Video Game / X-COM

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Vigilo Confido.note 

The brainchild of Julian Gollop and assorted MicroProse personnel, X-COM is a European series of strategy games created in 1993. Gollup took inspiration from a tape of Gerry Andersen's old sci-fi show from the 1970s. (Seriously: the submarine is called a "Skydiver," and there's a Doctor Shen.) Here it is condensed into a movie.

Players are put in charge of X-COM, a planetary defense agency, and tasked with maintaining X-COM's budget and catching flying saucers (either by storming their landing sites or shooting them down). What follows is a blend of turn-based tactics and profiteering: Star wars are expensive, and much of the budget comes from prying loose artifacts from UFOs. Although the games have a fair amount of randomness, the better player will tend to win.

The first game, UFO: Enemy Unknown (marketed as X-COM: UFO Defense in North America) was a watershed title which is still considered one of the best strategy games ever. Despite its modest origins, the X-COM franchise was not a solo act: While Gollop's team set to work on a sequel called X-COM: Apocalypse, an in-house crew at MicroProse beat him to the punch in 1995 with a mission pack sequel: X-COM: Terror from the Deep, which is set 40 years after the First Alien War.

Apocalypse was released in 1997 to average reception, and included the option to play in real-time. The last days of MicroProse (and its acquisition by Hasbro Interactive) saw a few Genre Shifted offerings: Interceptor, an interquel which kept the base management elements while swapping out the strategy missions for space-bound flight sim; First Alien Invasion, a "Play By Mail" budget title modeled after the original; and Enforcer, a Gaiden Game which ditched the strategy outright in favor of an FPS.

After that, the possibility of a future X-COM game became uncertain due to the rights passing between various companies. In 2010, 2K Marin announced that they were developing a reboot of the storyline: an FPS set exclusively in the USA in The Fifties. The fandom's negative response to the reboot was heavy enough that, instead, Firaxis Games (a subsidiary of 2K and developers of the Civilization series) was tasked with creating a game closer in-line with the original X-COM. The result was XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The original FPS reboot was retooled into a third-person tactical shooter called The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, intended as a prequel to Enemy Unknown (the game's three separate iterations are documented here). In 2015, it was announced that Firaxis was working on a sequel to Enemy Unknown named XCOM 2, exploring X-COM as a underground resistance group, fighting against the alien occupation forces and the Vichy Earth government.

As of late March, 2016, the three games of the classic series (along with Enforcer and Interceptor) are available at GOG.com (link goes to the first game).

Entries in the franchise:


X-COM provides general examples of:

