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Characters / XCOM: Enemy Unknown

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The various characters, classes and alien types found in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

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XCOM Mission Control

    Central Officer John Bradford
"It's not an easy decision, Commander, but it's one you'll have to make."
Voiced by: David Hoffman (English); Konstantin Karasik (Russian)

Serving as the middleman between the Commander and the rest of XCOM, Bradford communicates your orders to everyone else and performs the administrative work, leaving you free to focus on defending Earth. In addition, he coordinates XCOM field operations, monitors the strategic situation and gathers intel on possible alien activity from XCOM's Mission Control center.

For tropes relating to Bradford in XCOM 2, see that game's character page.

  • The Generic Guy: Not much in the way of personality, but at least he keeps the project running. He is the quintessential military man: polite, professional, efficient, and that's exactly what works against him.
  • Hidden Supplies: Keeps a handgun in a secret compartment under one of the control panels near the Geoscape. Turns out to be a reasonable precaution during Base Defense.
  • Mission Control: Coordinates all XCOM field operations from Mission Control.
  • Oh, Crap!: Almost says one when XCOM HQ is attacked and he manages to re-establish a connection to Delta section... and learns that Delta is going to take the brunt of the attack.
  • Straight Man: To Dr. Shen and Dr. Vahlen. Both are quite smart and speak with a certain level of seriousness during missions, while Bradford is quite ignorant and likes to crack the occasional joke.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In Enemy Within, he beats the crap out of a mind-controlled technician during the Base Defense mission. And if you fail said mission, the ending cutscene shows XCOM's command center in ruins, and Bradford's body and pistol lying next to a dead Sectoid that seems to have been shot at close range.

    Dr. Moira Vahlen
"These weapons... these abuses of science, we still have an opportunity to use them for a greater good."
Voiced by: Moira Quirk (English); Nona Vinogradova (Russian)

XCOM's Chief Scientist, Dr. Vahlen and her team of scientists are responsible for all research and development carried out under XCOM's auspices. She also oversees the "interrogation" of captured aliens.

For tropes relating to Vahlen's appearance in the XCOM 2: Alien Hunters DLC, see that game's character page.

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bradford mentions that Dr. Vahlen may not look like it, but she is without a doubt the worst nightmare for any captured aliens that get brought back to the base. She calls interrogating the Elite Muton "dangerous and exhilarating", though this may just be her eagerness For Science!. In Enemy Within, she applies these interrogation methods to the captured EXALT operative as well.
  • The Danza: Her voice actress is also named Moira.
  • Data Pad: She's never seen without her tablet computer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shows a dry wit on occasion, such as her autopsy report on the Muton:
    This is the most physically aggressive specimen we've encountered so far, which the troops 'fondly' refer to as the "Muton". I can only assume there's a colorful back story for such a designation.
  • For Science!: Downplayed. She's always eager and interested in what she's researching, no matter how morally questionable, and will be annoyed if soldiers use explosives (which destroys valuable research material). She's also the inventor of the alien "interrogation" device and personally oversees each interrogation. That said, she'll also thank soldiers for the risks they take in recovering live specimens, acknowledge that their survival can come before retrieving research materials and is disgusted by the aliens' callousness and their misuse of their advanced technology, which could have been used to do so much good.
    • In Enemy Within, she's appalled at how badly mutated the EXALT Elites are. While she does physically modify XCOM soldiers her geme mods are well thought out and removable, EXALT meanwhile has permanently disfigured their soldiers.
  • German Scientist: She even gets to show off her German in the tutorial mission, although it's just as heavily English-accented as her German-accented English. Her occasional use of RP English and French, coupled with her decidedly non-German first name, ultimately leaves her country of birth ambiguous.
  • Hot Scientist: Downplayed. While she keeps it very professional when it comes to her choice of clothes, she has a conspicuously attractive face and voice.
  • Iconic Item: Vahlen is constantly prodding at the tablet tucked under her arm.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Aliens always give up information when Vahlen interrogates them... and they also never survive the questioning. Ultimately, it's less about torture and more about invasive brain scanning: shoving special devices into cranial cavities and applying electrical currents until the desired information is found. But it's quite telling that even twenty years later, Vahlen's fearsome reputation has persisted.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Vahlen is about as transhumanist as you can get, whereas Shen is less gung-ho about the prospect.
  • Mad Scientist: Downplayed: she's definitely a lot more gung-ho about SCIENCE! than Dr. Shen, though she does insist on personally overseeing any interrogation attempts.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: She is in charge of both alien autopsies (xeno-biology) and interrogations (psychology). Also, she can reverse engineer and discover the basic principles behind captured alien weaponry and devices (electronics and engineering). Might be explained in that she is the head researcher working with other scientists that might covers the fields that she is not an expert on: she's smart enough to understand their conclusions while not necessarily getting in to the details of their methods.
    • Subverted in the cutscene you get after researching the Outsider crystal, wherein her confused description of it's properties leads the mechanic present (Shen) to realize that she's describing an antenna.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: the blue to Shen's Orange.
  • Science Foils: With Dr. Shen. They are both scientists, but Vahlen is analytical/destructive while Shen is creative/constructive. Also, they represent two different approaches to science: the younger Vahlen is against what she believe are unnecessary restrictions on research and while she acknowledges that her work may be used for evil, she firmly believes that humanity will put the aliens abuses of science to good use; the Older and Wiser Shen, meanwhile, is much more cautious about the inevitable repercussions of their work though often more willing to resort to drastic measures where the consequences are already understood. The game's plot ultimately lets the players decide for themselves whose attitude is correct.
  • The Smart Girl
  • The Spock: Opposed to Shen, Vahlen favors utilizing as much of the might of the alien technology as possible, as logically, it would give humanity the best chances to to beat them.
  • Torture Technician: She personally oversees all interrogations of aliens. In Enemy Within, some of the in-game dialogue indicates that she did the same to the EXALT operative captured during the first mission in Operation Progeny.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Her accent remains consistent throughout the game, and she does use German phrases, but it doesn't quite sound German, and she occasionally slips into RP English for half a sentence. There's also a bit of French in there too. So she could be Swiss, from the Rhineland, or Alsacien. It's also possible that she grew up in somewhere like Germany but moved to somewhere like England a few years back, such that her accent is mid-transition from German to English by the start of the game.

    Dr. Raymond Shen
"We have to keep moving forward with the project, but the thought of treading the same path as the aliens... is troubling."
Voiced by: François Chau (English); Alexander Pozharov (Russian)

XCOM's Chief Engineer, he and his team of engineers manufacture everything XCOM may require, ranging from Medikits to Satellites. They are also responsible for maintaining and expanding XCOM's HQ and its fleet of aircraft.

For tropes relating to Shen's appearance in the XCOM 2: Shen's Last Gift DLC, see that game's character page.

  • Ambiguously Asian: Has a subtle maybe-Chinese accent, a somewhat asian shape to his eyes, and his last name is Chinese, but we can't get more specific than that. XCOM 2 reveals he is from Taiwan.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Zig-zagged depending on which version you play.
    • In Enemy Unknown he is especially offended by the extent to which some of the aliens have been genetically altered or augmented with machinery, and questions whether humanity is headed in the same direction.
    • Enemy Within has him as very interested in the application of Meld to create MEC Troopers, in contrast to his fear of cybernetic enhancement that still shows up when Floaters are introduced, which would make him a hypocrite but for the fact that his team specifically designs the MEC Troopers to be able to reintegrate into human society after the war, while it's obvious the aliens have no such concerns. His position is essentially that radical augmentation that destroys what you are without any possibility of normal life is evil, and does his best to avoid that with XCOM soldiers.
  • The Engineer: He's the head of XCOM's entire engineering team.
  • Made of Iron: During the invasion of XCOM HQ in Enemy Within, he's perfectly fine after being right next to an explosion.
  • Magnum Opus: In-Universe, Dr. Shen states that out of everything he built for XCOM, the Firestorm is what he is most proud of.
  • The McCoy: Opposed to Vahlen, Shen has a much more carious view on utilizing the alien technology, as he has ethical concerns that humanity might drift towards becoming too much like the aliens if restraint is not applied in how it is used. Conversely he is more willing to engage in questionable behavior within the realm of contemporary or near contemporary technology. Specifically he has no stated issue with the use of otherwise illegal weapons against the aliens as well as being in favor of the creation of MECs which involves amputation of functional limbs.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: When you discover Psionics, he comments on how XCOM may be going too far. This position is tweaked in Enemy Within to cautious-but-optimistic. Shen is also more open minded on cybernetic transhumanism when more quality-of-life concerns are afforded to subjects then what the aliens provide.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: the orange to Vahlen's blue.
  • The Professor: This is the guy that takes maybe ten seconds looking at a chunk of Outsider crystal whilst listening to Dr. Vahlen's technobabble, and figures out that it's an antenna or receiver of some kind.
  • Science Foils: With Dr. Vahlen. See her entry for details.

    The Council Spokesman
"Your efforts will have considerable effects on this planet's future. We urge you to keep that in mind as you proceed."
Voiced by: Jon Bailey (English); Ilya Isaev (Russian)

The Council of Nations is the financial backer behind the XCOM project, comprised of 16 member countries and their allies. They provide funding, operative recruits, scientists and engineers for the common defense of Earth. They also occasionally request XCOM's assistance with special matters. Keeping members in the Council is a vital long term objective of the game. If too many members leave, you lose. They are represented by the mysterious Council spokesman.

  • Badass Baritone: In the English, he is voiced by John Bailey, aka the Epic Voice Guy, so this is a given. It's up in the air how skilled the spokesman is in combat, but he's clearly a high-ranking politician of great renown.
  • Bald of Awesome: While he comes across as very sinister with his shaved head, hidden face, and deep voice, he is generally supportive of XCOM's successes, and understanding even with the failures.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: The Council operates under the radar, but is only interested combating the alien invaders.
  • Catchphrase: The Council spokesman spokesman has a few -
    Good luck, Commander.
    We'll be in touch, Commander.
  • Divided We Fall: Invoked to punish the player. If you don't keep worldwide panic levels in check, countries will withdraw from the Council, taking potential funding and their continental bonus with it (you need EVERY country on a continent to have satellite coverage to secure the bonusnote ). If half or more of the Council withdraw, the XCOM project is terminated and its game over for you, and the human race.
  • The Faceless: The Spokesman's face is always obscured in shadow, forever making his identity a mystery.
  • Game-Over Man: Fail to keep the allies happy, and he'll close the book on XCOM and announce Earth's new alliance with the invaders.
  • The Men in Black: The Spokesman looks like one.
  • Multinational Team: Members include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Mysterious Employer: There is really very little known about who exactly you are taking orders and funding from.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Of the good kind.
  • Puppet King: In the game over sequence, the Spokesman disavows all connection with the XCOM operatives and writes it off as one big "misunderstanding." The camera pans to show a Sectoid Commander feeding him those lines via psionics.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Is generally positive and optimistic about you, saying they're sure you'll improve when Council Missions go wrong and are O.K. with less-than-perfection in monthly reports, only saying that XCOM is clearly not going well if you mess up the month really hard. They also understand the Godzilla Threshold is in play, and disregard any collateral damage to buildings and vehicles that occurs during XCOM operations.

    Council Mission VIPs 


  • Escort Mission: They're the ones being escorted. Since you have direct control over them, the usual AI problems don't crop up, but they're very fragile (only 3 Health) and don't carry weapons.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite their extraction missions or statements having foreseeable future implications, you never learn any new information relating to them and they are never even mentioned again, whether they are successfully extracted or not.

Anna Sing

The only person to escape alien captivity, her extraction may allow XCOM to find out what the aliens are doing with their abductees.

General Peter Van Doorn

A UN official trapped by an alien attack. The death or abduction of such a prominent and high-ranking officer would cause widespread panic. XCOM must extract him to prevent this.
  • A Father to His Men: He's quite unhappy about the casualties his troops have suffered and hopes he'll get the chance to pay the aliens back in kind.
  • Four-Star Badass: While he's not any tougher than the other VIPs, one of his soldiers says he went ahead to rescue a wounded soldier when the aliens attacked.
    • The Long War Game Mod actually takes it a step further: if he survives the rescue mission, he'll resign his post at the UN so he can join XCOM and kick ass with the team that saved him.
  • I Shall Taunt You: While you're rescuing him, he enthusiastically shouts out insults at the aliens.

Thomas Hutch

A politician and friend of the Council, he has come under attack from the aliens. Extracting him would mean increased support for XCOM.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: When the aliens started shooting, Hutch started running. He's on the other side of the map from the start while his vehicle is about a third of the way.

Sgt. Patrick Carlock

A combat engineer, he believes he has found proof that the aliens have contaminated the local water supply. He and his data must be safely extracted in order to conduct further investigation.

William Thorne

A politician suspected of collusion with the aliens. The Council has requested that he be extracted for interrogation.
  • The Quisling: What the Council thinks he is, though he fervently denies it.


XCOM Ground Forces

    General Tropes
Few will survive to see the end of this conflict. Fewer still will possess the skills necessary to end it.
Council Spokesman

  • Badass Normal: Normal men and women fighting evil aliens. In Enemy Unknown, they don't get to be genetically or cybernetically enhanced, but they do get Powered Armor and Plasma Cannons. in Enemy Within, they can be, but it's up to you.
  • Cold Ham: Cool, collected, and say some really hammy things.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: If they have "the Gift", they can be trained to make use of Psychic Powers.
  • Multinational Team: Recruited from all over the world. They don't leave if their controlling nation pulls out either.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: The soldiers you hire can be male or female but the only thing this affects is their character model and voice snippets.
  • Super Soldier: They can be tested for psionics, which, if they have "The Gift", allows them to weaponize their thoughts. In Enemy Within, they can be modified with alien DNA and Meld to increase their survavibility and/or grant them special abilities. Or turned into cyborg Mini-Mecha pilots.
  • We All Live in America: Zig-zagged. At first the only two voice clips were of an American male and an American female, but DLC content such as the Elite Soldier Pack, Slingshot Pack and Enemy Within added several variances of American accents, as well as other languages. The latest version of the game features English, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Russian voice acting as selectable for all soldiers.

Constantly outclassed, outgunned and/or outnumbered, these green recruits are nonetheless XCOM's most valuable resource. With experience, the raw, untapped potential within each one could become exactly what is needed to save mankind. All Rookies are equipped with assault rifles and handguns, and are only issued more specialized weaponry and equipment once they have gained sufficient combat experience.
  • A-Team Firing: It's not unusual, particularly on the higher difficulties, for rookies to miss. A lot. It's especially not unusual to have every rookie you brought along unleash their barrage on a single Sectoid (the weakest enemy in the game), only for every single round to miss.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Despite their lack of ability compared to higher ranked units, all XCOM soldiers are specifically recruited from the elite units of the various militaries around the world. They are the best of the best, but working with XCOM makes them even better.
  • Magikarp Power: Even the mightiest Colonel started out as a Rookie at some point. Unless you bought the "New Guy" upgrade, in which case they all start as Squaddies.
  • Red Shirt: On higher difficulties, or just if the Random Number God takes exception to you, expect to go through a lot of them. Often invoked since a player is likely to consider a grunt with no special abilities to be more expendable than an experienced soldier that they've been grooming for several missions into an elite (read: valuable) killing machine.

"Moving at the speed of death!"

Front-line units specializing in offense and mobility, allowing them to close in on the enemy and flank more easily. They can be equipped with either assault rifles for mid-range combat or shotguns for close encounters.

