Reaction fire triggers

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Reaction fire can be triggered through a variety of actions. There are also some actions that do not trigger or immediately trigger reaction fire. The following is a list of what actions will and will not trigger reaction fire. This list is not extensive and may contain some duplication.

Note, all of these assume that the requirements for a Reaction shot are met by the defending side. Also while the lists are primarily focused on the X-COM side, many of the conditions apply to the aliens as well.

Triggered while alien facing towards you
Action Notes
Firing any weapon Hit or miss, the alien will react if it survives. Note that line of sight calculations are done after the attack. Therefore if you fire an explosive round and the resulting smoke cloud is dense enough to obscure you from the alien's vision, it will not be able to react.
Any walking/flying movement
Kneeling or standing
Using a lift
Throwing any object

Triggered while alien facing away from you
Action Notes
Hitting an alien The alien will spin around and return fire
Hitting an alien with indirect fire From HE or Stun rounds, or even triggering a Proximity Grenade within range
Using a melee weapon Melee attacks do not immediately trigger a reaction shot but the alien will be "alerted" to its attacker. The alien will only react if the soldier then performs any other action that will trigger a reaction shot such as walking or shooting. This means a soldier can safely attack an alien repeatedly with a Stun Rod, but if the soldier then walks away the alien will immediately turn around and shoot. If a different soldier hits the alien with a Stun Rod, the alien's focus will shift to that soldier. The first soldier can then safely walk away.
Hitting an alien from beyond visual range Similar to the melee attack, the alien will be "alerted", but will not spin around and fire. If the last person to shoot and hit the alien walks into its visual range on the same turn, the alien will immediately turn and fire.

Never triggers reaction shot
Action Notes
Turning in place
Firing beyond the alien's visual range If the shot hits, the alien will be 'alerted' and will react if the soldier comes within its visual range. If the shot misses, nothing happens.
Firing at a Celatid / Deep One from beyond its range 8+ squares indoors (roof immediately overhead) or 17+ squares outdoors is safe (this is due to the arcing fire trajectory)
Moving out of an alien's line of sight Any movement or kneeling action that immediately obscures a soldier from the alien's sight. Such as stepping behind a wall or taking a step backwards into a smoke cloud.
Priming a grenade
Hitting an alien not facing you with incendiary rounds. Directly or indirectly. Due to the quirky nature of incendiary attacks, combined with the IC explosions causing damage to all units in fire quirk can be very powerful.
Any action on the inventory screen Moving, dropping or picking up objects; loading or unloading a weapon
Using tools Includes: (UFO) Medi-Kit, Mind Probe, Motion Scanner & Psi-Amp. (TFTD) Medi-Kit, M.C. Reader, Particle Disturbance Sensor, M.C. Disrupter.

Note: If you have used up several Time Units performing the above "safe" actions and then perform a reaction-triggering action, an alien with sufficient TUs will be able to make several "stored up" reaction shots against you.

Mutual Surprise

  • Mutual surprise:
    • If a unit sees an alien at the same instant as it moves into an alien's line of sight, the alien(s) won't reaction fire, even if a unit has no TUs left. The alien spotted doesn't even have to be the alien that spots the unit -- unit can walk through a door and see an alien ahead, which will prevent unseen aliens to the side from attacking.
    • To try to take advantage of this and spot aliens as you round a corner, you should (if possible) approach it at least one space away from the corner and come around at a diagonal. However, there can be a number of "blind spots" near corners/doors/windows, where aliens can see and fire upon you but you can't see them, even if you're facing them.
    • The "mutual surprise" rule seems to only apply when a unit moves horizontally into an alien's line of sight: if a unit spots an alien by destroying terrain, or by killing an alien (uncovering another behind it), the newly-revealed alien will try to reaction fire at a unit if facing it. An alien will also try to reaction fire at a unit that stands from a formerly-concealed position facing an alien.
    • The mutual surprise rule does not apply if a unit moves into an alien's field of vision via vertical movement, by using a lift or a Flying Suit. Even if facing the alien, the unit will draw reaction fire as it moves up or down into alien's line of sight.
    • [needs confirmation]Aliens also benefit from mutual surprise. However, an X-COM unit being tracked by aliens' "intelligence" (when a unit's position is known to the enemy; all units positions are known to the enemy after turn 20, or after turn 10 when 2 or less aliens are left alive) is already visible, thus cannot trigger the not-visible to visible transition that allows mutual surprise.