XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the original X-COM game, developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, with the iOS version coming out sometime in the near future.In the year 2015, Earth comes under attack by alien forces. In response, the Council of Nations activates the XCOM project, a Multinational Team tasked with fighting the alien invaders and researching their technology to protect humanity. The player takes the role of the Commander of XCOM, and with the help of various NPC advisers, guides XCOM to victory (or defeat) by managing the whole organization, including base building, research, manufacturing and sending fighters to intercept UFOs. The main focus of the game, however, is on the ground combat, where the player takes control of a small squad of soldiers and fights turn-based battles against the aliens.Several changes have been made to the original gameplay. A lot of aspects were simplified. Gone are Time Units; now each unit gets two actions (though using an action other than 'move' normally ends that unit's turn). Players only have one base rather than having multiple. There's no more Inventory Management Puzzle - every soldier gets one primary weapon, one pistol and one special piece of equipment (high-level Supports get two). Spare magazines aren't counted anymore. Terrestrial weapons don't need to be bought anymore - they are available in unlimited quantities.But other aspects received additional complexity. Research and Engineering production expend a variety of salvaged materials, you need to play a delicate balancing act with managing world terror levels, and most of all, soldiers now gain a class with their first promotion, which allows them to specialize in a specific role. Each promotion level of each class has different abilities to choose from, which give passive bonuses or active abilities in combat. The aliens have similarly been expanded, with whole new types of aliens and most of the returning ones gaining new abilities.The first DLC for the game, entitled Slingshot, was released on the 4th of December 2012. It adds additional soldier customization options, a series of inter-connected Council missions centered on China and the Triad(s) with (among other things) a unique Hero unit as a reward, and the chance to get the Blaster Launcher and Fusion Lance technologies without having to resort to the relatively hard task of shooting down a Battleship.The second (and free) DLC for the game, entitled Second Wave, was released on the 8th of January 2013. It activates 16 Dummied Out difficulty modifiers. Four are available immediately, and the remainder unlock in groups of four when Normal, Classic, and Impossible difficulty games are completed. They include options that make the game more like the original X-COM and horrifying modifiers originally considered too cruel to include by the developers.The Mac OS X release is called the Elite Edition and includes both of the above DLC, as well as the Elite Soldier PackDLC. It was developed and published by Feral Interactive, and was released on April 25, 2013.A character page is under construction here.
Floaters. They had absolutely horrible AI combined with the worst marksmanship of the aliens in the original game, as bad as some of your rookie troopers. Now, they can drop out from the sky right behind your squad's flank from almost anywhere on the map, use their unlimited flight time to their advantage to pin down your soldiers and lastly, have a significant facelift so they look like fearsome aliens with jetpacks and not a weird guy trying to look like Superman.
Mutons are still green and purple, but they don't look like humans in muscle suits anymore.
Chrysalids will still ruin your entire day, just like in the original, but they're horrible blade-legged quadrupeds instead of people in lobster suits.
Alien Abduction: The invaders will abduct civilians from countries not under satellite surveillance, often striking multiple cities at the same time. Successfully stopping them will gain XCOM additional support from the country they save, but panic will rise in the countries they couldn't respond to.
Alien Autopsy: An important part of figuring out each alien type's capabilities, as well as unlocking new Foundry projects and items for Engineering to manufacture.
When Dr. Vahlen autopsies the Cyberdisk, she notes that while it appears to be a machine, its internals are arranged in a manner similar to organs in a living creature and it possesses what amounts to a circulatory system with plasma instead of blood. She states in her notes that she is unsure if it is a robot or a silicon-based cybernetic life form.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: The Elite Soldier Pack DLC. Initially a pre-order bonus, it's mostly just cosmetic customization options for XCOM's soldiers, including cosmetic armor sets and the haircut all soldiers sported in the original X-COM.
Apocalypse How: The Temple Ship's self destruct would cause a Planetary/Physical Annihilation level event. However the Volunteer pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to get it away from Earth in time.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Your squad is limited to 4 members, which can be expanded to 6 with some upgrades. You can also have only one squad answering alerts at once, even if you have enough soldiers to field additional squads. It seems XCOM can't afford a second Skyranger.
Arm Pistol: Plasma Pistols as used by the Sectoids. They get converted to a more conventional layout if you manage to capture one intact.
Artificial Stupidity: The pathfinding AI can be odd at times. Sometimes your troops will go up a level and then drop down to get to a piece of cover that they could have just walked straight to.note This was the result of not assigning any extra move penalties for changes in height. If the shortest distance between a soldier and his destination involves climbing a mountain, he'll take it because the system considers all terrain as "flat and one level" for movement purposes Blithely running directly through clouds of poison rather than going around them is also common.
Sectopods sometimes attempt Rocket Barrages while indoors, which ends exactly how you'd think firing rockets with an obvious obstruction in the way would.
The invaders' tactical sense is remarkably complex. They'll also throw grenades when they can't get a decent shot, will use Overwatch themselves if they know you're there, attempt tactical retreats, and most funny of all, accidentally use up their movement turns blundering into the middle of your units leaving them without cover and ripe for the slaughter. Basically they act like Genre Savvy players, occasional missteps and all, which is why you have to be Dangerously Genre Savvy. note For example, be wary of attempting to suppress an alien when its allies are about. On higher difficulties, the suppressed unit's allies will attempt to counter-suppress you if they lack a clear shot, freeing the suppressed unit back up to take unfettered action. Alternatively, if they have a clear shot, they will simply just blast the suppressor in the face.
Thin Men in particular are very intelligent, and will actively seek rooftops and proper sniping positions from which to support other aliens, particularly when supporting other "heavy" troops like Mutons.
The invaders will also "panic" (not the in-game debuff kind) if you trounce a squad with overwhelming force. Removing all but one of the invader units in the same turn that you discover them frequently sends the survivor fleeing from your soldiers for their lives. Of course, this becomes less likely as the strength of the invader unit goes up, or if they lack the intelligence to do so (Berserkers and Chyrssalids).
The civilians in Terror missions are miles better then the ones in the old games. They will run away from the aliens, up to and including diving through windows and shimmying up drainpipes to get away, at least once their fleeing script is triggered. Up until then, though, they'll stand stock-still in the open.
A Taste of Power: Used in the demo, where in the second mission, your squad members all have a couple of promotions each and several pieces of nonstandard equipment. They face Floaters and Thin Men during the mission.
The aliens' Drones are multipurpose flyers that can repair mechanical units or fire a relatively weak energy pulse, and can also self-destruct. The Cyberdiscs, are apparently half-mechanical, half-organic combat units. The Sectopod is a huge mechanized weapons platform, packing mortars and beam weapons galore. The latter two fit the trope like a glove.
The Drones can also be captured (after relevant research) and used to repair yourAttack Drones. This is only for the duration of the mission, though.
You get your own in the form of the SHIV (Super Heavy Infantry Vehicle), 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).
Badass Boast: Assaults using the 'Run & Gun' ability will sometimes quip the following line:
"Moving at the speed of death."
Barrier-Busting Blow: Berzerkers are fond of pulling this. If there is a full-sized wall between them and an XCOM soldier, they will charge through the wall and deal an insane amount of damage. Unless if the soldier is wearing endgame armor, you'd better make a spot on the Memorial Wall.
Bald of Awesome/Bald Woman: An option for your soldiers, male and female. Also, due to helmets and hats counting as hair styles, they're removed when off-duty, so you'll see a large number of shaved-head soldiers in the barracks if you like using them.
Battleship Raid: Naturally, whenever you attack a downed Battleship-class UFO. They're so large that there is nothing else on the Battlescape; the Skyranger lands on the Battleship itself.
The SlingshotDLC adds a raid on a Battleship still in flight.
Beef Gate: The game throws several of these at you to ensure you're not resting on your Research laurels. You should have lasers by the first Terror Mission so you can reliably two-shot Chryssalids, Carapace by the Mutons to resist their firepower...
The Berserker, an extremely durable breed of Muton that has the ability to charge through the environment to get to your soldiers. They also get a free (short) move towards one of your soldiers after any attack hits it. Fortunately, they charge blindly rather than stick to cover. A clever commander can exploit this and cause him to run around the map while slowly dying.
