The rocket launcher is a laser guided system which can fire three different sizes of missile.
Source: Enemy Unknown Ufopaedia
(h x w)
|3 x 2
(h x w)
|3 × 1
|75 High Explosive
(h x w)
|3 × 1
|100 High Explosive
(h x w)
|3 × 1
The Rocket Launcher is slow, heavy, and has limited ammunition. It is also one of the most reliable ways to kill aliens, and it excels at destroying alien hiding places. What's not to like?
The Rocket Launcher is the most accurate direct-fire weapon in the game with an impressive 115% accuracy modifier for its aimed shot, and can be aimed slightly faster than the Rifle and both cannons. The Rocket Launcher can arm three types of rockets: Two sizes of High Explosive rockets and an Incendiary rocket.
- The Small Rocket is the lightest of the three rockets. It is relatively strong and good for a weaker rocket user to carry.
- The Large Rocket does the most damage of the rockets. This makes it one of the most effective of the early game ranged weapons for dealing with strong terror units such as the Cyberdisc. It remains useful for the entire game.
- The Incendiary Rocket is the most effective means of quickly covering a large area with flames, but is otherwise not an effective direct damage dealer.
The Rocket Launcher is eventually overshadowed by the ultimate death-dealer, the Blaster Launcher. But even then the Rocket Launcher holds its own as an inexpensive (and less dangerous) terrain-clearer.
The rocket launcher can only be fired once per round. Although two snap shots would technically use up only 90% of a soldier's TUs, an additional 15 TUs must be spent reloading the weapon between shots. Alternately, this can be achieved by arming dual rocket launchers and firing each one at a -20% accuracy penalty.
Note on incendiary rounds:
The listed damage using incendiary rounds is misleading. All incendiary weapons in the game do at most 10 points of damage on a direct hit. The damage values listed in the UFOpaedia determines how wide an area will be blanketed with flames, not how much damage will be done.
There are three rocket types. The launcher may only be loaded with one rocket at a time.
- Small rockets do decent damage but offer few advantages over the large rocket: they may fail to achieve a single-shot kill and have a far smaller terrain-clearing radius. They are lighter, but most squads can handle full loads of large rockets -- see weapon weight, below. Small rockets have a blast radius of 4 tiles (diameter 9), dealing as much as 52 points of damage at the outer edge.
- Large rockets are the mainstay ammunition for the rocket launcher. A single hit (or even a near miss) from a large rocket is pretty much a guaranteed kill against Sectoids and Floaters, and has a high likelihood of killing Snakemen and Ethereals as well. The blast radius of a large rocket will blow open most of a farmhouse or clear out an orchard and often kill whatever's inside, making most terrain a cinch to sweep and secure. Large rockets have a blast radius of 6 tiles (diameter 13), dealing as much as 60 points of damage at the outer edge.
- Incendiary rockets, like other incendiaries, do very little direct damage, though they do have specialized uses. The large fires they set can be used for nighttime illumination, although a large spread of many small fires (such as from an AC-IN) is more effective. Fire is also good for clearing obstructive flammable terrain (such as jungle), although this takes several turns; a large rocket can be used for instant effect. Incendiary rockets create a fire with a radius of 6 tiles (diameter 13), and do negligible immediate damage everywhere within the blast.
- Perhaps the best use for incendiary rockets is to fire one inside an occupied UFO, then let the aliens slowly cook. Fire will not damage any of the valuable UFO components or equipment laying on the ground (including alien corpses left over from a crash landing). Incendiary rockets are especially effective when combined with exploits involving faulty collision detection in diagonal walls (such as on a Medium Scout) or ceilings.
The ideal terrain for fighting aliens is completely level and open. Without any hiding places, your scouts are guaranteed mutual surprise, and the lack of obstacles permits you to safely snipe the aliens from nearly any position (see Scouting for details).
Urban, farmland, and jungle terrain is full of obstructions that provide aliens cover to duck in and out of while taking potshots at you. Buildings and farmhouses are especially deadly -- you can get shot at from blind spots while approaching or entering the building and if you spot an alien inside, most of your troops will not have a clear line of fire.
Solution: Blow the building up. Blow every building up. Every warehouse, every barn, every shed, every orchard, every thicket. Alien inside? Not for long. Remember to blow up every floor of every building you face -- HE damage is confined to a single vertical level, and aliens can spawn on any floor. Destroying the top floor of a building also destroys roof tiles, making it easier to spot any aliens lurking up there -- roofs are notorious for their blind spots.
Some players prefer to avoid using such destructive tactics during Terror Missions, when civilian lives are at stake. Remember that your soldiers' lives are at stake too, and the longer it takes you to kill the aliens, the fewer civilians will survive anyway.
When destroying buildings, it is better to fire the rocket through a window or open doorway, or to make your own holes, even if you can only target the square immediately inside the building. The HE block property of terrain objects reduces the power of explosive blasts. By detonating a rocket inside the building, the blast will reach more of its internal structure (and any occupants) with undiminished strength. More bang for your buck.
It is quite frustrating to fire one of your precious rockets at an alien, miss, and watch it sail harmlessly off the screen. This is less of a problem when the alien is in front of a wall or inside a building -- a rocket that hits a nearby structure will probably kill the alien as well.