  • Close-Range Combatant: The domain of the Assault, being able to wield Short Range Shotguns or the somewhat farther-ranged assault rifles. Their abilities on the right side are used for offensive bonuses and abilities requiring the Assault to close in, flank, and Critical Hit aliens dead. The left side's defensive bonuses are a bit less strict in their application, but still generally benefit the Assault in trying to see aliens eye-to-eye (and then shooting them).
  • Critical Hit Class: They're some of the best at inflicting Critical Hits, since they'll be flanking quite often and shotguns come with above average critical chance rates. The right side of their ability tree is full of bonuses relating to it:
    • The Corporal "Aggression" passive ability grants 10% critical chance for every enemy the Assault can see, up to 30%.
    • The Sergeant "Close and Personal" passive ability grants 30% critical chance against adjacent targets, diminishing with increasing distance. Changed in Enemy Within to "Up Close and Personal", giving the Assault a free shot when they're within 4 tiles of the enemy, though it doesn't work if "Run & Gun" is active.
    • The Captain "Bring 'Em On" passive ability adds up to 1 damage to critical hits for every enemy the squad sees, up to 5.
    • And lastly, the Colonel "Killer Instinct" passive ability adds 50% critical damage from activating Run & Gun for the rest of the turn.
    • On the flip side, the Colonel "Resilience" passive ability makes them immune to Critical Hits.
  • Crazy Awesome: In-universe, going by their nicknames. Most Assaults end up with nicknames — which are usually given by their comrades — that essentially state that this guy/gal is totally crazy.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: About three-fourth's of the Assaults tactics involve one version of this or another. If the Assault succeeds, he does devastating damage to an enemy. If the Assault misses, isn't supported, or gets bad orders, he's going to be in a position where enemy fire will tear him apart. i.e. ending a chain of attacks and movement right next to a Berserker who is still clinging to life and very unhappy.
  • Designated Point Man: The Assault's special abilities emphasize survivability while charging into unknown terrain, making them the perfect point men for breaching doors and generally running headlong into danger.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Equipping the Assault with a Shotgun makes them play very differently. While the Assault Rifle tends to be a better choice in the lower difficulties with its consistent accuracy, the Shotgun is a must in Impossible, where even Sectoids are very unlikely to die from a non-crit rifle burst. In Impossible an instant kill to reduce the amount of active aliens is worth its weight in gold, and the Assault Rifle cannot reliably provide that even with a flank, while the Shotgun can thanks to the extra base damage and crit chance. Shotgun usage requires careful placement of your Assault so that he's in a position close enough to make effective use of the weapon while still protected enough to avoid an enemy flanking movement, which requires knowledge of how the cover and sightlines system works.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Their Sergeant "Lightning Reflexes" passive ability lets them dodge the first Overwatch shot made at them per turnnote , allowing them to close with the enemy by going through their field of fire.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Their class armor variant is defined by a patch over the right breast and a shoulderguard on their left but not right arm.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The "Run & Gun" ability gives them double speed for a turn without sacrificing stopping power, while the Sergeant "Lightning Reflexes" passive ability lets them avoid the first reaction shot that targets them per turn. They also tend to be some of the toughest soldiers in the squad, as noted in Made of Iron. Being Close Range Combatants, they tend to need that toughness, because they're more likely to be targeted than a midrange Heavy or Support or a long-range Sniper.
  • Made of Iron: Has the highest health gain from level ups out of all the classes. Colonel-ranked Assaults are likely to be the toughest soldiers in XCOM, especially if certain abilities are chosen:
    • The Corporal "Tactical Sense" passive ability gives them more Defense for each enemy in sight, up to partial cover-level bonus for 4 enemies.
    • The Major "Extra Conditioning" passive ability give them extra health, increasing based on the type of armor they're wearing. note 
    • The Colonel "Resilience" passive ability makes them immune to critical hits.
  • Magikarp Power: The Assault's abilities that affect critical chance require consistent investment to be reliable and tend to be overkill against the earlier aliens, which are likely to be One Hit Killed even with the basic shotgun anyway (though said abilities become more crucial on Impossible, as all but the Sectoids require more than one non-critical shot to kill), whilst simultaneously being inadequate for One Hit Killing Mutons and Chryssalids on any difficulty. After the Assault has access to a Scatter Laser and the "Bring 'Em On" passive ability, though, they'll become unmatched at running up to things and obliterating them with one shotnote . In contrast, the Assault's defense abilities pretty much always come in handy and require no prior investment to be useful. The Second Wave "Absolutely Critical" modifier also guarantees critical hits against flanked targets, which means less investment is required.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Many of the Assault's tactics run on this. Charging straight through enemy fire (possibly even deliberately provoking it so that allies can safely move), rushing into point-blank range, often vaulting over enemy cover to shove a shotgun into their face, all the while getting greater defensive and offensive boosts because of how many enemies they're dealing with, and then shrugging off half the damage they'd take from the inevitable enemy retaliation is all in a day's work for the Assault trooper.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Past a certain distance, the Assault suffers an Aim penalty when shooting. By contrast, their aim bonus at closer ranges is almost doubled, making them even more suitable for Assaults with high mobility but low accuracy.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Assault class is the only unit in the entire game, alien, XCOM or EXALT that can equip shotguns, which are cool enough, but the final shotgun-type weapon, the Alloy Cannon, is the only weapon in the entire game that glows orange. It works on a completely different technology than any of the other plasma-tier weapons, including the ones that the aliens themselves have made, making it possibly the most advanced and unique hand-held weapon in XCOM's arsenal. Shotguns in general have a base damage bonus and increased Critical Hit chance compared to a rifle of the same tech level.

"Oh, let it rain!"

Heavy Weapons and explosives specialists, these guys get machine guns of various flavours and a rocket launcher.

  • Always Accurate Attack: Suppression with "Mayhem" and Blaster Launcher bombs will always hit, despite the UI card saying the latter has a 10% chance to miss.
  • Critical Hit Class: Inverted. Heavies are all about Fixed Damage Attacks and ripping things to pieces with base damage, without relying on crits. The best example of this is in their primary weapons: they're the only ones in the game without a Critical Hit chance modifier.
  • Crutch Character:
    • The Heavy's high accuracy cover-destroying rocket(s) and ability to fire twice or perform an action after firing with "Bullet Swarm", or boost Aim by 10 against a single target with "Holo-Targeting" are invaluable when your soldiers are still unreliable shots. The high damage of their LMGs and the utility and area-of-effect of said rockets means they're still useful to any squad much later in the game, but they aren't quite as much of a godsend then.
    • At a more specific level, if you play the tutorial, your first soldier to be promoted from Rookie will be the Heavy that survives the disastrous Operation Devil's Moon. As your first ranked soldier, he'll likely carry your team until your other units level up.
    • Averted in higher difficulty levels, where they can be seen as a Support Party Member. The Heavy's ability to deal reliable Herd Hitting Attacks is valuable enough in cleaning out the lesser aliens (who graduate to Demonic Spiders status), but their biggest utility is in destroying covers, leaving the aliens exposed to your Snipers and worse.
    • They're also your best bets against a Sectopod, one of the (if not the) greatest threats in the late game. Area damage suppression lets them take down the Sectopod's support and cripple their aim. Bullet Swarm and HEAT Ammo gives them unparalleled damage output and their own durability, boosted by Will To Survive, gives them the best chance of survival against one. They're only really outclassed in the anti-Sectopod role by MEC Troopers in Enemy Within.
  • Determinator: The basis of their "Will To Survive" ability, which reduces any incoming damage by 2 as long as they are in cover and not flanked.
  • Handguns: Averted. Heavies are the only basic soldier class to not use pistols. As such, they can't go on covert operations.
  • Heavy Equipment Class: The Heavy class has exclusive access to Light Machine Guns (With Laser and Plasma upgrades) that while inaccurate can be used to destroy cover or to lay down supressive fire, and rocket launchers that hits a large area and destroys cover, and also buildings.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Corporal "Bullet Swarm" passive ability allows the Heavy to trade off mobility for the ability to fire twice in one turn, effectively doubling their damage output. Rocket attacks also require the Heavy to not move in order to use themnote , and can waste groups of squishier aliens early on or knock down cover to soften up entrenched enemies in later stages. While Assaults tend to have higher health from Extra Conditioning, Heavies have innate damage resistance with Will to Survive, equally the maximum bonus in 2 hits taken, and exceeding it with any more.
  • More Dakka: They wield light machine guns, which put out even more rounds if the Sergeant "Suppression" active ability is used. It puts out so much dakka that it has the lowest number of shots before requiring reloading out of all the main weapons, with 3 shots per reload (6 with Ammo Conservation).
    • With the Corporal "Bullet Swarm" passive ability, they can fire twice per turn.
    • The Lieutenant "Rapid Reaction" passive ability lets the Heavy fire a second reaction shot if their first shot on Overwatch hits.
  • Pinned Down: If the Sergeant "Suppression" active ability is chosen, they can do this to any target of their choice for 1 turn. It does consume twice as much ammo as firing normally, but it reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Heavy a reaction shot should the target move.
    • The Captain "Danger Zone" passive ability increases Suppression's area-of-effect by two tiles.
    • The Colonel "Mayhem" passive ability adds 1-3 damage to all affected targets based off the tech level of the Heavy's weapon.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate: Their light machine guns deal damage comparable to sniper rifles, but can still be fired after moving, and if the Heavy has "Bullet Swarm", be fired before moving or doing anything else). However, the Heavy's Aim stat is the lowest out of all the classes and their shots will only become reliable at much later levels and with a S.C.O.P.E. on-hand. While their rockets are more accurate, there's always that 10% chance to miss, that is visually shown by the Heavy blatantly aiming off-target and complaining about the aiming system.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The unique purview of the Heavy, with the abilities to match.
    • At the Squaddie rank, they can launch rockets with the "Fire Rocket" active ability. Does 6 damage to targets hit, fires in a straight line and can be blocked by terrain, always has a 90% to-hit chance, requires the Heavy to not move or fire during the turn to use, and can only be fired once a mission. Can cause Unfriendly Fire. Equipping them with a Blaster Launcher increases damage to 9 and allows it to fire around terrain.
    • Sergeants can get the "Shredder Rocket" active ability, which does 4 damage (2 less damage than a regular rocket) and increases damage dealt to affected targets by 33% for the next 4 turns. Otherwise identical to regular rockets, though a separate rocket supply is used. Equipping a Blaster Launcher upgrades it to the 6 damage of a regular rocket.
    • The Lieutenant's "HEAT Ammo" (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) passive ability doubles all damage they deal to robotic enemies (Cyberdiscs, Drones and Sectopods), which tend to make even more explosions when they die. Nerfed in Enemy Within to a 50% damage bonus instead, due to the addition of more mechanical/robotic enemies.
    • A Captain may choose between the "Grenadier" or "Danger Zone" passive abilities, the former granting two grenades instead of one if the Heavy equips a grenade, the latter giving all rocket attacks an area-of-effect two tiles greater, and an actual area of effect to Suppression (which can affect multiple enemies). In Enemy Within, all damaging grenades deal 1 more damage: Frag and Needle Grenades hit for 4 like a Shredder rocket, Alien ones deal 6 damage like a Shredder Blaster bomb or regular rocket.
    • At the Colonel rank, a Heavy can get "Rocketeer" for an extra shot per mission to the "Fire Rocket" ability (not "Shredder Rocket"), or "Mayhem" to add 1-3 damage to rockets based off the weapon's tech level, and 1-3 damage to the target(s) of Suppression depending on the weapon used. An use of Fire Rocket with the Blaster Launcher, with Mayhem, deals up to 12 damage, and a Shredder rocket hits for 9.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: While all soldiers can carry a grenade (and do carry one or two by default if they have the "Tactical Rigging" upgrade), Heavies can specialize in them. The "Grenadier" ability lets them carry two grenades in a single inventory slot, and also grants +1 damage to grenades in Enemy Within.

"There's something on your face... *boom* Got it."

Expert marksmen, they specialize in accurately dealing extreme damage at extreme range with sniper rifles and can also use special shots to hinder enemies.

  • A-Team Firing: Snipers have an aim penalty when aiming at targets in close proximity to them. Generally signified by them taking their time to zero in their shot... at a truck on the other side of the street, instead of the Chyrssalid right in their face. In close combat, their best bet is to switch to their sidearm, as it gets an aim bonus at spitting distances instead of a penalty.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Downplayed with their Disabling Shot ability. They take a shot at the enemy's weapon for minimal damage, forcing them to reload their next turn.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The first ability they learn, in fact, granting +30% Critical Hit chance and extra damage on a crit, depending on the tech level of the sniper rifle wielded. In Enemy Within, it's also the only way a Squadsight sniper can land a critical shot.
  • Cold Sniper: In-universe, according to some possible nicknames. What else are you supposed to assume about someone nicknamed "Ice"?
  • Critical Hit Class: Their sniper rifles have the highest base Critical chance out of all weapons, and it's further enhanced by some abilities. The "Headshot" active ability gives their shot an extra +30% Critical chance and extra Critical Hit damage. The Captain "Opportunist" passive ability lets the Sniper Critical Hit on reaction shots. Combine these with the Second Wave "Absolutely Critical" modifier to turn the Sniper into an endless font of exploding heads.IMPORTANT NOTE 
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Without the Corporal "Snap Shot" passive ability, Snipers are incapable of firing their sniper rifles on a turn on which they first moved or grappled, though they can still use their sidearm. However, Snap Shot snipers take a whopping -20 Aim penalty to sniper rifle shots made after moving. Enemy Within reduces the penalty to -10 Aim, making it more viable.
  • Double Tap: The exact name of the alternative ability to "In The Zone" at Colonel rank. If the sniper doesn't move, they can fire the rifle twice no matter what, though it has to be a standard shot, Headshot or Disabling Shot. It also has a 1-turn cooldown after being activated. It's less beneficial than "In The Zone", but also more consistent.note 
  • Finishing Move: The Captain "Executioner" passive ability aids the Sniper in this, gaining +10 Aim against enemies at 50% or lower health.
  • Geo Effects: The Sergeant "Damn Good Ground" passive ability lets the Sniper benefit further from this, gaining an extra +10 Aim and Defense for being at a higher elevation level than their target. They also benefit the most from the Depth Perception gene mod.
  • Glass Cannon: Their health is the lowest of all the classes, but they can dish out a lot of damage.
  • Handguns: While all XCOM soldiers aside from Heavies pack sidearms, the sniper will probably be the class that uses them most frequently, since they cannot fire sniper rifles in the same turn that they move, and the "Gunslinger" Sergeant passive ability even boosts their pistol damage by 2 — which, considering that it's also the only pistol-specific ability for XCOM soldiers, actually makes Snipers the best pistol users among the four classes.
  • Kill Streak: The Colonel's "In The Zone" passive ability sets up a flanking Sniper to do this: a shot that kills an enemy that was uncovered or flanked by the Sniper does not take up an action, potentially letting the Sniper fire and kill over and over againnote . Rather conveniently, such tends to be the case with melee enemies, making them your potential best Chryssalid killers in the late game.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The farther and thus more improbable a shot is, the more accurate the sniper rifle becomes. Combine with Squad Sight for some really long-distance shots.
  • Long-Range Fighter: As one likely expect from a Sniper. Unlike all other weapons, sniper rifles are less accurate the closer the target is. The left side of the Sniper's abilities helps alleviate this weakness, but placing a Sniper right next to an alien still probably isn't going to work out that well. Moreover, the synergy of the "Squadsight"note  and "Opportunist"note  abilities allows for shots and situations that would be impossible for any other class.IMPORTANT NOTE 
  • Magikarp Power: The Sniper starts out unable to fire their sniper rifles after moving and a "Headshot" ability that tends to not reliably grant critical hits against targets in cover, while the extra damage granted is usually overkill against early-game enemies. Colonel Snipers have the highest Aim in the game and, with "In The Zone", score a Kill Streak of One Hit Kills on exposed enemies (a Snap Shot sniper can actively move to outflank them), or kill things from across the map with "Squadsight", which allows the Sniper to shoot at enemies any of the squad sees, barring any obstacles blocking the shot – with Archangel Armor to fly up to the highest vantage point possible, they can do so without ever moving from their starting location!note . Both will slaughter aliens with contemptuous ease and be difficult to hit wherever they take cover due to the Major "Low Profile" passive ability making any cover they use count as full, or being so far out of range they can't be seen at all.
  • Mighty Glacier: A properly-specced high-level Squadsight sniper is potentially the deadliest force on the battlefield, capable of downing a half-dozen aliens in a single turn from beyond visual range, but they can't move and use their sniper rifle in the same turn, so positioning them properly at the beginning of the fight is crucial. A Snap Shot sniper of high rank is a lesser example: they can do a regular move or grapple to reach a good perch close to the fray and down a half-dozen aliens in a single turn.
  • Pinned Down: An odd example. With the Second Wave "Training Roulette" modifier, snipers can gain the "Suppression" ability like other units, but no matter what, they need both action points in a turn to use it. That's par for the course with Squadsight, but Snap Shot does not influence that, so the latter kind of sniper benefits very little from it.
  • Punch-Packing Pistol: "Gunslinger", a passive ability, changes the sniper's pistol to deal 2 more damage than usual no matter what. With all the pistol upgrades at the Foundry researched, a Plasma Pistol on a Gunslinger sniper can hit harder than a Light Plasma Rifle.
  • Sniper Pistol: Typically with Squadsight, only sniper rifles can target enemies outside the Sniper's personal range. However, an enemy triggering an Overwatch will still make that Sniper fire, even if they have their pistol equipped and the enemy is across the map. Yes, they can use their pistols for sniping, but only when they act on reflex.

