Headscratchers / X-COM

Mission Recon

  • Why does your map start blank when entering a mission? Surely your landing craft doesn't fly blind, and surely it isn't that hard to get a map of the major cities in terror missions.
    • One of the more common theories is that the aliens use some kind of jamming equipment to screw up X-Com's sensors as they come in to prevent them from having a good view of the immediate area. And while obtaining a map of the city wouldn't be difficult, getting up-to-date information on exact terrain features would be difficult prior to the development of something like Google Maps.
    • The 2012 game won't have that excuse, what with predator drones. However, they all seem to either take place in remote areas, or at night, sometimes with smoke in the area. If only the Skyranger had some sort of drone launcher, or they could get local cops to relay intel via a chopper. But the latter would doubtless have to go through about sixteen different agencies, and would be too slow to be useful.
    • It's likely a funding issue: Predator drones cost millions of dollars to purchase, field, and maintain (the cost of a single drone is roughly 4 million US dollars!). X-COM simply doesn't have much room to fool around with gadgets which perform jobs which could be done at a cheaper cost. For example; spend four to eight million on a recon vehicle or two which may just get shot down by the aliens potentially unfailing anti-air weapons, or spend a couple thousand in soldiers with some maps and a radio? In game I imagine the predator drones would translate to roughly 50 to 80 bucks; at least half as much as a brand new satellite in the 2012 remake.
      • The problem with this line of thought is the Tanks (from X-Com) and SHIVs (from XCOM). For the former, the purchase price (in the ballpark of a few hundred of thousands) for a tank seems to indicate a certain level of progress in human remote technology by the time the aliens arrived, while in the latter not only does XCOM show a willingness to use unmanned drones, they even made a few of their own design. Clearly XCOM could have purchased a bundle of Predator drones if they could.


Okay, there is clearly an alien invasion going on. Aliens are clearly not friendly. Why the hell does X-Com need to GET FUNDING, instead, I don't know, GETTING SUPPORT? I mean, how hard is it to relay alien sighting to X-Com instead of X-Com building their own systems every continent? This is especially troublesome in early game. You star with one base. Basically, your first task is to decide who gets protection and who doesn't, since you have money only for one base. Now half of the world dares to bitch you because you can't protect them. Imagine if US army would need to get its funding from each state separately...
  • No, your first task is to develop laser cannons as fast as possible, then build a dedicated fab facility to churn them out in trainload lots and sell them. In short order, you'll have more money than you can possibly spend—literally.
    • And who, exactly, is buying all the captured weapons and equipment and alien corpses you collect on your missions? I always figured it was Disney Corp.
      • I imagine the mob and several governments would be interested in the Psi equipment.
  • Because the aliens are infiltrating the governments of the world. If X-COM starts relying on the nations of the world to give them information, and that information gets compromised by alien infiltrators, it can do a lot of damage. Part of the reason X-COM is a virtually separate entity that operates on its own is to insulate it from alien infiltration. And the alien sightings are getting regularly relayed to X-COM (see the whole UFO activity chart) its just that X-COM is the only one actively looking for the aliens, while the rest of the globe is dealing with, well, other humans.
    • Many parts of the world don't have the kind of advanced, widely distributed defense systems that would make them effective at tracking the aliens. If the world's best radar systems can barely detect alien craft... well, how many countries are there that simply don't have radar of that quality, and thus can't relay sighting information to you in a timely fashion?
  • Furthermore, one could assume that some governments outright resent the fact that their safety is in the hands of a body outside their control and are using their funds to try to run their own anti-UFO campaigns using their own armed forces. In brief, it's politics, and politicians don't like relying on things they can't control that well. See also "X-Com was a token effort..." on the WMG page.
    • It's not just that. Imagine if tomorrow a bunch of governments got together and announced to the rest of the world's governments that there was an alien menace and how about setting up this international body with basing rights everywhere and above top secret classification. Nobody has shot down a UFO yet, so whatever evidence exists has to be either easily fabricated (Pictures) or highly open to interpretation (weird radar signatures; damage from alien attacks). If the people proposing this didn't just get laughed out of the room, would countries like China or Iran really accede to what amounts to a major foreign presence on their soil? Or any country at all, for that matter, except for the bases of proven, long-term, reliable allies? The fact that X-Com gets founded at all is miraculous. Of course, once the evidence starts piling up and you can show other governments alien corpses with alien technology, the complaint becomes completely valid.
    • With regards to the last point, it could be that the world's governments are hedging their bets until a clear victor emerges. If X-COM loses the war, the politicians will scramble over each other to be the first to negotiate with the aliens, arguing that they didn't support X-COM, they wanted the aliens to win all along. If X-COM wins, the same politicians will announce that they have always been on X-COM's side. Politicians are like that. They sense the wind. "Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia."