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    A-C 
  • A-Team Firing: Grumble... Most recruits will hit everything except the aliens.
    • Soldiers in the X-COM games are notoriously bad shots. Because that skill grows in proportion with their successful use, constant misses can result in even worse accuracy. (Unfortunately, the aliens seem to suffer a lot less from this than the soldiers.) Interestingly, given the game mechanics, you never have a 100% chance of hitting anything. At most, the chance is always 95%. This means that, even if the target is right in front of the soldier, there is still a 1-in-20 chance he will miss. Furthermore, since a 'miss' means your bullet is fired at a tile adjacent to your actual target, you can miss your target by up to 45 degrees.
    • This is less the rookies' fault as it your weapons. It's evident when using Auto Fire (which makes soldiers shoot 3 less-accurate shots in rapid succession). Agents can even be firing an accurate weapon like any of the Rifles at point-blank on full auto and have the shots knock down the walls and trees behind an alien without even grazing it. Aimed Shot (a single, more-accurate shot that eats up more of your Time Units for the turn) is practically a necessity for any enemy who isn't in point-blank range. On the other hand, Plasma weapons are vastly more accurate than ballistics or lasers; with those in place, even an auto-shot will prove effective with enough training in Firing Accuracy.
      • An unusual case comes from the starting Rifles in X-COM: the basic rifle is described in the fluff as being a sniper-capable weapon which has burst fire, and it shows - the weapon is more accurate than any plasma or laser weapon if you used Aimed Shot, but its accuracy takes a serious nosedive if you fire it on auto.
    • Auto shot is preferable early on when you know even the soldier's aimed shot will most likely miss. First, it has a chance to hit aliens multiple times, stray bullets will sometimes hit other aliens (even those you didn't notice), and if the alien can see you, a single burst will only trigger reaction fire once as opposed to aimed or snap shot which trigger reaction on every shot. Even if you only have a 20% hit chance, in a burst of three it means 48.8% chance that at least one will hit. Once you have laser weapons, you most likely use auto shot at every opportunity.
    • Snap Shots, on the other hand, are only useful if you're standing nose-to-nose with an unarmored alien; otherwise you hit air. You're better off spending your TUs on 1-2 Auto-Shots than flushing them down the toilet on a Snap Shot. Waving your gun around like a lunatic and blindly spraying bullets into the air is preferable, literally, to carefully kneeling and firing off a Snap Shot.
    • Experimentation has shown a few oddities with accuracy in the first two games. In particular, the quoted % accuracy is actually understated a majority of the time. The reason for this is that a "miss" is not actually a miss, but rather a random deviation applied to the bullet. If you're lucky (or at point blank range), this deviation will be small enough that the bullet hits anyway.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: See Crapsack World. This works out fine as the backstory of a hyper-lethal squad combat game: the utter monstrosity of your enemy means that as long as any humans survive, the Non-Entity General can always find vengeance-crazed replacements for troops lost in combat, or at least someone willing to die for a carrot, and there is an unending supply of alien baddies to kill, capture and vivisect. But taken out of context, X-COM is essentially sending unaccountable death squads against an enemy that can never really be beaten without desperate measures.
  • Airborne Mook: The Floaters, their equivalents in the sequels (Archons, Bio-Drones), and various Terror monsters.
  • Alien Autopsy: The player's scientists can perform these to learn more about the enemy.
  • Aliens Are Bastards
    • The first two games played straight.
    • Would have been subverted with the canceled Alliance, where the stranded X-COM team form an alliance with the friendly aliens against the hostile ones.
    • Downplayed with in Apocalypse. The new aliens are certainly bastards, but some of the ones we've been previously familiar with now co-exist peacefully with humans.
    • And then subverted again in the reboot: Turns out the Ethereals are Well-Intentioned Extremists.
  • Alien Blood
    • Green and Yellow seems to be most common ones.
    • Ethereals have silver blood (though it's dark red in its Autopsy picture).
    • Aquatoid blood is orange.
    • Lobsterman blood is teal.
  • Alien Invasion: Though alien threat comes from a new source—space, underwater, and another dimension respectively.
  • Aliens and Monsters: Mostly aliens, but their Terror Units are often engineered (genetically or otherwise) to either capitalize on their owner's strengths (Chryssalids having weaponized the Snakemen's rapid asexual reproduction, for example) or cover their weaknesses (Sectopods distracting the enemy with conventional attacks while their Ethereal masters make with the Mind Rape). Except for the Silacoids and Celatids, which (given that their counterparts, the Mutons, don't really have weaknesses) don't really do anything.
  • All Deaths Final: Playing any XCOM game on the Ironman setting effectively turns it into this. You do not get to save or load data. The game restricts you to one save file per game, and automatically overwrites after every turn, or if you try to exit to the menu. Any mistakes, deaths, and losses are effectively set in stone. Lost an elite psionic Super Soldier to a lucky alien grenade? Too bad, so sad. Have fun outfitting and training another. This incentivizes players not to waste manpower on jobs that don't require any precision, such as UFO raids. On the other hand, it de-incentivizes players from sending anyone important to battle zones (i.e. Terror Missions or Alien Bases). In those situations, the entire squad can be bumped off the second they step off the plane, so what is an X-Commander to do? Withdraw before you lose all your MVPs, or risk it all on 12 incompetents?
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Any desert you visit in UFO Defense has Cacti. Even the deep Sahara or the Rub al Khali. Even the desert in Enforcer has cacti.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: A major gameplay element; you have to design your hidden underground bases with defense in mind, since aliens will eventually find and attack them. Later in the game, of course, you get to do the same to them. (Or earlier, since unless you're doing a really bad job, you'll find some alien bases before they find yours.) Innovations in technology will eventually provides missile and psychic defenses to fend off UFOs or, in the case of the latter, cloud detection of the base completely. The Skyranger isn't exactly a safe haven either, both on the ground or in the air.
  • Alliance Meter: UFO and TFTD has this in form of Funding Nations. Scaled up in Apocalypse with 25 factions waging corporate wars for political and economical power in Mega-Primus during the alien invasion.
  • Alternate Continuity: According to Firaxis, XCOM is a separate continuity from the original X-COM series, with 2K Marin's The Bureau serving as a prequel to Enemy Unknown.
  • America Saves the Day: Your biggest financial contributor in UFO/TFTD. Geographically, it's one of the most difficult regions to defend (the most difficult being Australasia) while still keeping a radar umbrella over the other donors, separated as they are between two vast oceans. Not a good site for a starter base; keeping a close watch on it with Skyrangers until you can afford a secondary base is the best way to go.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Each difficulty level you beat in Enforcer (in single play) unlocks a few new skins for the title robot.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The result of failing to defeat the aliens (and sometimes even when succeeding). See the more detailed AP examples in each games respective sections.
    • Interceptor: If you fail, the alien superweapon utterly obliterates Earth, leaving a smoldering husk behind. You get to turn the tables on them, though, using the Nova Bomb to cause a supernova in their pocket dimension solar system. Technically, you can do it as much as you want, which is a little frightening.
  • Appropriated Title: The series started as UFO: Enemy Unknown. It had to relabel itself X-COM when somebody complained there's already a game called UFO.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit:
    • Only 1 Skyranger per terrorist attack? No wonder X-COM's budget is in jeopardy. (At least you can take on a Mothership with three fighters at once.)
    • The third installment, Apocalypse, expands on this. You can now no longer recruit anonymous guys from a practically bottom-less pool. You have applications that you browse to find the best skilled people, and if there are no applications, you can't recruit anyone, period. Until the pool replenishes that is. The various vehicles have a headcount limit, but far from arbitrary; this can be remedied by landing several transports at once or ferrying the agents group after group. In the tactical portion, though, you are still limited to 6 squads of 6 people each.
  • Armchair Military: The "rear commander" tactic. Since high-ranking officers contribute to the Morale level (and significantly hamper morale when they get themselves killed), it will behoove you leave them behind in the Skyranger. The officer will continue to gain EXP and receive promotions, with the rookies and squaddies stuck doing all of the legwork. Once you go into psionics they can still make themselves useful, either mind-raping aliens or (if they're to weak psychically) scanning them with the Mind Probe.
  • Armless Biped: The original trilogy had one alien with this design in each game: the carnivorous Reapers from UFO Defense, the reptilian Triscenes from Terror from the Deep, and the "Poppers" from Apocalypse .
  • Armor Is Useless: Armor won't be much use to somebody who just got shot right in the sphincter, either from behind or one floor below. Fortunately, this holds true for the aliens and mechs, as well.
    • A soldier with maximum health and the best armor can still be killed in one shot if the damage roll is high enough. Even the best armour has at best a 50/50 chance of stopping a Heavy Plasma shot, though it does make troopers immune to many human weapons and it provides much better protection than most alien units have. To clarify, X-COM soldiers take 0 to 200% of the listed damage from firearms; 50 to 150% from explosives. Unarmoured troopers can survive several heavy plasma blasts and take absolutely no damage... only to be offed by a single pistol shot the next turn.
    • The manual does state that the default coveralls do offer excellent protection from modern weapons, although it skimps over the plasma resistance capability...
    • Zig-Zagged in Terror: The front of the Ion Armor can let soldiers take point blank Sonic Cannon blasts or Lobstermen's claws and take no damage as long as it hits the front armor (unless random chance screws you over), but still played straight with Bio Drone explosions and Tentaculats. Also, Ion Armor is much weaker at the sides, meaning the alien waiting around the corner can easily take out your soldier if you're not careful.
    • Averted in Apocalypse. Megapol Armour is fairly competent, particularly against light friendly fire and early disruptor weapons, but is terrible against devastators. Marsec's flying armour is weaker but allows flight. On the other hand, X-COM manufactured "Disruptor Armour" transforms soldiers into nigh-unstoppable death machines who can practically waltz through multiple explosions without even taking a mortal injury. The shields certainly help, though.
  • Artistic License – Statistics:
    • X-COM's accuracy reports during combat aren't exactly blatant lies, but they're not exactly accurate, either. What X-COM does for a hit check is up to two rolls. The first is done against the accuracy check, and if it passes, you automatically get a dead-on shot. The other roll, if the first fails, is the deviation from where you're aiming, which may also end up being nil, resulting in a dead-on shot. So that 75% Accuracy the game reports? More like 77% to hit the target you're aiming at, and up to around 20% to hit someone else, resulting in somewhere around a 86% (on average) chance of someone getting hit by any given shot in a heated battle. Oh, and 100% accuracy reportedly doesn't exist.
    • Enemy Unknown ditches this in favor of telling players how likely they are to hit. However, many players insist that the game cheats in favor of the aliens on higher difficulties and Classic mode. This eventually got so bad that the RNG was taken apart for testing by the community... and found to be 100% correct. As it turns out, on the lower difficulties, the computer actually cheated for the player. Thus, once the aid is removed on the higher difficulties, players suddenly felt cheated when their "sure" shots no longer hit all the time.
  • Attack Drone:
    • The aliens have their own variant: Cyberdiscs, Bio-Drones, and Gatekeepers.
    • Alien freighters in Interceptor are protected by automated drones. Strangely enough, the drones were actually more effective at killing you than most of the aliens, because they were agile, fast, and infuriatingly difficult to hit. The only advantage you have over them is that their weapons are relatively pathetic: it's easy to ignore them, destroy the freighter, and jump to hyperspace without losing much of your shields. If, however, you decide to attack the drones...well, you're going to need another fighter.
    • In X-COM: UFO Defense you got unmanned assault veicles (armed with light autocannon, missile launchers or laser cannon) and later Hovertanks (armed with plasma cannon or Blaster Launchers) which appeared so be drone-vehicles controlled from HQ, as they required no crew and would continue to operate even after all human soldiers were out of action. Terror from the Deep had Coelacanths, basically underwater tanks (armed with a gas-propelled cannon, torpedo launcher or gauss cannon), and Displacers, drone submarines (armed with sonic cannon or Pulse Wave Torpedo launcher).
      • While they can operate with all the humans on the mission down, it's not recommended as tanks can't pilot the troop transport (obviously). Aborting the mission with all soldiers dead or unconscious will result in the transport and the tanks being lost as well.
    • Enemy Unknown gives you the Super Heavy Infantry Vehicle, or SHIV: robotic minitanks that can be armed with a gatling gun, laser cannon, or plasma cannon. Other upgrades can give them the ability to suppress enemies, act as mobile cover for your soldiers, or fly.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Several weapons and base components, either due to how easily their replacements can be researched or by being Nerfed by the game mechanics.
    • The Sonic Cannon of TFTD is the biggest offender. It can firing snap shots or aimed shots and inflicts about 15% more damage than the Sonic Blasta-Rifle. However, firing a snap shot will take half of your time units, and an aimed shot requires 75%, meaning you have almost no ability to manuever. In addition, it has five fewer rounds per clip, and is so heavy you're limited in what else you can carry. The Blasta-Rifle is superior in every way except damage and, to much a lesser extent, accuracy, but since you can fire two snap shots and move with the Rifle, the slight damage increase the Cannon offers is negligible. Fortunately, the computer will use the Cannon, and all it's attendant problems, exclusively about two-thirds of the way into the game.
    • The Griffon Tank in Apocalypse: Huge, has a BFG. Awesome stats for something you can get at the start... but because of a coding decision, will be destroyed if the road under it gets damaged, no matter what its current health is. Also, it's SLOW; flying vehicles can easily avoid it.
    • Heavy infantry-carried weapons, at least in the first two games — launchers such as the Auto-Cannon can inflict serious amounts of damage, but their weight means rookies will have problems carrying them. In general, equipping rocket launchers, auto-cannons and the like to inexperienced soldiers (which are all you've got in the early-game!) will mean they may not have enough TUs to actually fire them effectively or, not to mention, move. The Blaster Launcher is the main exception and a Game Breaker.
    • Interceptor: The cutscene when you complete research on the Nova Bomb, which of course includes a test. The pilot who reports that the test was successful doesn't sound too happy about it. But the player's avatar is.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier/Cool Plane
    • The Skyranger VTOL jet.
    • Terror from the Deep introduces the Triton, a submarine equivalent of the Skyranger.
    • The ultimate troop transports (the Avenger, Leviathan, and Annihilator) are also the ultimate fighter craft!
  • BFG:
    • The Blaster Launcher from UFO Defense is essentially a small cannon, firing bombs about the size and shape of a rugby ball. It's the only hand-held weapon capable of punching through the hulls of UFOs and it's very rare that anything survives the 11x11 explosion. (Even an indirect impact will kill anyone in its wake). To top it off, the missiles are capable of following up to nine waypoints, making even 180 degree turns with minimal error. Unfortunately, the BB turns anything within its radius to ash, including your foes' weapons, essentially denying you 'experience points' each time you use it.