Big Bad: In contrast to the original game, where the aliens were led by an "Alien Brain", the Ethereals, led by the Uber-Ethereal, are very much the bad guys here. They're the guiding intelligence behind the invasion and the various alien species are the other species that they conquered first, in an attempt to find/create a species that is both physically strong and psionically gifted. It's never made clear what what they need this for, but they do mention that it's in preparation for "what lies ahead".
Uber-Ethereal: Behold the greatest Failure... of the Ethereal ones. We who failed to ascend as they thought we would. We who were cast out. We who were doomed to feed on the Gift of lesser beings... as we sought to uplift them... to prepare them... for what lies ahead.
Black Box: Most of the technology that the Science and Engineering departments come up with is this. They have no idea how exactly it all works*
Mostly because understanding the specifics isn't particularly necessary in the middle of the war; presumably, Vahlen plans to do more in-depth studies if XCOM wins the war
Blasting It Out Of Their Hands: Higher level Snipers can do this if Disabling Shot is chosen, forcing the target to waste a turn on unjamming the weapon.
Body Armor as Hit Points: The primary benefit of armor, though some models also reduce the enemy's chance to hit. Certain special items like Nanofiber Vests or Chryssalid Chitin also boost health. Additionally, a soldier who receives less damage than the health bonus given by their armor won't need a stay in the infirmary after the mission.
There is also a hilarious variant if the stun attempt goes wrong and the alien is still standing afterwards:
"Permission to use a REAL weapon, sir!"
Bonus Dungeon: Taking down and salvaging a Fusion Core from a Battleship-class UFO isn't necessary to complete the game, but you do get some sweet technology for doing so, including the Blaster Launcher.
Bragging Rights Reward: That said, by the time you can successfully down and clear a Battleship-class UFO, you don't need a Blaster Launcher or a Fusion Lance.
Book Ends: The game's opening begins with civilians watching as alien-built abduction devices fall to Earth as meteors. The game's final cutscene depicts the blasted remains of the destroyed Temple Ship falling to Earth as shooting stars while Earth's citizens look up in wonder.
The first ability Snipers earn, which increases the chance of a critical hit and increases the critical damage dealt based on the tech level of the rifle used.
Shots that hit their target in general seem to be aimed towards the target's head. This is no guarantee that the shot will kill the target, however.
Boring, but Practical: Telekinetic Field. You have to forgo the more interesting Mind Control ability to get it, but it increases the survivability of all soldiers within its wide area of effect.
Bottomless Magazines: Downplayed. Your squad members have infinite ammo supplies, but they have to regularly reload their primary weapons. Ammo is not tracked 'per shot', but in chunks - and certain abilities (such as Suppression) use up more ammo than a normal attack. Played straight with pistols though, they never need to be reloaded at all.
One of the Foundry upgrades, unlocked by performing a Muton autopsy, increases the number of shots between reloads. It works by having the troopers' armor perform mini-reloads after every shot.
Bullet Time: Slo-mo effects occur when a reaction shot is triggered.
But Thou Must: The tutorial mission helps you familiarize yourself with most of the mechanics of the game by taking your hand and telling you exactly what to do, guiding you to have all but one of your squad horrifically murdered. If you should play the tutorial again, there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent this course of events, and the best you can do is skip the tutorial altogether.
Character Customization: You can customize◊ the visual appearance and names of the soldiers. Every soldier. All of them. The Elite Soldier Pack also allows you to customize the colors of their armor and includes alternate looks for standard XCOM body armor and Carapace Armor. Slingshot adds various types of headgear, as well as alternate looks for the other available armors.
It might have been even more involved at some point in development too, possibly having rookie soldiers with shiny untainted armor that would be altered as they rose through the ranks, adding some wear and tear and personal designs,◊ much like actual soldiers.
Enemy units get a free move to find cover when they are first spotted by one of your soldiers, making it impossible to get the jump on them. This makes some sense, since they usually start out in the open where they would be completely vulnerable, but they still get the free move even when it's already their turn. Needless to say, your soldiers don't get the same luxury. Of course, since they get to move, the aliens still trigger Overwatch.
Technically, they get their free move when they spot you. All units have the same sight range normally, but from an elevated position or using the Ghost Armor's cloaking ability or the Sniper's Battle Scanner, you can set up a situation where you can see them but they can't see you.
On the other hand, if they spot you in their turn, they don't get the opportunity to shoot at you, since they must use their full turn on the "getting into cover" maneuver.
Even worse, certain alien types like Berserkers and Chryssalids (usually) won't use their free move to get to cover. On their turn, they could run out with their first move, spot you, and then run again right next to your units, crossing half the map in one turn. An alternative is to spot a Berserker right at the end of your turn, and enjoy the short cutscene of him 'Taking Cover' right next to your pointman. Cue 'Alien Activity'....
An unfortunate bug can cause aliens to spawn right within your group entirely without reason or warning. This is due to the fact that enemy 'patrols' in the fog of war are nothing more than the groups of aliens sitting in a small group, waiting several turns, and then instantly teleporting to a different location on the map instead of actually moving around like they should.
In general, alien units follow the same rules you do: they can move twice, move once and shoot, shoot to end their turn, or move and set up Overwatch. Sectopods, being giant, massively armed war machines, can shoot twice and still catch your soldiers with reaction fire (but only if they take the time to set up) in a single turn. Combined with their massive HP totals (more than any other unit in the game) and extremely high defense (-30% to be hit), they're incredible devastating when you encounter them, breaking the rules you've been following for the whole game. And the final mission throws TWO of them at you at once! Fortunately this is why the Volunteer was given The Rift.
Concealment Equals Cover: Zig Zagged. Seemingly played straight, as all forms of cover only provide a Defense bonus (which reduces the chance of being hit) rather than reducing or stopping damage entirely, and can be shot through by any kind of weapon when the target using it is hit, essentially meaning all cover in the game is really being valued by their ability to provide concealment against shots. This means large garbage cans provide better cover than a low stone wall. Averted by how nearly all cover can be destroyed by explosives or taking a direct hit by laser/plasma weapons, which makes it very clear the only purpose of the cover in the game is to provide concealment against enemy shooters. Inverted for conventional bullet weapons when they shoot and don't hit their targets as the shots go into cover like the aforementioned large garbage cans, as bullets would logically tear through such materials.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: A pair of mutually exclusive Assault class abilities have higher benefits for having multiple enemies in sight. Tactical Sense increases the Assault's Defense, while Aggression increases their critical hit chance instead.
Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: If you're planning to unlock everything, you'd better be prepared for the Council to occasionally tell you to get the lead out on those story missions.
The Firestorm. Dr. Shen, even with all the other cool gear he's built, says the Firestorms make him the most proud. Your Number Two also comments that humans have just leveled the playing field when he first sees it.
There's also the trusty Skyranger, which can bring your squad anywhere on the planet and back in a few hours at most.
The regular Interceptors are pretty cool too. They can take on highly-advanced UFOs without any reverse-engineered alien tech on them and win.
Cool Shades: With the DLC packs, soldiers get an option to wear these into battle. The added beret just enhances the coolness.
Mission ratings. While it's nice seeing Excellent across the board, the ratings themselves don't actually mean anything in-game, aside from the logical extensions of what losing troops (self-explanatory) or not killing all of the aliens (mission not completed and causes panic) hurting your ratings in their categories means.
Averted in Terror missions, though, since the Civilians Saved rating affects how much panic is reduced afterwards.
One of the structures you can build is named after X-COM's original creators, the Gollop brothers (Julian and Nick). It is also mentioned that said structure was designed by a "pair of brilliant young brothers".
The Thin Men's facial features are based on Sid Meier himself.
Some of the Hero Units are based on Firaxis or 2K staff.
Both XCOM soldiers and the aliens will continue fighting at full strength even if they're down to one hit point, though the former does take some temporary Will penalties. Can be averted for the former if the "Red Fog" Second Wave option is enabled.
The XCOM project itself, if more than eight nations withdraw. You could be winning battles left and right with the best technology available, but skimp on the satellite coverage and you'll receive a message from the Council spokesman, not so subtly being manipulated by the aliens, that the entire project was a mistake and will be shut down.
