers: The two options on the left are more for buffs and defense, while the ones on the right are offensive.
Deflector Shields: The "Telekinetic Field" places a stationary circle that diverts projectiles for anyone in its boundaries. In practice, it raises Defense by 40 points, which is roughly equal to full cover.
Emotion Control: "Psi Inspiration" removes the effects of "Mindfray" and panic and boosts the Will of nearby troops.
Mind Control: Takes control of an enemy for three turns. Especially useful if successful on an alien behind enemy lines, breaking up their position as they try to move to unflank themselves and/or use up their turn taking out the mind-controlled unit. The drawback (until a patch fixed this) is that the game treats the death of any currently mind-controlled unit as a death of someone in the squad, penalizing the entire team's Will.
"Mindfray": An ability all soldiers with the Gift can use that "causes the target to lose grip on reality." Useful in that it has perfect accuracy on most aliens at any range, does 5 damage without fail, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
"Psi Panic": Forces an enemy into a panic state normally reserved for your troops. Unpredictable since a panicking enemy may fire upon any random target, run away or Hunker Down to become harder to hit. The good thing is that the unit will refuse to act on the enemy turn.
An XCOM soldier assigned to track down EXALT cells, enabling XCOM to target and destroy the EXALT cell operating inside a particular country. Covert Operatives are selected from existing soldiers, barring Heavies and MEC Troopers, and go undercover without armor or heavy weapons.
Armor Is Useless: Played With. If they're high-leveled, they can still potentially eat up more damage than your own or EXALT's soldiers. However, unless they have a Nanofiber Vest or Chitin Plating equipped, whatever damage they take will result in a rest in the Infirmary.
Badass Longcoat: Wears an overcoat that matches the typical XCOM color scheme.
The Engineer: A variant; they can hack EXALT's transmitters if they get close enough to them, which disrupts their communications and prevents them from attacking for a turn.
Warring Without Weapons: The Covert Operative is armed only with a pistol and no armor, though they retain all of their active and passive abilities, including gene mods and psychic abilities.
XCOM Security Personnel
These guards are tasked with defending XCOM HQ itself from any and all attacks. Their capabilities are akin to raw Rookies, and they are armed solely with ballistic assault rifles and pistols, along with fragmentation grenades. They are the last line of defense for XCOM, and are not intended to serve in the field.
Badass Normal: Compared to the rest of the squad, very much so, as even Rookies are likely to be better equipped. It's still entirely possible for them to kill even high-end alien units like Cyberdiscs.
Cannon Fodder: Since you don't get to keep them after the mission, there's not much drawback to sticking them out in the open when your veterans are in danger so that they will take the shot instead of your regulars.
Lost Forever: Whether they live or die, you don't get to keep them after you complete the mission. Even if they get a promotion.
Red Shirt: Blue shirts, actually, but they fill essentially the same purpose. Given what happens during the Base Defense, it's unlikely you'll make it through without losing at least one of them. The game's files even refer to them as 'blueshirts' in a couple of comments.
Throw Down the Bomblet: They always spawn with a frag grenade. If you researched the "Tactical Rigging" Foundry Project, then they will spawn with 2. Since they have terrible Aim it is usually best to get several of them to Grenade Spam an enemy or to destroy their cover for your veterans to get a clear shot.
Video Game Caring Potential: There's certainly a rewarding feeling to not only managing to keep them alive, but to also see them get promotion indications after you make a kill...
Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...that said though, it is far more rewarding to not have your veterans killed. If that means letting these guys take the bullet, well, it's not like you'll be seeing them again anyways.
Zerg Rush: It is very unlikely for any single one of them to get a kill unless you deliberately set them up a chance to. However since reinforcements can have up to 2 of them coming at a time, and you can have any number of them at a given time as long as your total soldier count does not exceed 8, then it is possible to kill an alien simply by throwing enough at it until the RNG rolls in your favor.
Advanced autonomous weapons platforms that can be deployed in place of a human soldier, they mount heavier weaponry than most human soldiers can carry.
Attack Drone: XCOM's personal ones, with a whole tech tree dedicated to them. They function exactly like the tanks of yore, including, in one case, functioning as portable cover. There are three varieties, Basic, Alloy (which can be used as low cover) and Hover (which can fly).
