XCOM: Enemy Unknown research and engineering guide

Researching alien tech is tricky. Even if you don’t accidentally create a black hole inside a test tube, knowing exactly what you’re dealing with is guesswork at best. That’s why we’re here. We’ve assembled a complete guide of everything that can be researched, what that research does exactly, and what it’ll cost you. We can’t say this will ensure the survival of the human race, but it certainly can’t hurt.


Weapons research is heavily dependent on – you guessed it – weapon fragments. It’s for this reason that you should never sell weapon fragments on the Gray Market and always fight every ground battle available (these are best way to obtain fragments).

Note that some research not only requires a certain set of materials, but other, specific research. For instance, you will not have the option to research Heavy Lasers if you haven’t yet researched Beam Weapons. In some cases, first salvaging the weapon from battle is required before research can even begin.

From weakest to strongest, general weapons classes are as follows: standard, laser, plasma. We’ve put “(best)” next to the strongest weapons available in the game.

B = Base Damage
CC = Critical Chance
CD = Critical Damage

Research: Beam Weapons

Requirements: 10 weapon fragments, 5 alien alloys
Unlocks: Laser Pistol (B:2,CC:30%,CD:3), Laser Rifle (B:5,CC:10%,CD:7), Improved Pistol II (Foundry)

Research: Heavy Lasers

Requirements: Beam Weapons, 5 Weapon Fragments, 5 Alien Alloys
Unlocks: Heavy Laser LMG (B:6,CC0%,CD:9), Laser Cannon (Interceptor), S.H.I.V. Laser Project (Foundry)

Research: Precision Lasers

Requirements: Beam Weapons, 5 fragments, 5 alloys
Unlocks: Scatter Laser Shotgun (B:6,CC:20%,CD:9), Laser Sniper (B:6,CC:30%,CD:9)

Research: Light Plasma Rifle

Requirements: Salvaged Light Plasma Rifle, 40 fragments, 10 alloys, 5 Elerium
Unlocks: Light Plasma Rifle (B:5,CC:10%,CD7)

Research: Plasma Pistol (best)

Requirements: Salvaged Plasma Pistol, 40 fragments, 5 Elerium
Unlocks: Plasma Pistol (B:3,CC:20%,CD:4), Improved Pistol III Project (Foundry)

Research: Plasma Rifle

Requirements: Salvaged Plasma Rifle, 40 fragments, 10 alloys, 5 Elerium
Unlocks: Plasma Rifle (B:7,CC:10%,CD:10)

Research: Heavy Plasma (best)

Requirements: Salvaged Heavy Plasma, 40 fragments, 10 alloys, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Heavy Plasma LMG (B:9,CC:0%,CD:13), S.H.I.V. Plasma Project (Foundry)

Research: Plasma Sniper (best)

Requirements: Plasma Rifle or Heavy Plasma, 50 fragments, 10 alloys, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Plasma Sniper Rifle (B:9,CC:35%,CD:13)

Research: Alloy Cannon (best)

Requirements: Plasma Rifle or Heavy Plasma, 40 fragments, 25 alloys, 5 Elerium
Unlocks: Alloy Cannon Shotgun (B:9,CC:20%,CD13)

Research: Guided Fusion Launcher (best)

Requirements: Salvaged Battleship Class UFO Fusion Core, 75 fragments, 20 alloys, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Blaster Rocket Launcher


Armor research works in the same way as weapons research, though the various types mean there is no “best” option. Go with what works best for each individual class or character and the role you’ve created for them.

H = Health Bonus

Research: Carapace Armor

Requirements: Salvaged Alien Materials, 10 alien alloys
Unlocks: Carapace Armor (H:4), Alloy S.H.I.V.

Research: Skeleton Suit

Requirements: Carapace Armor, 15 alloys
Unlocks: Skeleton Suit (H:3, grapple hook, increased movement)

Research: Titan Armor

Requirements: Carapace Armor, 15 alloys, 5 Elerium
Unlocks: Titan Armor (H:10, poison immunity, flame immunity)

Research: Ghost Armor

Requirements: Titan Armor, Hyperwave Communication (see “other”), 15 alloys, 15 Elerium
Unlocks: Ghost Armor (H:6, Ghost Mode ability, grapple hook)

Research: Archangel Armor

Requirements: Titan Armor, New Fighter Craft (see “other”), 15 alloys, 15 Elerium
Unlocks: Archangel Armor (H:8, flight mode)

Research: Psi Armor

Requirements: Ethereal or Sectoid Commander interrogation, 10 alloys, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Psi Armor (H:6, Will increase of 30 for psi attacks and defense)


Interceptors exist to protect your satellites by engaging UFOs in direct combat. As the game progresses, it is crucial to upgrade your Interceptors to match the increased firepower of UFOs. You’ll want to research the “New Fighter Craft” as soon as possible and upgrade to Plasma Cannons.