Thankfully, most aliens have a nearby structure beside them at all times: the ground. Even when you have a direct shot available, aiming at the ground adjacent to an alien is likelier to produce a hit, and a nearby blast from a large rocket will usually kill Sectoids, Floaters, and most Snakemen. This is also a good way to target aliens that are obscured by nearby obstacles, or to kill a group of aliens with a single shot -- aim in between them.
Firing from an elevated position further improves your chance of a groundstrike, even when using direct fire. It also makes it easier to shoot past ground-level obstacles. A rocketeer in a Flying Suit is the ultimate in air cavalry.
Although not as dangerous as a stray Blaster Bomb, a badly placed large rocket can still kill several of your troops, even armoured ones. Avoid threading your shot through nearby obstacles such as trees, a fence, or the legs of your craft; move your shooter into the clear first. Shots that might wing other troopers are especially dangerous. It is for this reason that it is best to have your rocketeers near the front of the craft. Have them level nearby buildings before bringing the rest of your squad out.
Rocket reaction fire can be unpredictable and deadly. All reaction fire is direct-aim snap fire, which is likely to miss, and the game's AI doesn't care if there's a nearby obstacle (or other soldiers) in the way. You are better off facing a rocketeer away from combat, or using up his or her TUs to prevent reaction fire.
Rocketeers are, surprisingly, a viable choice for scouts. You want to position them away from other troops for safety reasons, and if they don't have a target at the beginning of a turn, you might as well use up their TUs to keep them from taking reaction shots.
Damage from HE explosions is confined to a single vertical level. This means it is usually safe to target the upper level of a building even if you are standing right next to it. But be sure you are clear of overhead obstructions first, in particular the wings/engines of your craft.
A rocket launcher plus a full load of large rockets is the heaviest weapon system in the entire game. The launcher weighs 10 and four large rockets weigh 8 each, totaling 42. Any soldier who wants to carry this must have at least 42 Strength, or accept the loss of a few TUs to overburden.
However, due to a bug in X-COM's equipment handling code, the weight of any ammo loaded in a weapon at the beginning of combat is not counted. This means that in effect you get one rocket free, and the total weight of a loaded launcher plus three large rockets is only 34. You are likely to have a couple of soldiers this strong even in your first batch of rookies. Before your first combat, rename your soldiers to note which ones can handle the weight, and give the strong ones the launcher and rockets during the inventory phase of combat.
Even a fairly weak soldier can handle a launcher plus two large rockets (weight 26); this is arguably a better choice than a launcher plus three small rockets (weight 28), which are substantially less powerful.
Strong rocketeers have the option of carrying a sidearm on their belt for when they run out of ammo or need to switch to precision fire. A full load of large rockets plus a Laser Pistol weighs 41; a Plasma Pistol is also an option, requiring a strength of only 37. After drawing the pistol, you don't even need to drop the launcher -- just make sure the pistol is selected by opening and closing its fire menu.
Some players like to use ammo bearers to split up the weight of the launcher and its ammo. Given the "free load" bug, you are probably better off bringing an extra full rocketeer into combat. There are still times when it may be good to throw extra rockets to a specific soldier -- in these cases, bear in mind that it costs the same amount of TUs to load ammunition from any location in the inventory screen, including the ground.
To aim or not to aim
When using the rocket launcher to destroy buildings or when using indirect fire, such as aiming at the ground -- the proverbial "broad side of a barn" -- you can get away with using snap shots. This allows you to move, fire, and reload all in one turn.
When forced to use direct fire, however, such as against an airborne Cyberdisc, it is much better to use aimed shots. If you have the TUs, you should kneel as well.
A direct hit from a large rocket has a 33% chance of killing a Cyberdisc, making it your best recourse should you encounter these nasties on your first Terror Mission. A large rocket blast can also deactivate the Cyberdisc's Self-Destruct sequence if you want to minimize the damage but a blaster bomb blast deactivates it every time. However, as Cyberdisk missions also contain psionic Sectoids, the results of a mind control can be devastating. The simplest way to counteract this is to drop the launcher at the end of each turn and pick it up again at the beginning. This is a good way of de-fanging all your troops, although it deprives you of reaction fire.
Rockets and smoke
Smoke, when properly used, is great for keeping aliens from seeing (and firing upon) your troops. Instead of waiting a turn for a Smoke Grenade to go off, another option is to fire a rocket at the ground, which will generate an instant smoke cloud. This can potentially save the life of a scout facing an alien where the usual options -- attack or retreat -- are not available.
Smoke will only be generated when a terrain object has been damaged -- a blast inside a UFO, for instance, will generate little if any smoke.
The total amount of smoke that can be arranged on the battlefield is quite limited -- about three large rockets or three smoke grenades' worth (unless the game is patched, e.g. by Seb76's UFOExtender). If you make heavy use of rockets, it can take 10 or more turns before any new smoke can be added to the battlefield. Any tiles on fire also eat into the same limited pool of available smoke-or-fire tiles.
Any object on the ground caught in the blast radius of a rocket is likely to be destroyed. To preserve loot, switch to nonexplosive weapons when attacking aliens that are standing near equipment. Explosions do not affect equipment that is not on the ground, so a blast that obliterates an alien will still leave behind a corpse and all its gear.