Beam Spam: S.H.I.V.s equipped with Laser Cannons, especially if they use their "Suppression" ability.
Character Level: Averted. Although there are 3 different types of S.H.I.V.s, each stronger than the last, they do not level up.
Crutch Character: Like the HWPs of old, they're better than the New Meat but lose out to high-rankers. Many strategies for Classic and Impossible involve rushing to get them into production ASAP.
Enemy Within's buffs to mechanical units on both sides, however, made them very much viable members of a given squad. A fully-upgraded Hover S.H.I.V. can move as far as an upgraded Support trooper, flies further and longer than a trooper in upgraded Archangel armor, and has a heavy plasma cannon. On top of that, it has an unlimited self-repair system that fixes two bars of damage every turn and the ability to fire reaction shots at anything within four blocks like an Assault trooper.
No Sell: Is immune to Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison, strangulation and fire.
Pinned Down: Can be upgraded in the Foundry to have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the S.H.I.V. a reaction shot should the target move.
Take Cover: Averted for all types of S.H.I.V. Inverted with the Alloy S.H.I.V., which is a low cover that your soldiers can hide behind.
The Argentine Heavy/Delta 2
The sole survivor of "Operation: Devil's Moon", XCOM's first engagement against the aliens, he is XCOM's first veteran soldier. While he's unlikely to be the only Argentine, Heavy or Argentine Heavy to serve with XCOM, his experience against the enemy will likely be vital to XCOM's early operations.
The Big Guy: He's a Heavy when he gets promoted, and he's physically large overall.
Mauve Shirt: He's just a regular soldier with a pre-set voice, appearance and nationality, but has gotten quite the following in the fanbase. Being the first veteran and promotion of the war, the sole survivor of the tutorial, and being absolutely vital to one achievement (in games with the tutorial enabled) means he's become this.
Sole Survivor: Of "Operation: Devil's Moon", the tutorial mission.
Shaojie "Chilong" Zhang
"Funny, that my life should take such an unexpected path. Turning my back on old friends, to defeat a common enemy."
Formerly a member of the Triads, he contacts the Council after obtaining a mysterious alien artifact from his former coworkers. Should XCOM successfully extract him, he will join them as a Lieutenant-ranked Heavy class soldier.
Badass: One-shots a Sectoid with a handgun, and when recruited he is a relatively high level Heavy. On top of that, he has very high Will, which means he has a good chance of manifesting psionic ability.
Cool Old Guy: His iron grey hair and subtle wrinkles indicate Zhang is at least past middle-age. He still probably joins XCOM as the highest-ranked soldier and can continue to hold his own even to the endgame.
Defector from Decadence: He chose to defect from the Triads because he realized how stupid it is to continue to squabble over money when there are aliens trying to kill everyone.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Not only do you get an achievement for bringing him on the final mission, but if he does have psychic power and you chose him as the Volunteer, he has his own unique voice during the final cutscene when he shouts at the rest of the team to flee, unlike the generic voices used by male and female Volunteers.
Escort Mission: The mission where you recruit him has him as a slightly tougher (4 Health instead of 3) Council Mission VIP.
Unexplained Recovery: He can easily die in his recruitment mission if you aren't careful, failing the operation. However, the Council can offer the same mission later on, and he will be perfectly fine despite having died, with zero comment on the matter.
The above scenario is averted in Enemy Within, where the mission is only offered once, and failing it will end the entire Slingshot campaign.
A mysterious woman with incredible psychic potential, she's managed to attract the interest of the Aliens, EXALT and XCOM simultaneously. The Operation Progeny content included with Enemy Within revolves around her. Similarly to Zhang, she can eventually join XCOM as a Sergeant-ranked soldier of a random class.
Heroic RROD: Her ability to amplify psychic powers was burned out of her due to the stress the aliens' assault on XCOM HQ caused her. She's still psychic, but she can't use that particular ability ever again.
Living MacGuffin: All 3 of the game's factions seek her out, thanks to her unusual psychic aptitude.
Mauve Shirt: Despite her unique voice and appearance, she can still die like any other soldier.
Mildly Military: Whatever she was before the invasion, it definitely wasn't a soldier. When receiving a move order, she'll occasionally complain about how heavy her gear is, lament how she's not a weapons expert when reloading, and only rarely report kills like the rest of your soldiers.