"This? Oh, it's gonna hurt!"
A Combat Medic/Fire Support specialist with support skills like smoke grenades and the ability to carry more gear. They wield versatile assault rifles.
  • Combat Medic: The left side of their abilities emphasizes the latter word, the right emphasizes the former. For the former:
    • The Corporal "Covering Fire" passive ability allows Supports to activate Overwatch when enemies fire in addition to moving.
    • Lieutenant Supports can get the "Rifle Suppression" active ability, elaborated in Pinned Down below.
    • The Colonel "Sentinel" passive ability allows the Support to fire two reaction shots on Overwatch instead of just one.
  • Dr. Jerk: Some of the lines when using a medikit fall into this territory. You're more likely to hear it from Supports thanks to Field Medic allowing them extra uses of the Medikit.
    "Rub some dirt on it, you wimp."
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: They tend to be average in most respects compared to the other classes, except movement speed if the Corporal "Sprinter" passive ability (increases walking range by 3 tiles and dashing range by an extra 3 tiles) is chosen. Their assault rifles also tend to be middle of the road in all stats. The "Deep Pockets" passive ability learned at Major rank also enhances their potential versatility.
  • The Medic: Technically, any class can use Medikits, but only the Support has abilities that emphasize this part of their job description:
    • The Sergeant "Field Medic" passive ability gives them 3 uses of the Medikit instead of just 1.
    • The Lieutenant "Revive" active ability lets them revive critically wounded soldiers at 33% of their max health instead of just stabilizing them.
    • The Major "Deep Pockets" passive ability in Enemy Within adds an additional charge to Medikits, among other items. In Enemy Unknown, it only added a second backpack slot. note 
    • The Colonel "Savior" passive ability increases the amount of damage healed by Medikits by 4.
  • More Dakka:
    • When the Lieutenant "Rifle Suppression" ability is used, the Support's assault rifle tends to spew a lot of shots, even if it normally only fires a few rounds per attack.
    • The Colonel "Sentinel" passive ability lets them fire twice during Overwatch. Combined with the Corporal "Covering Fire" passive ability (which lets them shoot at firing enemies during Overwatch), they can fire off quite a few rounds when Overwatching.
  • Pinned Down: If the Lieutenant "Rifle Suppression" active ability is chosen, they can do this to any target of their choice for 1 turn. It does consume more ammo than firing normally, but it reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Support a reaction shot should the target move. Doesn't stack with Sentinel, however, so the Support can only take one reaction shot.note 
  • Smoke Out: The base ability for the Support is a one-use-per-mission "Smoke Grenade" ability, which provides a defensive bonus equal to partial cover for all units in the smoke, allied or enemy. It can be further improved by choosing certain abilities.
    • The Sergeant "Smoke and Mirrors" passive ability lets the Support get another use per mission. Enemy Within Gives one further extra use, making for a total of three smoke grenades.
    • The Captain rank lets the Support get one of two passive abilities that enhance the Smoke Grenade: "Dense Smoke" (increased area of effect and +20 extra defensive bonus) or "Combat Drugs" (all units in smoke also gain +20 Will and +10% Critical Strike chancenote ).
  • Super Serum: The Captain rank ability Combat Drugs, which increases the will and critical chance of all soldiers in a smoke grenadenote .


The Super Heavy Infantry Vehicle is an advanced autonomous weapons platforms that can be deployed in place of a human soldier. They mount heavier weaponry than most human soldiers can carry.

  • All Your Powers Combined: The Rookie's expendability, the Heavy's Supression and Squad Automatic Weapon, the Support's speed, and the Assault's area denial automatic Overwatch radius when upgraded.
  • Attack Drone: XCOM's personal ones, with a whole tech tree dedicated to them. They function exactly like the tanks of yore, including, in the case of the Alloy S.H.I.V., functioning as portable cover. There are three varieties, Basic, Alloy (which can be used as low cover when standing still) and Hover (which can fly).
  • Beam Spam: S.H.I.V.s equipped with Laser Cannons, especially if they use their "Suppression" ability.
  • Cannon Fodder: S.H.I.V.s can't get promotions, have limited abilities by themselves, and with enough adjacent Workshops for rebate purposes, even the expensive Hover S.H.I.V. will only cost 1 credit, 1 Alloy and 1 Elerium to build, whether production is rushed or not. This makes them very expendable later on in the game.
  • Character Level: Averted. Although there are 3 different types of S.H.I.V.s, each stronger than the last, they are built separately and don't earn Experience Points, so they don't rank up.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Are entirely absent from XCOM 2.
  • Crutch Character:
    • Like the HWPs of old, their aim, innate defense and hit points make them better than the New Meat, but they lose out to high-rankers' high stats and gamuts of abilities. Many strategies for Classic and Impossible involve rushing to get them into production ASAP to escort the squishier low-rank soldiers until they get promoted enough to outclass them.
    • Enemy Within's buffs to mechanical units on both sides, however, made them very much viable members of a given squad. A fully-upgraded Hover S.H.I.V. can move as far as an upgraded Support trooper, flies further than and twice as long as a trooper in upgraded Archangel armor, and has a heavy plasma cannon. On top of that, it gets Sentinel Drone, an unlimited self-repair system that fixes two hit points every turn and the ability to fire reaction shots at anything within four blocks like an Assault trooper; this ability is disabled if the S.H.I.V. takes a Critical Hit.
  • Gatling Good: They start off with a minigun, which can be upgraded further to a small laser cannon and from there to a plasma cannon.
  • Hover Tank: The appropriately named Hover S.H.I.V. version, with 12 flight fuel units that can be expanded to 24 with the "Advanced Flight" Foundry project. When not in flight, it still hovers close to the ground.
  • More Dakka: They're all about dispensing loads of fire onto the target, both by straight firing and with Suppression. The most conservative they get is with the Plasma upgrade, and even then it's a full 3-shot burst.
  • No-Sell: Immune to Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison, strangulation and fire. Not immune to Psi-Lance and Rift, which do absolutely massive damage against them thanks to the S.H.I.V.'s 0 Will stat.
  • Pinned Down: Can be upgraded in the Foundry to have the "Suppression" active ability just like a Heavy.
  • Regenerating Health: In Enemy Within, the Sentinel Drone ability researched in the Foundry repairs 2HP every turn if they're damaged, though it's disabled if they suffer a Critical Hit.
  • Stone Wall: Hover S.H.I.Vs are exceedingly mobile, have very high health, 60 defense while airborne, and are immune to most everything that's supposed to bypass their defenses, such as explosives and melee (being airborne), poison (Airborne and robot), do not panic, and are expendable, all of which make using one to scout ahead or rescue civilians very effective.
  • Take Cover!: Averted for all types of S.H.I.V., but Inverted the Alloy S.H.I.V., which is a low cover that your soldiers can hide behind. Sometimes aliens will try to take cover behind an Alloy S.H.I.V., with funny results.
  • We Have Reserves: Each S.H.I.V. is just as capable as the next and right off the production line, a far cry from the soldiers you have to babysit all the way to at least Lieutenant rank, making it more palatable to use them in high-risk roles like rushing to rescue civilians in Terror Site missions (though for some reason, if a S.H.I.V. gets destroyed during a mission, it counts as a lost XCOM operative and deducts from the mission's final rating, for all it's worth). Plus, they're hilariously expendable later on when you likely have several Workshops adjacent for the rebate bonus – if you have eightnote , a S.H.I.V. will only cost 1 of each resource after production finishes and you get the rebate. Even when you rush their construction.

    Psi Trooper
XCOM soldiers who bear "The Gift", as the invading aliens call it, their psionic powers can turn the tide of battle. Any XCOM soldier could have the potential, though those with strong wills are more likely to have it.

  • Deflector Shields: The "Telekinetic Field" places a stationary circle that diverts projectiles for anyone in its boundaries. In practice, it raises Defense by 40 points, which is roughly equal to full cover.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Downplayed. Some of the lines they cut loose with when using their powers are downright sinister, and they rock a really good Evil Laugh. All this tends to make one wonder whether Shen doesn't have a point.
  • Emotion Bomb: "Psi Panic," which forces an enemy into a panic state normally reserved for your troops. Unpredictable since a panicking enemy may fire upon any random target, run away or Hunker Down to become harder to hit. The good thing is that the unit will refuse to act on the enemy turn.
  • Emotion Control: "Psi Inspiration" removes the effects of "Mindfray" and panic and boosts the Will of nearby troops.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Technically they may have had The Gift all along, but the treatments they are given end up activating it.
  • Evil Laugh: They occasionally break one out when using their psi-abilities.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Their eyes light up purple whenever they activate their psi-abilities.
  • Mind Control: Takes control of an enemy for three turns. Especially useful if successful on an alien behind enemy lines, breaking up their position as they try to move to unflank themselves and/or use up their turn taking out the mind-controlled unit. The drawback (until a patch fixed this) is that the game treats the death of any currently mind-controlled unit as a death of someone in the squad, penalizing the entire team's Will.
  • Mind Rape: "Mindfray," an ability all soldiers with the Gift can use that "causes the target to lose grip on reality." Useful in that it has perfect accuracy on most aliens at any range, does 5 damage without fail, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: In Enemy Within they loose all their psionic powers if they become MEC trooers, and a MEC trooper cannot become a psion. A Second Wave option exists that prevents Psionics and Gene Mods from coexisting in the same soldier as well.
  • Psychic Powers: Some of their abilities include Deflector Shields, Emotion Bombs, Mind Control and Mind Rape. Emotion Control.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The main color of their Psi abilities, as soldiers with "The Gift" will get a purple theme to go alongside their Psi powers.
  • Spy Catsuit: Psi Armor is exclusive to psionic soldiers, and as pictured above, fits the bill. It comes in different colors, but black and dark blue are the most common. It provides small boosts to Defense (+10), Mobility (+2) and Will (+20).

    MEC Trooper
"This armor has its advantages."

Added in the Enemy Within expansion, these brave volunteers who have traded their limbs to give humanity a greater fighting chance, Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuit Troopers pilot their MECs into the fray. Though they take significant resources to prepare, equip, and maintain, the firepower and finesse they bring to the field is unmatched.