Crutch Character: The SHIVs are faster, tougher, better-armed and more accurate than Rookies, with mind control immunity and a variety of additional benefits to boot, but are outmatched by high-ranking meatbags and can't rescue civilians during Terror missions. Nevertheless, their usefulness is such that many strategies for Classic and Impossible difficulties involve rushing to get them out the door ASAP. They're also extremely useful for the final mission, as they can cheerfully laugh off everything the Ethereals throw at them. They can't take a hit from the Uber Ethereal's Rift attack, though.
Cyborg: Floaters are more machine than flesh, especially the Heavy variant. Most of the aliens are also this, though not to quite the same degree.
Damage-Increasing Debuff: The Shredder Rocket ability available for Heavies. It causes enemies in the blast area to take 33% more damage from all sources for four turns, at the cost of doing less damage compared to a normal Rocket (though it still destroys cover). The debuff is not very useful early on, but potentially much more so later in the game when you start facing tougher enemies.
Reverse-engineering the enemy's technology is a staple of the X-COM franchise. In this game, alien weaponry is programmed to self-destruct when the wielder dies.
XCOM needs to prevent alien activity in its member countries to keep panic low and maintain its funding. What do the aliens do? Regularly arrange for multiple Abduction missions at the same time, forcing XCOM to focus their efforts on one and let the others proceed unopposed.
Those satellites you need to scan for alien activity? The aliens will actively attempt to track and shoot them down.
Death from Above: Sectopods' Rocket Barrage attack. Though it takes a turn to charge up and offers you a chance to escape, it also can happen if the Sectopod is out of sight, meaning you often won't find your chance to.
Death or Glory Attack: A common tactic for players is sending a soldier out into the open in order to get a better shot or flank an enemy. Hopefully, the shots connect and the enemy will be too busy being dead to attack the exposed soldier. If it goes wrong, the alien is still alive at the end of the turn and retaliates, or you accidentally expose another group of aliens that proceed to cut down your trooper.
Doing Research: Very important throughout the whole game, as new aliens with different abilities and equipment keep showing up as the invasion progresses. Performing an Alien Autopsy will provide more info when the alien is examined on the battlefield.
Double Tap: While Snipers have an ability with that name, the credit actually goes to the Assault class's Rapid Fire ability, which shoots the enemy twice in quick succession.
Downloadable Content: Aside from releasing the pre-order Elite Soldier Pack bonus to the public, there's:
The Slingshot Content Pack, which includes a special series of Council missions and additional customization options for the XCOM troopers.
The free Second Wave, which includes 16 difficulty modifiers, some of which must be unlocked by completing the game on certain difficulties.
Dramatic Gun Cock: Snipers dramatically reload their ballistic bolt-action rifles after each cinematic shot, complete with a casing flying through the air in slow motion.
One Handed Shotgun Pump: Assault-class soldiers do this after each cinematic shot... even if it's a laser shotgun. You gotta wonder if they added the pump to the Scatter Laser just for that (no other laser weapon has one).
Drop Ship: The Skyranger is a crude one. Though it doesn't seem to actually go into space, the speed at which it moves around Earth does suggests that it's using sub-orbital spaceflight. In its role, however, it fits the trope like a glove.
Dummied Out: Within days of the official release, enterprising programmers discovered some mostly-finished functions that weren't implemented in the final game. These include the ability to intercept Terror Ships and Abductors before they land, making it possible to avoid the associated Terror and Abduction missions altogether. Modders have managed to reactivate some of these options, and others have since been officially patched back in.
Early Bird Boss: The SlingshotDLC pits you against Mutons with full-sized Plasma Rifles rather than the Light variant, usually well before you'd expect to have the weapons or armor needed to have a good chance against them.
Even earlier in the same DLC, you're pitted against a Chryssalid.
Continuing the trend, you can encounter a Cyberdisk after the previous two.
Early Game Hell: Until you get some kind of upgrades, don't expect your soldiers to exactly be Rambo. Even harder is finding the time and money to build anything in your base.
Elaborate Underground Base: Instead of the classic top-down view flat base, this game uses a side-view multi-level base nicknamed the "Ant Farm". Unlike the original game, this is the player's only base; the developers noticed most X-COM players focused on a single base and built others solely to expand their radar range, which is done via launching satellites in this game.
XCOM "interrogates" alien captives. We aren't shown the details (as a shutter closes when interrogation starts), but it involves two arms radiating some energy, getting information straight out of the alien's brain and lots of sedatives. Also, the subject never survives the process and you always get their corpse added to your stockpile after the interrogation.
Not to mention South America's continent bonus - "We Have Ways", making both Interrogations and Autopsies instantaneous, banking on the reputation of certain South American dictatorships and their employment of these.
Escort Mission: Target Extraction Council missions. Unlike just about every other game ever, the Escort is fully controllable and has a special ability that raises their defense.
Which is strange in the case of one potential escort, who protests loudly about being extracted against his will by XCOM while the aliens gleefully shoot at him.
Every Car Is a Pinto: Perhaps justified by how many laser and plasma weapons are getting thrown around. Typically, they have to be set on fire first before that happens, which also gives both the XCOM troopers and aliens one turn to get away from it, though explosives will immediately cause it to blow up. Sometimes though, probably due to a bug, cars will blow up because another did somewhere on the map or for no reason at all.
Evil Counterpart: Mutons have been described like this, an alien SEAL Team Six to fight your own troops. For starters, they're equipped with Alien Grenades, and they will use them on groups of your XCOM troops.
Psionic troopers will sometimes break out an absolutely blood-curdling one when using the Mindfray ability on enemies. Makes you wonder if Dr. Shen is right...
All of the aliens celebrate their accomplishment when they kill someone, but the Heavy Floater always seems particularly amused with himself after he blows away one of your soldiers or a civilian with his plasma rifle.
Excited Show Title!: Terror! missions, when aliens attack a bunch of civilians you need to rescue, always have an exclamation point. When trying to load a save, it reads, "Terror! attack in [X]."
Out of all of the aliens that get interrogated, the Thin Man is the only one who doesn't panic. He glowers at the zappy-arms and starts walking towards the glass as if he's about to say something, but the shutters close on him before he says anything.
The Ethereal attempts this, standing aloof and dignified in the containment before it starts, but loses its composure as soon as the robot arms move in.
Faceless Goons: You can have your own squad of them, provided you have the DLC packs.
Fan Nickname: "Code Black" is a Total Party Kill, at least on some forums, after the term used by the Skyranger pilot when your team has failed a mission and been wiped out to a man.
Fighter Launching Sequence: When an Interceptor, a Firestorm or the Skyranger is launched, we are treated to a cutscene of its launch. The cutscene is longer the first time it's done. Each subsequent time, only the last part of the cutscene is played.
Foreshadowing: The Tutorial mission hints at all of the iconic alien species you'll encounter later: a soldier that has been torn open from the inside out by a Chest Burster, a zombie trapped under some rubble, and a psionically mind controlled soldier will all be warning signs to long time fans.
Giant Mook: Mutons in general, as well as Heavy Floaters.
Glass Cannon: The Sniper class is decently fast but can't fire their sniper rifle at all after moving, unless a specific class perk is taken, and also has lower base health progression than the other classes. Considering their weapons have the highest accuracy and base critical rate, and that they can have an array of severely overpowered perks*
For example: shoot twice in one turn, perform a headshot for ramped up crit chances and shoot an enemy from almost any distance as long as an ally can see them
, it's entirely possible to kill or severely wound some of the strongest enemies from across the map.
Global Currency: XCOM, no matter where in the world it's located, uses Credits instead of the national currency of any of its founding nations. Justified in that it makes it easier to quantify and streamline the calculations of funding, supplies and logistics if a single unified currency is used instead of being forced to calculate exchange rates.
Gone Horribly Right: As it turns out, the XCOM project as a whole. The Ethereals invaded to motivate the creation of the project so they could weaponize the inherent versatility and Determinator outlook of the human race so we'd be useful enough to adopt as part of their alien empire and help them with something that's coming. Assuming you win, it worked too well.
Grand Theft Me: It's implied that the reason behind the alien invasion may be to use humanity as the new host bodies for the minds of the Ethereals, whose current physical forms have deteriorated almost to the point of uselessness.
Hand Cannon: Fully upgrade your pistols at the Foundry, research plasma pistols, and give them to Snipers with the "Gunslinger" ability and they will be able to kill even Mutons in one hit.