A trio of alien abductees much like Annette, rescuing them is part of the reason why she joins XCOM. If they're successfully rescued from the landed alien ship they're being held in, they will join XCOM as Lieutenant-ranked soldiers. They are Matthew "Alecto" Hawkins (USA, Sniper), Said "Megaera" Tariq (Egypt, Support) and Fatima "Tisiphone" Tariq (Egypt, Assault).
Brother-Sister Team: Not explicitly stated, but it seems likely that two abductees with exceptionally strong psychic powers from the same country and with the same surname are likely to be brother and sister. They work well on the same squad (as any two psychic soldiers with sufficient levels do) because one can use Psi Inspiration to boost the success rate of the other's psi attacks.
Mauve Shirt: They have custom names, Nom de Guerre, and are guaranteed to be psionic if tested. Still can die just as easy as everyone else.
Nom de Guerre: "Alecto" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "unceasing anger"), "Megaera" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "envious anger") and "Tisiphone" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "vengeful anger").
Psychic Powers: Like Annette, they're guaranteed to be psionic when tested.
An exceptionally powerful psionic, this XCOM soldier has been chosen to lead a crucial, but very dangerous mission.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: After activating the Gollop Chamber, the Volunteer gains a special psionic power Rift, which is only useable in the final mission and otherwise only available to Ethereals.
Got Volunteered: Despite the Volunteer's title, it's still the Commander who selects a soldier to enter the Gollop Chamber. Fridge Brilliance hits when you realize that every soldier under your command must have volunteered for the duty, so you only have to choose who will be the volunteer.
Heroic Sacrifice: Stays behind on the Temple Ship to send it into orbit and explode normally instead of becoming a black hole.
Psychic Powers: Includes two abilities not available to other XCOM psionics: the "Rift", a powerful, lingering area of effect attack, and a link to the Ethereal Hive Mind. In addition, no matter what the Volunteer's Psi rank was when they entered the Gollop Chamber, they come out of it at the maximum possible, even if they were fresh and inexperienced Psi users.
We Cannot Go On Without You: If s/he dies you fail the final mission. Justified in that s/he is the key to stopping the alien invasion and to preventing the Temple Ship from forming a black hole above Earth.
All attempts to contact the invaders thus far have failed. Their only purpose seems to be destruction and chaos.
— News Broadcast
These physically frail aliens serve as expendable scouts for the invaders and appear to possess a telepathic ability unlike anything previously encountered on Earth. Individually weak, they are nonetheless dangerous in numbers, especially if allowed to utilize their ability to merge minds.
All Myths Are True: These new Sectoids are more birdlike in appearance, scampering around on all fours. Their design also bears a strong resemblance to the "Dover Demon", a Loch Ness-like legend from the backwoods of Massachusetts.
Cannon Fodder: The weakest of all the aliens, seen best in multiplayer how every other species can effectively counter them and are only useful as scouts. In singleplayer, they shouldn't be underestimated, especially on higher difficulties.
Clone Army: Just like their appearance in UFO Defense, Sectoids all share the same DNA, suggesting that you're fighting the same Sectoid over and over.
Combat Medic: Their Mind Merge ability allows them to boost the health of other Sectoids for a turn. At 3 HP, the average Sectoid is not hard to kill with a basic assault rifle; a Mind Merged Sectoid gets 4 HP and can often survive a single hit from basic weapons.
Running on All Fours: Due to their short stature and long limbs they tend to scamper on all free limbs. They keep their weapon hand up though. Interestingly this does give them the rare opportunity to go through doors with holes in the bottom without knocking it open - allowing for silent entry.
Reptilian aliens extensively altered to resemble humans, they are tasked with infiltrating human society to obtain information and conduct sabotage. They are capable of spitting out clouds of debilitating poison to weaken enemies and deny territory, as well as generating an identical cloud upon their death. In addition, they can leap multiple stories to obtain better positions.
Action Bomb: When killed, they explode into a cloud of poison.
Face Death with Dignity: What does a Thin Man captive do when about to be interrogated? Ignore the torture equipment and stare his captors down as the blast door closes. All the other aliens, even the Ethereals, panic and try to fight their way out.
Firing One-Handed: They use special light-weight plasma rifles which give a bonus to accuracy.