Defense Matrix (dodge), UFO Tracking (boost), an Uplink Targeting (aim) are all available to purchase in Engineering. These are expendable items used to aid an interceptor in battle. They can turn the tide if your ship is outclassed by the UFO with which it is engaged.

Once you have well-equipped Firestorm interceptors, you have a good chance of defeating a Battleship class UFO. Doing so is crucial, as the power core recovered from the wreckage is used to create some of the most powerful weapons in the game, including the best interceptor weapon, the Fusion Lance.

Avalanche Missiles (free) and Phoenix Cannons (for a small price) are available at the beginning of the game.

Key:HC = Hit Chance
R = Range
FR = Fire Rate
D = Damage
AP = Armor Penetration

Research: Heavy Lasers

Requirements: Beam Weapons, 5 Weapon Fragments, 5 Alien Alloys
Unlocks: Laser Cannon (HC:85%,R:Short,FR:Rapid,D:Low,AP:Medium)

Research: Phoenix Cannon

Requirements: Experimental Warfare research
Unlocks: Phoenix Cannon (HC:95%,R:Short,FR:Rapid,D:Low,AP:Low)

Research: Plasma Cannon

Requirements: Light Plasma Rifle, 30 fragments, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Plasma Cannon (HC:85%,R:Long,FR:Medium,D:Medium,AP:High)

Research: New Fighter Craft

Requirements: Salvaged Alien Nav Computer, UFO Power Source, 75 fragments, 10 alloys, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Firestorm Interceptor and Hover S.H.I.V.

Research: EMP Cannon

Requirements: New Fighter Craft, Plasma Cannon, 20 Elerium
Unlocks: EMP Cannon (HC:100%,R:Short,FR:Medium,D:High,AP:High)


Whenever you defeat a new enemy type, your research team can perform an autopsy on the corpse after the battle. If you use the Arc Thrower item to capture the enemy alive, your research team can perform an interrogation (after which, they can perform an autopsy on the same subject).

In most cases, interrogations only give you research credit in a specific area. This credit simply speeds up research time related to said area. Interrogating a Sectoid Commander and an Ethereal provide additional rewards.

Note that “projects” refer to Foundry undertakings, and have no effect until you build a Foundry and spend the required resources to complete the project. Also, you cannot interrogate or stun robots, so don’t bother trying.

Subject: Sectoid

Interrogation Result: Beam Weapon research credit
Autopsy Result: Unlocks Uplink Targeting (aim) for purchase for interceptors

Subject: Sectoid Commander

Interrogation Result: Psionic research credit, Psi Armor prerequisite
Autopsy Result: Psi Lab available for construction

Subject: Floater

Interrogation Result: Armor research credit
Autopsy Result: Unlocks Defense Matrix (dodge) for purchase for interceptors

Subject: Thin Man

Interrogation Result: UFO Technology research credit
Autopsy Result: Improved Medkit project (+50% to Medkit healing)

Subject: Chryssalid

Interrogation Result: None
Autopsy Result: Unlocks Chitin Plating item (+4 HP, reduces melee damage sustained)

Subject: Muton

Interrogation Result: Plasma Weapon research credit
Autopsy Result: Ammo Conservation project (all weapons require less frequent reloading)

Subject: Muton Beserker

Interrogation Result: Armor research credit
Autopsy Result: Unlocks Combat Stims item (temporarily reduces damage sustained by 50% & boosts stats/resistances)

Subject: Muton Elite

Interrogation Result: All weapon tech research credit
Autopsy Result: Plasma Weapon research credit

Subject: Heavy Floater

Interrogation Result: Flight research credit
Autopsy Result: Advanced Repair project (reduced repair times on S.H.I.V.s and interceptors)

Subject: Drone

Interrogation Result: None
Autopsy Result: Drone Capture project (use the Arc Thrower to control Drones in battle)

Subject: Cyberdisc

Interrogation Result: None
Autopsy Result: Unlocks UFO Tracking (boost) for purchase for interceptors

Subject: Sectopod

Interrogation Result: None
Autopsy Result: Advanced Construction project (accelerates vehicle and facility construction)

Subject: Ethereal

Interrogation Result: All tech research credit, Psi Armor prerequisite
Autopsy Result: Unlocks Mind Shield item (increases defense vs Psi attacks)

Foundry Projects

The Foundry is a facility that can be constructed once you’ve researched “Experimental Warfare,” which has no prerequisites. It is here that you can improve all aspects of your XCOM capabilities – at a cost, of course. Unlike the research done in laboratories, which requires scientists, research done in the Foundry requires engineers.

Note that the credit cost is not included here, as it varies depending on the research you’ve done and/or satellite coverage bonuses.