Harder Than Hard/Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The difficulty levels are called "Easy", "Normal", "Classic"* Prior to the European release and resulting patch, Classic was called X-COM and above that, "Impossible", with "Classic" being meant to be the closest to the original game's difficulty (that could be achieved with the game mechanics of the 2012 remake) and "Impossible" even more difficult than that. There is also another difficulty modifier called "Ironman Mode", where the game will only have one save file for that playthrough, and will save for the player after every action during combat, meaning that if you make a mistake there is no reloading to before it happened. Now try that on Classic difficulty...
Some designers also mentioned that the "Impossible" difficulty is literally supposed to beUnwinnable. For most players, it's just a question of how many missions they can complete before failure. According to the staff, beating Impossible difficulty on Ironman mode is only theoretically possible. Some players have managed to pull it off, though, and as if in retaliation, Firaxis released the Second Wave DLC, which includes gameplay modifiers even they thought were too cruel.
Heal Thyself: Played with. While using the Medikit in combat immediately replenishes the lost HP, the soldier will still need infirmary time if they lost health points not added by their armour.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Your troops normally cannot wear helmets. It gets especially noticeable when they're wearing Titan armor, which has an isolated filtration system that protects against poison clouds and a built-in cooling system to protect against flames, both of which should require a helmet. The Elite Soldier Pack and Slingshot do add helmets as cosmetic customization options, however.
Hero Unit: You can give one of your soldiers a specific name to turn them into a powerful XCOM Hero, though this will lock out achievements for that playthrough. All Heroes have 20 Health and 100 Aim and Will, unless stated otherwise below.
Sid Meier "Godfather": A Psionic Support Colonel with 200 Will and all Psionic powers available to human units, even the Rift.
Chris Kluwe "Loate": A PC only Sniper Colonel. * Was added alongside the Second Wave due to defeating XCOM:EU's lead producer, Garth DeAngelis, in a XCOM:EU multiplayer match.
Heroic Sacrifice: The Volunteer during the ending cinematic, stopping the Temple Ship from exploding into a black hole and moving away from the earth to explode a bit less spectacularly.
Also a certain occurrence if any of your troops are being mind controlled when the final boss goes down, as its death will kill all units considered by the game AI as enemies.
He Who Fights Monsters: Dr. Shen wonders if using the aliens' technology, which turned living beings into living weapons and tools, might not cause humanity to go down the same path.
Hiss Before Fleeing: Most of the time you stumble upon or are stumbled upon by a group of aliens, they have a mini-cutscene where they all turn around and look at you, growl, then they get a free turn to run to cover.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Mutons have an ability called "Intimidate" which they use while wounded to try to get your soldiers to panic, which will have them act randomly by moving, shooting or hunkering down and ending their turn while making them immobile and inactive for the next turn. On rare and deeply ironic occasions, Intimidate will cause a soldier whose already acted for the turn to panic and shoot the Muton who just used Intimidate dead.
Hologram Projection Imperfection: The aliens use plenty of holographic interfaces for the computers on their ships and bases. This becomes more obvious when a character shoots through them, the holograms "shatter" and break apart, only to reform again after the air above them clears.
How Dare You Die on Me!: One of the upgrades from the Officer Training School is "Don't You Die On Me!", which increases the chances that soldiers will simply be critically wounded when their HP drops to 0. The chances go up as they become higher ranked.
Human Resources: The aliens are kidnapping humans for their own mysterious purposes, but you can turn this around on them. Many items you can create through Engineering or the Foundry require you to use up the bodies of aliens (you're ripping out their cybernetic implants or other useful material).
Humans Are Special: Turns out humans share the right combination of physical toughness and psionic potential, and the aliens want to make that specialness part of their empire.
I Did What I Had to Do: The Ethereals say this in response to something coming. They are not repentant about it, however: they did what they had to do because they could.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted, in stark contrast to the preceding titles' notorious reputation. Soldiers always shoot in the right direction and have a decent to-hit chance as long as they're within a reasonable range for the weapon they're holding. Most tellingly, grenades always go where they're supposed to. It makes you feel like you really are commanding the elite troopers that the original game claimed you were.
Played straight for Heavies who miss with regular rocket launchers: instead of the missile veering off-course after being fired, they blatantly aim off-target and shout "Missile wide!" before even firing. In general, the class' Aim stat is noticeably lower than the other classes.
Also played straight if your soldier is hit with Debuffs like Mindfray or being poisoned, especially if they're a rookie. Nothing like a soldier missing an enemy three meters away and being perforated the next turn.
Improbable Aiming Skills: If a Sniper has the right perk and nothing blocking their shot, it's completely possible to snipe an enemy from across the map, provided an ally can see them. The sniper rifle weapon even gains accuracy farther away from targets to aid this*
The sniper rifle has an effective range longer than most maps, with only the Battleship, Alien Base, and Temple Ship being longer than the range
The last mission. The second you defeat the Uber-Ethereal, you win the game.
Similarly, on Terror missions you don't have to rescue all the civilians; if you just kill all the aliens, it still counts as a victory. Some people will just save one civvy, then let the aliens come to them, in order to avoid losing soldiers for no great benefit*
The biggest and best benefit of completing a terror mission is the panic reduction it will give to the entire region, instead of just the single country. The more civilians you save, the better the reduction. However, if you fail to save at least one civilian, while the mission will be a success, it will raise panic instead of lowering it, which could be catastrophic. It's almost always better to take a few risks to maximize the number of civilians saved, but panic can be reduced by other means as well
Even if you don't have line-of-sight to an area, and thus wouldn't know where the enemies are, you cannot make a move order into a square that contains an enemy. This is visible on the map.
The cinematic camera usually spoils the outcome of direct attacks; while "Overwatch" and grenade attacks usually provide a cinematic cut regardless, a standard attack only ever does so if the hit is going to both connect and kill the enemy in the next few seconds.
Worst yet, this happens to the aliens on their shots as well. Watching a firing alien get a camera shot panning over them to the exclusion of their target is going to result in the next shot of one of your troops getting killed.
If you look at the list of global achievements on Steam, you'll see a handful that are listed as 0% other players getting them (aside from the usual Nintendo Hard ones) and don't show up on the stand alone list, and their descriptions seem to imply they're the kind of achievements that get awarded just for completing a story mission. Cue Wild Mass Guessing for future DLC.
Sectopods can launch missile barrages, but it takes them to charge for a turn to do so. When this happens, the camera centers on the machine, and then on the area it's about to bombard. The spoiler comes in the fact that the camera still moves in this fashion even when the Sectopod is outside visual range, so if you see this camera motion even if no Death-Machine is in sight, get the hell out of there.
Item Crafting: Most of the stuff you can research or manufacture requires you to expend more than just credits, but also various resources or items you've collected from the aliens. Alien Alloys and Elerium are the two big ones, but you also need to use up Weapon Fragments* to rebuild the weapons from the broken pieces or study their structure to turn the technology to new ends and the dead bodies of aliens* to rip out their cybernetic implants to include in your new devices for a lot of products.
Jack of All Stats: The Support class has pretty average stats all-around, as do the assault rifles they wield.
Jetpack: On the Archangel Armor and on the Floaters.
Just Plane Wrong: In the Tutorial mission, a scanner identifies a downed German helicopter as a NH90note which is an actual transport helicopter used by multiple nations, including Germany, while displaying a schematic of a UH-60 Blackhawk.
Keystone Army: Subverted the first time and played straight and justified the second time. Bradford thinks the aliens are done after you destroy their base... which quickly turns out to be an outpost of the main force. The Temple Ship's destruction does cripple the aliens, but given how its destruction involves the deaths of most of the aliens' command staff and their leader, as well as how they were using it to supply their ships, that makes perfect sense.
Kung-Fu Proof Mook: Chryssalids, Cyberdiscs and Sectopods are immune to Stunning. Some enemies (including the aforementioned three) have the Hardened property, which drastically reduces the likelihood of a Critical Hit; more often than not, the reduction is big enough that you'll get a fat 0% chance to crit.
Late Arrival Spoiler: Before the game's release, combing through the numerous preview videos and the demo revealed a lot of information ostensibly kept secret, such as (seemingly) the full roster of aliens, plot-important videos and details about autopsied alien invaders. If not careful, it's very easy to spoil yourself without trying.