Fragile Speedster: Their ability to leap multiple levels, enter the battlefield by dropping from a great height, and general quick movement gives them their speedster designation, but the fragility comes from having among the lowest tier of hitpoints in the game.
Glamour Failure: While they might initially pass as human, their elongated bodies and unnatural flexibility betray their true nature.
Hellish Pupils: Thin Men have reptilian eyes, hence why they all wear sunglasses to appear more human.
Hugh Mann: As the 2012 equivalent of Snakemen, they do the bare minimum to disguise their alien nature.
Lightning Bruiser: Early game on Classic or Impossible difficulty. They have 5 HP (allowing them to survive being hit by LMGs and the like if they're lucky), 10 Defense and can One-Hit Kill lightly armored soldiers with their Light Plasma Rifles, which also enhance their already high Aim. They also have decent movement speed on top of all that, which is boosted even further on Impossible. Once you have laser or plasma weapons and decent armor, however, they quickly become Cannon Fodder.
What Happened to the Mouse?: They disappear from the game altogether and are never mentioned again (even on the Temple Ship, which has you fight through every other enemy type in the game) after the attack on the Alien Base. On the other hand, this does make sense, since they're more hardware than crew and are no longer needed after the aliens' psionic units take command personally after you assault the alien base.
A horrific fusion of flesh and machine, these cybernetic monstrosities bear integrated propulsion units, allowing them to take to the skies. The power of these units is such that they can rocket themselves anywhere on the battlefield, though they cannot immediately open fire after they land. The species is likely related biologically to the Mutons.
Elite Mook: Heavy Floaters are this compared to the normal variant.
Fate Worse than Death: Most of their organic parts were ripped out and replaced with machinery to effectively turn them into Living Weapons. The Uber Ethereal even uses the trope name word for word to describe them.
Firing One-Handed: With normal Floaters and Thin Men carrying light plasma rifles, this can be somewhat excused, but Heavy Floaters fire a weapon as long as their arm without steadying it with their other hand or bracing themselves against the ground. Not even the hulking Mutons can do that, and the only reasonable explanation is that their cybernetic augmentations allow it.
Flight: Floaters can move fairly freely through the air. They also have the "Launch" ability, which allows them to rocket off into the sky and come down anywhere on the map, allowing them to flank your soldiers without drawing reaction fire.
Fragile Speedster: Floaters' mobility are rivalled only by Thin Men, though they are not very durable compared to other aliens that appear alongside them.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Vahlen states that their cybernetics more or less create a perfect synthesis between flesh and steel. But many of their animations indicate that they are in extreme pain.
Throw Down the Bomblet: Heavy Floaters can throw Alien Grenades. They also have the "Bombard" ability, letting them toss grenades much further.
These beings, despite their organic appearance, are actually purely mechanical drones capable of flight. Their favored method of attack is to sneak up on and strangle isolated targets with their tentacles, which is augmented by their ability to emit an Elerium-charged vapor screen that grants them invisibility.
Vicious and nightmarish insect-like creatures, they seek only to propagate their species through implanting their eggs into a host's body. After a remarkably short gestation period, during which the host body is under the Chryssalid's control, a juvenile will burst out, ready to continue the cycle.
Attack Animal: They seem to be this, lacking apparent sapience but possessing a vicious instinct.
Zombie Apocalypse: They will very likely cause one if not kept in check. This is exactly what happens during the Site Recon mission – Chryssalids overrun a small fishing village, killing every inhabitant and turning them into zombies (and, shortly thereafter, more Chryssalids).
The invaders' front-line combatants, they are equipped with heavy armor and armaments. If struck by a non-fatal blow, they are very likely to roar their defiance at the firer, possibly intimidating them into submission. Their bloodlust and ferocity has not dimmed their tactical acumen, making them even deadlier foes. Probably related to the Floaters.
Early Bird Boss: The missions from the Slingshot DLC pit you against Mutons with full-sized Plasma Rifles rather than the Light variant, usually well before you'd expect to have the technology needed to have a good chance against them.
Giant Mook: According to the autopsy information, they weigh around 275 kilograms, almost all of it muscle and bone. Their bulky armor makes them look even larger.
Neural Implanting: All they need to know about tactics and their equipment is written into their brains, to compensate for their lack of intelligence.
Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Muton a reaction shot should the target move.
Powered Armor: Theirs not only provides protection but also auto-reloads their weapons.
Primal Chest-Pound/Mighty Roar/Screaming Warrior: If they get hurt they might use a special Intimidate ability that could cause your soldiers to panic. This is represented as them using their free hand to pound their chest and roar in defiance.
Super Toughness: They have substantial durability for an organic, which is why they make ideal front-line troops.
These hovering weapons platforms provide heavy fire support for the invaders and are capable of shrugging off all but the heaviest attacks. Seemingly unarmed at first glance, they can rapidly transform to bring their many weapons to bear on an unfortunate target.
Kung-Fu Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire. Also has the "Hardened" passive ability when in disc form, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
Lightning Bruiser: Cyberdiscs are heavily armed, fairly durable and can fly very fast in their disc form.
Transforming Mecha: They can transform between a nigh-invulnerable but unarmed disc form and a vulnerable but heavily-armed floating insect-bot form. If they take a hit while in attack form, they instantly flip back to disc form.
Small hovering drones, these accompany and provide support to the invaders' mechanical assets. Though their primary function is to repair, they also bear small energy weapons for self-defense and a self-destruct system to prevent capture.
Hack Your Enemy: Drones can be hacked with the Arc Thrower once the "Drone Capture" Foundry Project is completed.
Kung-Fu Proof Mook: Immune to Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire, since it's a robot. It's also immune to Stunning until the "Drone Hacking" Foundry Project is completed. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
Mook Medic: Their primary purpose is to fix up the bigger machine they're accompanying.
Shoot the Medic First: Unless you want them to patch up the Cyberdisc or Sectopod they usually accompany, you'd better shoot them first.
Suicide Attack: Can self-destruct, causing 3 damage to everything around it.
The very first alien encountered by XCOM during "Operation: Devil's Moon", these creatures appear to possess a terrifying capability of telepathically controlling human minds, as demonstrated near the end of the aforementioned operation. They can be found directing the invasion from outposts and UFOs, as well as operating the systems of the latter.
Combat Medic: Their Greater Mind Merge ability allows them to heal other Sectoids by a single point.
Degraded Boss: Sort of. The first one you encounter is set up like a boss fight and you encounter increased amounts of them as regular enemies afterwards. However, they're just as strong as the first one.
Mind Rape: Mindfray, which always causes 5 damage, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
Psychic Link: They have a stronger version of their lesser brethren's Mind Merge ability, called Greater Mind Merge. However, it only works with regular Sectoids, which generally don't show up anymore once the Commanders do. In Enemy Within, it also works with Mechtoids, which are more likely to show up.
Sectoids placed in a devastating cybernetic battlesuit, their twin plasma cannons, heavy armor and excellent mobility make them an exceptionally deadly opponent. A side effect of the suit is that the pilot's telepathic abilities have been reduced, preventing them from establishing mental links with their brethren. The aliens have compensated for this by placing an amplifier which converts the incoming psionic energy into a psionic shield.
Even more ferocious and bloodthirsty than other Mutons, these hulking behemoths eschew the invaders' advanced plasma weapons in favor of pure brute strength, for devastating their enemies in melee. Their constant state of rage is such that any non-fatal blow will have them charge blindly at their enemy, allowing them to cover the distance quickly.
Leeroy Jenkins: Their ability to charge in the direction of anything that attacks them, while intimidating, makes them susceptible to Overwatch fire and the Assault's "Close Combat Specialist" skill.
Lightning Bruiser: Berserkers are tough, terrifying fighters and very fast for their girth.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When a Berserker manages to score a killing blow, the victim is gut-stabbed and then hammer-fisted into the ground as they double over, and then the alien continues to savagely beat them for a few more seconds.
Offhand Backhand: During Terror Missions, if a civilian is unlucky enough to be nearby it when a Berserker is first seen, the short video that plays when it comes into view involves the Berserker striding forward and offhandedly smashing the poor civilian's skull.
Primal Chest-Pound/Mighty Roar/Screaming Warrior: Like other mutons when struck by any damage they'll roar at the attacker while pounding their chest. Unlike other mutons they will always do so when hurt, and will even run closer to the assailant each time.