    • The Heavies in Enemy Unkmown favor big, bulky machine guns and their Energy Weapon equivalents as their primary weapons (in case you're wondering, their secondary is a rocket launcher). The guns visibly have bipods but the Heavies don't bother to use them.
      • In the expansion (Enemy Within) the prototype MECnote  Troopers have portable Assault-Rifle styled miniguns, complete with interchangeable magazines. To be fair, however, the average MEC rig is somewhere between twelve and fifteen feet tall... Later on, (with the appropriate research) they can be equipped with Railguns that fire fist-sized lumps of depleted uranium, and then finally 'Particle Cannons', which are basically tank-sized plasma rifles.
  • Back Stab: The Rear section is one of the weakest parts of wearable Armor, naturally leading to this.
  • Bee People: The Sectoids and Aquatoids are described as such. The Apocalypse aliens as well.
  • Badass Army: The series is based around a completely unknown alien menace that vastly outnumbers and outguns humanity even on the most fundamental levels, and the player, the director of the X-COM project, is given only a harrier and a couple of rifles, and instructed to train up an elite force and halt the invasion in less than a year. By the end of the game, however, your veterans will be so heavily armed and over-powered that winning almost becomes boring. The trick is surviving long enough to beef up the rookies. (Later in the game you can use M.C.'d Aliens for scouting, so that Chryssalids kill them instead of your troopers.)
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Humanity only stands a chance against the alien invaders by stealing and reverse-engineering all of their technology as quickly as possible.
  • Big Bulky Bomb: X-COM Interceptor has a Nova bomb, which is so large it only fits on the special hardpoint of the Super Avenger Fighter.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Autopsy results. Some are fairly mundane, some are heavily cybernized, and some who by all means should have been dead when they were alive.
  • Black Box: Even when research is done, there are still something that bugs the scientists, usually the autopsies of the more exotic aliens and miscellaneous tech. They sensibly ignore it rather than taking the (extra) time to figure it out.
  • Black Market: Though not explicitly stated in the games themselves, the manuals say that X-COM sold goods to buyers of questionable reputation, and when the times became rough they even stopped bothering asking about who's buying as long as they had the cash.
  • Body Horror: Chryssalids, Bio-Drones, Tentaculats, several of the Apocalypse aliens, and so forth.
  • Boring but Practical: Laser pistols and rifles, which are cheap to manufacture, fairly accurate and use up no ammunition. Thanks to decent rate of fire and damage, they remain useful for entire length of game, with sole exception being Mutons. You will later find yourself dusting off your old Heavy Lasers once Sectopods come out to play.
  • Boss Rush: Completing Enforcer on Xtra Spicy grants access to the XtraSpicy bonus level, where each boss in the game attacks in pairs (at the minimum).
  • Bottomless Magazines
    • Only for laser weapons in the first game, the major reason they are so good. Hideously averted for everything else (see Easy Logistics below) except for aircraft and HWP energy weapons and even those just have very large magazines (100 or 255).
    • While the first game went with the "more powerful weapon = more ammo in clip" method (the plasma pistol has 15 rounds, while the heavy plasma has 35), TFTD decided that more powerful weapons need smaller clips (the Sonic Pistol has 20 rounds, the Sonic Cannon has 10).
  • Brain in a Jar: The final opponent of Enemy Unknown, later miniaturized into an enemy unit in TFTD.
  • Brainwashed: The common state of victims of Ethereals, high-ranking Sectoids, and their successors. Often, they're also crazy.
  • Bullethole Door:
    • Viable once you get access to powerful, alien weapons. You can even drill your way through a yards-thick wall with a powerful enough gun.
    • Early in the game, clearing a house or even a stable of aliens can be very dangerous and time consuming. A simpler tactic is to throw a Heavy Explosive against a wall to make a hole and then fire exploding and/or incendiary ammunition into the building. This will clear out any walls or any other obstructions that can hide an alien. Any surviving aliens will end up in clear line of sight of your soldiers.
    • A lot of players take this as doctrine; as aliens only recognize existing entrances, creating new ones can allow for camping. Conventional explosives do it well enough to buildings, though it isn't advisable durin Terror Missions since the blast will likely kill a civilian.
    • UFO hulls aren't breached on the first try even with a satchel, though it still hurts an alien standing behind the wall. Once you realize that the most powerful alien weapons (Plasmas, Blaster Bombs) can knock down the outer hull of a UFO (or a control room in the Alien Base), a whole new world opens up. Combined with Flying Suits, this makes for excellent pincer attacks. Instead of going through a cramped UFO with lots of hiding places, you fly up and blast a hole in the top floor, swooping in and taking out the commander which not only makes your fight easier (commanders usually have the same weapon and high stats), it also decreases morale for the regular mooks, potentially making them panic and drop their weapons. Not to mention that UFO engines (and therefore elerium/zrbite) are usually located on the lower levels.
  • Bulletproof Vest:
    • In the XCOM games, unarmoured soldiers will die with disgusting ease. Personal Armour and even Power Armour is available but by the time it's in use, most aliens are packing weapons which will still inflict lethal damage no matter how heavy the armour, and Mobile Nightmare Objects (the Chryssalids) ignore armour anyway.
    • The RNG is horrible/evil, and your soldiers can take up to 200% of the listed damage shown in the UF Opaedia. On the other hand, they can also take 0% of the listed damage, depending on what the RNG rolls. So your troopers can literally survive a point blank headshot without taking a single point of damage. Sometimes, the RNG only ever rolls 200s or 0s. This can lead to interesting situations where a soldier survives half a dozen heavy plasma shots only to get pinged to death by a plasma pistol shot the next turn.
    • Apocalypse, the third game in the series, breaks from the mold of the previous two by giving your characters armor at the beginning of the game, rather than forcing you to send your troops into battle wearing cloth jumpsuits. However, the armor still isn't very practical: the aliens will start the game firing Brainsuckers at your troops, which are completely unfazed by armor, and spitting acid, which the armor isn't effective against. In addition, the armor either slows soldiers down (standard Marsec armor), or is prohibitively expensive while being barely more protective (flying armor).
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown makes armour noticeably more useful; with the first armour upgrade equipped, your troops are now almost certain to survive one hit, and later models only get better. XCOM 2 actually had to nerf it a bit by making it more likely that wounded soldiers are out of combat for long periods.
  • Burn the Undead: The best way to kill Zombies in XCOM series are with Incendiary/Phosphorous rounds, since these will automatically kill the Chryssalid/Tentaculat spawn inside them.
  • Character Level: The Soldier ranks are a lesser example of this, and which soldiers get promoted is out of the player's control (though OpenXcom has a mod for manual promoting) based on the performance of the soldiers and how many of them are in your employ. The higher the rank, the better the morale the soldiers have. Getting the high ranking officer killed will also make the morale drop like a rock.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower
    • With sufficient combat experience, a soldier can eventually beat out a tank in health, movement, accuracy, etc. Oh, and tanks can't get those nifty Psi abilities.
    • XCOMUtil's modified HWPs, on the other hand, are absolutely terrifying, and are capable of reliably hitting an enemy from a considerable distance away. And if they miss, well, that's why you use the Rocket Tanks... until you get the Fusion Ball Tanks. Which can never miss, unless you're bad at setting in the missile course.
    • Also demonstrated by Commander units on the enemy forces, particularly in X-COM and TFTD. Your average Floater, for example, dies if you so much as glare at it. Floater Commanders can take several rifle rounds to bring down, on the other hand. Rank distinctions were removed in Apocalypse, however, though enemy stats could vary greatly.
  • Chest Burster:
    • Chryssalids. First, they inject you with an egg, which zombifies you and makes you attack other humans. Once the zombie has been killed, or the embryo inside you matures enough, your entire body splits open, revealing a Chryssalid. The only way to prevent this is to not get bitten or torch the zombie first. Civilians don't get those options. (Hence the problem with "Terror" missions.) Also, the Chryssalid's "Bravery" stat is so high that they never panic.
    • Tentuculats (flying brain squids) work in much the same way, except they can hover. Thankfully, they rarely appear during on land-based incursions. They can't take flight, only swim upwards.
  • Choice of Two Weapons:
    • In the earlier XCOM games, your soldiers had two 'hand' inventory slots, where you would need to put weapons in order to use them. Most larger weapons such as rifles or rocket launchers suffered big accuracy penalties if both hands were used, but pistols did not and so having some troops wielding pistols and grenades or stun rods or thermic lances saved valuable APs by not swapping weapons when confronted with suitable situations.
    • Notably, whilst dual wielding pistols or melee weapons was not penalised in any way apart from lower accuracy, there was also absolutely no benefit to doing so as it took the same number of APs to use a single weapon twice as it did to use two similar weapons once each. Having two grenades handy might save a few APs, but was not as useful as a gun, and reloading took up few enough A Ps that having a backup pistol ready wasn't really worth it.
    • On the other hand, wielding two pistols essentially doubles magazine capacity - a real-life revolver trick known as the New York Reload: since revolvers take a long time to reload, you just pull out another revolver if you run dry.
  • Clone Army: Alien autopsies reveal that, with few exceptions, most of the aliens are clones.
  • Colonized Solar System: Mars is alien HQ in UFO, colonized by humans after TFTD and is humanity's main source of elerium-115.
  • Colonel Badass: The abilities of soldiers in XCOM generally improve as they survive more missions, as does their rank. The rank of colonel is the second highest in UFO Defense, next to the commander (which you can only get one of at any time.) In the reboot, Colonel is the highest rank, and any soldiers who make it there will most assuredly be badass.
  • Combat Medic:
    • Anyone with the medkit, and boy, you're gonna need them. You can also pick up a downed soldier's own medkit and use it on him, as knocked-out soldiers will instantly drop all their equipment on the ground.
    • The remake introduces the Support class, which has several skills that improve Medkit use. A soldier of this class is limited to assault rifles (and their laser/plasma equivalents) and pistols (and equivalents).
  • Concealment Equals Cover:
    • Most objects or buildings on the battlefield will stop at least one bullet, usually getting blown to bits in the process. Shame the aliens tend to fire on full auto.
    • Cover will not make you immune from explosives, so a standard tactic is to just blast any building with high explosive rounds, rockets and grenades. In the early game, even high explosive packs: an agent opens the door in UFO, an alien faces the door and you know it will shoot before your puny bullets and bad aim may kill it. So this soldier runs away and another sets a charge right next to the enemy behind the wall — it can't breach UFO, but it can damage wall, floor behind it and kill the alien.
    • In Enemy Unknown, plasma and laser weapons will destroy cover. The same cannot be said for your puny starting kinetics. Explosives will also destroy cover. Like the former games in the series, stuff that's cover is liable to stop at least one shooting attack at least before breaking... even if that stuff being used for cover is a mailbox or garbage can. Cars will also explode from being shot up, though after they explode the wreckage they leave behind is by all means unbreakable.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: You need to build facilities to house your soldiers, scientists, engineers, craft and various supplies, and crafting your own craft in the midgame takes a relatively realistic amount of time. It's pretty much fighters or transport fighters ranging from 14k - 34k man hours per one - this only counts the work your engineers do though. The construction costs you materials and money, which means there are probably lots of subcontractors who supply you with various non-alien parts in the design).
  • Cool Starship: Completing a game often requires research and construction of an "Ultimate Craft" and interrogation for the whereabouts of an alien stronghold to drive it to.
  • Cow Tools: Aliens bases and some ships are filled with these. Some you can research, some just look appropriate.
  • Crapsack World: All but stated. An unknown, but likely large portion of the galaxy is ruled by an Always Chaotic Evil Hive Mind. Humans might be able to destroy the local node if they become The Unfettered — abolish every civil liberty and article of war. And there's another, unattached (albeit slightly less advanced) node in the Gulf of Mexico. And its destruction would reduce Earth's biosphere to the algae level. And there's an entire planet of Hive Mind aliens just one dimension over. And the best weapon against all these irredeemably hostile aliens are Half Human Hybrids with Psychic Powers... who will eventually become a permanent underclass treated like parolees from cradle to grave and not allowed to breed without permission(which tends to be withheld between invasions). In short, not only is The Verse irrefutably hostile, but it runs on From Bad to Worse.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Of the "carry items up to the soldier's Strength in weight, then take Time Unit and Stamina penalties for going overboard" type. However, since encumbrance is a symptom of lower physical strength, eventually that penalty will go away.
  • Critical Existence Failure:
    • Averted with soldiers. Those lucky enough to survive alien gunfire (and that won't be many of the unarmored ones, mind you) will leak HP from "Fatal Wounds" to their various body parts until they fall unconscious and are either treated with a Medi-Kit or left to die. More often than not, it's the latter. Wounded troopers also suffer an accuracy penalty.
    • Played straight with Cyberdisks. Due to how 2x2 monsters work, a stunned cyberdisk is effectively a dead cyberdisk. Actually killing it results in a rather impressive boom. Which can also cause chain reactions, if other cyberdisks are close enough.
    • Played straight in Terror from the Deep with Bio-Drones.
  • Crouch and Prone:
    • In UFO and TFTD Soldiers can crouch to improve accuracy, become a smaller target, have more cover and to allow the standing soldiers behind the crouching ones to shoot over their shoulders (though be careful, there's still a risk of hitting the guy in front of you). Soldiers automatically stand up straight when moving. Apocalypse also has a prone position.
    • Enemy Unknown has soldiers crouch if they're next to half-cover, but as the name implies, half-cover is not as good as full cover, in which the soldier is standing up. They have the option to use their move to "Hunker Down", giving them the benefits of full cover even in half cover while also preventing Critical Hits, but also lowering their line of sight.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments:
    • XCOM uses massive tiles which are composites to plant houses and UFOs down, and certain sections of an Alien Base always have the same basic layout.
    • Apocalypse plays it straight way with fully pre-made levels. For example, every UFO of a given type always crashes into the same landscape, regardless of location.
      • Enemy Unknown has lots of handmade levels, but they're all loosely based on North American cities, leading to things like a large red suspension bridge in the middle of Birmingham, England and people using large sedans in Japan, which tends toward smaller cars.
  • Cyborg:
    • Most of the alien mooks are modified one way or another. The Floater's core organs have been removed and replaced with a cybernetic life support system including a flight unit (in either antigravity or jetpack flavors, depending on version).
    • The Lobsterman and Triscene from Terror from the Deep are combat androids with some wetware components.
    • Androids are recruits in X-COM: Apocalypse.
    • In Enemy Within the X-COM troopers can have their limbs cut off and replaced with massive robotic arms and legs. However they can remove the massive limbs are swap them out with normal sized limbs for when they are milling around the base.