  • Anti-Armor: A MEC trooper armed with the kinetic strike module and EMP upgrade can become your de-facto sectopod hunter (bonus points for coming in from the Assault class for boosted close-range damage reduction). These troopers can rapidly close to range, disable and damage a robotic target with EMP, and then spend both actions next turn dealing two guaranteed 18-damage melee strikes. More than enough to annihilate anything short of a sectopod, and all but guaranteeing that the squad will easily finish one of those off.
  • Artificial Limbs: The soldiers have all traded their regular ones for crude replacements. This is necessary, as when they jump into their Mini Mechas, the suit's limbs effectively become their own, allowing incredible mobility and finesse for a unit of their size.
  • A-Team Firing: The normal aim growth of a MEC Trooper's on par with a Heavy's, so not exactly impressive — a soldier augmented as a Squaddie will have only 80 aim or so at Colonel rank. Downplayed with the "Hidden Potential" Second Wave option, whereupon MECs can get a reasonable aim boost between 1 and 5% with each rank, a growth comparable to Assaults.
  • Badass Boast: Unlike the other soldiers, MEC troopers take fire very calmly. If they take a hit that does not breach their remaining bonus armor, certain voice options deride the ineffective fire and, if properly specced, they can promptly queue up a devastating retaliatory shot.
    Minor damage, at best.
    It's going to take more than that.
    That's what armor is for.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The Kinetic Strike Module can also be used to punch holes in walls. If any enemy is right behind that wall section, well, it's gonna hurt. Most enemies will be killed outright.
  • Beehive Barrier: Briefly manifests this when hit by enemy attack if the MEC Trooper has Absorption Fields.
  • BFG: The only kind of weapons they can use, which deal more damage than even the heaviest infantry weapons of the same tier. They burn through their ammo supplies incredibly quickly, though (unless you get the right upgrades).
  • Boring Yet Practical: Calling anything regarding these soldiers "boring" is a bit of a stretch, but the Kinetic Strike Module is often picked because the boost to mobility is more useful than the Flamethrower subsystem, with the melee attack as a situational bonus.
  • Can't Catch Up: MEC Troopers only earn half the experience from kills and often lag behind in terms of promotions if augmented at low ranks unless you deliberately set up kills for them. To avert this, level a soldier normally, and then augment them, as ranks are retained.
  • Combat Medic: The MEC-2 Sentinel "Restorative Mist" Tactical Subsystem makes them one. It heals like a regular Medikit to all allies within 2 tiles, including the MEC him/herself. This means that after a particularly grueling encounter, the MEC can heal the entire squad for up to 36 health with one single action, and it is one of the few abilities that doesn't bring a MEC Trooper out of "One For All" mode. The only thing Restorative Mist can't do is stabilize or revive a critically wounded teammate, due to the lack of precision when applying the healing.
  • Counter-Attack: The Colonel-rank "Reactive Targeting Sensors" passive ability lets them automatically shoot back at the first enemy that attacks them at every turn, whether the attack connects or not.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Overlapping in-story with Blessed with Suck, they trade all their limbs for cybernetic ones to allow them to interface with the MECs. Dr. Shen states that the base cybernetic limbs are too clumsy for a soldier to take them into battle, and require better development after the war to ensure the MEC troopers can lead semi-normal lives. However, once they interface with their MEC suits they become stronger, tougher, and faster than any human trooper could possibly be on their own.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: MEC Troopers speak in Machine Monotone and replace most of their combat banter with more matter-of-fact acknowledgements. They also lose any Psychic Powers they had or might have been able to get. The upside? They get to run around in a Mini-Mecha with a BFG for a primary weapon and any other goodies you might have put on said mecha. Interestingly, Zhang and Annette's voices are unaffected.
  • Discard and Draw: Soldiers lose all their abilities and any gene mods they might have when turned into MEC Troopers, though they keep their rank as well as stats (useful, as all classes besides Heavies gain more Aim than cybernetic soldiers in the end), and unlock the rank-associated abilities. Justified, since they are using completely different equipment from before, and they have much of their body replaced with cybernetics.
  • Disk One Nuke: MEC Troopers have extremely powerful weapons and abilities and boast enough health to easy take several shots from even a light plasma rifle, making them the deadliest combatants on the battlefield until Cyberdisks show up. Their absolute effectiveness is countered by their incredible cost (augmenting a soldier and building them a MEC suit is one of the most cost-prohibitive actions in the game, the latter especially at higher levels) and slow level rate from reduced per-kill experiance. By the end of the game, they're on par with the rest of your elite soldiers, fulfilling a more specialized role instead of just being the "Destroy-Everything" robot.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: A soldier needs to be pretty badass to qualify for XCOM in the first place, and once you give that soldier cybernetic enhancements, well...
  • Enhanced Punch: The "Kinetic Strike Module", essentially a rocket-assisted fist, is the alternative to the Flamethrower for the level 1 MEC suit. The poor sap who gets killed by a punch sent flying several tiles back, and if they hit a car, it immediately explodes. It also increases mobility by 3, which isn't nearly as flashy but can come in handy.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The MEC-1 Warden "Flamethrower" Tactical Subsystem. It does 6 damage (9 with the "Jellied Elerium" Foundry Project) in a wide radius and has a lasting area effect, and is great for mopping up clustered aliens or keeping melee enemies at bay, with the added bonus of panicking any organic enemies (including Chryssalids, Berserkers and even Ethereals) in its area of effect that aren't killed outright. Does not work on robots.
  • Gatling Good: Their starting Primary Weapon is a handheld minigun.
  • Good Counterpart: To the Mechtoids in principle and most functions. They can also be compared to Sectopods at higher levels.
  • Go Through Me: Lieutenant-grade MEC Troopers can take One For All, a skill that effectively turns them into a High Cover object until they move or fire their weapons. Additionally, Support troops that undergo MEC surgery gain the passive effect Distortion Field, which gives +10 Defense to nearby allies in cover.
  • Grenade Launcher: The MEC-2 Sentinel "Grenade Launcher" Tactical Subsystem. Does 4 damage (5 with the "Alien Grenade" Foundry Project) and has longer range than the Trooper's sight range.
  • Healing Factor: The Captain "Repair Servos" passive ability repairs 2HP per turn, up to a maximum of 6HP per mission.
  • Jet Pack: The Lieutenant "Jet Boot Module" active ability lets them jump up buildings.
  • The Juggernaut: There are options that turn the MEC Trooper into nothing short of a main battle tank on two legs. Given how they're usually the most exposed (and most often targeted in higher difficulties) unit on the battlefield, these can come in handy.
    • Damage Control reduces all damage taken by the MEC by a flat 2 after they're hit for the first time. The effect lasts two whole turns. Paired with the Shock-Absorbent Armor that reduces damage by 33% from damage sources within 4 tiles if the MEC Trooper was a former assault, the soldier can shrug off grenades like they're slingshot pebbles.
    • Absorption Fields at Colonel rank caps all incoming damage at 33% of the MEC trooper's max health, so it can shrug off what would be 15-damage crits with no personal injury, which would be enough to severely injure even the hardiest soldiers. To make it better, it also takes the lower health of more basic MEC suits into account and stacks up with Damage Control; a Colonel Rank trooper in a MEC-1 Warden can face truly ridiculous amounts of firepower and will only be at risk if severely outnumbered.
  • Kill It with Fire: Sometimes they explicitly say "KILLING IT WITH FIRE" when you trigger the flamethrower.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": The MEC-3 Paladin "Proximity Mine Launcher" Tactical Subsystem. Once planted, the mines will explode if an enemy moves into its radius or an explosion sets it off, causing 8 damage. They can also be launched beyond the trooper's visual range as well, like the Grenade Launcher, making for a nasty surprise for an unwary group of aliens.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Fully upgraded MECs have mobility on par with a Support with "Sprinter", with the resilience of an Assault and firepower similar to a Heavy's. Bringing them in from a Major or Colonel Sniper/Assault also gives them incredible accuracy, almost guaranteeing that each turn they will be able to engage and kill at least one enemy, even on Classic difficulty. Their movement animations depict them as being pretty fast-moving for their size. They are also incredibly expensive, so it's tough to field more than one or two of them at a time before you start encountering the Meld droppers (Mechtoids and Heavy Floaters), and they earn experience at half the rate of normal soldiers.
  • Machine Monotone: Zig-zagged. While they all sound unnaturally calm and speak in clinical, surgical terms, both female voice options and one of the male voice options are rather chipper in tone and pitch. Played frighteningly straight with the other male voice option, which sounds downright sinister.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Their laser-tier Primary Weapon is a handheld railgun.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: They react calmly to damage, such as saying "I'll need minor repairs at some point" when reduced to one health.
  • Mini-Mecha: Clunky Mech somewhat bigger than the average human? Check. Enhanced strength and resilience over regular infantry? Check. Cockpit area that exposes the pilot? Check. Able to wield BFGs and rocket punch enemies so hard they cause vehicles to explode? Double check!
  • More Dakka: MECs are designed around this. The starting weapon is a gatling gun, and they can wield large and powerful weapons that would be dangerous to use by any other soldier, at the cost of having even fewer shots per magazine than the Heavy (two as base, five at most with Ammo Conservation researched and Expanded Storage picked at Captain rank).
    • Their basic "Collateral Damage" ability has them fire an extended burst at the targeted area, shredding any cover objects and causing Splash Damage equal to a third of their primary weapon's with no Critical Hit chance. At worst, it will shred whatever your target happens to be hiding behind. On the other hand, if your target chose to hide behind something explosive like a car, it's an immediate kaboom.
    • The Major "Overdrive" passive ability is identical to the Heavy's "Bullet Swarm", allowing for two shots (or one shot and something else) each turn.
    • At Colonel, the "Reactive Targeting Sensors" passive ability makes the MEC automatically shoot back at any enemy that attacks it.
    • Basically, you can build your MEC suits as a fully equipped walking heavy weapons platforms. The main weapon is anything from a minigun to a railgun to a particle cannon. Additional weapons can include a flamethrower, a grenade launcher and a proximity mine launcher. While sadly not all of them can be used at once, all in all the suit packs enough firepower to take on a small army of aliens alone.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Gene-Modded soldiers cannot be made MEC troopers. A Psionic soldier can, but they loose all their psionic abilities.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Using the Kinetic Strike Module to kill a Berserker, Mechtoid or Sectopod results in a custom cutscene wherein the MEC and target engage in one-on-one, close-range combat with the MEC trooper gaining the advantage and landing a spectacular killing blow, usually sending their defeated opponent flying. MEC-troopers using Kinetic Strike finish off Sectopods in a particularly dramatic fashion: the trooper leaps two body-lengths into the air and comes down smashing the Sectopod with its fists, driving it into the ground. Then, as it attempts one last desperate attempt to fire its cannon at point-blank range, the trooper activates the Kinetic Strike Module and strikes directly into the priming cannon, detonating the entire Sectopod. It hurts, but the sheer cool factor makes up for it.
  • No-Sell: Immune to poison, strangulation and fire. MECs with Body Shield negate all Critical Hit chance from the nearest enemy.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate: MEC weaponry hits a lot harder than regular infantry weapons of equivalent tech level, but to offset this, the trooper's aim scales more or less like that of a Heavy, the least accurate soldier class in the game. Most shots from the average MEC trooper will have a ~60% hit chance even without the huge innate defense of late game enemies if not at more or less point blank. Of course, the MEC Trooper's base Aim is the same as from when they were regular troops, so if you augment, say, a Colonel-rank Sniper, the resulting trooper is devastatingly powerful and scarily accurate. It's more whitewashed with the "Hidden Potential" Second Wave option enabled, that makes the MEC's aim scale just like an Assault's.
  • Punched Across the Room: The Kinetic Strike module is quite capable of this, with the victims sent flying back, sometimes smashing through obstacles behind them. Particularly amusing is doing it to a Cyberdisc, which will spin away like a giant coin (which has the added benefit of knocking it far enough away that the MEC is out of its death explosion's blast radius).
  • Robo Speak: Downplayed. They talk like other soldiers do, for the most part, but they sound like they're using a voice synthesizer. They also don't emote as much and use a slightly more formal lexicon (fewer contractions, no slang).
  • Rocket Punch: Of sorts. The MEC-1 Warden "Kinetic Strike Module" Tactical Subsystem gives the MEC a rocket-assisted fist which does 12 damage (18 with the "MEC Close Combat" Foundry Project) and can send aliens killed with it flying across the room. Said flying alien can also detonate destructible objects it collides with, which can lead to even more aliens exploding. It can also be used to destroy adjacent cover objects. As icing on the cake, it also makes the MEC it's installed on even faster, with a movement range increased by 3 tiles just like a soldier with Sprinter. For the cherry on top, MEC Close Combat allows the MEC to use the 18-damage punch as the first action in the turn and not end it there, so the trooper can punch and either shoot, go on Overwatch, reload, use another subsystem, or punch again. An upgraded KSM can put a real dent in a Sectopod's health pool.
  • Shock and Awe: The MEC-3 Paladin "Electro Pulse" Tactical Subsystem discharges an electric pulse that deals 5 damage to all units in a small radius around the MEC, in addition to disabling robotic units.
  • Shoulder Cannon: How many of their secondary armaments, such as the grenade launcher and mine mortars, are mounted.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Second only to the Heavy for the amount of explosives they can carry. The MEC can choose to mount both the "Grenade Launcher" (that lobs grenades farther than a normal soldier) and "Proximity Mine Launcher" (which sets up mines that detonate when an enemy steps into them) Tactical Subsystems at the same time, for twice the explosive firepower.
  • Super Strength: They overpower Muton Berserkers and Mechtoids for the animations with the Kinetic Strike Module, and are strong enough to bring a Sectopod down to the ground with a double elbow drop.
  • Take Cover!: Averted. MECs can't take cover at all, instead receiving a permanent 10 defense bonus (half that of low cover), cannot be flanked, and the "Hardened" trait that the alien units that can't take cover have: significant (60%) resistance to critical hits. They can, however, take advantage of full cover's ability to break line of sight; the MEC can't see the enemy, but the enemy won't be able to shoot the MEC either. Inverted with the Lieutenant "One For All" ability, where the MEC Trooper becomes full cover for your troops to hide behind, at least until the MEC fires off a shot.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: After spending the early part of the game learning the often-painful lesson that getting caught outside of cover means a quick death, adjusting tactics to accommodate a unit that can't take cover takes some getting used to.
  • Walking Armory: It is possible for a fully upgraded MEC to carry up to four different heavy weapons at once.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: It's possible to take a near-death character who would require a lengthy hospital stay to get back up to fighting strength and instead perform mech conversion, getting them back on their cyborg feet within a few days instead. The player would have to mismanage things pretty badly for this to be necessary, however.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Costs Meld to create and upgrade, which is extremely limited and valuable. Creating a pilot and providing him with a fully-upgraded suit costs a whopping 210 Meld, and most missions are only guaranteed have 20 Meld available unless there are Mechtoids and Heavy Floaters (and you don't kill them with explosives). On the upside, if a pilot does go down, you can generally recover the cybersuit and repair it; while there is a Meld cost to create a new pilot, the cybersuit itself requires much more.

    Covert Operative 
An XCOM soldier assigned to track down EXALT cells, enabling XCOM to target and destroy the EXALT cell operating inside a particular country. Covert Operatives are selected from existing soldiers, barring Heavies and MEC Troopers, and go undercover without armor or heavy weapons.
  • Badass Longcoat: Wears an overcoat that matches the typical XCOM color scheme in the trailer. Averted in gameplay, they wear a green jacket.
  • The Engineer: A variant; they can hack EXALT's transmitters if they get close enough to them, which disrupts their communications and prevents them from attacking for a turn.
  • Handguns: The only weapon they can bring.
  • No-Gear Level: The Covert Operative is armed only with a pistol and no armor, though they retain all of their active and passive abilities, including gene mods and psychic abilities.

    XCOM Security Personnel 
These guards are tasked with defending XCOM HQ itself from any and all attacks. Their capabilities are akin to raw Rookies, and they are armed solely with ballistic assault rifles and pistols, along with fragmentation grenades. They are the last line of defense for XCOM, and are not intended to serve in the field.
  • Badass Normal: Compared to the rest of the squad, very much so, as even Rookies are likely to be better equipped. It's still entirely possible for them to kill even high-end alien units like Cyberdiscs if you use them right. This is even more pronounced if you have "Not Created Equal" enabled, where you can get a handful of these with up to 80% Aim and capable of reliably hitting shots from high ground as a result.
  • Cannon Fodder: Since you don't get to keep them after the mission, there's not much drawback to sticking them out in the open when your veterans are in danger so that they will take the bullet instead of your regulars.
  • Red Shirt: Blue shirts, actually, but they fill essentially the same purpose. Given what happens during the Base Defense, it's unlikely you'll make it through without losing at least one of them. The game's files even refer to them as 'blueshirts' in a couple of comments.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: There's certainly a rewarding feeling to not only managing to keep them alive, but to also see them get promotion indications after you make a kill...
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...that said, though, it is far more rewarding to not have your veterans killed. If that means letting these guys take the bullet, well, it's not like you'll be seeing them again anyways. Your full roster of veterans will not join you unless you get reinforcements, which will not occur unless some security personnel die. Furthermore, enemies spawn at set time periods, meaning if you are too slow to kill the current wave their reinforcements will build up. Considering this, the "optimal" path to ensuring a win is to kill off at least two security personnel quickly to get them replaced with stronger fighters before you're overwhelmed.
  • Zerg Rush: It is very unlikely for any single one of them to get a kill unless you deliberately set them up to do it. However, since reinforcements can have up to two of them coming at a time, and you can have any number of them at a given time as long as your total soldier count does not exceed 8, it is possible to kill an alien simply by throwing enough Security at it until the RNG rolls in your favor.

Unique Soldiers

    The Argentine Heavy/Delta 2 
The sole survivor of "Operation: Devil's Moon", XCOM's first engagement against the aliens, he is XCOM's first veteran soldier. While he's unlikely to be the only Argentine, Heavy or Argentine Heavy to serve with XCOM, his experience against the enemy will likely be vital to XCOM's early operations.
  • The Big Guy: He's a Heavy when he gets promoted, and he's physically large overall.
  • Mauve Shirt: He's just a regular soldier with a pre-set voice, appearance and nationality, but has gotten quite the following in the fanbase. Being the first veteran and promotion of the war, the sole survivor of the tutorial, and being absolutely vital to one achievement (in games with the tutorial enabled) means he's become this.
  • Sole Survivor: Of "Operation: Devil's Moon", the tutorial mission.

    Shaojie "Chilong" Zhang
"Funny, that my life should take such an unexpected path. Turning my back on old friends, to defeat a common enemy."
Voiced by: Feodor Chin

Formerly a member of the Triads, he contacts the Council after obtaining a mysterious alien artifact from his former coworkers. Should XCOM successfully extract him, he will join them as a Lieutenant-ranked Heavy class soldier.

  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Some of his dialogue when fired at (but not hit) is this.
    They're good. But not good enough.
  • Cool Old Guy: His iron grey hair and subtle wrinkles indicate Zhang is at least past middle-age. He still joins XCOM as probably the highest-ranked soldier at that point and can continue to hold his own even to the endgame.
  • Defector from Decadence: He chose to defect from the Triads because he realized how stupid it is to continue to squabble over money when there are aliens trying to kill everyone. At first it's a business proposition, but he commits to XCOM fully after he's extracted, joining as a Lieutenant.
  • Disk One Nuke: Well, not exactly nuke, but he certainly is more elite than the rest of your troops. He has more HP than a normal heavy trooper, is probably 1-2 ranks higher than the rest of your squad when he joins you, and spots an unusually high Will stat (you'll only get a better value if you have acquired the Iron Will training). Also, his chance of being a latent psychic is much higher than usual.
  • Escort Mission: The mission where you recruit him has him as a slightly tougher (4 Health instead of 3) Council Mission VIP.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Zhang, he one-shots a Sectoid with a pistol and muses, "Not so different from killing a man".
  • Handguns: Zigzagged. In his introductory cut scene, he wields a pistol, but when gameplay starts he is weaponless. Then once he's recruited, he's classed as a Heavy, which doesn't use pistols.
  • Made of Iron: Zhang has 1 HP more than a civilian VIP during "Friends In Low Places" and 2 HP more than a normal heavy after he joins XCOM's ranks.
  • Mauve Shirt: While he's got a unique voice and appearance, along with some slightly improved stats, he can still die as easily as any other XCOM soldier after he's recruited.
  • Nom de Guerre: "Chilong", which means "Hornless Dragon" in Chinese. Could be a misspelling of "Zhilong", a legendary warrior.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Normally pretty stoic, but he'll still let out an Evil Laugh when using psionic attacks. It's... a bit unsettling.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Although all soldiers come with these, Zhang's voice set has unique ones befitting his badass status:
    (Firing rocket) Ready for the fireworks?
    (Reloading) Let's begin.
    (Overwatch) If they move, they die.
  • Psychic Powers: Not guaranteed, but he does have a much higher chance of being Gifted than the standard rank-and-file XCOM troops.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: In turn for protection from his former colleagues, Zhang gets amnesty and a spot in XCOM. It helps that he has standards: he knows for a fact that they have a common enemy even before he joins the crew.
  • Rugged Scar: Zhang sports a few on his cheek and across his right eye, particularly noticeable during cutscenes. No doubt a keepsake from his former profession.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Obviously, being a defecting Triad member.
  • Unexplained Recovery: He can easily die in his recruitment mission if you aren't careful, failing the operation. However, the Council can offer the same mission later on, and he will be perfectly fine despite having died, with zero comment on the matter... unless you're playing Enemy Within, where the mission is only offered once, and failing it will end the entire Slingshot campaign.