There Was a Door: One of the Berserker's abilities is being able to burst through walls to ambush your soldiers. Sometimes one will go out of its way to get behind a wall in preparation for this. What's worse is that it exposes your unit to fire from other sources.
Wolverine Claws: Downplayed, they have a set of blades affixed to the back of their hands which extends to just in front of their fist, like extra-nasty knuckle-dusters.
The personal guards of the true leaders of the invasion, these veteran Mutons bear even heavier weapons and armor than their regular counterparts, as well as increased intelligence. Occasionally deployed independently of their masters, their mastery of combat and advanced equipment makes them extremely dangerous opponents.
Bling of War: Muton Elite armour is much more colourful than other aliens'.
The Brute/Dumb Muscle: Like other Mutons, though with even more emphasis on the "Muscle" than on the "Dumb".
Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Muton Elite a reaction shot should the target move.
Praetorian Guard: The Ethereals' personal bodyguards. There's always at least one or two of them accompanying an Ethereal in the field.
Primal Chest-Pound/Mighty Roar/Screaming Warrior: If they get hurt they might use a special Intimidate ability that could cause your soldiers to panic. This is represented as them using their free hand to pound their chest and roar in defiance.
Throw Down the Bomblet: They can throw Alien Grenades. They also have the "Bombard" ability, letting them toss grenades much further.
Massive war machines designed to utterly crush any opposition, these are the heaviest ground asset available to the invaders. Capable of withstanding incredible amounts of punishment, they also bear a deadly array of weapons to annihilate any who would oppose them.
Boss in Mook Clothing/Damage-Sponge Boss: Sectopods were always tough bastards, but this goes to ludicrous degrees in Enemy Within, with a trait that reduces all incoming damage by 50%, effectively doubling their health to 60, while their main counter HEAT Ammo is simultaneously nerfed.
Heavily-armed with rapid-fire weapons, high explosives, and able to tank a tremendous amount of damage before going down? Yeah, it's pretty much the alien answer to your own Titan-armored, plasma-toting Heavies.
In Enemy Within, it's more akin to high-level MEC Troopers.
Kung-Fu Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire. Also has the "Hardened" passive ability, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
Macross Missile Massacre: One of the Sectopod's offensive options is raining down a storm of grenades. The good thing is that it takes a turn to prime and a turn to fire, with the camera indicating where it is aiming, giving you time to relocate.
Made of Iron: Literally and figuratively. Sectopods have 30 HP, the highest amongst the aliens (beating out even the Uber Ethereal). Taken Up to Eleven in Enemy Within, where they gain a trait that reduces all incoming damage by 50%.
Mighty Glacier: They can dish out a lot of damage and take a lot in return, though they're not particularly fast. Enemy Within makes them even more durable with the "Reinforced Armor" passive ability, which halves all damage received.
Wave Motion Gun: A massive chest-mounted cannon they can fire twice in one turn if they don't move and will let them enter Overwatch for free. In the original game, the damn thing also dealt splash damage, which was thankfully nerfed in Enemy Within.
The true masterminds behind the invasion, these mysterious beings represent the pinnacle of psionic power amongst the invaders, compensating for the physical frailty resulting from centuries of existence. Their power is such that it is little wonder that the other aliens have submitted to their rule. They command from the safety of their specialized UFOs.
Action Bomb: When killed by anything other than a MEC Trooper's "Kinetic Strike", they explode into a psionic flare.
Attack Reflector: Ethereals are able to reflect shots from firearms back to soldiers.
Beat Them at Their Own Game: Mind-controlling an Ethereal is very difficult, even for a maxed-out Volunteer—but also incredibly satisfying. You even get an achievement for this.
Not So Stoic: When interrogation starts, the Ethereal first looks at the machines passively, but as soon as they're active it hunches over in pain and tries to deflect them psychically before the doors close. Almost makes you feel sorry for it...almost.
Psychic Powers: They can use the huge, lingering "Rift" area attack and have a unique "Psi Lance" attack, which does extra damage if an opponent fails a Will check.
Attack Reflector: They have a chance of reflecting both regular attacks and Suppression attempts. The former will always deal 2 damage, regardless of what attack was reflected, while the latter doesn't do any damage at all.
Life Drain: "Psi Drain", which drains up to 5 Health from their allies. This can kill the drained ally.
Psychic Powers: The same powers as a regular Ethereal, including the "Rift" and "Psi Lance" attacks.