Dr. Shen: Is this what the aliens do for fun? At least they're not playing ... computer games.
Lightning Bruiser: The Assault class is the only class that can dash/move twice and still shoot before the enemy has their turn, complete with numerous perks that significantly increase either their damage output or durability. They even get bonus hitpoints for wearing heavier armor, on top of having the best base health progression.
Load-Bearing Boss: Killing the Uber-Ethereal in the final mission causes the Temple Ship to begin self-destructing from the resulting release of psionic energy and the damage caused by the alien orb going out of control, necessitating the Volunteer's Heroic Sacrifice to prevent it from taking the Earth with it.
Lost Forever: Certain aliens from early on in the game usually stop showing up after a few months, which can be problematic (though it won't render the game Unwinnable) if you haven't managed to capture them for interrogation. If you're lucky, though, they may occasionally pop up during Council missions or even regular ones. Hopefully, you've brought along an Arc Thrower.
MacGuffin Delivery Service: How the aliens view the attack with your best psionic soldier on their Temple Ship. But since they still shoot on sight and never bother with any plan to get that soldier to join them, you will probably make them regret it. Alternatively: The Aliens wanted your best to be on that ship. Why? Its a test. Everything has been a test. This is the last to see if humanity has what it takes. To do what is left ambiguous.
One of the Assault's tricks. They gain the 'Extra Conditioning' perk once they reach Major, which confers additional health depending on their armour. Give them the Titan Powered Armour and Chryssalid Chitin, and they can soak up more damage than Cyberdisks and Berserkers. Upon reaching the Colonel rank, they can also get the "Resilience" ability, which makes them immune to Critical Hits.
Heavies have the Will To Survive perk, which reduces all damage they take by 2 points while in any kind of cover, as long as they're not flanked.
Majorly Awesome: Any soldier who makes it to Major, the second highest rank available, is certainly awesome.
Mauve Shirt: Any Squaddie (any operative with a couple of missions or a kill under their belt, at least until you get the upgrade that gives the rank for free) is one. The customization of the troops grinds it in.
Even moreso when they reach Sergeant, which is when your battle-hardened troopers earn themselves a custom, randomly-generated nickname (that you can then customize yourself, if you wish).
Mecha-Mooks: Played with: the Drones are definitely these. They are numerous and die in one hit, but have the ability to repair their bigger brethren. The Cyberdiscs and Sectopods, however, are vastly more dangerous, as they are bristling with firepower and very heavily armored.
The Thin Men, directly drawn from the eponymous rumors started in the 1950s about mysterious agents covering up UFO sightings. They're humanoid infiltrators with extreme agility and the ability to spray poison from a distance. It's strongly implied in the autopsy report that they are in fact genetically-altered Snakemen, or at least reptilian in origin.
The Council representative is also a mysterious MIB, though at least he's on your side.
Mighty Glacier: The Heavy class packs some of the most powerful infantry weapons available to XCOM * LM Gs and a rocket launcher, the former can be fired twice in the same turn if Bullet Swarm is taken and are quite tough. However, they only have average movement speed and range, and cannot fire their rocket launcher after doing nearly anything.
Money for Nothing: Once you manage to get satellites over the majority of the funding nations, you will be rolling in Credits. The bottleneck then becomes Alien Alloys, Elerium and Weapon Fragments, all of which need to be taken from the aliens.
LMGs in general, especially when using the Heavy's Suppression ability. Assault Rifles in general also spam rounds with the Support's Rifle Suppression ability, even if they normally only fire a few rounds when shooting normally.
The Assault's Rapid Fire ability (activate to fire twice with an accuracy cost), the Support's Covering Fire (reaction fire to enemy attacks within their sight in addition to movement) and Sentinel passives (fires twice on Overwatch), the Heavy's Bullet Swarm passive (can fire twice if they did not move that turn) and the Sniper's In The Zone (killing a target out of cover or flanked doesn't cost an action) and Double Tap (firing or using firing abilities doesn't end their turn) passives all provide you much potential for additional dakka.
Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Ethereals have four arms now, though unlike other examples, this is probably more for Rule Of Cool than anything else, since they attack only with psychic powers and don't even carry a weapon.
Multinational Team: Much more diverse than in the original game; you can even get recruits from countries that aren't even part of the Council of Nations. It's not at all uncommon to have an entire six-person squad whose members are all from different countries. However, they all share the same pool of American accents.
In an odd twist, recruits from Scotland and recruits from the rest of the UK are treated as being from different countries, with their own flags and name pools, which might turn into "Funny Aneurysm" Moment given the Scottish Independence Referendum has been announced for 2014 and the game is set in 2015. (However abductions in Scottish cities are listed as being in the UK.)
Mutual Disadvantage: It is possible to place a soldier in a position which has them flanking an enemy (negating their cover bonus and significantly increasing their chance of scoring a Critical Hit) whilst simultaneously having them be flanked by that enemy. Risky, but sometimes worth it.
This is the Assault class' specialty, since their basic Run & Gun ability allows them to shoot after moving twice/dashing, allowing them to jump right behind the cover the aliens are in and pumping them full of buckshot/lasers/alloy shards in the same turn before they can act. They can also have the Lightning Reflexes ability, which forces the first reaction shot fired at them in a turn to miss.
The Council of Nations is represented by a bald man wearing a suit sitting in the shadows. In the original game, the Funding screen and the end-of-month summary was displayed on a background with a very similar man holding a briefcase full of money.
Manufacturing your first laser or plasma rifles has a cutscene where they're used on cardboard cutouts of the original Sectoids (for lasers) and Mutons (for plasma).
The Thin Men are very strongly implied to be genetically-altered Snakemen. Even better, the original game implied that the Snakemen had a very dangerous and deadly poison, though it never made it into the game. One of the Thin Men's most dangerous attack is hitting you with a cloud of deadly poison.
The Floater Autopsy report is codenamed 'Crimson Cape', a reference to these aliens' appearance in the original.
The final mission is always named 'Operation Avenger'. In the original, the Avenger was the transport ship X-Com had to build to reach the final mission on Mars.
The Elerium research project is codenamed Project E-115, a reference to the original game where Elerium was referred to as the 115th element on the periodic table * This element, which only exists theoretically, is currently known under the provisional name Ununpentium, but like with all transuranic elements, the first research team to successfully produce it will be allowed to name it. It might be not too late to push for Elerium.
The short musical cue that plays when a round of psi training is completed is from the original's Geoscape theme.
The Achievement for building your first Firestorm is called "Ride the Lightning", which might refer to the much-maligned aircraft of the same name from the original.
Muton Elites and Berserkers are red, just like "Mr. Angry Red Suit" who was never fought in the original.
An arcade machine in the base's recreation room has the original game running.
Leaving the game overview in the Situation Room screen has Bradford spout off some idle chatter every so often... with some subtle references to the original game.
Bradford:"This is Central, I'm receiving you...what do you mean you think you saw a snake? What the hell does that have to do with anything?"
Nerf: Chryssalids as compared to the original, though they're certainly still dangerous. They no longer instantly zombify your units * they have to kill that unit first via melee damage, which can be reduced by your units wearing armor made from Chryssalid chitin, and the zombies no longer need to be killed with fire to prevent a new Chryssalid from hatching (they can be killed within three turns with anything). Furthermore, Assaults can learn a special ability that gives them Reaction Fire against enemies that close in on them, useful against the melee-only Chryssalids.
New Game Plus: "Second Wave" mode. Initially only available via mods, it was officially added to the game in the January 7, 2013 patch.
Nice Hat: The Slingshot DLC adds about a dozen new hair/helmet options, amongst which is a beret. There's also a beret-and-shades combo, for added Badassitude.
Nicknaming The Enemy: Aliens in general are usually called ETs or X-rays during combat* the "X-Ray" naming is part of the long-standing US military "theme naming", where the first letter of the enemy nationality is used to come up with a nickname. So we get Germans becoming Gerries, Viet Cong becoming Charlies, and extraterrestrials becoming X-rays. Also, during the Autopsy cutscenes or reports, Dr. Vahlen mentions that several aliens' designations were originally nicknames the troopers came up with that stuck.
Nintendo Hard: Classic and Impossible. For bonus points, Classic (or Impossible) and Iron Man mode. And if that weren't enough, players can make the game even harder with certain toggles from the Second Wave Content update.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When a Berserker manages to score a killing blow. The poor soldier 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.
