Why All of XCOM: Enemy Unknown's Missions Sound Like 1980s Heavy Metal Albums

Every mission briefing screen in XCOM: Enemy Unknown begins with an operation name. Playing through the game's initial levels, they sounded somewhat deliberate but a little disconnected. Investigating an alien abduction in China, for example, was Operation Burning Pyre, I think. Didn't really connect with the matter at hand but, eh.

Well, they're randomized. And more than that, "I wanted every operation to sound like an 80s metal album," said Jake Solomon, the game's lead designer.


"Operation Dark God," he says, in a satanic public address voice. "Operation Broken Crown! Sceptre of Thorns ... all of these things."

The names come from a random codename generator that is deep enough not to repeat the same mission twice over a normal playthrough, which typically lasts between 25 to 30 operations depending on how successful you are. The mission names become more important when you go a memorial wall in your home base's barracks and see the names of all the soldiers who died on duty for XCOM, characters to whom players of the original X-COM became attached and made up backstories for. So there above a Brazilian sniper will show when and where he died, on something like "Operation Devil's Moon."

"I used to have 'purple' in there," Solomon said, "and it'd create these names, there was like: 'The Purple Stranger. Well that sounds like something from Urban Dictionary. So I thought, you know, I'm ... just gonna take out purple ..."

You might run into "Operation: Falling Fall," Solomon said, but if so, he'll live with it, because the two words produce some solid random codenames and, again that rokken 80s metal effect.


"I'm a Sabbath guy which is much earlier," he said, when I asked for his favorite 80s metal band. "But I won't lie, I had some hair moments—Cinderella, I'm not proud of these.

"I didn't go quite to White Lion," he said, adamantly.

Share This Story