    Annette Durand
A mysterious woman with incredible psychic potential, she's managed to attract the interest of the Aliens, EXALT and XCOM simultaneously. The Operation Progeny content included with Enemy Within revolves around her. Similarly to Zhang, she can eventually join XCOM, but as a Sergeant-ranked soldier of a random class.
  • Action Girl: Her stats aside from Will are a little low, but she's perfectly capable of wreaking havoc among the aliens, and if her voice lines are any clue, she really enjoys doing so.
  • Amplifier Artifact: She had the ability to supercharge other psionic users, which the aliens used to attack XCOM HQ. It's permanently lost afterwards due to the strain.
  • And This Is for...: One of her "Enemy killed" lines.
    This is for my friends.
  • Blood Knight: She really likes killing aliens, as shown by her voice lines when put on the move.
    When do I get to shoot an alien?!
    Will I get to kill aliens there?
  • Bond One-Liner: She's very fond of saying these.
    Don't worry, your friends will join you soon!
    I hope you're suffering!
  • Break the Cutie: She used to be a delicate young woman, but after she was captured and tortured by the aliens and then EXALT, she Grew a Spine and picked up her Blood Knight tendencies.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Inverted. Despite being French, she's the most visibly bloodthirsty of XCOM's soldiers.
  • Dynamic Entry: The first time she's seen, she bursts through a truck's doors, sends your squad sprawling, and then takes off running.
  • Glass Cannon: She will become a powerful psionic once technology allows her to unlock her potential, but in the meantime she always starts off with only 5 Health as a Sergeant, which is lower than anything but a Sniper at that rank.
  • Heroic RRoD: Her ability to amplify psychic powers was burned out of her due to the stress the aliens' assault on XCOM HQ caused her. She's still psychic, but she can't use that particular ability ever again.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: This can happen if she joins as a Sniper, since she starts out with much lower Aim than a typical Sniper of the same rank. She offsets this with aim gains by leveling up.
  • Living MacGuffin: All 3 of the game's factions seek her out, thanks to her unusual psychic aptitude. She ends up with XCOM.
  • Mauve Shirt: Despite her unique voice and appearance, she can still die like any other soldier.
  • Mildly Military: Whatever she was before the invasion, it definitely wasn't a soldier. When receiving a move order, she'll occasionally complain about how heavy her gear is, lament how she's not a weapons expert when reloading, and only rarely report kills like the rest of your soldiers. She'll continue to do it even when she reaches Colonel rank.
  • Nom de Guerre: Subverted. She's the only soldier that doesn't get one.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Not especially short for a woman, but she's easily still trouncing bulky men in heavy armor and quarter-ton aliens.
  • Psychic Powers: She's guaranteed to be psionic when she's tested and is one of the most powerful users to date (represented in-game as a very high Will for her rank).
  • Who's Laughing Now?: She's not evil, just angry. However, she's particularly pleased to use Mind Control on the aliens.
    Remember me!?

    The Furies 
A trio of alien abductees much like Annette, rescuing them is part of the reason why she joins XCOM. If they're successfully rescued from the landed alien ship they're being held in, they will join XCOM as Lieutenant-ranked soldiers. They are Matthew "Alecto" Hawkins (USA, Sniper), Said "Megaera" Tariq (Egypt, Support) and Fatima "Tisiphone" Tariq (Egypt, Assault).
  • Brother–Sister Team: Not explicitly stated, but it seems likely that two abductees with exceptionally strong psychic powers from the same country and with the same surname (Tariq) are likely to be brother and sister. They work well on the same squad (as any two psychic soldiers with sufficient levels do) because one can use Psi Inspiration to boost the success rate of the other's psi attacks.
  • Mauve Shirt: They have custom names, Nom de Guerre, and are guaranteed to be psionic if tested. Still can die just as easily as everyone else.
  • Meaningful Name: Both the mission where you rescue them, and themselves. See Nom de Guerre and Theme Naming below.
  • Nom de Guerre: "Alecto" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "unceasing anger"), "Megaera" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "envious anger") and "Tisiphone" (Ancient Greek, approximately means "vengeful anger").
  • Psychic Powers: Like Annette, they're guaranteed to be psionic when tested.
  • Theme Naming: They're nicknamed after three of the Greek Erinyes, also known as Furies.

    The Volunteer (SPOILERS) 
An exceptionally powerful psionic, this XCOM soldier has been chosen to lead a crucial, but very dangerous mission.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: After activating the Gollop Chamber, the Volunteer gains a special psionic power, Rift, which is only useable in the final mission and otherwise only available to Ethereals.
  • Got Volunteered: Despite the Volunteer's title, it's still the Commander who selects a soldier to enter the Gollop Chamber. Fridge Brilliance hits when you realize that every soldier under your command must have volunteered for the duty, so you only have to choose who will be the volunteer.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Stays behind on the Temple Ship to send it into orbit and explode normally instead of becoming a black hole.
  • Not Quite Dead: They survive the Temple Ship explosion, according to the twitter of Jake Solomon, a designer for the game.
  • Psychic Powers: They have access to two abilities not available to other XCOM psionics: "Rift", a powerful, lingering area of effect attack, and a link to the Ethereal Hive Mind. In addition, no matter what the Volunteer's Psi rank was when they entered the Gollop Chamber, they come out of it at the maximum possible, even if they were fresh and inexperienced Psi users.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: If s/he dies you fail the final mission. Justified in that s/he is the key to stopping the alien invasion and to preventing the Temple Ship from forming a black hole above Earth.


All attempts to contact the invaders thus far have failed. Their only purpose seems to be destruction and chaos.
News Broadcast


These physically frail aliens serve as expendable scouts for the invaders and appear to possess a telepathic ability unlike anything previously encountered on Earth. Individually weak, they are nonetheless dangerous in numbers, especially if allowed to utilize their ability to merge minds.

  • Alien Blood: They bleed green.
  • All Myths Are True: These new Sectoids are more birdlike in appearance, scampering around on all fours. Their design also bears a strong resemblance to the "Dover Demon", a Loch Ness-like legend from the backwoods of Massachusetts.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Stated to be intrinsically cruel and cowardly by the Uber-Ethereal.
  • Arm Cannon: They have arm-mounted Plasma Pistols.
  • Cannon Fodder: The weakest of all the aliens, seen best in multiplayer how every other species can effectively counter them and are only useful as scouts. In singleplayer, they shouldn't be underestimated, especially on higher difficulties.
  • Clone Army: Just like their appearance in UFO Defense, Sectoids all share the same DNA, suggesting that you're fighting exact copies of the same Sectoid over and over.
  • Combat Medic: Their Mind Merge ability allows them to boost the health of other Sectoids for a turn. At 3 HP, the average Sectoid is not hard to kill with a basic assault rifle; a Mind Merged Sectoid gets 4 HP and can often survive a single hit from basic weapons. Furthermore, if a Merge ends naturally between turns and the Sectoid receives a new Mind Merge, they will actually retain the health they gained from the previous merge and gain a little more from the new merge, essentially allowing them to recover their health by repeatedly engaging in Mind Merge, one hit point at a time.
  • The Goomba: The very first enemy infantry XCOM encounter, they have low health and a damage output that becomes effectively neglectable by the time Carapace Armor is researched. By the mid-game they are only really a threat if they are encountered in larger groups or accompanying a Mechtoid. An upgraded Arc Thrower always has a 95% chance of stunning even a perfectly healthy Sectoid.
  • The Greys: They invokes much of this image: they're humanoid, shorter than a human, have no clothes or visible genitalia, and have giant distinctive heads.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Just like other early-game enemies, Sectoids are poor shots (equivalent in accuracy to your Rookies). Justified, since they hold their pistol arms up beside their head, supporting it with the other hand; this obviously precludes them from using any sort of optics on their weapons.
  • No Mouth: They have no mouth. Whether it's concealed or totally removed is unknown.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Only alluded to in-game, but they are actually much stronger than their frail appearance would suggest.
  • Psychic Link: Their only psychic ability, called "Mind Merge". The recipient gets +10 Aim and +1 HP for a turn (in Enemy Within, Mechtoids get a 6-HP shield that halves all incoming damage instead). What you're not told until you figure it out for yourself is that killing the Sectoid that's boosting the other unit kills them both as a result of psychic backlash (or break the shield and do a small amount of damage to a linked Mechtoid). You'll have trouble finding this out, because the boosting Sectoid moves back, away from your soldiers, while the boosted one moves forward to engage. Unless you ignore it (or pull some fancy flanking maneuvers or blind-fire a rocket) it gets difficult to target the other one without taking some serious fire.
  • Psychic Powers: Their hat. Sectoids are one of the few alien races capable of psionic control.
  • Ray Gun: Sectoids are armed with Plasma Pistols.
  • Running on All Fours: Due to their short stature and long limbs they tend to scamper on all free limbs. They keep their weapon hand up though. Interestingly this does give them the rare opportunity to go through doors with holes in the bottom without knocking it open — allowing for silent entry.

    Thin Men

Reptilian aliens extensively altered to resemble humans, they are tasked with infiltrating human society to obtain information and conduct sabotage. They are capable of spitting out clouds of debilitating poison to weaken enemies and deny territory, as well as generating an identical cloud upon their death. In addition, they can leap multiple stories to obtain better positions.

  • Author Avatar: Another one of creator Sid Meier's cameos, complete with comb-over.
  • Composite Character: A walking pastiche of sci-fi/horror tropes, from Angus Scrimm's character from the Phantasm series, to the urban legends surrounding Slender Man, the Thin Man from the movie Metropolis, The Men in Black, and the Reptilians.
  • Crutch Character: A rare enemy example. They're a real pain in the butt in the early game, as they wield plasma rifles that give them a comparable damage output to much later units while your soldiers are still squishy enough to die in one solid shot, their poison spit and death cloud not only hurts but debuffs anyone that isn't a MEC or toting a medikit, and their tendency to leap to high ground only adds to their impressive accuracy. Later on, when your soldiers have better aim and upgraded armor, their lack of hit points becomes more of a liability, and by the point you have Titan armor and beyond (especially in Enemy Within, as Archangel and Ghost armors also get poison immunity), they're target practice for training up low-rank soldiers and psi operatives. One memorable Council mission has you tearing through waves of them, and most of them won't even get a single shot off back at your squad.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: When killed, they explode into a cloud of poison.
  • Face Death with Dignity: What does a Thin Man captive do when about to be interrogated? Ignore the torture equipment and stare his captors down as the blast door closes. All the other aliens, even the Ethereals, panic and try to fight their way out.
  • Firing One-Handed: They fire their light plasma rifles like they're oversized pistols. Don't expect that to hinder their accuracy.
  • Fragile Speedster: Their ability to leap multiple levels, enter the battlefield by dropping from a great height, and general quick movement gives them their speedster designation, but the fragility comes from having among the lowest tier of hitpoints in the game – as little as a Sectoid on Normal.
  • Glamour Failure: While they might initially pass as human, their elongated bodies and unnatural flexibility betray their true nature.
  • Glass Cannon: Their light plasma rifles can hurt a bunch and poison can hit various soldiers, but they have the same amount of health points as the lowly Sectoids on Easy and Normal, only one point more on Classic, and two points more on Impossible, meaning they can die in one hit from a basic Assault Rifle (2-4) if the RNG is merciful or the shot is a critical hit (5 at minimum), and even a basic Pistol can kill them in two shots (or one if it crits above 2).
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: At least on lower difficulties. On Classic and above, they become brutally efficient at gunning down XCOM soldiers, thanks to their ability to leap to high ground at will and the inherent 20% aim bonus from height advantage.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: To hide their inhuman eyes, Thin Men always wear sunglasses. The game loves showing them from dramatic angles, such that their eyes can be seen peering over their glasses.
  • Hellish Pupils: Thin Men have reptilian eyes, so they all wear sunglasses to appear more human.
  • Hugh Mann: As the 2012 equivalent of Snakemen, they do the bare minimum to disguise their alien nature. It works well from a distance.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Justified, as they were designed to resemble humans.
  • In a Single Bound: Can easily leap to rooftops to get a 20% better shot, something they do often. In Enemy Within, autopsying them gives you "Muscle Fiber Density", a gene mod that lets your soldiers do the exact same.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to their own poison, as well as that of XCOM Gas Grenades in Enemy Within.
  • Lean and Mean: Tall, thin, and very dangerous to humans.
  • The Men in Black: Designed to channel this trope, but subverted, as they are not on any government's side.
  • Noodle People: Their long, lean bodies, spindly limbs, overlong fingers and small, round heads invoke the trope perfectly, and help highlight just how creepy they are.
  • Omniglot: Promotional material states that Thin Men can speak several Earth languages flawlessly. In-game, however, they mostly just hiss and shriek. Justified, since that may be their own language, and it is obviously superior for communicating with their squadmates than any third-party language.
  • One-Gender Race: All Thin Men appear as human males. However, according to the second game, they're actually an all-female race.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: An intentionally invoked case of Uncanny Valley; their inhuman eyes, unnatural slenderness, pronounced fingers and patches of scales all betray what they really are.
  • Poisonous Person: They can spit poison clouds, as well as generating one on death.
  • Ray Gun: Thin Men are armed with Light Plasma Rifles.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: They're hostile, reptilian aliens surgically altered to look like human beings and planted through society in order to prepare Earth for an alien invasion.
  • Samus Is a Girl: According to the second game, they're actually female in their true form, complete with Hartman Hips and Non-Mammalian Mammaries. However, it's unknown what the heavily-modified Thin Man's gender is; more than likely it simply lacks reproductive organs.
  • Sinister Shades: They're an attempt to cover up their Hellish Pupils.
  • Slender Man Stand-In: Tall, slender fellows in business suits with nothing but malicious intent for humanity.
  • Snake People: A rare subtle version, having been explicitly gene-engineered to look more human. Their serpentine eyes, discrete patches of scales, venomous Super Spit, and even their abnormally slender, supple frames all show off their true origin. According to their autopsy, their bones are even structured like the vertebrae of a snake. According to XCOM 2, their true forms, the Vipers, look far more like the Snakemen of the original X-COM: UFO Defense.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: The XCOM 2: Alien Hunters DLC reveals the Elders made the Viper race all female, with the males genetically locked away in their own genome likely as a measure of population control. Male Vipers do not breathe venom, but frost. All this indicates that the Thin Men are in fact female vipers in a male human form.
  • Super Spit: Can spew globs of venom that quickly evaporate, filling the air with toxic fumes. A cloud of it lasts a few turns.
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: They fall out of the sky during some Council missions, dropping onto the map and immediately entering Overwatch. To their disadvantage, they rarely drop in cover.
  • Undying Loyalty: According to the Uber-Ethereal, they're favored by the aliens' leadership because of this, but were still considered a failed venture because of their inability to wield the Gift.

Beings consisting of pure energy, they exist solely to operate the invaders' fleet of UFOs. They are basically living antennae receiving signals and commands from the Sectoid Commander.
  • Animated Armor: They're pure beings of energy with armor pieces that form as soon as the Outsider detects a threat.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Early game on Classic or Impossible difficulty. They have 5 HP (allowing them to survive being hit by LMGs and the like if they're lucky), 10 Defense and can One-Hit Kill lightly armored soldiers with their Light Plasma Rifles, which also enhance their already high Aim. They also have decent movement speed on top of all that, which is boosted even further on Impossible. Once you have laser or plasma weapons and decent armor, however, they quickly become Cannon Fodder.
  • Mecha-Mooks: They're Animated Armor created just to fight off enemies.
  • More Dakka: They fire the Light Plasma Rifle in 6-round bursts, but that's purely aesthetic. This is due to the Outsider using the same animation set of an XCOM soldier wielding an Assault Rifle.
  • Organic Technology: Vahlen's description of them is that they are "organic, but highly magnetized".
  • Power Crystal: What they really are. Upon being alerted they generate a body to fight with.
  • Pure Energy: Almost pure energy, according to an incredulous Dr. Vahlen. Proving this is how they dissolve completely when killed, leaving only the fragments of their weapons behind.
  • Sculpted Physique: They look like metal statues with a Power Crystal inside when physically manifested.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: They disappear from the game altogether and are never mentioned again (even on the Temple Ship, which has you fight through every other enemy type in the game) after the attack on the Alien Base. On the other hand, this does make sense, since they're more hardware than crew and are no longer needed after the aliens' psionic units take command personally after you assault the alien base.