  • Ok, you arm crafts with weapons to take off and shoot down UFO. Why the hell does laser weaponry have the second worst range of all (21 km), barely more than double the canon range (10 km)? And is less accurate than plasma? I mean, we are talking about projectiles traveling at 299 792 458 m/s. I can understand why missiles are more accurate (they lock on the UFO and track it, while laser must hit directly and the UFO must be attempting to dodge attacks, and it is hard to hit a moving target), but plasma?
    • Whilst accuracy is another matter, one of the possible reasons for range is beam coherency. A laser beam that isn't perfectly coherent may very quickly become little more than a glorified headlight. Since this is for the purposes of penetrating hulls, most of which are made of alien alloys, even dropping a little bit below minimum levels could render the weapon ineffective.
      • Atmosphere plays havoc with light beams - even a laser: its full of dust and water droplets, which block refract reflect and otherwise play havoc with the photons.
      • At high energy densities, the atmosphere close to the laser turns into plasma through an effect called blooming. Perhaps the weapon needs many weaker lasers focused at the right point to get around that while still doing some damage, and the focus optics aren't accurate enough at long distances.

X-Com's Recruitment Policy

  • I understand it's for gameplay purposes, but in-Universe, why are X-Com's recruits all hired as "Rookies"? If you're the first and last line of defence against planetary extinction, wouldn't you try to maybe pick soldiers of a higher calibre?
    • I assume it means in relation to X-Com. They probably were recruited from the best armed forces in the world and held very high ranks there, but in terms of X-Com's internal ranks they're Rookies.
    • Also, how likely is it that any of them have killed an alien before? Fighting a non-human enemy is likely something that takes some adjustment and retraining.
    • Another possibility is that these "Rookies" are fresh out of the regular boot camp of their home nations military. Why would the funding nations risk some of their very expensive "elite" troops on a project which is probably going to be a failure and huge waste of human life? They're possibly just throwing the worst troops they have to offer into the X-COM project and using them as test subjects so that their better forces will know what works well and what doesn't.
      • Would be the first time the background countries showed some smartness...they know that only losing five Rookies on an op is regarded as a success, so they aren't gonna send their best troops. Shit, guys, they're on to us!
    • I think that the various countries participating in the X-COM project send them their skilled but troublesome soldiers. Think Dirty Dozen. Imagine you are the military commanders of a country tasked with vetting soldiers for possible X-COM recruitment. Do you send them your best or do you send them the best of the troops you don't want?
    • This troper always thought that you were given criminals sort of like in the Last Chancers so you could grind your men through and eventually emerge as elite troopers, and it explains the occasional good recruits while the rest are so horrible.
      • So, basically, X-COM is Earth's very own Night Watch?

Aliens efforts

  • In some of the It's a Wonderful Failure sequences if your funding is cut, we have text indicating the aliens employ Weapons Of Mass Destruction that wipe out most of humanity. Why would they wait until X-COM's funding is cut? I get the idea of want X-COM out of the way, but at the start it's never much a threat and dialogue in those sequences indicates that individual countries trying to fight the aliens, if they get the chance to, are slaughtered. If the aliens don't seem to need humans to alive in their conquest plans, why even let us live long enough to have a fighting chance?
    • It's heavily implied (and outright stated in the remake) that the aliens aren't here to wipe out humanity outright, but they need them for some purpose, be it experimentation or outright assimilation into whatever weird alien empire they are. As such, it's safe to assume that the sequences of the aliens using WMD's could take place some time after X-COM gets defunded.
    • Also, the aliens using Weapons Of Mass Destruction in UFO Defense was a narration included in the console ports of the game. The original version just depicts the aliens killing the humans that sign their surrender terms, and doesn't say what they do afterwords.