    D-G 
  • Damage Over Time: Most attacks have a chance to cause wounds that will bleed the victim to death if left alone.
  • Death from Above:
    • The Floaters and their equivalents.
    • Players can also do this once they research a means of flying.
    • Some Enforcer enemies will do this. In particular one floating buzz-saw thing likes to reach you and flip up to where you can't possibly get an angle on it, attacking all the while.
    • The best way to use the Blaster Launcher and its cousins is typically to have the round rise to the top level of the battlescape, where it will not be obstructed, navigate to the target, and then dive straight down on top of whatever hapless alien you're blowing away. This ensures a detonation; if it doesn't hit the alien, it'll hit the ground.
  • Dead Man Switch:
    • Primed grenades and high explosives. Your soldiers drop them as soon as they're zombified, so if you don't want to contend with more Chryssalids....
    • Cyberdisks. When they die, they promptly blow up real good, taking out anything in roughly a 10-square radius... potentially even other Cyberdisks!
  • Death Cry Echo:
    • Pay attention to these. Aliens only scream if didn't accidentally knock 'em out.
    • The Lobstermen in Terror from the Deep are nasty, but hearing their amusing death scream makes the effort of killing them worthwhile.
  • Decapitated Army: In most games killing the alien leader and destroying the main base he was in makes you a winner.
    • One tactic for assaulting larger alien craft that have landed or been shot down involves blowing a hole to the bridge and killing the alien officers first. The remaining aliens tend to panic after a few turns and drop their weapons.
    • The same is unfortunately true of X-Com's forces. If the highest-ranking officer is killed, the lower ranks suffer a major morale penalty. One reason why experienced players tend to leave the Commander inside or near the dropship, where he can launch Blaster Bombs at the enemy bridge (see above).
  • Deconstruction: Of children's cartoon series such as G.I. Joe and Transformers. X-COM is a team of elite soldiers who wear cool-looking armor and have a fancy Cool Ship that they travel the world in to save the world from goofy-looking aliens... and then suffer a relentlessly high fatality rate, crippling technological inferiority, and severe funding troubles. Anyone Can Die, often in rather brutal ways, and 50% or higher casualty rates are common in successful missions, with failures usually resulting in no survivors whatsoever. The cool-looking armor is good for little else besides appearance. The Cool Ship costs ludicrous amount of money to lease and is completely unarmed. The goofy-looking aliens outnumber us over a thousand to one and have technology that outstrips ours to such a degree that X-COM might as well be fighting them with sticks. The Man in Washington will happily cut funding at the drop of a hat, even if there's a UFO landing outside the White House. It is not a very pleasant situation. Ironically, after Hasbro acquired the franchise they briefly attempted to make it into a children's cartoon series, which is a rather curious decision considering X-COM's almost insanely high casualty rate.
  • Deflector Shields:
    • X-COM: Apocalypse has shields for both personnel vehicles and individuals.
    • According to the UFO-paedia, the Sectopod (UFO Defense incarnation) is equipped with an energy shield which is resistant to plasma weapons, and since it is usually encountered lategame when plasma weapons have replaced laser weapons, this can be a problem.
    • The Grav Shield base facility from UFO Defense and its Terror from the Deep counterpart, the Bombardment Shield. When a UFO attacks a base, the Grav Shield pushes the UFO away to allow the defense arrays to fire a second time.
  • Destroyable Items:
    • Repeat after me: No grenades or rockets in the Skyranger.
    • Hey, McFly I thought I told you never to fire grenades or rockets in the alien engine room.
    • Explosions can destroy any object lying on the ground, including corpses, unconscious units, and loot. Oddly enough, ammunition and other explosives are unaffected by explosions, though you can still destroy your weapons cache in the Skyranger by accident.
  • Die, Chair! Die!:
    • In the XCOM series, leveling fences, objects, and walls (or entire buildings) can be an important tactic since it denies cover to the enemy and often raises a smokescreen, which admittedly can also benefit the enemy. Entire farms and orchards (or a suburban neighbourhood) can be destroyed with impunity. The main use of High Explosive packs is to kill or injure a weak alien on the other side of a wall.
    • X-COM: Apocalypse unfortunately counts property damage. You can reduce to rubble half of a building in a fight, but it means you owe a lot to its owner. Unless it was something that belongs to aliens or Cult of Sirius who will hate you anyway.
  • Disadvantageous Disintegration: Someone got hit with the Blaster Bomb to the face in the room full of stuff Made of Explodium? No trace of a body and equipment.
  • Disaster Dominoes: When enough units are low on morale, mistakes will start piling up and feeding on each other, until recovering from a losing battle becomes almost impossible.
  • Disc One Nuke:
    • Laser weapons and personal armor, in that order.
    • Through a New Game+ or by starting a multiplayer server, the most powerful of upgrades are unlockable at the beginning on Enforcer, including the nuker.
  • Doing Research: Any facility or weapon beyond the pitiful starting gear must be researched, which usually requires some alien material or corpse to reverse-engineer.
  • Do Not Drop Your Weapon:
    • In the classics, enemies drop their inventories when dead or unconscious. That is, unless you exploit a minor bug in the first game or they are caused to panic (psi attacks, killing their own men, and killing them can do this).
    • In Enemy Unknown, the invaders have set their weapons to self-destruct, to prevent an easy reverse-engineering process.
  • Doomsday Device:
    • TFTD: The sunken city of T'Leth.
    • Intercptor: The Aliens' Project Doomsday and our own Nova Bombs.
    • XCOM 2: The Avatar program, which the X-COM commander (that's you) hijacks for their own purposes.
  • Drop Ship: Skyranger and Triton from UFO and TFTD respectively.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: You're up against the outer space equivalent of the Legions of Hell, including little gray men that indulge in abduction and cattle mutilation and killer crabs that give a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong. The Funding Nations don't really care about your situation, and sometimes consider siding with Aliens as a better alternative.
  • Dungeon Bypass:
    • Tired of slogging through Cyberdisks and Sectoids while being panicked and mind-controlled? Breach the hull at the top floor and reach their Leader immediately with a Blaster Bomb! Other weapons can also breach the less-durable inner walls of UFOs, and human buildings are all too easy to destroy. A common early-game tactic is to spam rockets and autocannon grenades on buildings that aliens might be hiding in rather than engage in costly room-to-room or building-to-building combat.
    • In Apocalypse, collateral destruction is a viable strategy, if you didn't mind getting stuck with the bill. Instead of scattering troops across large, multilevel facilities to hunt down aliens in dark corners, you could set fire to or blow the floors out from under their suspected hiding places and wait for the sound of their screams. Or just level the building with combat vehicles.
  • Dynamic Difficulty:
    • Regardless of the difficulty a given campaign starts at, most of the games will see fit to ramp up alien activity to correspond with consistent positive performance.
    • If the player puts off going for the Big Bad in Terror From the Deep, alien bases will start to proliferate faster than the player can keep up with them. In other words, X-COM are fighting a losing war against superior technology. If they do not exploit their weak point by finding the Big Bad, the enemy will become stronger and stronger until players have no chance of survival.
  • Early Game Hell: The X-Com franchise is known for being rough on beginners.
    • In UFO Defense, the kid gloves come off about 4-5 months in, and you're expected to have your house in order. Aliens will begin dragging along Heavy Plasmas as early as month two; meanwhile, your researchers have cracked laser weapons at best. Pistols and machine guns are functionally useless by this period.
    • Your starter base is comprised of three hangars, one at each corner, with a lift in the middle. It's very elegant. In practice: the worst imaginable schematic. Good luck fending off an invasion fleet with four separate modes of entry. Expect to sink five hundred grand into demolishing and moving those helipads. It should be mentioned that OpenXCOM offers an option to design the first base from scratch. It annoyed a lot of people.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Earth is in the midst of a full-scale invasion of numerous alien species. So in essence, it seems that Earth has become China during the Mongol conquest.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: X-COM Interceptor had a nova bomb you could research, which was needed to destroy the moon-sized alien superweapon to win the game. What was cool about the nova bomb was that it wasn't just needed for the final mission - you could use it any time you liked to wipe stars off the map, along with any bases or fleets in the system (much like the "Black Egg" in Starflight, another cult classic).
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. While ammunition for conventional weapons can be bought as long as there is money, more advanced weapons require manufactured or captured ammunition to work. And then there's allocating a limited stockpile of Elerium between manufacturing and aircraft fuel.
  • Elaborate Underground Base:
    • A necessity due to X-COM's covert nature, often leading to All Your Base Are Belong to Us should the aliens stumble upon it (hopefully there is more than one base built by the time an Alien Retaliation fleet comes calling).
    • Aliens have underground installations which need to be broken into to kidnap high-ranking officers for interrogation to complete the game.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Alien Squad Leaders in general.
    • Enforcer bosses, which are usually giant versions of other mooks like Reapers or Chryssalids, with special attacks.
  • Emotion Bomb: "Panic Unit", the easier use of psi powers.
  • Empowered Badass Normal:
    • In the X-COM series, surviving soldiers with high psi strength. They (mostly) start with poor stats, but that has no bearing on your psi strength/defense. And when you unlock the Psi-Lab... May god have mercy on their souls...
    • Enemy Unknown. True, a perfectly ordinary squaddie with a rifle can hold his/her own against the aliens, but later on you can turn them into truly Badass psionic Super Soldiers, Mind Rape enemies to death, conjure up psychic shields or take control of enemies. Enemy Within adds bio-enhancements which allow soldiers to heal miraculously from injuries, jump over buildings or turn invisible, and cybernetic enhancements which allow the soldier to take control of a Mini-Mecha which laughs off firepower and is armed with weapons ranging from a flamethrower to a grenade launcher to a Power Fist.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: X-COM has the UFO-pedia, which updates whenever your research of your enemy's units and technology (and your units and technology) makes an advance. For the most part it is just fluff, but some information is tactically (and story-wise) relevant.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar:
    • Motion Trackers, though they can only detect units that moved within the last turn. It doesn't differentiate between friend or foe, has a VERY basic display (for instance, a large contact can be either a large unit or a small unit moving quickly), and is rather short range. So always check the corners in case something's lurking.
    • On the geoscape, bases need radar arrays (or sonar in the case of Terror From the Deep) to locate UFOs. These come in three sizes with increasing range, and the most advanced type will give detailed information on alien craft and their missions.
  • Enemy Scan: Mind probes, which allow the player to view an enemy's stats.
  • The Enemy Weapons Are Better: Damage-wise at least.
  • Energy Weapon: Laser and Plasma weapons.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The UFOpaedia in its various forms across the generations. Even more so the fansite of the same name. And there is more or less an online version of the in-game UFOpadias.
  • Ensign Newbie: Your newly hired and unranked recruits, thanks to their randomly created stats, are potentially capable of being incredible marksmen, Made of Iron or — when you have researched a Psionic Laboratory — mindraping any alien they see into committing treasonous and suicidal acts of violence against their own side. (But more likely they're completely useless and you'll have to sack 8 out of 10 when you finally get their psi evaluations.) If you know what the limits are for a fresh recruits stats (for example, they can start with 40 to 70 time units), then you'll quickly realize that most of your recruits literally are cannon fodder, being at the bottom rung of effectiveness.
  • Evil Overlooker: A Sectoid frequently plays this role in the console covers and advertisements.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment:
    • The few things that your technicians cannot reproduce, including the alien fuel material. Everything else, up to and including their power sources, navigation and weapons are reverse engineered, adapted and fielded within a few days or, in the case of your own flying craft, a few weeks. Subverting this is X-COM's specialty.
    • X-COM: Apocalypse also had this with some weirder items such as Brainsuckers and Entropy launchers... you simply couldn't ever build them. Anything you could build didn't require special resources, but certain things that you could only buy would cease to be available to you if their manufacturers decided they didn't like you or joined up with the aliens instead. Raiding an arms producer gave you the chance to grab loot at a 100% discount. This was the only way to obtain Marsec's (glitched) psi-defense helmet.
  • Exploding Barrels:
    • Fuel drums in your bases, gas pumps in Terror Missions, and certain UFO components all explode when shot. Frustratingly, so do Elerium pods exposed to explosions.
    • In TFTD, the normal skirmishes (USO Recovery) sometimes have what seems to be oil pumps. Also, apparently sunken aircraft's engines are Made of Explodium.
  • Explosive Breeder: The Chryssalid. As long as there are people to incubate, they will not stop reproducing. There's a reason the first wave of aliens hold off on using them.
  • Explosive Instrumentation:
    • During missions, you frequently end up boarding alien UFOs that are chock full of valuable, salvageable, and explosive equipment. A stray bullet striking the navigation computer could cause a chain reaction of everything in the room exploding in a shower of stun damage and smoke. Conveniently, alien commanders tended to hide out in rooms full of computers, warp engines, and consoles. It's a trick on the part of the developers in order to encourage the player to use stun rods or psi-amps to capture them alive instead of shooting anything that moves.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Sec/Aquatoids, the rest of non-terrorist TFTD aliens and all of Apocalypse ones.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong:
    • Chryssalids don't necessarily use the face, but they do reproduce by forcibly implanting eggs in human hosts that burst upon death to reveal a new-born Chryssalid ready to fight..
    • Tentaculats and Brainsuckers reproduce in similar fashion in Terror from the Deep and Apocalypse, respectively.
    • Brainsuckers attach onto people's heads and empty their innards down their throats.
  • Fake Difficulty: Terror From the Deep is probably the worst offender, but the game balance would not suffer if the standard rifle from UFO Defence were capable of reliably hitting anything a distance greater than it could be thrown.
  • Fan Remake / Fan Sequel: Free ones include and are not limited to UFO2000, UFO: Alien Invasion, OpenXcom, and UFO: The Two Sides. Commercial ones include and are not limited to the UFO Afterblank series, the UFO: Extraterrestrials series, and Xenonauts.
  • The Final Frontier / Settling the Frontier:
    • Apocalypse is based on an alien planet in the process of being colonized by earth corporations.
    • Interceptor: One of our side jobs is to protect the developing outposts that will later mine Elerium.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Go ahead, try using ballistic ammo on a Muton.
  • Flaming Skulls: Skull-shaped explosions.
  • Fog of War: XCOM reveals the terrain as it's explored, but doesn't show which parts are not visible at the moment, while aliens are only visible if they're within your troops' line of sight. After you've explored the entire map, it becomes frustrating trying to find that last alien when you're not even sure where to look. This problem is averted in the reboot where, after a certain number of turns the enemy will come to you.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: In X-COM, most if not all Aliens only have four fingers.
  • Friendly Fire Proof: Averted, and with the average accuracy of X-COM soldiers, frequently painful.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams:
    • Lasers, which are slower than light and pulse, but are impossible to dodge (on account of being in a Turn-Based Strategy game). In the first X-COM, they're extremely useful throughout the early game and retain effectiveness until the end, as they use no ammunition. Laser pistols also have the added advantage of an very low TU cost to their autofire, making them ideal for room-to-room combat against anything short of Mutons and Snakemen missions with Chryssalids. Sectopods, the Ethereal terror units, are more vulnerable to laser beams than plasma.
    • X-COM: Apocalypse has a laser sniper rifle. Of vehicle weapons available early in the game, lasers are cheap, cause less collateral damage if miss and miss less to begin with than other variants.
    • Enemy Unknown has laser weapons that behave more realistically, producing a single burst/beam of light that cuts straight out. The visibility of said beam can be justified by the intensity/power behind the laser and atmospheric dust making the beam visible. There is also a Heavy Laser cannon for the Heavy Weapons specialist troopers that has a rotary barrel assembly, which is probably meant to help heat dispersal, and the Precision Laser Rifle for Snipers is incredibly long and has more focusing hardware inside to help keep the beam accurate and more effective over greater distances that the Snipers need them for.