Nothing Is Scarier: On some missions, either because of a larger than usual map or placement of enemies, it can take you a while to actually find the aliens if you're advancing slowly. This only makes you more nervous as you continue to worry about stumbling into a horde of Mutons or a swarm of Thin Men.
Or worse, when you've moved forward so quickly that you wind up with aliens behind you - but you aren't sure where they are, and you're standing in the middle of an alien base with Mutons and Chryssalids coming from god-knows-where. You have two options - split the party, or wander around hunting for the last enemies on the map.
Or pull a six-way Back-to-Back BadassesLast Stand, because twenty turns in, the aliens have their fog of war removed so you don't wind up chasing the last alien all over the map. Bonus points if they all make it out alive.
Nom de Guerre: Bradford's is "Central", the Skyranger is "Big Sky" and your squad is "Strike-One". Also, any soldier that makes it to Sergeant earns one, though the player can change it to whatever they prefer. They're randomly assigned, though each class has their own list of available nicknames.
Non Standard Game Over: If you fail the very first tactical mission by losing all four of your initial rookies, you don't get the option to return to base. The Council of Nations immediately decides that the XCOM project is a failure and shuts it down. You do get the option of restarting the mission, though.
No Transhumanism Allowed: Doctor Shen has shades of this on Psi abilities. Then again, it's completely new territory and the only other users/examples are the invading aliens, so his hesitation is understandable. He's proven wrong, as the strongest human Psi user ever, The Volunteer, pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Earth.
He also questions if something as cybernetically enhanced as the Floaters can even be considered a true lifeform anymore, saying "if that is humanity's future, I want no part of it". The Uber-Ethereal reveals in the final mission that the Floaters were a failed project to create a resilient psionic species, and decided to rip out their organic parts to make them better weapons for the Ethereals' purposes, so Shen is exactly right in his assessment.
Not Using the Z Word: Averted, though lampshaded: Dr. Vahlen can't believe she's using the word "Zombie". You can lean on her hesitance.
When things start to go against you in battles, your soldiers can freak out, panicking and losing their turn. The lower the soldier's Will score, the more likely they'll panic when another soldier dies or is mind-controlled, when they take a hit, or when a Muton calls them out with their Intimidate ability. When they panic, they can shoot a random target (with an Aim penalty and randomly chosen from your other troopers, visible aliens and civilians), run for cover, hunker down or just run in general.
Aliens can be forcibly panicked by Psi-Panic, and will act much the same way as a panicking human. They will not do so normally, however, though they will temporarily retreat and/or call for help if you kill enough of them.
In a metagame sense, you'll be saying this a lot when you encounter a new alien unit and they unleash an ability you haven't seen before. Additionally, every time you see Chryssalids (early-mid game) and Sectopods (all the time, especially if there's more than one).
You'll be saying it an awful lot when you send a trooper into a room to take cover and clear up the fog of war when raiding a landed or crashed UFO...and then it turns out he's running into the middle of a group of Mutons.
Old-School Dogfight: Battles between UFOs and your interceptors are pretty straightforward aerial shoot-outs. While your initial aerial weapon are the Avalanche missiles, you can later develop and equip various cannons, which may force your interceptor to close in to dogfighting range. Crafting various modules in your base allows your interceptors one-time bonuses to Aim, Dodge, and Chase.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Vahlen and every scientist in the labs. They are all equally versed in biology and physics, everything short of engineering (which is the domain of the engineers, who are themselves downplayed examples as they can work into anything that fits under the umbrella of "engineering"). Which is presumably why they were hired in the first place.
Averted, just once, in a cutscene where Dr. Vahlen is trying to explain what the Outsider Crystal does. She's at a loss for words but then Dr. Shen steps in and says, "perhaps this is outside your field of expertise." (It is an antenna.)
One Bullet Clips: Another change from the original games, ammunition is no longer tracked as separate items and soldiers can reload at will.
One-Man Army: There's an achievement for clearing a UFO crash site with just one soldier* Specifically, you have to do it on Classic or Impossible, which only makes it worse. It's pretty tricky even with superior equipment and tactics, and you definitely shouldn't try it with a rookie soldier.
One World Order: Despite the ominous tones, the Council of Nations is a subversion. They're essentially a UN-expy of the world's leading countries who function more like The Alliance than anything else. Do poorly however, and your actions might splinter the Council apart as nations drop funding to fend for themselves.
Only a Flesh Wound: Weapons fire can miss even when it hits. Because the game rolled "failed" or if it's suppression (which doesn't do damage), the representation just generates fire in a random cone, which means even missed shots could drill the target right between their eyes. Of course, those shots don't do damage, even if your barrage of suppressive fire hits that Muton in the face.
Only Six Helmets: The [[DLC DLCs]] add helmets to the soldier customization menu, a grand total of 9. It's incredibly obvious that certain helmets are designed to go with certain armor sets. Not as bad as other examples, because there's enough variety that every member of your squad could have a unique helmet, and the color customization can make even the same helmets look distinct.
Every XCOM ground mission gets a two-element codename (e.g. 'Operation Defiant Empire'). Most are random, but story missions and special council missions tend to have Meaningful Names. Non-story missions may, however, end up with Word Salad Titles.
Each research project has a codename (e.g. 'Mobius'), which is unique to each project.
Our Weapons Will Be Boxy In The Future: Most pronounced with lasers. Justified in that they are designed and manufactured on short notice to create a useful weapon, not win a design contest. The plasma weapons are decidedly not boxy, but rather rounded and (in some cases) cylindrical, but they're copied from the alien designs rather than designed from the ground up. The Arc Thrower is essentially a cube sitting on top of a pistol grip.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Thin Men are only nominally human-looking. Their proportions put them right in the Uncanny Valley, they've got reptilian eyes under their sunglasses and they've got green scales showing right around the collar line on their necks, like their human makeup is wearing off. They never fool your XCOM team.
Openly carrying light plasma rifles and attacking the XCOM team on sight doesn't help either. But, you'll encounter only Thin Men in some of the Council missions, so their disguise may work on the civilian population.
Pinned Down: The Suppression ability available to Heavies, Supports, and some aliens. It penalizes the target's accuracy and allows the suppressor to take a free reaction shot if the target moves.
Poisonous Person: The Thin Men: they're highly toxic and can spit poison clouds at your group. They also create a poison cloud when they die.
Powered Armor: The Titan Armor, which comes with immunity to fire and poison. You also get an achievement called "Man No More" once you build one.
Praetorian Guard: The Muton Elites serve as this for the Ethereals. Whenever you see an Etheral, he'll always have a Muton Elite as his personal guard, and any mission with an Ethereal around will involve multiple Elites as a roaming alien squad.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Though not stated directly to the aliens, Assault class soldiers will issue one when you activate their Run & Gun skill. Made even more badass if accompanied by the Ghost Armor's invisibility and wrapped up with a provided Post-Mortem One-Liner:
"Going silent." [cloaking]
"Moving in for the kill."/"Gun 'em down!" [Run & Gun]
Psionic troopers can also break out a bone-chilling one, or an Evil Laugh, when using their psionic abilities:
Proud Warrior Race Guy: All of the Mutons. Shoot one without killing it or they gun down a XCOM soldier/unarmed civilian? The guy will likely come out of cover roaring and pounding his chest like no tomorrow, taunting you, probably scaring any rookie nearby. These guys clearly enjoy their job, and it's obvious why the Ethereals like having them as bodyguards.
Psychic Link: Sectoids can use their telepathic abilities to boost the stats of their allies with an ability called Mind Merge: the target gets +10% to Aim and +1 HP for a turn. What you're not told until you figure it out for yourself is that killing the Sectoid that's boosting the other unit kills them both as a result of psychic backlash. However, killing an alien who has mind-controlled one of your soldiers doesn't harm the soldier, who is placed under your control again.
There is a sole exception to this rule: In the final mission on the Temple Ship, when you kill the Uber-Ethereal, he releases control of whatever soldier he has undoubtedly seized control of, and all of the other enemies in the room explode; including any soldiers that the other Ethereals have control of. The ending triggers immediately afterwards, with the only thing left of your soldier being a scorch mark on the ground.