Attack Reflector: Has a chance of reflecting both regular attacks and Suppression attempts. The former will always deal 2 damage, regardless of what attack was reflected, while the latter doesn't do any damage at all.
Life Drain: "Psi Drain", which drains up to 5 Health from his allies. This can kill the drained ally.
Debuting in Enemy Within, EXALT is a human paramilitary faction of alien sympathizers. They believe in the aliens' plan to "uplift" humanity and see XCOM as an obstacle to both humanity's ascension and their own plans of global domination via alien technology after the invasion is over.If not dealt with, EXALT cells can quickly spread across the council nations, inciting Panic even in countries with satellite coverage. They also hinder XCOM's operations by stealing funds and setting back progress on active research projects. The player may counter their spreading influence by periodically initiating global intel scans to detect cells, and launching covert operations to break said cells.
Ancient Conspiracy: After raiding and burning their headquarters to the ground, some of the Vendor Trash that you seize includes collections of historical artifacts that dates back centuries, suggesting that the organization is much, much more ancient then it might first appear. The "eye" in their official logo is a hi-tech Eye of Providence, the symbol most closely associated with conspiracy theories surrounding The Illuminati.
Badass in a Nice Suit: EXALT troopers wear business casual, often consisting of vests, trousers, and long-sleeve button-up shirts, though their Elites feature armor over their civilian clothes.
Better to Die than Be Killed: Members of EXALT cannot be captured for interrogation like most aliens can, instead committing suicide with a syringe. Word of God states that "they will not allow themselves to be taken alive", implying a far worse fate if EXALT gets its hands on an AWOL agent. Averted with the first EXALT operative you encounter in the first mission of Operation Progeny, who must be escorted to safety like other Council mission VIPs. He appeared to be badly injured and deprived of his syringe.
Bio-Augmentation: Their operatives have some enhancements, making them more durable than regular humans even without body armor. The Elite variants also possess gene-mods, some of which go beyond Dr. Vahlen's ethical limits.
Cool Guns: All of their weapons are sleek, black metal, German-style weapons, with their assault rifles most notably being a dead ringer for H&K G36s. Their laser weapons have effectively the same housing as their ballistic weapons, but with additional attachments and glowing red lines.
Cyanide Pill: Syringe, actually, but fulfills the same purpose.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: They recognize that facing XCOM head-on would be suicide, so they instead work to hinder the war effort through covert, behind the scenes actions. Indeed, half the challenge with EXALT is finding them, and they will quickly evacuate their cells once discovered unless dealt with immediately.
Diabolical Mastermind: Their leader appears to have flown the coop by the time XCOM comes knocking. A villainous throne, a giant holographic globe... all he's missing is a Persian cat.
Elite Mook: They start using Elite versions of their operatives later on in the game, which have been genetically modified and equipped with laser weapons and body armor.
Evil Counterpart: EXALT operatives use classes, equipment and abilities similar or even identical to that of XCOM soldiers. Their HQ even has a red-tinted counterpart of the Geoscape hologram, but in a fancy wood-lined office rather than XCOM's military base.
Evil Makes You Ugly: Elite EXALT operatives display deep wrinkles, sunken eyes and some even have greenish skin discolorations. Their regular operatives aren't in much better shape either.
The Illuminati: They're a secret society of paramilitary operatives working in the shadows and masquerading as ordinary citizens. Each one of them is fanatically loyal to the cause and won't stop at anything to take the aliens' gifts and Take Over the World. The organisation is also shown to be very old and very wealthy, their base having a lot of fancy decorations and priceless art. Their insignia even has the stereotypical Illuminati "eye"!
Lensman Arms Race: With XCOM. Both sides start out with ballistic weapons and the like, and reverse engineer alien technology independently of one another, up to the point where, later in the game, EXALT is also fielding laser weaponry and gene augmented operatives of their own. However, due to their unwillingness to face the aliens in combat directly (unless a prize as valuable as Annette is at stake), they never reverse-engineer plasma weaponry or powered armour, meaning that they are severely outclassed by XCOM later on.
Les Collaborateurs: They welcome the alien invasion and hope to help it succeed by undermining XCOM. They then hope to rule over whatever is left of humanity once the aliens have departed.