      Amusingly, there is also a "shotgun" style Scatter Laser cannon that has a series of prisms/lenses in the barrel to create a spread-effect like a normal ballistics shotgun, and it also has a pump-action that your Assaults will rack after each shot.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation/Retcon: The manual for Interceptor states that the First (UFO) and Second (TFTD) Alien Wars lasted 3 and 6 years, respectively. In-game, you'll likely reach the limit of your research and win or lose within the first year, early second if things drag out.
  • Gatling Good: The Autocannons and their successors. Regular and incendiary ammo rapidly become obsolete, but high explosive rounds remain viable throughout the game. Being able to saturate an area with high-explosive bullets never ceases being effective or awesome.
  • Genre Shift: What happened to every single X-COM game after the third one.
  • Geo Effects: On the Strategic scale, where you land determines what kind of terrain it will be in the battlefield. For example in TFTD landing in seas around Europe makes it very likely that the mission will take place among the Underwater Ruins, and in the very deep areas it's dark as in the night mission even during the day.
  • Giant Mook:
    • Many terrorist aliens.
    • The Megaspawn from Apocalypse.
    • Enforcer bosses.
    • UFO Defense gives us the Reapers and Sectopods, the former a glorified alien attack dog and the latter a heavy assault mecha. Terror from the Deep has the Xarquid, a giant nautilus, the Triscene, a dinosaur with Sonic Cannons, and the Hallucinoid, a prehistoric jellyfish with chemical freezing agents.
  • Global Currency: Everything bought and sold in the main games is apparently done so in U.S. dollars.
  • The Goomba: Sectoids in most continuities. In the Geoscape, the "Very Small Scout" is the UFO equivalent. In fact, the score for capturing it intact is lower than what you would get for blowing the sucker to pieces.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: With a little coordination and luck, a soldier in the back can prime and pass a grenade to the front.
  • The Greys: The sectoids are the classic little grey aliens with the big heads. They're the weakest enemies in the game and have psionic powers.
  • Grid Inventory:
    • The XCOM games made heavy use of this, even giving the characters separate grids for each body location (and separate Time Unit costs to move things from place to place).
    • The real Inventory Management Puzzle was deciding what 80 pieces of gear to bring along on a mission. A fully loaded Avenger/Leviathan (holding 26 soldiers) could consume 52 of those slots just giving each soldier a gun and its ammunition. And that's without bringing extra ammo for reloading.
    • Most slots were never used. A gun in hand, ammo and grenades on the belt, and maybe an additional gun and ammo in the backpack. That still left shoulder and leg spots available, but, considering the fact that there was nothing useful to put there, and the fact that the weight of equipment is an important factor in how far your soldiers can move, they were almost always left blank. However, it's marginally faster to move grenades (and high explosive) to the hands from the shoulders, rather than the default belt slot.
    • The 2012 remake does away with inventory entirely, letting you choose a main weapon, backup weapon, armor and supplementary equipment. However, they do give a shout-out to the original game, as changing your weapon from bullet to laser to plasma will change the soldier's shoulder pads and knee pads to accommodate the ammunition of the weapon.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: X-COM. It wasn't even Europe's idea to start with: according to the backstory, the entire organization was modeled after a (fictional) Japanese combat unit, the Kiryu-Kai.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Doing this in UFO and TFTD only gave you another weapon to fire from with penalties. If you use pistols, you don't even lose accuracy ,while with rifles (and god forbid heavy weapons) the bullets drop off sharply. In the turn-based games, you can only fire one at a time, so the only benefit to dual-wielding is in having another gun to fire before having to reload.
    • In X-COM: Apocalypse, which added the realtime mode, however, you could fairly quickly make One-Man Army soldiers, dual wielding disruptor cannons and fully loaded on grenades and mines. While the cannons lost quite a bit of accuracy when dual wielded, their sheer firepower meant anything that stood in your path close enough was fried before they could even pull out their own weapons and anything too far to hit reliably you could outrun (while keeping motion mines in your wake). Very effective, especially in the later game and against other human corporations. Yeah, and you could easily dual-wield self-tracking rocket launchers. It should be noted though that both the rocket launchers and devastator cannons are recoilless and you only target one enemy at a time, which makes it much easier to pull this off. And yeah, a single soldier with decent strength and accuracy could mow down entire enemy squads and buildings.