    Floaters/Heavy Floaters

A horrific fusion of flesh and machine, these cybernetic monstrosities bear integrated propulsion units, allowing them to take to the skies. The power of these units is such that they can rocket themselves anywhere on the battlefield, though they cannot immediately open fire after they land. The species is likely related biologically to the Mutons.

  • Airborne Mook: Floaters can move fairly freely through the air. They also have the "Launch" ability, which allows them to rocket off into the sky and come down anywhere on the map, allowing them to flank your soldiers without drawing reaction fire.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Out of all the invaders the Heavy Floaters seem to relish their duties the most, often letting out something akin to an Evil Laugh after killing one of your soldiers or gunning down a helpless civilian.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: A merge of organic tissue and machinery working in harmony... more or less. But they're extremely aggressive to the degree of lunacy. For example, if one is shot while out in the open, it'll claw at itself and toss blood everywhere.
  • Elite Mook: Heavy Floaters are this compared to the normal variant. They look pretty similar and just happen to perform better, with heavier armor to distinguish them.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Most of their organic parts were ripped out and replaced with machinery to effectively turn them into Living Weapons. The Uber Ethereal even uses the trope name word for word to describe them.
  • Firing One-Handed: Both varieties do this. Interestingly, the Heavy Floater fires a gun as long as its arm, likely possible thanks to the mechanical brace going from its torso to its wrist. As with Thin Men, that really doesn't hinder them: Normal Floaters are a little less accurate than Thin Men, and Heavy Floaters have the same not-insignificant aim as regular Mutons. Besides, a Floater in flight gains height advantage (+20% aim bonus) over enemies below it.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Normal Floaters appear to use a rebreather in their mouths.
  • Giant Mook: Heavy Floaters. They're fairly big guys when first encountered, but appear mostly in pods of 2 and don't have much regard for squad tactics, unlike Mutons.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Standard Floaters have only at most 60 Aim, lower than your own Rookies, and miss very often. Heavy Floaters avert this, having the same dangerous accuracy as a Muton and the ability to fly to high ground to gain extra accuracy.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Compared to their contemporaries around the time they're introduced. They're tough, but not as tough as Mutons; they can dish out the pain, but not as well as Cyberdiscs; their one unambiguous advantage is their speed. Heavy Floaters beef things up with full-sized Plasma Rifles, better Aim and three times the health, but by that time you're facing even tougher and harder-hitting enemies like Berserker and Elite Mutons, Mechtoids, and Sectopods.
  • Jet Pack: They have a jetpack built into their bodies as their only method of locomotion. They can do a massive leap to any position on the map using it too. Regular Floaters' jetpacks emit orange fire, while the Heavy Floaters' glow green.
  • Midair Bobbing: When not hiding behind cover, they're just bobbing around; when they are in cover, they keep one hand on the ground.
  • Pinned Down: They can use Suppression.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Heavy Floaters have an Alien Grenade each, and can throw them about as far as a Heavy's rocket thanks to the "Bombard" ability.

These beings, despite their organic appearance, are actually purely mechanical drones capable of flight. Their favored method of attack is to sneak up on and strangle isolated targets with their tentacles, which is augmented by their ability to emit an Elerium-charged vapor screen that grants them invisibility.
  • Airborne Mook: They float in the air and can reach higher altitudes just like Floaters. In fact, if they're strangling someone or have been dislodged from strangling, they'll have the +20 Defense "flying target" bonus.
  • Attack Drone: A very dangerous one, at that, with the ability to neutralize a lone target.
  • Cyborg: Averted. Despite its semi-organic looks, Seekers are completely mechanical.
  • Emergency Weapon: They have a Plasma Pistol mounted in their faceplates, which they use if their invisibility is broken or if all XCOM units are immune to strangulation, such as a late game squad wearing all Powered Armor. It deals respectable damage early on, or even later if it crits, as Seekers will favor flanking positions.
  • Invisibility: They can turn invisible and can only strangle while invisible. Their invisibility can be broken either by a soldier augmented with Bioelectric Skin, a Battle Scanner, or being hit with an area of effect weapon.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison, fire and Flashbangs.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: As described by the developers, it is basically "a flying spider shark. That can turn invisible.". Aesthetically they're more like a robotic squid or octopus, though.
  • Personal Space Invader: While strangling. A strangled soldier is completely disabled and helpless, and will take damage every turn until an ally blasts the Seeker off or they die. Freed victims also need to catch their breath after the strangulation attempt, resulting in a heavy debuff to movement range and accuracy for the rest of the turn.
  • Starfish Robots: They look like a cephalopod of some sort.
  • Tentacle Rope: They bind the target in place and deal damage over time by strangulation.

Vicious and nightmarish insect-like creatures, they seek only to propagate their species through implanting their eggs into a host's body. After a remarkably short gestation period, during which the host body is under the Chryssalid's control, a juvenile will burst out, ready to continue the cycle.


The invaders' front-line combatants, they are equipped with heavy armor and armaments. If struck by a non-fatal blow, they are very likely to roar their defiance at the firer, possibly intimidating them into submission. Their bloodlust and ferocity has not dimmed their tactical acumen, making them even deadlier foes. Probably related to the Floaters.

  • Early-Bird Boss: The missions from the Slingshot DLC pit you against Mutons with full-sized Plasma Rifles rather than the Light Plasma variant, usually well before you'd expect to have the technology needed to have a good chance against them. Getting hit by a plasma rifle at this stage of the game is usually instantly fatal. And if you had the bad habit of bunching up soldiers because of Seekers and didn't think Thin Man poison was too bad, well, these Mutons have grenades.
  • Gas Mask Mook: They wear rebreathers over their mouths that sometimes release a yellowish gas. This is most likely combat drugs instead of some sort of breathing gas, as all other aliens can breathe Earth's atmosphere, and only the Floaters and Mutons (both hot-blooded, berserker races) have them.
  • Genius Bruiser: Big and brutish they may be, but their tactics are not to be underestimated. A Muton will always do its best to move from cover to cover, flank its opponents, throw grenades at clustered enemies and, on higher difficulties, to destroy their cover. And if they don't have a good bead, they'll sometimes use Suppression.
  • Giant Mook: Mechanically, they're introduced as midgame pod leaders, showing up as an upgraded, terrifying new threat compared to Thin Men. According to the autopsy information, they weigh around 275 kilograms, almost all of it muscle and bone. Their bulky armor makes them look even larger.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: Mutons are big, strong, heavily armored, well-versed in tactics and have even higher Aim than Thin Men, but their Will is a pathetically low 10, making them quite vulnerable to psionics.
  • Mighty Roar: Their animalistic roars and displays of chest-pounding when struck are so intimidating that low-Will soldiers may panic.
  • My Blood Runs Hot: As with Berserkers. Their bodies remain surprisingly warm for a good while after expiration.
  • Neural Implanting: All they need to know about tactics and their equipment is written into their brains, to compensate for their apparent unintelligence.
  • Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the Muton a reaction shot should the target move. Typically, on higher difficulties they'll Suppress targets they can't get a good shot on.
  • Powered Armor: Theirs not only provides protection but also auto-reloads their weapons with miniature servos, letting them fire far more shots than an XCOM soldier with a plasma rifle before reloading.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Their Mighty Roars are accompanied by using their free hand to pound their chest and roar in defiance.
  • Screaming Warrior: When struck by any damage they may use a special Intimidate ability, roaring at the attacker while pounding their chest. This may cause low-Will soldiers to panic.
  • Super Toughness: They have substantial durability for an organic, which is why they make ideal front-line troops. However, with only 8 or 10 HP, it's actually very downplayed in game: they take a substantial amount of fire from ballistic weapons, but a few laser shots will kill them, and they stand a chance of instant death from a Plasma Rifle burst. This lowers them from "super soldiers" to "alien infantry" by the time XCOM starts packing plasma weapons themselves.
  • Tron Lines: Downplayed; their armor has some glowing yellow lines along areas like the inside of their collars, but Mutons are defined more by their bulk than such special effects.


These hovering weapons platforms provide heavy fire support for the invaders and are capable of shrugging off all but the heaviest attacks. Seemingly unarmed at first glance, they can rapidly transform to bring their many weapons to bear on an unfortunate target.

  • Action Bomb: Can use "Death Blossom", an explosion attack that hits everything around it and destroys cover, but deals no damage to the Cyberdisc itself. Unlike regular attacks, the Cyberdisc doesn't break out of disc form to pull it off. Often combined with their tendency to further explode on death for more damage in a radius near XCOM troops.
  • Airborne Mook: Like Floaters, they can fly anywhere they want on the battlefield, and fairly far at that. When they're doing so, they emit a stereotypical "flying UFO" sound.
  • Ambiguous Robot: Vahlen notes that there are residues of organic tissue inside the wreck. Confirmed by the Uber Ethereal to be a race uplifted with cybernetics along with the Drones.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: Downplayed. In attack form the Cyberdisc displays a segmented tail that looks like a scorpion's or a Whip Sword, but it's not used to attack directly. Rather, it's what it uses to throw its grenade.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Explodes on death, causing damage to everything up to 1 tile away from it.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: A spinning Cyberdisc is bad news of the explosive kind: if it's in disc form, it's using Death Blossom, and in attack form, it's flinging a grenade.
  • Flunky Boss: Always accompanied by a pair of Drones (aside from the one encountered during Gangplank).
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire. Also has the "Hardened" passive ability when in disc form, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Cyberdiscs are heavily armed, fairly durable and can fly very far in their disc form.
  • Mechanical Monster: The first robotic opponents that will make you regret not taking them seriously.
  • Silicon-Based Life: Stated to be something like a symbiosis between two species: one organic and one inorganic.
  • Sinister Geometry: Like its 1994 counterpart, the shell of the creature is a reflective chrome disc. It's the world's worst gift-wrap.
  • Spider Tank: When in attack form, they look a lot like a nautilus with a scorpion-like tail.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: They have an Alien Grenade and can catapult it at clustered troops with its tail. Thanks to "Bombard", its reach is about that of a Heavy's rocket.
  • Transforming Mecha: They can transform between an unarmed but nigh-crit-immune disc form that has innate defense, and a vulnerable but heavily-armed floating nautilus-bot form. They swap from disc form to attack form when going on Overwatch when its pod is revealed or when firing or tossing a grenade, and if they take a hit while in attack form, they instantly flip back to disc form.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: In Terror Site missions, they'll go after XCOM exclusively. Any civilians a Cyberdisc kills are collateral damage.


Small hovering drones, these accompany and provide support to the invaders' mechanical assets. Though their primary function is to repair, they also bear small energy weapons for self-defense and a self-destruct system to prevent capture.

  • Airborne Mook: They have the same ability to fly as Cyberdiscs and Floaters.
  • Attack Drone: Vahlen even remarks how they're very similar to Earth's military drones.
  • Combat Medic: Can repair robotic allies such as Cyberdiscs, Mechtoids, Sectopods, Seekers and other Drones. When hacked, they can repair MEC Troopers and S.H.I.V.s.
  • Hack Your Enemy: Drones can be hacked and brought to XCOM's side with the Arc Thrower once the "Drone Capture" Foundry Project is completed. Once hacked, a Drone is under your control for the rest of the mission, and dies once it's completed.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire, since it's a robot. It's also immune to the Arc Thrower until the "Drone Hacking" Foundry Project is completed. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Despite being made of alloys, they're very squishy. Justified by their support/repair role.
  • Mook Medic: Their primary purpose is to fix up the bigger machine they're accompanying.
  • Scratch Damage: Their beam weapon deals very little damage, up to 3 at most with 1 as the minimum. A Heavy with "Will to Survive" can outright No-Sell a shot from it if it's not a crit or from a flanking position.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Unless you want them to patch up the Cyberdisc or Sectopod they usually accompany, you'd better shoot (or hack) them first. In terror missions they'll prioritize shooting civilians over even fixing up their escortees, so again it's a good idea to shoot them down first.
  • Suicide Attack: Can self-destruct, causing 3 damage to everything around it much like a grenade.

    Sectoid Commander

The very first alien encountered by XCOM during "Operation: Devil's Moon", these creatures appear to possess a terrifying capability of telepathically controlling human minds, as demonstrated near the end of the aforementioned operation. They can be found directing the invasion from outposts and UFOs, as well as operating the systems of the latter.

  • Arm Cannon: Like their lesser brethren. Unlike regular Sectoids, they're pretty accurate when firing it, though they'll keep it for a last resort.
  • Combat Medic: Their Greater Mind Merge ability allows them to heal other Sectoids by a single point.
  • Degraded Boss: Sort of. The first one you encounter is set up like a boss fight and you encounter increased amounts of them as regular enemies afterwards. However, they're just as strong as the first one.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The very first alien the player sees in the tutorial mission, mind-controlling the German soldier.
  • Emergency Weapon: If they can't use their Psychic Powers such as being faced down by a S.H.I.V. or on forced cooldown from Neural Feedback, they'll resort to their arm-mounted Plasma Pistol. Their aim with it is good enough to finish off a weakened enemy in low cover.
  • Evil Counterpart: The first one acts as one to you, being the one to direct most of the aliens' operations. Yet, it still has superiors to whom it must answer to, so it's more accurately an evil counterpart to Bradford.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: They're enemies with eyes that glow red.
  • The Greys: Just like their Sectoid underlings, they're humanoid, shorter than a human, have no clothes or visible genitalia, and have giant distinctive heads.
  • Hammerspace: Where exactly does it keeps that grenade?
  • King Mook: The first one is essentially a boss version of a Sectoid.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: In Enemy Within, they're immune to Flashbangs.
  • Mind Control: The first enemy to have this ability, they can take control of (usually weak-Willed) XCOM troops temporarily.
  • Mind Rape: Mindfray, which always causes 5 damage, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
  • My Brain Is Big: They've got bigger cranial structures than the rank-and-file Sectoids.
  • No Mouth: Again, being a Sectoid derivative, they have no visible or known mouth.
  • Psychic Link: They have a stronger version of their lesser brethren's Mind Merge ability, called Greater Mind Merge, that lasts until the Commander is killed instead of fizzling after one turn. However, it only works with regular Sectoids, which generally don't show up anymore once the Commanders do. In Enemy Within, it also works with Mechtoids, which are more likely to show up.
  • Psychic Powers: Mind Control, Mind Rape, and Psychic Links are all at their disposal.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Their psychic abilities make those reddish glowing eyes of theirs a nasty portent.
  • Running on All Fours: Minus holding their arm with the mounted plasma pistol up, much like the standard Sectoid.
  • Squishy Wizard: More or less. For all their vaunted psionic abilities, they're just sectoids, and the plasma pistol they're waving around is hardly a threat to your Titan Armor wearing forces and and Alloy/Hover S.H.I.V.s., though they shouldn't be underestimated even then, as their Aim is decent and they also have a grenade that they will use; besides that, they have health and defense about on par with a Heavy Floater.

Sectoids placed in a devastating cybernetic battlesuit, their twin plasma cannons, heavy armor and excellent mobility make them an exceptionally deadly opponent. A side effect of the suit is that the pilot's telepathic abilities have been reduced, preventing them from establishing mental links with their brethren. The aliens have compensated for this by placing an amplifier which converts the incoming psionic energy into a psionic shield.
  • Arm Cannon: A double whammy of type 1: both their arms are Plasma Cannons capable of rapid fire.
  • Cyborg: Subverted. It's a Sectoid inside a Powered Armor suit, though it doesn't require the same amputations as MEC Troopers go through. Presumably that's due to the Sectoids' psychic abilities and their smaller size making it easier to fit into the suit and interface with it.
  • Deflector Shield: Gains a 6-HP strong one that halves all incoming damage (except for Electro-Pulse) if another Sectoid Mind Merges with it. If the Sectoid is killed, the shield fizzles and they take 3 damage.
  • Evil Counterpart: To the MEC Trooper, being a squishy lifeform inside a sturdy mechanical suit of combat armor.
  • Flunky Boss: If you see a Mechtoid, expect to see a Sectoid or Sectoid Commander escorting it.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, poison and fire. Also has the "Hardened" passive ability, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. Not immune to Psychic Powers, though, and especially vulnerable to Mind Control, since inside that suit there's just a basic Sectoid.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Mechtoids can run just as fast as MECs with a broader movement range than un-suited Sectoids, and have comparable firepower that they can fire twice in a row if they don't move, just like a Major-rank MEC Trooper or Heavy with Bullet Swarm.
  • Mini-Mecha: Just like MEC Troopers, they pilot one of these.
  • More Dakka: Mechtoids can fire their plasma cannons twice if they haven't moved during their turn. Each attack is a rapid fire 6-shot burst, three from each Arm Cannon.
  • Power at a Price: As a side effect of the Mechtoid suit, the Sectoid pilots cannot actively establish mental links with other Sectoids anymore. The most they get is a Deflector Shield when they get targeted by Mind Merge.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The lowly Sectoid becomes incredibly dangerous after being integrated into a mechanized suit. Its only inherent weakness is Psionics, which only come very late in the game.