Psychic Powers: The Gift comes with many more abilities than the traditional mind control. Among other things, Ethereals can now reflect your laser and plasma shots back at you. Eep.
You can gain them yourself, with 5 different powers available to your "gifted" soldiers: Mindfray, a damaging attack that also debuffs the target, Psi-Panic, a panic-inducing attack, Psi-Inspiration, an ability that bolsters your allies' Will, Telekinetic Field, a telekinetic defensive field, and good old Mind Control. The Volunteer gains another one, the Rift, that deals massive AOE damage and can tap into the Ethereal Hive Mind.Sid Meier has all of them.
Pyrrhic Victory: Narrowly averted at the end of the game. As the Temple Ship is destroyed, it begins to form a black hole of sorts that could swallow the entire Earth whole. Luckily, the Volunteer stays behind to bring the ship as far from the planet as possible before that can happen.
Random Number God: Will actually help you in the lower difficulties, but you'll still endure the full capriciousness of His/Her whims in Classic and Impossible.
Reality Ensues: Sectopods can launch Rocker Barrages, which can really rain explosives on your parade... unless if they do so while inside, where the missiles simply explode on the ceiling harmlessly. Keep in mind, the Sectopod will have wasted two turns doing it.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Funnily enough, the Council of Nations is this. In any other game, they'd be the antagonist, but here, they provide XCOM with the funding they need to keep things running, request special missions that provide the second highest decrease in panic levels (next to Terror missions), and only complain if you're failing at your job to repel the alien threat.
Rocket Tag Gameplay: Early-game works like this. Sectoids, Thin Men and Floaters don't have many hit points, but are armed with deadly plasma weapons that can kill your rookies in one hit. Your rookies only have a smattering of hit points themselves, but their starting assault rifles and frag grenades are more than enough to kill the Sectoids and Thin Men in one hit (except on Impossible). Later in the game, when you have better armor and the hardier alien species show up, you'd better have a good understanding of tactics and teamwork when that Muton doesn't go down in one hit.
Sadistic Choice: Any time there are Abduction missions. You can only save one of the cities at a time and panic will rise on the continents you didn't deploy to. It takes some skillful juggling just to keep the panic level from going completely critical and, in the worst-case scenario, can result in having to decide which nation(s) you can afford to lose.
Save Scumming: Just as practical and common a technique as in the original, much to the chagrin of some members of the fanbase. That said, you can't just reload a game to change the outcome: The 'seed'* The core number the RNG uses to determine what happens doesn't change when reloading a saved game. In layman's terms, Soldier A misses a 98% shot, he'll always miss that shot if you keep reloading from that specific save. You'll have to move another soldier, maybe have him fire, or just skip Soldier A's turn for a better probability.
Averted in the new Ironman mode which entirely prevents thisnote Ironman was put in because many of the players in the original games put this constraint on their play. That being said, even in Ironman, most fans consider it perfectly legal to create backups of your saves in the event of a Game-Breaking Bug.
On difficulties of Normal and above, the game at least makes an effort to prevent this from happening by not allowing you to load saves made in the mission.
To GuavaMoment's Let's Play of the X-COM series. One of the hero units is Otto Zander, the hero of the series. This can also carry certain unfortunate, unintended implications for people unfamiliar with the Let's Play, as Otto Zander was also the name of a prominent Nazi. (It should be noted that the name choice was intentional in said LP, considering the character development Otto underwent...)
Also several Achievements:
The achievement for building the base all the way to the deepest level available is called "Drums in the Deep".
Winning your first multiplayer match earns "Meet New People. Then Kill Them." This is a reference to an unofficial US Special Forces motto.
"Skunkworks", for completing every foundry project, refers to Lockheed Martin's aircraft R&D department (officially the Advanced Development Programs), which produced such warplanes as the SR-71, F-22, and F-35.
Short Range Shotgun: For emphasis, pistols will be more accurate than them at greater ranges for the base weapons. Later shotgun variants have better range to close the gap a bit, but the Improved Pistol II upgrade increases pistol accuracy to widen it again.
A tip will even mention using the pistol to make shots against far away enemies if equipped with a shotgun.
Skewed Priorities: Aliens in Terror! missions will often target civilians even when there are soldiers about to shoot them.
Spy Catsuit: The Psi Armor is very form-fitting, even if it's more armored than most examples. Tone it in black to complete the effect.
Sole Survivor: The tutorial mission ends with only Delta 2 from Argentina surviving. Losing three-quarters of your initial squad in the tutorial sets the tone for the rest of the game: it will not be easy. People will die.
Spiteful A.I.: During Terror! missions, enemies will often attack civilians instead of your soldiers if they're in a situation where they only have one move before your squad ventilates them. Sometimes, they'll do it even when they're in a secure position and your soldiers make easier targets.
Spy Satellites: Used to search for UFOs outside of your main base's radar coverage. Keeping satellite coverage heavy is important to keep the various nations from withdrawing from the Council (and more importantly, funding you, as only countries with satellite coverage will give you monthly donations) and the aliens visible and chaseable. If you don't diligently shoot down UFOs with your interceptors, your satellites can be shot down, necessitating an expensive and time-consuming replacement. Fortunately, you can also research stealth enhancements for your satellites at the Foundry, making them harder for the aliens to find.
Satellite coverage has another, less-advertised result: if a country has coverage at the start of a month, it will no longer be possible for the aliens to start abductions in that country. Thus, in addition to giving you the continent-specific bonus, locking down a continent with complete coverage will stop its panic level from rising (assuming you don't fail any Interceptions, Raids or Terror Missions).
Strong Flesh Weak Steel: It is possible, with Titan Armor and Chitin Plating, to make a Major-ranked Assault tougher than an armored SHIV. Assault operatives gain an ability that gives them bonus health based on the armor they wear. With both the armor and plating equipped, an Assault can have up to 29 hitpoints, making them far more durable than even an Alloy SHIV, which can only have up to 18 hitpoints.
Stuff Blowing Up: Grenades and rocket launchers are extremely effective at completely blowing the stuffing out of the aliens. The downside is that they blow up any salvageable material (including Weapon Fragments, if you kill an alien with them) in their blast radius, but hey, if you get the opportunity to completely waste a group of weak enemies, then by all means, annihilate them! Better than losing your squad. Also, melee aliens like the Chryssalids don't provide Weapon Fragments in the first place, so feel free to blow them to pieces.
You can also use them to just blow up the aliens' cover, allowing your other troopers to shoot them without an accuracy penalty. Using them to soften up a group of very tough enemies is also viable, as Weapon Fragments are only lost if they're killed with explosives.
The tutorial involves the initial squad charging into unknown territory and subsequently getting ambushed while investigating a German soldier acting oddly. Because of the structure of the tutorial, it happens while trying to disarm the (armed, unresponsive) German by sending one man to him in plain view and the team is unable to establish Overwatch before the ambush triggers.
Even if you know your mind control ability is only temporary, you can't have your squad shoot or stun your mind controlled subject until he breaks free, unless you use up your limited amount of explosives. Having the aliens kill it for you gives your squad a Will penalty for the rest of the mission, since it's marked as a teammate while mind controlled, so that's out too.
Suicidal Overconfidence: Zig Zagged. Most aliens avert this; they'll sound the retreat, fall back to better cover and call for help if they feel they're outnumbered and/or outgunned. Chryssalids and Muton Berserkers play this straight* though this has more to do with their nature than their intelligence: they don't understand cover or falling back; these two will (usually) charge ahead instead (note that they can move, but not attack in your turn), allowing you to shoot them point blank in the face. In the case of the Berserkers, there's a good chance an Assault can shoot one 3 times in one turn with the right abilities and when in the right position.
Surpassed The Teacher: The entire invasion was really a training program intended to uplift humanity to the point where we could serve as part of the Ethereals' army. Unfortunately, like most other alien invaders, they underestimated just how tough humans are. Assuming you win.
Surprisingly Sudden Death: Always a possibility, depending on your soldiers' health. Aliens can pop out from rooftops and kill soldiers in one shot, Berzerkers can tackle through walls to kill someone, even if you can't see them, and Sectopods can launch rocket barrages that can annihilate your squad from well beyond visual range.