Project: Heavy Weapons Platform

Outcome: Combat drone for use in battle (replaces soldier)
Cost: 5 engineers

Project: Alien Grenades

Outcome: Alien Grenades (more powerful than standard grenades)
Cost: 20 engineers, 20 weapon fragments, 25 alien alloys, 10 Elerium, 1 salvaged Alien Grenade

Project: Improved Medkit

Outcome: Medkits heal 50% more
Cost: 15 engineers, 20 fragments, 4 Thin Man corpses

Project: Improved Arc Thrower

Outcome: Increases Arc Thrower stun rate
Cost: 10 engineers, 20 fragments, 20 alloys, 20 Elerium, 4 Drone wrecks

Project: Advanced Repair

Outcome: Reduces repair time of interceptors and S.H.I.V. units
Cost: 20 engineers, 30 alloys, 10 Elerium, 4 Heavy Floater corpses

Project: S.H.I.V. Laser

Outcome: S.H.I.V. miniguns replaced by laser guns
Cost: 10 engineers, 15 fragments, 30 alloys

Project: S.H.I.V. Plasma

Outcome: S.H.I.V. weapons replaced by plasma guns
Cost: 20 engineers, 30 fragments, 45 alloys, 30 Elerium

Project: S.H.I.V. Repair

Outcome: Arc Throwers can repair S.H.I.V.s mid-combat
Cost: 10 engineers, 15 alloys, 15 Elerium

Project: S.H.I.V. Suppression

Outcome: S.H.I.V.s gains Suppression ability
Cost: 15 engineers

Project: Drone Capture

Outcome: Arc Throwers can control Drones for the remainder of mission
Cost: 10 engineers, 20 fragments, 4 Drone wrecks

Project: Ammo Conservation

Outcome: All weapons carry more ammo
Cost: 15 engineers, 20 fragments, 90 alloys, 6 Muton corpses

Project: Advanced Construction

Outcome: Faster construction of vehicles and facilities
Cost: 30 engineers, 20 fragments, 50 alloys, 30 Elerium, 2 Sectopod wrecks

Project: Advanced Flight

Outcome: Flight time of Hover S.H.I.V.s and Archangel Armor increased
Cost: 25 engineers, 50 alloys, 50 Elerium

Project: Improved Pistol I

Outcome: Critical hit chance of pistols increased
Cost: 5 engineers, 5 fragments

Project: Improved Pistol II

Outcome: Aim of pistols increased
Cost: 10 engineers, 25 fragments, 20 alloys

Project: Improved Pistol III

Outcome: Max damage of pistols increased
Cost: 20 engineers, 50 fragments, 10 alloys, 10 Elerium

Project: Stealth Satellites

Outcome: Reduced chance of UFOs finding satellites
Cost: 20 engineers, 20 alloys, 20 Elerium, 3 UFO flight computers

Project: S.C.O.P.E. Upgrade

Outcome: Critical hit chance increased
Cost: 10 engineers, 15 fragments

Other Research Projects

Many of the following research projects are story-related, though not all. Some are prerequisites for other research projects.

Research: Experimental Warfare

Requirements: None
Unlocks: Foundry facility, Phoenix Cannon, Alien Grenades project (Foundry)

Research: Weapon Fragments

Requirements: 5 weapon fragments
Unlocks: S.C.O.P.E. item (+10 aim), S.C.O.P.E. upgrade project (Foundry)

Research: Alien Materials

Requirements: 5 weapon fragments
Unlocks: Nano-Fiber Vest item (+3 HP)

Research: UFO Power Source

Requirements: 1 salvaged UFO Power Source
Unlocks: Elerium Generator facility

Research: Xeno-Biology

Requirements: 4 Sectoid corpses
Unlocks: Alien Containment facility

Research: Arc Thrower

Requirements: Xeno-Biology research, 10 weapon fragments
Unlocks: Arc Thrower item (stuns enemy for interrogation)

Research: Outsider Shard

Requirements: Xeno-Biology research
Unlocks: Skeleton Key (story-related item)

Research: Elerium

Requirements: 1 salvaged UFO Power Source, 10 Elerium
Unlocks: Improved Arc Thrower project (Foundry)

Research: Alien Nav Computer

Requirements: 2 salvaged UFO flight computer
Unlocks: Satellite Nexus Facility, Stealth Satellites project (Foundry)

Research: Hyperwave Communication

Requirements: Alien Nav Computer research, 1 salvaged Hyperwave Beacon, 30 alloys, 30 Elerium
Unlocks: Hyperwave Relay facility

Research: Ethereal Device

Requirements: 1 salvaged Psi-Link from Ethereal UFO
Unlocks: Gollop Chamber facility

Matt Hughes
No, I am not the UFC fighter, but I did win a bout of fisticuffs against him once. I also freelance for GamesRadar.