When "Not Enough Time Units!" comes at the worst possible moment... There's a page for the 2012 reboot as well.
- Chryssalids are super-fast, heavily armoured aliens (looking very much like a Xenomorph) who sprint across the battlefield at an impossible rate, and in the earlier parts of the game can take the concentrated firepower of an eight-strong squad to bring down (sometimes even that barely hurts them). If they attack one of your team, they will kill them. Then the fun starts. Anyone "killed" by a Chryssalid becomes a CPU-controlled zombie enemy. They hit hard, but they're slow, and easy to kill. Except... when you kill them, a brand-new, fully-grown Chryssalid bursts out of the corpse. If you're still using the starting weaponry, you might not have even killed the first one when it happens. Some players will go as far as have their troops carry primed grenades in their off-hands when going into a terror site with Chryssalids — if they get zombified, they'll drop the grenade and kill themselves, and maybe soften up the Chryssalid. And if you're playing at Superhuman, you know that anyone below Captain runs with a zero-primed high-explosive. If you're doing alien base missions, then you have it doubled, or an alien grenade or two.
- The Tentaculats. For one, you only encounter them at Alien Colonies, Artefact Sites and large Submarines. There's a good chance you'll be fighting them in the dark, which adds to the creepy atmosphere all to well. Second, they look like giant tentacled brains with huge octopus-like beaks. They do the same thing as Chryssalids, except they can float.
- In between turns, you can hear the pitter-patter and slithering of aliens walking around, the occasional weapon blasts, the screams of dying civilians, the opening and closing of doors, the fear that if the game switches to the main view then you will watch a Chryssalid or other enemy suddenly jump out and kill your troopers, the creepy music, and sometimes, total silence. And it doesn't help that the "Alien Turn" image is of a wounded soldier in a picture that is mostly black-and-white except for the red of his blood. Right behind him is what looks like a Muton about to tear him apart with his bare hands.
- Discovering the effectiveness of alien grenades and blaster bombs. The hard way. And then trying to organize some kind of retreat with at least half of your whole squad dead in one turn.
- Aliens with psionic control, with a squad of troops who have low psi-strength.
- Night missions, before you figure out effective night fighting tactics. Your troops get sniped from dark corners, and when you have your troops approach them, they just get cut down by reaction fire.
- Terror From the Deep didn't get its name for nothing. Essentially, it's UFO Defense mixed with H.P. Lovecraft. The aliens you fight are the stuff of nightmares, especially the Tentaculats and Lobstermen. To clarify on the latter, the Lobstermen are giant crustaceans that can shrug off any attack that isn't a melee weapon, while tearing your own troops to pieces if you are not prepared.
- Many of the aliens in this game indulge in Body Horror. The Deep Ones are humans that were grafted with Aquatoid DNA in the most gruesome way. Bio-Drones are piloted by brains that were butchered into submission, and use a sonic beam based on their original vocal cords to scream their enemies to death.
- Chamber of Ultimate Alien is surprisingly creepy. Alien itself resembles huge aquatoid with Cthulhu tentacle face and its in coffin shaped "bath". However, creepies part is that its reanimating process is powered by 8 alien fetuses/babies in glass jar. Which then wriggle in pain while getting electrified after you shoot the glass, which you need to do to kill the Alien.
- To make matters worse, in the original game all of the above takes place to the pulsing, unsettling Battlescape theme; the DOS version of the track makes every mission a nightmare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i72Q1jXnhOQ
- If you lose the game, the monthly report will instead say that the funding nations will try to cooperate with the aliens and come to terms. However, it then says the aliens appear to have other plans... and they don't leave it there. The slides will detail how Earth was crushed and made part of an alien empire while survivors, mutated horribly, evade prison camps. The next slide shows said mutations with the text "The knowledge gained through the X-COM Project has been lost forever. You have failed to save the Earth."
- One early, but mercifully Dummied Out feature was to sic a Titan on you if you hung around an investigation scene too long. Considering its firepower (a massive beam able to obliterate cover), it could make everyone haul ass at lightspeed.
- In the first trailer, one of the slithering black blobs killed an XCOM agent by forcing itself down the agent's throat. Luckily, in the game they're relegated to the role of Goddamned Bats.
- The Sleepwalker Virus. It makes people repeat the same short moment from just before the infection, and even the most strong-willed ones can resist it only for a limited time. And I Must Scream.