    H-P 

  • Hard Mode Perks: In XCOM, there are more aliens per UFO and more UFOs per month on the higher difficulties. During the early game, when you actually have to worry about money, most of your money will come from selling alien equipment. While you'll have higher overheads from your higher death rate, this extra cash will still speed up your progress considerably (assuming you survive).
  • Harder Than Hard:
    • Superhuman. "Ironman" Mode saves the game after each turn, thus preventing the player from fixing mistakes.
    • Enforcer: XtraSpicy is unlocked after beating the game on hard. The most obvious difference is Numerical Hard.
    • Unfortunately, the first game had a bug which locked the difficulty to Beginner. That resulted to complaints that "Superhuman" was way too easy, so the people making the sequel (who didn't know about the bug) jacked up the "Normal" difficulty to what Superhuman was originally supposed to be. End result? A sick practical joke known as Terror from the Deep!
  • Heal Thyself:
    • The X-COM series simulates a realistic injury system very well. Injured characters have their speed, accuracy and morale reduced, and may have bleeding wounds that deal further damage each round and can only be cured using a medkit. Doing so also recovers a handful of HP, while painkillers can reduce the morale penalties. Otherwise the wounded character is stuck until the end of the battle, at which point they become unavailable for anything from a few days to a few months depending on the degree of injury. Many players prefer to transfer the injured soldier out of X-Com and hire a new recruit rather than pay their salary while they recover.
    • The "realism" aspect goes out the window in the second game, where all the same rules apply - but underwater. For example, apparently having your skull ruptured does not, in fact, mean your diving helmet is no longer air-tight. Not even a techno-babble reason is given for that.
  • High Turnover Rate: If you're not good enough or just plain unlucky, most X-COM soldiers will not last more than a month or two, leading to this.
  • Hive Mind
    • The aliens in UFO Defense take orders from one, another in Terror from the Deep tries to tell a Cosmic Horror Story while it's at it, and the Biomass in the UFO games is a weapon designed to turn a planet into one.
    • The true threat in X-COM Apocalypse are actually colonies of microscopic organisms that are sentient in groups. Every alien life form you encounter in that game is merely one they've managed to take control of and manipulate to their own ends; the "brainsucker" life form that turns your comrades against you just injects their brains with an overload of micronoids. Late in the game, some UFOs try to take control of buildings and organizations by directly sprinkling lots of micronoids onto the building in question to influence the minds of those within.
  • Hold the Line:
    • The objective of any Base Defense mission. Can literally turn into Hold The Line if you choose to adopt such tactics, although in some cases it's not so much line-holding as shooting fish in a barrel with a BFG. This probably only applies if your base is attacked early in the game where aliens' psi attacks turn it into a nightmare. But, once you screened your recruits (and sack the weak minded ones) and researched alien weapons, even if you have poorly designed base, a defense mission is just a shooting gallery.
    • Two early missions of Enforcer. The first requires to defend against incoming waves while travelling on a hoverboat, and the second in the following mission where you defend four humans in a forcefield. A late mission requires you do destroy on an aircraft while defending the pilots. (Only "hold the line" missions have vulnerable civilians. In all other cases, they'll simply scream due to nearby weapon fire.)
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted, wounded soldiers have to stay on lengthy medical leaves, with the most serious cases taking months.
  • Hovertank: With your choice of Fusion Bomb launcher or Plasma cannon. Arguably, the Cyberdisc can be considered one of these sans turret.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Most of the weapon-using aliens you face are humanoid in appearance, and in some cases were human before being genetically modified. The rest, with few exceptions, are non-humanoid terrorists units that support their masters.
  • Human Resources: Many research reports state that the aliens "harvest" humans for various purposes, from research to organ extraction.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Researching human capability for psionic (psychic) capabilities is pretty much mandatory in X-COM. Aliens who have mastered "psionics" can ruin entire squads with just one pointed attack, and developing countermeasures is a major focus of the midgame. It can get to the point that you can outright obliterate a UFO full of aliens with just one man sitting in the cargo hold of your transport, simply by psionically taking over enemy aliens, and having them kill each other off, all while you remain unharmed.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels:
    • UFO Defense: Beginner, Experienced, Veteran, Genius, Superhuman.
    • Enemy Unknown brought us "Impossible" and "Ironman" modes.
  • Immune to Bullets: Because of how armour works and damage is rolled, certain enemies are actually immune to standard rifle or pistol rounds. Some are even highly resistant to otherwise powerful alien weapons (hello, Sectopods and Lobstermen).
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The XCOM game series allows the player to control how fast the game will be - from 5 seconds to one day for each real life second. Any events that happen will automatically freeze the clock. This is very, very important, as sending rookie troopers into a night mission is essentially the same as shooting them in the head, only more involved.
  • Informed Equipment:
    • In UFO/TFTD, character sprites show the armor you equip on them and the weapon they've used most recently.
    • In Enemy Unknown, both the main weapon and the sidearm are shown in the soldier's model. Swapping weapons shows them being exchanged faithfully, although sometimes the main weapon's model will "stick" to the sidearm, with rather hilarious results.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: XCOM gives each soldier a backpack, belt, shoulder and thigh straps, and two hands to hold their gear. Each location had a differently sized grid and varying TU costs to move to other locations. Then you have to factor in item weight (armor is curiously weightless) and its effect on stamina. Oh, and programming limitations only allowed you to bring 80 pieces of gear on a mission. This counts guns and magazines separately. The 80 item limit is egregious on base defense missions, when the available equipment is selected from the base's stores. If you've got a big pile of Earth weapons still, you won't be using your Heavy Plasmas. Or worse, a lot of clips but no weapons!
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: About 75-90% of gameplay revolves around the acquisition, understanding, and implementation of cool alien toys. Or in the RPG terms: Kill them, take their stuff, reverse-engineer it, Repeat. Reversed in Apocalypse: when you sell some of your stuff to a Mega Corp. that's been infiltrated by aliens, the aliens will import your phlebotinum.
  • Instant 180 Degree Turn: Averted. Turning costs Time Units, though it will not trigger alien reaction fire. Sometimes, troopers who have to turn to face the enemy wind up without sufficient TUs to take the shot.
  • Instant Sedation: The enemy is stunned if the stun damage exceeds the normal health. Thus, it is usually played straight for weaker aliens and those with weakness to stun damage, unless you are unlucky, but generally averted for stronger ones.
  • Isometric Projection: The perspective used for combat, also known as the "Battlescape."
  • Item Crafting: Manufacturing the reverse-engineered alien technology and our own creations.
  • It's Up to You:
    • Since all of the world governments have tried and failed to handle the aliens, it's up to X-COM to get things done. Although it wouldn't hurt if the local governments lent a hand during Terror Missions.
    • Terror from the Deep: X-COM was disbanded after the end of First Alien War, and the world governments don't have the advanced technologies they developed to confront the new alien threat. Once again, it all comes down to X-COM.
  • I Want Them Alive: When researching Alien Origins and latter item down the paths, the reports state that you need to capture higher ranked aliens.
  • Jet Pack: Your troops get these during the late game (or from the start in case of Apocalypse). The flight-capable aliens (except for the psychic aliens who use their powers to fly) usually have these... built in.
  • The Joys of Torturing Mooks: If you can survive long enough to craft blaster bombs and flying suits, breaching UFOs turns into a turkey shoot. Until then, you may content yourself with setting jungles on fire, torching UFO interiors to cook aliens from inside the shell, leveling their sniper's nests with TNT...
  • Kill It with Fire: Burning the zombies (with incendiary ammunition) will also kill the chryssalid\tentaculat without it popping out.
  • Kill Streak:
    • The total number of "kills" in each soldier's profile.
    • Enforcer: The "hot streak" is increased by killing aliens, but is reduced by taking damage. As it increases, it treats weapons as being at least one level higher than the research level.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Zig-zagged all over the place in the X-COM timeline.
    • UFO Defense had a linear progression in which ballistic Weapons are outclassed by absolutely everything else in the game.
    • Terror from the Deep takes place underwater, so most weapons are based around energy, however, most of them also don't work above the surface, meaning you'll have to keep some ballistics handy.
    • Apocalypse gives you a less linear tech tree due to the involvement of other corporations and security firms developing their own technology, and while alien weapons and more gimmicky X-COM made weapons are useful (and even Game Breakers), simply blowing up a building with demolition charges or chucking enough explosives at aliens will mostly always do the trick.
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a linear progression of weapons where ballistics are weaker than lasers, which is weaker than plasma. However, the arguably best weapon in the game is the Alloy Launcher, a shotgun which launches shards of alien alloys (the stuff UFOs and your endgame armor is made of) as pellets out of what's essentially a portable railgun. Enemy Within adds the MEC Troopers, whose Kinetic Punch ability will kill everything short of Elite Mooks at full health, and even those only need to be softened up a little before it can One-Hit Kill them. Especially notorious when running up and punching the end-game psychic enemies that are nearly immune to everything and have the strongest psychic attacks is the best course of action in some cases.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: After the Second Alien War of TFTD, X-COM becomes this to avoid underfunding. X-COM's more ambitious cousin Marsec started out as a replacement for the former in guarding the martian colonies so that they could concentrate on potential alien threats, but soon becomes a para-military corporation with a ruthless reputation. Megapol from Apocalypse, in addition to being a police force, also operates other 24-hour services, the fire fighters and the hospitals.
  • Lensman Arms Race: As X-COM improves their arsenal and knowledge via research and reverse-engineering, the aliens will start sending bigger UFOs with larger groups of better-trained soldiers wielding bigger guns with nastier support monsters, after which X-COM will improve their arsenal and knowledge via researching and reverse-engineering of anything this new wave had on their dead bodies. Rinse and repeat.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Repeated screwups in a particular funding nation or outright political manipulation thereof by the aliens can result in said nation cutting its remaining funding to X-COM and signing a nonaggression pact with the grey bastards. Most annoyingly, when you spot a UFO or USO on a "diplomatic mission", if they've landed, you're already too late. You can assault the aliens, kill every single one, loot their ship and prevent any further incursions into that particular nation's airspace, and at the end of the month be told that they've signed a non-aggression pact with the aliens. Even if the ship was only on the ground for five minutes.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: A great tactic, in movies as well as computer games! Seriously, though, bunching up your squad isn't such a good idea, either, as they tend to attract grenades. A balance between the two is best.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Mutons, Lobstermen, and (especially) the Chryssalids. A Chryssalids have 110-127 TUs, and each melee attack costs 15. This means they can be out of visual range at the beginning of the turn, cross the 23 intervening tiles and still attack you in the same turn!
  • Lost Forever:
    • UFO Defense: The plasma (sniper) rifle, one of the most devastating weapons if put in the right hands, quits spawning around April or so. If you haven't cannibalized and manufactured your own plasma rifles by then, you're up a creek. Your troops will be stuck with the inaccurate laser sniper rifle.
    • Terror from the Deep: The Sonic Pistol is phased out by the aliens after a few months. This can screw you over if a) none actually ever spawned during that time, or b) you sold all the ones that did because you didn't know about it. Researching the Sonic Pistol is tremendously important, because it's both the best assault weapon in the game, and a required prerequisite for the Sonic Oscillator, the best craft weapon. It is possible to win without these, so it isn't unwinnable, but it's a lot harder.
    • This game also has a couple of research tree bugs: Two items, the MC Reader and the Sub Construction store item, are special in that they will only become available for research if — and only if — a sample is available in your general stores before completing research for their prerequisite technologies. "Live Deep One," should only be researched after you have met the other prerequisites for Ion Armour. Without Armours you won't get to research advanced subs; without advanced subs you can't reach T'leth and defeat the aliens once and for all.
    • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it's possible to miss the plasma pistol research if playing without the Enemy Within expansion. The plasma pistol is carried only by Sectoids, both types of which are phased out of regular missions after a certain point (they DO have an extremely low chance of still showing up late-game, but only once in a blue moon). If there are no story missions to give you a shot at capturing them, then the only guaranteed chance is in the finale, which is too late to actually put them to use.