Malevolent Masked Men: Their face coverings and attire evoke the image of high-class gangsters, or perhaps yuppie pirates.
Mildly Military: EXALT operatives take to the field wearing dress shirts and ties rather than body armor. Justified as the members of EXALT are not trained soldiers, but rather weekend warriors. Word of God states that "they're not soldiers, you are fighting the believers themselves... These guys were sitting in their offices at the bank, at the PR agency, or whatever, and then the call comes ... and they stand up, go to the closet, push the button, put on the bandanas, and go."
Shadow Archetype: To XCOM. As stated above, both factions have similar tech trees and field similar units, however EXALT's plans for global domination through alien technology conflicts with XCOM's goal of saving humanity from the alien threat. In addition, EXALT has less ethical restrictions when it comes to genetic modification than XCOM.
Vendor Trash: EXALT's Cool Guns aren't a whole lot of use once you have a surplus of plasma-tier weapons, though they can be useful for intermediary outfitting of new soldiers if you don't have enough laser weapons to go around. The bonus loot you get from trashing their HQ is also essentially useless - you can either keep it, or sell it off for a quick few hundred.
Wicked Cultured: After raiding their headquarters, the Vendor Trash seized by your soldiers includes collections of priceless artwork that can be sold to collectors for more funding.
Western Terrorists: In fact, they fit the traditional visual design of Western European/American criminals and bank robbers: Business attire, bandanas to cover their faces, and sleek, ultra-modern German-style assault weapons.
Zerg Rush: EXALT troops who are after an objective will aggressively push toward it, going so far as to rush your positions, intentionally leaving some of their soldiers exposed, because they know they have an advantage in numbers and they are that fanatically devoted to their cause. This can backfire horribly for them if they decide to charge a MEC.
The basic EXALT infantryman, they rely on overwhelming their enemies with numbers, firepower and aggressive tactics. Equipped with assault rifles and grenades, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Rookie and Assault classes.
Master of None: Has no special abilities, aside from the unique "Adrenaline Rush" gene mod on the Elite versions.
Mook: They're the most numerous, but also the weakest of EXALT's units.
Turns Red: Their Elite versions have the "Adrenaline Rush" gene mod, which increases Aim and Critical Chance by 10% if they're injured.
These trained combat medics support other EXALT personnel with both healing and fire support. Packing assault rifles, smoke grenades and medikits, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Support class.
Combat Medic: They can put up a fight with their assault rifles, though not quite as well as other EXALT units. They do have the "Covering Fire" passive ability, which, if they're on Overwatch, lets them shoot first at an enemy that's about to open fire.
Healing Factor: Their Elite versions regenerate 1 HP every turn thanks to their unique "Regen Pheromones" gene mod, as do nearby allies.
The Medic: Of course. Can heal other EXALT units for 4HP with EXALT's version of the Medikit. Can be used 3 times per mission, thanks to their "Field Medic" passive ability.
Smoke Out: Has the "Smoke Grenade" active ability, which generates a large smoke cloud that provides a Defense bonus to all units within the cloud. They can only use it once per missions. Elite versions have the "Smoke and Mirrors" passive ability, which increases the number of times they can use it per mission by 2.
Armed with LMGs and rocket launchers, they provide heavy fire support on EXALT operations. With their heavy firepower and increased durability, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Heavy class.
Made of Iron: Literally. The Elite variant has a unique gene mod, "Iron Skin", that reduces all incoming damage.
Mighty Glacier: They are the most durable EXALT unit, with high damage output on top of that.
More Dakka: Armed with a LMG, which puts out even more rounds when using "Suppression".
Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the EXALT Heavy a reaction shot should the target move.
These expert marksmen can pick off EXALT's enemies from a safe distance with their sniper rifles. Fragile but capable of dishing out a lot of hurt from a distance, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Sniper class.
Do Not Run with a Gun: Their "Snap Shot" passive ability means that they can move and shoot in the same turn, though they get a -10 Aim penalty if they do move.
Geo Effects: Their "Damn Good Ground" passive ability gives them an extra +10 Aim and Defense for being at a higher elevation level than their target. Their Elite versions also have the "Depth Perception" gene mod, which increases the elevation bonus by a further 5%.
Glass Cannon: Has the lowest health rating of all EXALT units, but deals a lot of damage.