Even more ferocious and bloodthirsty than other Mutons, these hulking behemoths eschew the invaders' advanced plasma weapons in favor of pure brute strength, for devastating their enemies in melee. Their constant state of rage is such that any non-fatal blow will have them charge blindly at their enemy, allowing them to cover the distance quickly.
  • Ax-Crazy: They're exceptionally aggressive, to the point of rushing straight into a crossfire, as shown by their Bloodlust ability to run a few tiles if hurt during your turn. Their way of killing a target is to deliver a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown until they're a smear on the floor.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The "Bull Rush" ability lets them smash through walls, damaging anything in a small radius from the impact point and destroying cover. It's their main trump card in multiplayer and a tactic they use disturbingly often in higher difficulties.
  • The Berserker: As per the name, they will be angered and blindly rush at the source of any damage they take.
  • Bullfight Boss: In a sense. You can exploit Bloodlust to maneuver it to where you want it, such as into an Overwatch trap or away from a flimsy or wounded teammate.
  • Dumb Muscle: They'll always charge blindly towards those who have attacked them (often triggering reaction fire in the process), and have very devastating melee attacks. Their physical power is also their only asset, really. Unlike Mutons, they have high Will but little to no tactical sense, and will just rush straight towards anything not on its side.
  • Giant Mook: They're like the Mutons' big brother, introduced as leaders of midgame Muton packs, and with around double the health, more mobility and a crapton of pummeling power, but they're nothing special in the end.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Berserkers have the "Hardened" passive ability, which nullifies the chance of a Critical Hit from just being out in the open. It compensates for their inability to Take Cover! like regular Mutons.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: They are quick to abandon their packs and mindlessly attack XCOM on their own, since their ability to charge in the direction of anything that attacks them, while intimidating, makes them susceptible to Overwatch fire, the Assault's "Close Combat Specialist" skill and a S.H.I.V.'s Sentinel Drone. You can also take advantage of this by shooting them with an unit that's further away from the others, drawing them farther from potential targets if you can't kill them before their turn.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Berserkers are tough, terrifying fighters and very fast for their girth, with the longest movement range of all Mutons.
  • Roar Before Beating: After being struck by damage, they will roar at the attacker, pound their chest, and will even run closer to the assailant each time as they prepare to attack.
  • My Blood Runs Hot: It's noted that their corpses are astoundingly warm to the touch for hours after death, even more so than regular Mutons.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When a Berserker manages to score a killing blow, the victim is gut-stabbed and then hammer-fisted while it doubles over, and then the Berserker continues to savagely beat them for a few more seconds.
  • One-Gender Race: While part of the same race as other Mutons, the second game confirms that all berserkers are Always Female. May be a case of Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, in which all female Mutons are Berserkers.
  • Offhand Backhand: During Terror Missions, if a civilian is unlucky enough to be nearby it when a Berserker is first seen, the short video that plays when it comes into view involves the Berserker striding forward and offhandedly smashing the poor civilian aside like so much garbage.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Their Mighty Roars are accompanied by chest pounds.
  • Screaming Warrior: Like other mutons when struck by any damage they'll roar at the attacker while pounding their chest. Unlike other mutons, they will always do so when hurt, though the Intimidate ability isn't guaranteed to proc.
  • Smash Mook: Their whole strategy is to get close to the enemy and crush it under their fists, and they're more than burly enough to do so. They're one of the simplest enemies to "counter" since all they do is charge and attack, and their other abilities help facilitate this.
  • Super Toughness: Even bigger and tougher than regular Mutons, at 20HP. If uninjured, they can survive a punch from a MEC's Kinetic Strike Module.
  • There Was a Door: One of the Berserker's abilities is being able to burst through walls to ambush your soldiers with "Bull Rush". Sometimes one will go out of its way to get behind a wall in preparation for this, setting up a surprise attack. What's worse is that it exposes your unit to fire from other sources. If your opponent in Multiplayer has a Berserker, better watch those walls.
  • Wolverine Claws: Downplayed. they have a set of blades affixed to the back of their hands which extends to just in front of their fist, like extra-nasty knuckle dusters.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Berserkers seem to ignore civilians entirely if they're not in the way, and go after XCOM exclusively.

    Muton Elites
The personal guards of the true leaders of the invasion, these veteran Mutons bear even heavier weapons and armor than their regular counterparts, as well as increased intelligence. Occasionally deployed independently of their masters, their mastery of combat and advanced equipment makes them extremely dangerous opponents.
  • Bling of War: Muton Elite armour is much more colourful than other aliens', looking almost regal in design. Fitting, given their role as guards to the Ethereals.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: They wield the same Heavy Plasma weapons as your own Heavies, and both versions of the gun are exactly the same stat-wise. Despite this, the Muton's version fires 3 large plasma blasts like the regular Muton's Plasma Rifle, while the human adaptation fires a long eight-shot burst. This does not stop them from using it in suppression either.
  • Elite Mook: You can tell by their pimped armor that they're not your everyday Muton, even before knowing they have "Elite" in their name.
  • Giant Mook: They are introduced leading packs of non-Elite Mutons, and they have the upgraded strength to prove it.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Heavily averted. They're even more accurate than the regular Mutons (who are already competent shots); on Classic, their Aim is an astounding 90, equal to a high-ranking Assault or Support, and on Impossible, their Aim is a terrifying 100, making them the most accurate enemy in the entire game and only comparable to a Sniper of reasonably high rank.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: Like other Mutons, as their tactics are the same, but they're even better shots. They're still exceptionally vulnerable to any sort of psionics thanks to their abysmal 20 Will.
  • Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability. Their increased Aim makes a reaction shot even deadlier than the rank-and-file.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Ethereals' personal bodyguards. There's always at least one or two of them accompanying an Ethereal in the field.
  • My Blood Runs Hot: Less than other Mutons. They can't Blood Call to buff their allies and don't have the panic-inducing Intimidate, but they can receive the Blood Call bonus from a regular Mutonnote . To note, the description of their corpses doesn't remark about their temperature after death.
  • Super Toughness: Like other Mutons, and further augmented by their armor. On Easy and Normal they have 14 health, on Classic they have 18, and Impossible bumps them to the same 20 of a Berserker. Considering they come in groups of three or more, it's a lot of health to chew through, and on the harder difficulties, they can't be one-shot by any of XCOM's weaponsnote  without perks such as the Assault's "Bring'em On" and "Killer Instinct" abilities that increase critical hit damage.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: They can throw an Alien Grenade and have "Bombard" just like Heavy Floaters, so the reach of their throws is about that of a Heavy's rocket. They'll happily toss them at targets they don't have a good bead on, clustered enemies, or if they're being Suppressed.

Massive war machines designed to utterly crush any opposition, these are the heaviest ground asset available to the invaders. Capable of withstanding incredible amounts of punishment, they also bear a deadly array of weapons to annihilate any who would oppose them.
  • Damage Reduction: They get a huge buff in Enemy Within in "Reinforced Armor", a perk that reduces all damage received by half, rounded up. In short, that gives them 60 health for you to whittle down. And that armor doesn't matter to Drones, so they'll repair a Sectopod by 4-6 health.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: Sectopods were always tough bastards, but this goes to ludicrous degrees in Enemy Within, with a trait that reduces all incoming damage by 50%, effectively doubling their health to 60, while their main counter, HEAT Ammo, is simultaneously nerfed. If you don't have a MEC with Electro Pulse and a Foundry-upgraded Kinetic Strike Module, expect a fight with a Sectopod to take two or three rounds.
  • Death from Above: Cluster Bomb, their alternative to the chest cannon. If they have one turn to set it up, they'll launch an artillery barrage that can deal up to 21 damage (it hits three times for 4-7 damage) and annihilates cover; worse, since it consists of several explosive hits in a row, it can bypass the "critically wounded" status and outright kill a soldier. If you hit them with Disabling Shot, they're sure to use it against anything they can see, with preference to tight groups of targets.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Explodes on death. Purely cosmetic in Enemy Unknown, it does 5 damage in a fairly large radius in Enemy Within.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Heavily-armed with rapid-fire weapons, high explosives, and able to tank a tremendous amount of damage before going down? Yeah, it's pretty much the alien answer to your own Titan-armored, plasma-toting Heavies.
    • In Enemy Within, it's more akin to resistance-focused high-level MEC Troopers, with the guaranteed two-shot-if-still ability, high base damage, and considerable damage reduction from "Reinforced Armor".
  • Flunky Boss: Always accompanied by a pair of Drones. Only averted in the Temple Ship, where two Sectopods are by themselves.
  • Genius Bruiser: Their combat AI is advanced enough that they're the only alien unit with a response to a cloaked unit: if a unit becomes concealed in their sight range, the Sectopod will set up a Cluster Bomb barrage aiming at said unit's last location as known by the Sectopod. They can also aim Cluster Bomb out of their sight if you attacked them from where they can't see, such as by throwing a grenade.
  • Giant Mook: If you thought a Mechtroid was scary, here's a Sectopod towering over him. Even In-Universe XCOM thought this was just a bigger, badder Mechtroid (hence the name) piloted by a Sectoid, and they're presented as terrifying bosses in charge of endgame pods.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Immune to Stunning, Mindfray, Psi-Panic, Mind Control, poison and fire. Also has the "Hardened" passive ability, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: One of the Sectopod's offensive options is raining down a storm of grenades with Cluster Bomb. It's a multi-hit attack with area of effect, so expect outright death instead of critical wounds. The saving grace is that it takes a full turn to prime, with the camera indicating where it is aiming, giving you time to relocate, and you better do it, because firing the grenades is the first thing the Sectopod does on the next turn, and it's a free action.
  • Mechanical Monster: With an emphasis on monster. The Sectopod is as far from Mecha-Mooks as you can get, being the toughest enemy in the game, bar none, and one of the one that can dish out the most hurt. That Wave-Motion Gun in its central frame that can be fired twice in a row and guarantees a reaction shot if used even once, multi-hit mortar barrage, and Damage Reduction in Enemy Within guarantee it. A single Sectopod is practically a Mini-Boss. If you are particularly unlucky, there may be more than one in a mission. And if you manage to piss off two or more at once, you better just nope out and send all of your troops dashing back to where they came from, and the Skyranger is a perfectly valid option.
  • Mighty Glacier: They can dish out a lot of damage and tank even more, but they're not particularly fast, with a fairly small movement range.
  • Rule of Three: An interesting example, in that all of their attacks are shot in threes: Cannon Fire is a triple burst, the mini-cannon's reaction shot is a three-shot burst, and Cluster Bomb is fired in three volleys, and the latter deals damage three separate times to anything that gets caught in the blast.
  • Super Toughness: Sectopods have 30 HP, the highest amongst the aliens (beating out even the Uber Ethereal). Taken Up to Eleven in Enemy Within, where they gain a trait that reduces all incoming damage by 50%, so they end up with 60 hit points.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: A massive chest-mounted cannon they can fire twice in one turn if they don't move and will let them enter Overwatch for free. In the core game, the damn thing also deals Splash Damage, which is thankfully disabled in Enemy Within. The only real limitation it has is that it can't strike the same target twice unless it's the only one in the Sectopod's sight range.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: They completely disregard any civilians nearby in favor of blasting apart the responding XCOM soldiers. Any non-combatant that gets caught in the area of effect of Cannon Fire or Cluster Bomb is purely collateral.

The true masterminds behind the invasion, these mysterious beings represent the pinnacle of psionic power amongst the invaders, compensating for the physical frailty resulting from centuries of existence. Their power is such that it is little wonder that the other aliens have submitted to their rule. They command from the safety of their specialized UFOs.
  • Achilles' Heel: Probably owing to their frail physiology, Ethereals are exceptionally weak to melee attacks. A MEC's upgraded Rocket Punch deals a ludicrous 27 points of guaranteed, unavoidable damage, enough to deliver a One-Hit Kill to these dangerous enemies, assuming the MEC manages to close the distance without getting mind-raped or worse.
  • Attack Reflector: Ethereals are able to reflect shots from firearms back to soldiers. Doesn't apply to area-of-effect attacks and explosives, though, and the reflected damage is always less than what the original attack would've dealt.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Due to their extremely high Will stat (125 at the very least), mind-controlling an Ethereal is very difficult, even for a maxed-out Volunteernote , but also incredibly satisfying. You even get an achievement for this.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Don't stand too close to one that's about to die; their death triggers a psionic discharge about equal in power to a grenade, unless you Rocket Punch them with a MEC.
  • The Faceless: They're only seen without their helmets once they die, and they become charred husks once they're killed.
  • Flunky Boss: Always accompanied by at least one Muton Elite.
  • Hive Mind: The Ethereal collective. It's not clear of what kind, though.
  • Informed Flaw: We're told that Ethereals are physically frail, yet they have as much health as Muton Berserkers. It's implied to be because of their extremely powerful psionic abilities.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Has the "Hardened" passive ability, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. In Enemy Within, it's also immune to Flashbangs. Its extremely high Will also makes psionic attacks very hard to land unless the user is wearing Psi Armor, carrying a Mind Shield and buffed by Psi Inspiration.
  • Large and in Charge: The Mutons have Ethereals beat in girth, but the Ethereals are the tallest of the invading species.
  • Lean and Mean: The robes hide it, but they're extremely thin.
  • Life Drain: "Psi Drain", which drains up to 5 health from their allies. This can kill the drained ally, not that the Ethereals care. This extends to your units under Mind Control, so beware.
  • Mind Control: One of their Psi abilities lets them take control of a unit and turn them against you.
  • Mind Rape: "Mindfray", which always causes 5 damage, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
  • Monster Lord: The Ethereals are the masterminds behind all other alien species, and in fact created every single one of them, or at least turned them into what they are today.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Downplayed. They do have four arms, and are quite dangerous, but that's solely because of their psychic powers. Unlike in UFO Defense, they have no other weapons or attacks.
  • Not So Stoic: When interrogation starts, the Ethereal first looks at the machines passively, but as soon as they're active it hunches over in pain and tries to deflect them psionically before the doors close. Almost makes you feel sorry for it... almost.
  • Psychic Powers: They can use the huge, lingering "Rift" area attack and have a unique "Psi Lance" attack, which does extra damage if an opponent fails a Will check.

    The Alien Leader (SPOILERS) 

Uber Ethereal

The leader of the Ethereals and, by extension, the entire invasion. Commands the aliens from their massive Temple Ship and features even greater psionic power than other Ethereals.
  • Attack Reflector: Has a chance of reflecting both regular attacks and Suppression attempts. The former will always deal 2 damage, regardless of what attack was reflected, while the latter doesn't do any damage at all.
  • Big Bad: The mastermind of the invasion, leading the other Ethereals to war against Earth.
  • Boss Banter: On your way through the Temple Ship to fight him, he tells you about all the other alien species and how they were considered failures by the Ethereals.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Unlike standard Ethereals, he can't be stunned or mind-controlled.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: When killed, he explodes into a psionic flare.
  • Evil Plan: The entire invasion of earth was little more than a test for humanity, to force them to develop advanced technology and psionic powers of their own and eventually become strong enough so that they could to be of use for the Ethereals against what comes after...
  • Final Boss: The greatest and final threat in the game, fought with his minions in tow.
  • King Mook: Who else? He has somewhat higher stats than a basic Ethereal, as well as Contractual Boss Immunity.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Has the "Hardened" passive ability, which reduces the chance of a Critical Hit. He is also immune to Mind Control, unlike other Ethereals (who are just very resistant to it). In Enemy Within, he's immune to Flashbangs as well.
  • Life Drain: "Psi Drain", which drains up to 5 Health from his allies. This can kill the drained ally.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: His death causes the Temple Ship to start collapsing into a black hole, forcing The Volunteer to make a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Mind Control: They possess the stock Mind Control ability, so beware of them controlling your soldiers with low Psi.
  • Mind Rape: "Mindfray", which always causes 5 damage, and lowers accuracy, mobility, and Will.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Although, like the other Ethereals, his mind is his only real weapon.
  • Psychic Powers: The same powers as a regular Ethereal, including the "Rift" and "Psi Lance" attacks.