      With Enemy Within, however, Mechtoids continue to show up consistently through the whole game, and are always accompanied by regular, plasma pistol-bearing Sectoids or Sectoid Commanders, whom all drop Plasma Pistols; the best sidearm for your high-rank snipers.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: * Vladimir Vasilyev's novelization of X-COM explains the reason why X-COM soldiers can't use alien weapons before they're researched. Apparently, they're all biometrically locked to specific DNA. After a weapon is researched, soldiers are instructed how to override the biometric lock and enter their own DNA into the weapon's database. One civilian hacker is notable for picking up a killed Muton's plasma rifle during a terror attack and figuring out how to reprogram the biometric lock himself, then going to town on the invaders using the sheer power of I Know Mortal Kombat! He later asks to join the organization and becomes a fairly-decent soldier.
  • Made of Explodium: Lots of objects on the battlescape will explode when shot. Special mention goes to the Cyberdisc and its successor, the Bio-Drone. When they die, they explode with stunning force, causing collateral damage. This can help for better or for worse, depending on who the explosion kills.
  • Marathon Level: The two-parter missions.
  • Market-Based Title: The original game was called UFO: Enemy Unknown.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Various Terrorist aliens, most of them being mini-Flying Saucers.
  • Meet the New Boss: Pretty much every knew alien threat faced in the original series, when it comes down to how they act and what they're goals, are essentially same product new packaging of the original aliens.
  • Mercy Mode: Having a particularly bad month performance-wise or worse, a string of bad months, will make the game take pity on you by making the "X-COM agents discover the Alien Base". Technically possible even if you're doing fine, but much more common when you're doing bad.
  • Mind Control: The harder, but much more useful, use of psi powers.
  • Mind Probe: A handy tool for either side to gather information on the other. Best used for determining how close an enemy is to collapsing from stunning, or whether that alien right there is a Soldier/Medic (Mook), Engineer (useful for research), or a Commander (Boss, crucial to capture in the late game). Becomes obsolete once you get high-psi strength units equipped with psi-amps, which can take total control of an enemy and allow you to see its stats at any time for the remainder of the turn.
  • Monster Compendium: Via UFOpaedia.
  • Money for Nothing: UFO parts and corpses sell quite well and X-COM itself can self-finance through arms manufacturing.
  • Morale Mechanic: Casualties and psychic attacks can cause your soldiers to panic, moving and shooting at random. The presence of a high-ranking officer can reduce morale loss from casualties, but an officer's death has a larger effect on morale.
  • Multinational Team: You recruit from around the world. However, recruit names are exclusively drawn from Russian, French, German, Japanese, and British/American pools (the last two being a little difficult to distinguish). TFTD adds Spanish and Italian pools.
  • My Brain Is Big:
    • The Sectoids and Aquatoids are small, impish humanoids with enormous heads. Certain variants have psychic powers.
    • Ethereals aren't exactly under-endowed in the grey matter department. Their design in Interceptor has a brain large enough to apparently need air-cooling.
    • The Alien Brain, which is precisely what it sounds like, and the final boss of UFO, is very big indeed.
    • The Psilords (Interceptor) are apparently all brain.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The "Gollup" chamber.
    • Marsec's first appearance was in Laser Squad, the spiritual predecessor to X-COM.
    • Enforcer features a mishmash of resources from two fellow X-COM titles scrapped during its development, Genesis and Alliance.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: X-COM in a nutshell. Able to freely cross borders, intervene militarily with impunity, and dedicated to Earth's defense, rather than any particular country, X-COM is answerable only to its budget. As long as the organization maintains a positive account balance and has at least one supporting country, it will continue to fight against the alien invasion. Justified by the desperate straits of the situation, and the funding councils are quick to pull support if they can justify it or the second the invasion seems to have been thwarted.
  • No Hero Discount:
    • Your starter fleet. Until you begin building your own crafts, you're stuck leasing the hand-me-downs from Earth's military, built entirely from crap Terran technology. Each one costs a half million a month, and it adds up fast. They must be insured, though, because you can completely trash them with zero penalty.
    • In general, this is played straight for any Terran gear you want to buy, and for the wages of your staff. You're expected to stay within your budget or else find alternative ways of funding your operations.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Stun Rods (melee spears), Stun Bomb Launchers (basically a grenade launcher that fires stun bombs) and their successors. The only other way to capture aliens is to make them pass from pain from normal weaponry.
  • Noodle Implements: Seizing said bases (or sufficiently large alien craft) even nets you research angles revolving around the insidious uses of the devices. Some of them are even literal Cow Tools (either for use on cows, or made out of cows).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Night missions can be exceptionally creepy, especially in Terror from the Deep. It's pitch dark and there are aliens packing enough firepower to drop soldiers in one hit, and furthermore, since it's so dark, you don't know where they could be hiding. It can get even worse if you're on a Terror Mission with Snakemen, and you know that there are Chryssalids just waiting for you to screw up.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: The same staff of scientists does everything from reverse-engineering captured weapons to designing new aircraft to interrogating prisoners. Although considering that you NEED a lot of them to have a decent research progress, it could be handwaved that, say, a research on Plasma Weapons is led by the specialists in the field with everyone else following instructions. In Apocalypse we got three types of scientists: Engineers, Quantum physics and Biologists.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your units actually have a life bar but, until they gain lots of experience or get some BETTER armor, they might as well have one hit point. This is only averted at the start of the game by the very rare occasion of a soldier surviving a Plasma/Sonic shot in their starting armor due to a low damage roll.
  • One-Hit KO:
    • Chryssalid melee attack. The same goes for its successors.
    • Soldiers can be easily killed in one hit from a Plasma gun, even if he is wearing a Power Suit, if the damage roll is high enough.
    • Vibro Blades in Terror from the Deep are capable of killing most aliens in one or two hits, including the Implacable Lobstermen.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Psionic Strength in the first game (and its cousin MC Strength in the second) is the only stat that cannot be trained and it determines both resistance to alien mind control and the soldier's ability to control aliens. Actively using psionic abilities provides experience for all but three other stats.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted due to limited names pool. With only a relatively small amount of names to pick from when a new soldier is randomized, it's not uncommon to see several share a name.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Arm and leg wounds will greatly reduce a soldier's fighting ability, just like head and torso wounds. And that's on top of bleeding to death.
  • Organic Technology: All sorts of purpose-bred aliens in the first two games, and practically every aspect of the alien threat in Apocalypse.
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: Zig-Zagged; the Funding Nations/Senate are huge cheapskates, but once enough engineering facilities get going and start cranking out weapons to sell, X-COM can effectively go rogue. However, the better the player does at protecting a given nation, the more they'll increase funding. As the game only ends when the player is in the red for too long or if all nations sign non-aggression pacts with the aliens, it's possible to keep protecting a few nations at a time and building up their funding over time to replace the nations that drop out. In a sufficiently long game, it's not uncommon to have the US providing 14-20 million dollars a month to X-COM... as the only nation still funding it.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: X-COM Interceptor. In addition to the aliens, you have to contend with black holes all over the sector that can wreck havoc on your ships and probes. Playing through the game and researching the alien intentions reveals that there is exactly one black hole which actually leads to a pocket solar system, where the aliens are constructing their doomsday weapon, and the game becomes a race against time to locate and destroy it.
  • Pacifist Run:
    • UFO and Terror From the Deep: To progress, the player needs to capture enemy aliens alive to interrogate or inspect them. Cue the player loading up on stun rods and other nonlethal equipment (depending on which installment in the franchise) so they can capture most or all aliens alive in one mission (and then get back to the slaughter once research is complete).
    • In Apocalypse if a player raids an organization without killing anybody or damaging any property, the relations aren't penalized, despite the stolen loot. Plus Apocalypse has stun grenades, ranged stunners and mind control available from the start. Many players raid Marsec for all the cool weapons not available from the start or in short supply. There are also Mind Shields, which were Dummied Out and cannot be bought.
  • People Jars: You will find these in the Alien bases. Unfortunately, they contain what left of their occupants.
  • Player Headquarters: Though there is no HQ in the strict sense once you have multiple bases, the cost and time associated with building bases and the subsequent maintenance fees will make the first starter (and already developed) base your main base of operations. Which is bad, because it's the most likely base to be attacked, and has an extremely difficult-to-defend layout.
  • Player Mooks: Soldiers, available in unlimited quantity and variable quality until trained in battle.
  • Powered Armor: Later armor suits in UFO Defense (and the whole lot of 'em in Apocalypse) use Elerium-115 to power shielding, muscle enhancers, and the occasional flight module. Flight and protection are the only benefits; armour has no bearing on a soldier's strength or other stats (the muscle enhancers are just fluff that indicates a lack of weight-related decrease in soldier performance).
  • Power Crutch: The PsiAmps and their variations that enable X-COM soldiers to use psychic powers.
  • Power-Up: All powerups, whether weapon or conventional, need to be researched in order to be equipped and/or randomly dropped (in Enforcer).
  • Properly Paranoid: Anyone who takes great care while handling Terror Missions. If you aren't covering all the angles, you're just Tempting Fate.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Aliens won't shoot themselves, but they can be made to drop primed grenades at their own feet or drop their guns (only in the first game).
  • Psychic Powers:
  • Psychic Block Defense:
    • Androids in Apocalypse cannot be controlled at all, on account of being robots.
    • The protagonist of Enforcer is implied immune to mind control, considering the situations the player gets into.
    • HWPs and SWSs in UFO and Terror From the Deep. Being unmanned vehicles, mind-affecting powers do not affect them.
    • One of the novelizations has a guy who happens to have a Psi Strength of zero. It makes him unable to use psi powers at all but they don't work on him either.
    • There are only two aliens in Apocalypse that are easily affected by Psionics, them being the Anthropod and Skeletoid. All other creatures are resistant to Psionic attacks because they are either less intelligent (which somehow boosts resistance), in the case of Multiworms or Spitters, or possess Psionic abilities themselves, like the Micronoid Aggregate and Psimorph.
    • Apocalypse has Mind Shield — an item increasing psionic defense when used in the battlescape. Due to a bug the increase is permanent and cumulative, thus any operative can become invulnerable. The item was supposed to be removed completely from the game, but due to another oversight may be encountered during missions in Marsec buildings. Fans have come with an in-universe explanation that permanency and cumulation were unexpected side effects, Marsec found them disastrous for their business — killing the market both for Mind Shields and Mind Benders — and recalled all unsold items shortly before the game start.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Recruits can be either male or female. This has absolutely no effect on starting stats or stat growth. All it does is paste a slightly different head on the sprite and give ladies a different scream when they die. (In the second game, at least. In the first game, all aliens and all soldiers sound the same when they die.)