Take Cover: The biggest gameplay change over the original (aside from the removal of Time Units) is this. Your troops will hunker down next to various objects when possible and this is absolutely vital to not getting your soldiers' heads blown off. Technically, you could take cover in the original X-Com too, but only through micro-managing your troops' time units to duck out from behind walls before ducking back in; here, it's all automatic.
Take That, Audience!: When assaulting the alien base, you will see a table with some lights on it. Dr. Shen remarks that it's probably what the aliens use for entertainment and follows up with:
"At least they aren't playing... computer games."
Technology Porn: Once you complete certain research or just after you've manufactured some new weapons.
Tech Levels: Ballistic Weapons < Laser Weapons < Plasma/Alloy Weapons. Several class abilities refer to the weapon's tech level.
Shades of What the Hell, Hero? as well. He genuinely believed that humans would willingly join the Ethereals to fight whatever bigger threat they were preparing for, and killing him destroyed their only source of information.
Not a character, but a continent: South America's continent bonus is called "We Have Ways", allowing XCOM to perform Autopsies or Interrogations instantly. Pain is the universal language!
Dr. Vahlen, who designed the interrogation system, an off-screen process which avoids the translation barrier by almost literally ripping the information out of their brains and/or implants. Officer Bradford admits that he is a bit creeped out by her methods.
Tragic Monster: In a way, all the aliens qualify. Each was its own separate race until the Ethereals had them twisted and changed for their own purposes. When they were finally deemed as "failures," they were then simply converted into proxy soldiers for the Ethereals' next invasion.
Transforming Mecha: The Cyberdiscs can transform between a nigh-invulnerable but unarmed disc form and a vulnerable but heavily-armed floating insect-bot form.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: Set in 2015. The world is almost exactly the same as it was on the game's release date in terms of technology and geopolitics, with a few exceptions. For example, military technology is slightly more advanced and Scotland seems to be an independent country.
Unobtainium: Elerium and the alien alloy. Neither of them can be found on Earth or artificially created, meaning your only source is from the cold dead hands of the aliens.
So far. Both Dr. Shen and Dr. Vahlen muses that, with a few years of concentrated research, they could make the stuff become widely available. Problem is, you don't have months available, let alone years.
Justified, alien weapons self-destruct when they're killed (without using explosives).
If you stun them, however, you're good, though due to how the game engine works, you can't just scoop up fallen weapons in the middle of battle for use. Justified in that alien gear does not follow human ergonomics and would be awkward for your soldiers to use (for example, Sectoid Plasma Pistols are wrist-mounted, while the Mutons' regular and Heavy Plasma Rifles are too bulky and uncomfortable for human use without modifications). Recovered alien gear is (off-screen, for free) modified for human use by your engineering team, according to the research reports.
Completely intact UFOs can't be commandeered after being secured, even if you've reverse-engineered their navigation, power and propulsion systems. They can only be dismantled for their components and raw materials.
Unstable Equilibrium: Early-game is typically the hardest part of the game. You've got no territory, little income, inexperienced soldiers, no technology (yet) and the aliens outnumber you. Later on, you have the option of getting goodies that even the aliens wish they had and soldiers with Improbable Aiming Skills who can mow down aliens like Rambo even with basic ballistic weapons and snipers who can pop the aliens' heads from across the map.
Then psi powers enter the game, and the rules change... and again, once you have one or more psi troopers of your own.
Uplifted Animal: Most of the aliens that serve the Ethereals have been conquered and uplifted or altered to some degree in their search for "gifted" species. The Chryssalids are the most striking example, since they began as feral animals... and didn't really evolve from that state.
Vendor Trash: Some items, usually damaged ship components, alien surgery equipment and the like. Vendor Trash items are clearly labelled in your inventory as "having no use for research projects".
V-Formation Team Shot: On the box art. Also, your team prior to deployment will stand like this, allowing you to review them and their gear, standing around, looking awesome, with appropriate rockin' music playing in the background. Contrast this with the after mission summary especially when things go south.
Unlike the original game, you'll (probably) get attached to your soldiers this time, and not just treat them as Red Shirts. Especially the Argentinian Heavy from the tutorial.
There's even an achievement, called "Ain't No Cavalry Comin'", which you earn if you take a soldier through every single mission. It's not enough to merely have him/her survive from the very start until the end of the game, but he/she must take part in each and every mission you take on. If you play with tutorials enabled, this soldier will inevitably be the aforementioned Argentinian Heavy because he's the only one to survive the tutorial mission, and this mission does count towards the achievement.
Name your soldiers personally if you really want to get attached. Go ahead, name one of the soldiers after someone you know and care about deeply and see how much care you take in not getting them blasted by an alien. This does lead to awkward explanations to your loved ones of how their name ended up on the memorial wall, though.
Have four Heavies? Check. Four civilians next to a truck you wanna use for cover? Check. Sending in anyone to rescue them? Nah. Sending a rocket to blow it to hell along with the four civilians? Check. Earning an Excellent rating? Check.
Rookies cost $10-$15 each, which is pretty cheap (except very early on in the game). If one pisses you off by repeatedly missing the alien they're standing next to, the options of making them go check out the scary noise in the building on their own, or drawing fire, or just plain being used as bait always exists.
The Sectopod has two: a fusion lance for burning your dudes to a fine, fine ash, and a plasma beam for the reaction shots.
You can also get one for your Firestorms if you salvage an intact fusion core from a downed Battleship.
We All Live in America: No matter which country you deploy in, the buildings and cars (especially the yellow cabs) look like American cities or towns, not to mention the complete lack of accents for your soldiers. Since each map is hand-crafted, however, this is understandable.
However, the planned DLCs are looking to avert this (the first one, the Slingshot Content Pack, includes maps in China, though they're only for specific Council missions).
Averted for the most part. The Council is made up of most of the G20 countries and a few others that give you money and support to keep everyone alive. That said, countries will bail if they feel they would be better off on their own.
This is why Zhang defects to XCOM during the special Council missions included in Slingshot. He realized that the Triads squabbling for money and power is kinda pointless when the Aliens are attacking everyone.
We Buy Anything: The good ol' Gray Market is the secret auction house for XCOM's funding nations and if you don't think you're going to be using that pile of Sectoid corpses (though you can craft stuff with them, so don't sell too many) you may as well sell them for money. Early-game, this will probably be your primary means of income.
On the other hand, if your troops miss too often during a raid on a UFO, the loot from the mission will often be damaged, which isn't useable in research or construction, and is basically just Vendor Trash.
Weird Moon: Each return trip from a mission shows your Skyranger flying toward a full moon on a clear night, no matter what the date or Mission control time actually is. To top it off, it's an unskippable in-engine animation so you will be seeing it quite often.
Additionaly, most maps take place either at night or at day. Most maps don't switch between the two time periods, so it is very likely that your soldiers will arrive to the mission at noon only for it to be as dark as midnight. Also inverted by the times you deploy on a map where the sun shines bright even if it's 3 AM.
Vendor Trash: There's no use for damaged alien equipment, storage pods, or food. Hock it.
You Lose At Zero Trust: Nations have a Panic Meter that goes from 1 to 5. When it hits 5, they are in grave danger of pulling their funding from the XCOM project by the end of the month (if you fail a Terror mission in their country, they pull funding immediately, even if they have less than 5 panic), as they decide to redirect their funding to keep their own people under control. You lose the game when you lose eight nations total (half of the founding nations, in other words), regardless of the panic levels in the other nations, as the Council of Nations decides that the project is a failure. This will happen a whole lot more often on harder difficulties.
Money, the Gold Equivalent. You get awarded by the Council for your performance on a monthly basis, as well as for special missions and requests. You can also sell scavenged alien materials on the Grey Market if you're strapped for cash.
Alloys, Weapon Fragments and Elerium, the Wood equivalents. These are all used for the research and manufacture of advanced tech, but you can only get them by scavenging after missions.
Alien Tech. Various specialty items like computers, power sources, and occasionally dead bodies. Required to make certain kinds of special devices, and useless at all other times. Again, only available by scavenging.
Power, as... Power. All the facilities in your base need power to run. Easily remedied with a few Elerium plants and maybe a Thermo generator.
Zombie Apocalypse: The Chryssalids always show up during your first Terror mission, when your team probably isn't very well equipped or experienced, and there's 18 tasty civilians to snack on and turn into zombies. At least now, the resulting zombies only turn into Chryssalids after several turns, instead of on death.