    General Tropes

Debuting in Enemy Within, EXALT is a human paramilitary faction of alien sympathizers. They believe in the aliens' plan to "uplift" humanity and see XCOM as an obstacle to both humanity's ascension and their own plans of global domination via alien technology after the invasion is over.

If not dealt with, EXALT cells can quickly spread across the council nations, inciting Panic even in countries with satellite coverage. They also hinder XCOM's operations by stealing funds and setting back progress on active research projects. The player may counter their spreading influence by periodically initiating global intel scans to detect cells, and launching covert operations to break said cells.

  • Always Male: There don't appear to be any female EXALT operatives, which puts them in direct contrast to the very egalitarian XCOM.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: After raiding and burning their headquarters to the ground, some of the Vendor Trash that you seize includes collections of historical artifacts that dates back centuries, suggesting that the organization is much, much more ancient then it might first appear. The "eye" in their official logo is a hi-tech Eye of Providence, the symbol most closely associated with conspiracy theories surrounding The Illuminati.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Their operatives, being numerous, fanatical, and not exactly understanding squad tactics, are perfectly willing to throw themselves into the meat grinder.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: EXALT troopers wear business casual, often consisting of vests, trousers, and long-sleeve button-up shirts, though their Elites feature armor over their civilian clothes.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Members of EXALT cannot be captured for interrogation like most aliens can, instead committing suicide with a syringe. Word of God states that "they will not allow themselves to be taken alive", implying a far worse fate if EXALT gets its hands on an AWOL agent. Averted with the first EXALT operative you encounter in the first mission of Operation Progeny, who must be escorted to safety like other Council mission VIPs. He appeared to be badly injured and deprived of his syringe.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: This terrorist organization of alien sympathizers serves as the antagonistic human faction for the Enemy Within expansion. The Ethereals are still the more pressing threat, but EXALT's efforts to undermine XCOM make them a threat in their own right.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: They unfortunately teeter into this the longer the game goes on. EXALT's tech tree will only expand to laser weapons and a few genetic augmentations, but by then, XCOM will be fielding MEC troopers, gene soldiers of their own, and even plasma weapons, which far outstrips the capabilities of the laser weapons. By the late game, EXALT devolves into a nuisance at most, and can be wiped out pretty easily by a well-equipped squad in their base assault mission.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Their operatives have some enhancements, making them more durable than regular humans even without body armor. The Elite variants also possess bona fide gene-mods, some of which go beyond Dr. Vahlen's ethical limits.
  • Les Collaborateurs: They welcome the alien invasion and hope to help it succeed by undermining XCOM. They then hope to rule over whatever is left of humanity once the aliens have departed.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Compared to the spartan and straightforward design of XCOM's own headquarters, EXALT's command center is absolutely luxurious, with non-essential things like bear skin rugs, sofas and various kinds of artwork decorating the place. Officer Bradford points out how it is a bad tactical decision for them to put form over function when designing their command center. Possibly justified by their Hiding in Plain Sight – the fancy rugs and carpets do make it look more like a standard penthouse than a straightforward military base would.
  • Cool Guns: All of their weapons are sleek, black metal, German-style weapons, with their assault rifles most notably being a dead ringer for H&K G36s. Their laser weapons have effectively the same housing as their ballistic weapons, but with additional attachments and glowing red lines.
  • Cyanide Pill: Syringe, actually, but fulfills the same purpose.
  • Deconstruction: EXALT deconstructs the Nebulous Evil Organization that works in the shadows to oppose the heroes: while they are able to pose an initial challenge to XCOM, their unwillingness to leave the shadows leads to them gradually losing their momentum, as the game progresses, they gradually become little more than a nuisance due to XCOM gaining access to Plasma Weapons and Powered Armor, while EXALT is stuck with Laser Weapons and alloy vests, due to an unwillingness to engage the aliens in direct combat preventing them from reverse-engineering better weapons and armor.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Their leader appears to have flown the coop by the time XCOM comes knocking. A villainous throne, a giant holographic globe... all he's missing is a white Persian Right-Hand Cat.
  • Elite Mook: They start using Elite versions of their operatives later on in the game, which have been genetically modified and equipped with laser weapons and body armor.
  • Evil Counterpart: EXALT operatives use classes, equipment and abilities similar or even identical to that of XCOM soldiers. Their HQ even has a red-tinted counterpart of the Geoscape hologram, but in a fancy wood-lined office rather than XCOM's military base.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Elite EXALT operatives display deep wrinkles, sunken eyes and some even have greenish skin discolorations. Their regular operatives aren't in much better shape either. Justified due to their extreme gene mods.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Their headquarters is Hidden in Plain Sight inside a skyscraper penthouse.
  • Faceless Goons: By way of face-obscuring bandanas.
  • False Flag Operation: The descriptions for EXALT's Cool Guns mention that they might be useful for random requests from the funding nations.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: EXALT troopers become this if its still around by the time you receive third tier weapons and armor. They become very easy to defeat as they never receive third tier upgrades and will be little more than a nuisance for the player.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: While XCOM goes for an Elaborate Underground Base, EXALT just sticks their base of operations in the penthouse of an uptown skyscraper.
  • The Illuminati: They're a secret society of paramilitary operatives working in the shadows and masquerading as ordinary citizens. Each one of them is fanatically loyal to the cause and won't stop at anything to take the aliens' gifts and Take Over the World. The organisation is also shown to be very old and very wealthy, their base having a lot of fancy decorations and priceless art. Their insignia even has the stereotypical Illuminati "eye"!
  • Lensman Arms Race: With XCOM. Both sides start out with ballistic weapons and the like, and reverse engineer alien technology independently of one another, up to the point where, later in the game, EXALT is also fielding laser weaponry and gene augmented operatives of their own, though they lack an equivalent to the Scatter Laser that XCOM can research and field. However, due to their unwillingness to face the aliens in combat directly (unless a prize as valuable as Annette is at stake), they never reverse-engineer plasma weaponry or powered armour, meaning that they are severely outclassed by XCOM later on.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Their face coverings and attire evoke the image of high-class gangsters, or perhaps yuppie pirates.
  • Masquerade: After raiding EXALT HQ, a news report is heard discussing an electrical fire breaking out on the top floor of an office building, but no one was injured: a false story to cover up the fact that a clandestine military group wiped out a clandestine terrorist organization.
  • Mildly Military: EXALT operatives take to the field wearing dress shirts and ties rather than body armor. Justified as the members of EXALT are not trained soldiers, but rather weekend warriors. As Word of God states:
    "They're not soldiers, you are fighting the believers themselves[...] These guys were sitting in their offices at the bank, at the PR agency, or whatever, and then the call comes[...] and they stand up, go to the closet, push the button, put on the bandanas, and go."
  • More Dakka: The animation set of non-Heavy Elites sometimes glitches out and they end up visually firing six beams in rapid sequence. It makes no difference gameplay-wise.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: While initially a challenge, EXALT aren't really tied into the main story, or even in league with the aliens. As the game progress, EXALT devolves into a minor nuisance, and by the time the player's fielding soldiers with plasma weapons and specialized armor, EXALT operatives go down with pathetic ease. In addition, their efforts to hinder XCOM's operations, while initially dangerous, fall off into inconveniences in the late game. The player can still beat the main campaign without doing the EXALT base assault, and even if they do decide to undertake the task, their actions are likely undone before the final mission begins anyway.
  • Shadow Archetype: To XCOM. As stated above, both factions have similar tech trees and field similar units, however EXALT's plans for global domination through alien technology conflicts with XCOM's goal of saving humanity from the alien threat. In addition, EXALT has less ethical restrictions when it comes to genetic modification than XCOM.
  • Vendor Trash: EXALT's Cool Guns aren't a whole lot of use once you have a surplus of plasma-tier weapons, though they can be useful for intermediary outfitting of new soldiers if you don't have enough laser weapons to go around. The bonus loot you get from trashing their HQ is also essentially useless — you can either keep it, or sell it off for a quick few hundred.
  • Waistcoat of Style: All EXALT operatives wear these. Less noticable in Elites, who wear bulletproof vests.
  • Walkie-Talkie Static: To keep them from being humanized, all you hear from them are orders being relayed over their comm links, and said orders are completely indecipherable due to heavy radio static. On the other hand, set them on fire with a MEC's flamethrower and you'll hear plenty from them.
  • Wicked Cultured: After raiding their headquarters, the Vendor Trash seized by your soldiers includes collections of priceless artwork that can be sold to collectors for more funding.
  • Western Terrorists: In fact, they fit the traditional visual design of Western European/American criminals and bank robbers: Business attire, bandanas to cover their faces, and sleek, ultra-modern German-style assault weapons.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Their troops' suicide animation ends in the guy's head popping like a blood-filled melon, which really makes you wonder what the hell these syringes contain...
  • Zerg Rush: EXALT troops who are after an objective will aggressively push toward it, going so far as to rush your positions, intentionally leaving some of their soldiers exposed, because they know they have an advantage in numbers and they are that fanatically devoted to their cause. This can backfire horribly for them if they decide to charge a MEC.

The basic EXALT infantryman, they rely on overwhelming their enemies with numbers, firepower and aggressive tactics. Equipped with assault rifles and grenades, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Rookie and Assault classes.
  • Master of None: Has no special abilities, aside from the unique "Adrenaline Rush" gene mod on the Elite versions.
  • Mook: They're the most numerous, but also the weakest of EXALT's units.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: And how. With identical accuracy to Floaters (50), but no altitude bonuses, they do a perfect Stormtrooper impression.
    • Carried over to Elite Operatives, who have 60 accuracy normally. However, if their Adrenaline Rush is triggered, they can become much more accurate.
  • Turns Red: Their Elite versions have the "Adrenaline Rush" gene mod, which increases Aim and Critical Chance by 10% if they're injured. Bad news is, it stacks with each hit they take.

Armed with LMGs and rocket launchers, they provide heavy fire support on EXALT operations. With their heavy firepower and increased durability, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Heavy class.
  • Mighty Glacier: As the EXALT answer to XCOM's Heavy class, they share the ability to skip a turn's movement in order to fire a potentially devastating rocket that deals 6 damage and shreds cover. If there are several XCOM units close together in full cover and the Heavy can see them without having to move, it's almost guaranteed that he'll fire it off.
  • More Dakka: Armed with a LMG, which puts out even more rounds when using "Suppression". Elites also have Rapid Reaction, so if their first Overwatch reaction shot hits, they'll take another one.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Their Aim is fairly low, about the same as a Medic's on any difficulty; as such, Rapid Reaction on an Elite Heavy is not too big a concern. However, Holo-Targeting can offset this a bit.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Hacking a relay or using Disabling Shot on a Heavy doesn't prevent him from firing a rocket or throwing a grenade. Not taking that into account can lead to a messy turnaround in a fight.
  • Pinned Down: They have the "Suppression" active ability, which reduces the target's Aim by 30 and grants the EXALT Heavy a reaction shot should the target move.
  • Super Toughness: The Elite variant has a unique gene mod, "Iron Skin", that reduces all incoming damage by a quarter. This means they can survive a MEC Trooper's Rocket Punch without MEC Close Combat, a feat that few other enemies can boast about.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Can fire a rocket and throw grenades, and they'll definitely use them whenever they have sight of clustered XCOM soldiers. Hacking a relay or Disabling Shot don't preclude them from using those either.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: They can specialize in grenades with the Grenadier upgrade, letting them carry up to three at once and empowering them with an extra point of damage.

These trained combat medics support other EXALT personnel with both healing and fire support. Packing assault rifles, smoke grenades and medikits, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Support class.
  • Combat Medic: They can put up a fight with their assault rifles, though not quite as well as other EXALT units. They do have the "Covering Fire" passive ability, which, if they're on Overwatch, lets them shoot first at an enemy that's about to open fire.
  • Healing Factor: Their Elite versions regenerate 1 HP every turn thanks to their unique "Regen Pheromones" gene mod, as do nearby allies.
  • The Medic: Of course. They can heal other EXALT units for 4HP with the Medikit that can be used 3 times per mission, thanks to Field Medic. Elites also have Regen Pheromones, that heal themselves and nearby allies by 1 HP at the start of every EXALT turn as a free action. Medics are also visually distinct from other operatives by the big red medical bag on their backs.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: To an utterly ridiculous extent. With 45 aim on Normal (the absolute lowest in the game – for reference, they have just a 45% chance of hitting an XCOM trooper standing out in the open from outside close range), you don't even need to bother carefully picking cover. Given their low damage with assault rifles, getting flanked turns from a terrifying shock to an amusing game of "when will this idiot hit me for negligible damage". It carries over to Elite Medics, who only have 55 accuracy on Normal.note 
  • Shoot the Medic First: Subverted and inverted. The smoke grenade is a pain and the healing they provide to their allies can seem scary, but their horrendous marksmanship and tendency to use a Medikit on themselves after taking Scratch Damage sets them very low in the threat totem pole. If anything, you should gun for the medics last.
  • Smoke Out: Has the "Smoke Grenade" active ability, which generates a large smoke cloud that provides a Defense bonus to all units within the cloud. They can only use it once per missions. Elite versions have the "Smoke and Mirrors" passive ability, which increases the number of times they can use it per mission by 2.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Their Medikits don't drop as an item you can use.

These expert marksmen can pick off EXALT's enemies from a safe distance with their sniper rifles. Fragile but capable of dishing out a lot of hurt from a distance, they are the counterpart to XCOM's Sniper class.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Their "Snap Shot" passive ability means that they can move and shoot in the same turn, though they get a -10 Aim penalty if they do move.
  • Geo Effects: Their "Damn Good Ground" passive ability gives them an extra +10 Aim and Defense for being at a higher elevation level than their target. Their Elite versions also have the "Depth Perception" gene mod, which increases the elevation bonus by a further 5%. All in all, an EXALT Elite Sniper can have as much as a +35% Aim bonus if they're above the target, and 45% if the target has less than half HP thanks to Executioner.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Subverted. Their base Aim is a mediocre 60 (70 on Classic/Impossible), but if they have a height advantage (something they'll move to obtain whenever possible), it goes up by 30% (from the inherent height bonus and Damn Good Ground). Elites fully avert this, having a respectable 70 Aim (80 on Classic/Impossible) that puts them on the Muton's level, further compounded by Depth Perception (+5 Aim if above the target, a position Snipers tend to go for naturally) and, if the target is at less than half health, Executioner adds a further +10. Altogether, an Elite Sniper can have as much as 125% chance to hit if they're above a wounded target that they can see at the start of the turn, and that's not counting the possibility of the target having been Holo-Targeted by a Heavy beforehand for 10 more Aim. This means they have a not-insignificant chance to hit even a hunkered soldier in full cover, and makes them a very high priority target right alongside the Heavies.
  • Lightning Gun: Strangely, the Elite Sniper's rifle appears to fire both a laser and an electrolaser at the same time, given the lightning effects if they hit the target.
  • Glass Cannon: Has the lowest health rating of all EXALT units, but deals a lot of damage. Executioner can make them very dangerous against moderately healthy XCOM troopers, especially if they don't have to move to take a shot and are at a height advantage.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Even moreso than XCOM snipers, since they have no pistol.
  • Sniper Duel: You get an achievement for killing an EXALT Elite Sniper with one of your own snipers. However, it can be subverted because the weapon your sniper uses doesn't matter; landing the killing blow with their handgun counts just the same.


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