    R-Z 
  • Randomized Damage Attack: The weapon stats displayed in game show average damage. Guns roll from 0 to 200% of that, while explosives roll 50-150%. Lucky, unarmored soldiers can survive point-blank heavy weapons fire while unlucky, armored ones die to stray pistol rounds. TFTD adjusted it so all weapons roll 50-150%, making the above mentioned situations less common, but not impossible.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Using an algorithm to procedurally construct levels from "tiles". Just as likely to spawn your exit ramp in front of a Muton priming his grenade, alas.
  • Random Number God: In addition to accuracy rolls, all weapons and explosives do a random amount of damage. A lucky soldier can survive multiple bursts from heavy weapons, whereas an unlucky one dies from an ally's missed shot. For a comprehensive, heartburn-inducing list, there is even a Murphy's Laws of X-COM.
  • Realpolitik: There is a little bit of this in how the Council of Funding Nations reevaluates its funding of X-COM. Ex: X-COM performed excellently in March except for that time where the few particularly large UFOs flied over Country A unopposed causing trouble, giving Country A enough reason to reduce funding, but since the Council's majority opinion of X-COM is overwhelmingly positive that month, Country A has no choice but to stay quiet, not increasing the funding as their only means of protest. The only exceptions are when X-COM performs extremely badly at the complaining Country or if Alien infiltrated it. The reverse is also true, where very few will dare to increase funding when the Council is very unsatisfied with X-COM.
  • Real-Time Strategy: The Geoscape/Cityscape screen is real-time, pausing for events like delivery of ordered items, an alien sighting, or the arrival of troops at a mission site.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • The Reapers in UFO.
    • The Aquatoids in Terror from the Deep.
  • Red Shirt Army: At the start of the game, the player's soldiers are all ridiculously fragile, and as likely to die as to inflict any damage at all. If you arm them correctly, they may survive a shot or two. Assuming you aren't save scumming, an efficient play-through will likely burn through dozens—if not a hundred—rookies and vets by the end. This is normal, and as the weary saying goes: you don't fly to Cydonia, you climb there on a mountain of dead rookies.
  • Regenerating Health: Available in Enforcer as a researchable passive ability.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Building a base gives you an instant lift. Other than that, the game avert this.
  • Roboteching: Blaster Launchers and their equivalents with their diabolical waypoint-based targeting system.
  • RPG Elements: Soldier stats in all games.
  • Save Scumming: A common strategy, unless you think this is cheating or dishonorable — it is possible to win the game with 0 casualties. The game designers do make a token effort to discourage it; you can't load a saved game during a combat mission, although you can save all you want in the middle of a mission.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The bad endings classifies the aliens as the Conqueror type, who attack Earth for its resources.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: While X COM is supposed to protect the whole world from the aliens, you'll quickly find that selling the extra stuff you find gives more money than the supporting nations ever can. Thus, as long as one country remains protected, you can let all the others rot.
  • Secret War: All of them start as one, but according to the manuals all of them become open secrets later.
  • Sensor Suspense: Motion detectors: a good way to avoid becoming Cannon Fodder when facing alien weapons, but since you don't know whether the blip is from alien or civilian and on which floor, dealing with the results can be... interesting. Two words: Hidden Movement.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: Through mind-control.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge:
    • Probably the greatest fan-mod undertaking for UFO Defense is fixing a bug that locked the starting difficulty of the game at "Beginner".
    • There are a bunch of challenges listed with one of the well-known editing utilities, including things like refusing to research any new tech (thus making the game technically unwinnable, but few get to such a point since it's damn difficult without) and not killing any aliens (winning is still possible since they can be stunned).
    • Zero loss run: No X-COM agents lost, no civillians lost. Hope you have a few months spare.
    • One Mission X-COM: It's possible to complete the game after completing only one mission: a well-executed UFO Ground Assault on a battleship can yield all the alien prisoners and raw materials needed to research Cydonia and complete the game. The difficulty is in pleasing the Funding Nations (no terror missions or alien base assaults allowed), and in keeping away from bankruptancy.
  • Sequel Stagnation: Averted. After Terror from the Deep, which was basically an underwater rehash of the first episode, new elements and even Genre Shifts were introduced — unfortunately, they didn't result in good games.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: UFOs of the first game. X-COM fighters in Interceptor.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smoke Shield: Caused by specialized smoke grenades and explosive terrain features.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil:
    • In UFO Defense it's Sectoids and Floaters and early Snakemen if you're unlucky > Snakemen if you're lucky > Mutons > Ethereal.
    • In TFTD it's Aquatoids and Gillmen > Tasoth and Lobstermen.
    • Also lampshaded in Guava Moment's Apocalypse LP.
  • Spiritual Successor: Many. The UFO: Afterblank trilogy to name one.
  • Splash Damage Abuse: The great vulnerability of ground-based vehicles in Apocalypse, including the tank. Also, most units take more damage from explosives that go off at their feet because of lower under armour.
  • Sprint Meter: While Energy/Stamina is used for everything, its biggest consumer is moving around. It only partially regenerates at the start of each turn (Less when carrying heavy gear), so if an X-COM soldier moves a lot without stopping (such as when reserving Time Units for an Reaction Shot), they eventually will be too tired to move more than a few tiles.
  • Star Killing: The Nova bombs in Interceptor.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel:
    • With experience and armour, soldiers eventually gain much better stats than tanks and become more durable. However, tanks do retain a few advantages in that they cannot be stunned, mind controlled, or bleed out.
    • Inverted in Enforcer, where you will chew through Sectoids, Snakemen, and Chryssalids with one shot each while their feeble attempts to harm you bounce off your armored hull. It will give your positronic brain much amusement.
  • Stat Grinding: How the soldiers improve their stats.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Some of the sounds that occur while navigating the menus of the original X-COM have spread far and wide across various media, recently being used in the title character's HUD in the big-budget movie Iron Man!
  • Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted. With the exception of map borders where the shots disappear, all missed projectiles will continue to fly until they hit something: walls, explosive materials, civilians, X-COM operatives, aliens, etc.
  • Stun Guns: From Stun Rods to Stun Bombs, a variety of nonlethal arms gradually come into X-COM's possession and employ for the capture of necessary live aliens.
  • Subsystem Damage: Head, Body, Separate Arms and Legs, with penalties one soldier's efficiency depending on injuries. Assuming the soldier in question survived the first shot.
  • Super Soldier:
    • Mutons and Lobstermen. Your soldiers will become this if they are lucky enough.
    • Enforcer's protagonist, who racks up over a hundred dead aliens a mission, and sometimes as many as four hundred fifty.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: When the situation gets hopeless on the battlefield there is a option of retreating. The good side of this is that your soldiers live to see another day, the sponsors will be less angry than with total defeat and thus complete loss of expensive equipment, and that you could yoink some alien artifacts. Just be aware that everything that was outside the X-COM transport will be lost and MIA.
  • Take Cover: Very important, given the computer's cheating tendencies and the power of alien weapons. Unfortunately, most forms of cover can be destroyed.
  • Tank Goodness:
    • HWPs are a refreshing alternative to the hopeless rookies in the early game, at least in Enemy Unknown.
    • Terror From the Deep: SWSes do make good scouts if you don't like sacrificing rookies for that. Once you get a Sonic Displacer, you will like it for its ability to float, get 200 shots clip which gets reloaded for free every missions, and ultimately, SWSes can't be harmed by tentaculats. If you already have the bigger ships, you will always want to bring one (or two) on every missions.
  • Team Title: Subtitles aside, the series is named for the anti-alien unit commanded by the player.
  • Technology Levels: Human Starter Tech < Advanced Human Tech < Alien Tech = Alien-based Human Tech.
  • Tech Tree: While almost all physical alien artifacts can be researched as soon as you recover them, several conceptual lines of research require either the interrogation of live aliens or a series of prerequisites.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Ethereals, experienced Sectoids, their underwater cousins Aquatoids, Gill Men commanders, Tasoths, Psilords in Interceptor, the list goes on...
  • Terror Hero: Your psionic soldiers can use their psi abilities on the aliens to cause them to panic, making them easier to kill or capture. They can do the same to you, distressingly. Morale is another factor as aliens are as susceptible to losing their command structure as anyone else. Taking out a boatload of aliens without a single human loss can result in the alien leader going off his nut and panicking; killing the leader first (via floating up to the bridge and blaster-bombing the living hell out of it) causes his directionless troops to scatter.
  • Ticking Clock:
    • Even if your service is exemplary each month, you can't stop the funding nations from dropping out of the project. (Taking out the "Infiltrator" UFOs slows down the process, but it ultimately cannot be halted.) Lose enough donors, and you might go bankrupt. Lose all of them, and the program is shut down.
    • Averted in Apocalypse, if only because it doesn't matter if everyone hates you as long as you have funding.
  • Time Keeps On Slipping: The various incarnations of the Geoscape allow you to pass the time by anywhere from 1 second per second (slowest setting in Apocalypse) to 1 day per second (fastest setting in UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep) while you're waiting for the next alien sighting.
  • Total Party Kill: Get ready to get used to these because it'll happen a lot throughout your playthrough.
  • Trick Bomb: Smoke and Proximity Grenades. The former are for obscuring vision, the latter are throwable mines.
  • Turn-Based Tactics: The Squad-Level type during the battlescape.
  • Unobtainium
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Which will become usable after research.
  • Unfriendly Fire and/or The Uriah Gambit: Note that the post-mission analysis does not have a spot for "X-COM Operatives Killed by X-COM Operatives." Your use of this oversight to justify friendly fire or the immediate court-martial of an alien-controlled operative will practically be a given.
  • Urban Warfare: Terror missions. Most of Apocalypse.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: Just try not to get attatched to your soldiers who got promoted to Sergeant or above rank.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
    • What happens if you make a bunch of rookies designed explicitly to be cannon fodder and/or scouts (yes, the two jobs overlap frequently). This makes for some delicious Black Comedy as you can name the unfortunate saps such names like "Coward", "Ray Charles", "Dead Man Walking" and "Meat Shield".
    • Parodied in Zero Punctuation's Halo 5 review, in which Master Chief is inexplicably disinvited from the mission to find Cortana, and Yahtzee decides the UNSC must want to "level up some of their rookes". Cut to a queue of mini-Chiefs labeled "Fadge", "Jools", "Nobby", all of them Lvl. Ones. (Master Chief is labeled "Lvl. Like a Billion.")
  • Vendor Trash: All those alien corpses, spare UFO/USO compoments, and ammunition? Yeah, a good deal of that gets sold off to finance the organization. Even a relatively small UFO captured intact can net nearly a million dollars depending on how much loot you hold on to. Alien corpses are often extremely convenient for research, but supply exceeds all possible demand, so selling them is a non-trivial but disturbing source of income. (A strategy guide suggests that they make for excellent sushi. And a certain fan wiki suggests that bases frequently fighting Lobstermen requisition above-average amounts of butter.) Well, they do the same to us in the first place. They deserve every bit of what the scientists and chefs do to them.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The various Aliens' HQs. Failing the missions results in instant gameover.
  • Veteran Unit: The Lucky Soldiers who survived enough battles and killed enough aliens.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon:
    • Cydonia, the "Face on Mars".
    • The city of T'leth.
    • The Temple ship in the X-Com remake.
    • Interceptor: The Star system housing the Doomsday project, hidden on the other end of the event horizon of a black hole, not only necessitating your fighter piggybacking on another carrier to get in and out, but justifying the use of the Nova Bomb.
  • Vichy Earth:
    • Gillmen are the worst. Not only are they lousy soldiers, but they're traitors to boot. Gillmen serve no advantage from a tactical standpoint, and are only working with the aliens to reclaim the surface world, which they deserted during an extinction event sometime after the Mesozoic era.
    • Earth slowly becomes this over the course of the games if you do badly or take too long, as more and more countries submit to the aliens. Apart from Glorious Mother Russia. Fan studies of long-term games have concluded that out of the Council of Funding Nations, Russia will never be infiltrated by aliens. The newspapers will instead probably show Sectoid ambassadors' corpses nailed to the gates of Kremlin.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: Mentioned in the backstories of Interceptor and Apocalypse.
  • Weak-Willed: Some soldiers and aliens are way easier to mind-control than others. On the plus side, the aliens tend to almost exclusively target the mentally weakest soldier on the team, who can be used as an unarmed mind control magnet while the rest of team is relatively safe.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: During peace talks with the funding nations, one or more alien battleships will appear in the stratosphere and land. Battleships also sometimes engage in infiltration missions. Unlike the smaller UFOs, they make a beeline for the nearest major city and land on top of it a la the Visitors from V. An infiltrator battleship has a 100% success rate when forging pacts.
  • We Have Reserves
    • Rookies make good scouts.
    • The game mechanics actually encourages a We Have Reserves mentality. If you feed TFTD rookies to keep it happy, the game can be quite manageable... but if you've truly mastered your tactics and so almost never lose a man, you're screwed.
    • This mentality is sort of averted in Apocalypse. If you're good enough to consistently keep your squads alive in the early game, the difficulty will scale up quickly, but the aliens will be getting better weapons before better units (and an Anthropod holding a Devastator Cannon is still just an Anthropod), so if you really are that good, you can stay on top of the game all the time.
    • The death of a rookie is less damaging to a squad's morale than the death of a higher ranking agent. And if you're feeling particularly cold, the aversion of Easy Logistics makes it a lot easier, and cheaper, to send rookies in to combat with a bare minimum of equipment so that higher ranking and more skilled agents can get the good stuff.
  • We Sell Everything: Played straight for most of the series. It makes one wonder what the people do with the alien artifacts you sell, especially the corpses.
  • With This Herring
    • With this bunch of folks who would have failed the physical for any self-respecting military and have the reflexes of a dead fish, you must save the world...
    • The standard-issue X-COM rifle is supposedly based on the best traits of a variety of human firearms, combined into one package perfect for your work. Unfortunately, it was built by the lowest possible bidder.
    • Played even straighter in Terror from the Deep. The standard equipment you get is worse than their UFO counterparts, and about half of them only work underwater. In this game, it reaches Wallbanger levels: At first you're limited to your subs, darts guns and some harpoon launchers, since nothing you had before would work underwater. Then, you can have to fight the aliens on dry land, due a crash, a landing or a terror mission. Why, oh why you must still carry dart guns, instead of old Earth-made laser weapons, and wear a heavy submariner suit when you could have crates and crates full or armor from the first alien war? Heck, local millitias should be better armed and prepared than you at this point!
    • Despite that fact that "Starlight" night vision scopes and binoculars have been available since at least the Vietnam War and passive infrared night vision has been around since the 1980s... you're reduced to throwing flares.
    • In Apocalypse your starting weapons are a bit better, and Earth has some weapons on a par with alien ones. Money are short, but you can raid Cult of Sirius. But you can only buy what is available in the city stores, which get new shipments only on Mondays. You cannot buy best weapons and equipment (flying armor, mini-launcher, plasma pistol, plasma sword, powerful vehicle computer and engines, heaviest vehicles) until the start of the second or third week. And if you try to Zerg Rush UFOs with rocket and plasma hoverbikes, Megapol, Marsec and Solmine quickly run out of missiles and elerium to sell to you.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Type 4, international government funded organization.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Players who are unlucky, forget to take precautions, or just play poorly, will get lots of these. Even a seasoned player will have some of these from time to time.
  • You All Look Familiar:
    • Soldiers will have similar appearances on the inventory screen.
    • Played Straight in missions. On the map they virtually all look alike. The guys all have Guile haircuts and the women have ponytails. Ditto for civilians. (Veterans may remember the "Island of Identical Blue Bikinis" missions very well.)
  • You Require More Vespene Gas:
    • Money, required to fund everything you do. Your official source is from the funding nations, who increase or decrease based on your performance. Your unofficial source is selling your spoils of war and manufactured goods on the black market.
    • Alien Equipment, with the most important of them being the Elerium, the alien power source that cannot be reproduced, only salvaged.
    • Hangars, Living Quarters and General Stores for increasing the Craft, Population and Item caps, respectfully. Similarly, having more Laboratories and Workshops will allows more Scientists and Technicians to be able to work.
  • Zerg Rush
    • On a larger scale, X-COM typically has extremely high casualty rates in all three games and Zerg Rushing strategically to replace lost soldiers and interceptors is the only way to keep your head above water.
    • One-robot Zerg Rush is probably the best way to play Enforcer, as it lets you get those research points.
    • You can take down the largest UFOs in Apocalypse using the smallest flyer available, hoverbikes. They're practically impossible to hit with the right settings. Worked for the Rebels.


*pew* *pop* *pew* *pop*
End Turn
HIDDEN MOVEMENT
*slither* *slither* *slither* *slither* *slither* *pit* *pat* *pit* *pat*
*BOOM*
THAT'S X-COM, BABY!

Alternative Title(s): X Com

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/XCom