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I've been hearing some chatter about secret "Hero Units" in XCOM - soldiers with pre-defined names, attributes, and abilities.

The mighty psychic Sid Meier, of course, has previously appeared in a gameplay demo:

But did this actually make it through to the retail game? If so, how do you "activate" Sid? Is there anyone else? (Ken Levine seems a distinct possibility...)

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I don't think Sid is meant to be some kind of "hero" unit here, he's just an ordinary late-game psionic soldier with all the upgrades that Jake the Designer has named after the legend. I think you can rename your soldiers freely? –  Paul Z Oct 10 '12 at 0:24
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up vote 20 down vote accepted

Hero units are created by specifying their first and last name in the barracks "Customize" screen. Once you do this, your soldier will be replaced by the hero unit. These units are considered to be cheats, though, as they are super-powered. They have high stats and start with advanced gear. You will be notified when you specify a hero's name that achievements are disabled as a result.

Also note that customization of these heroes is disabled - you can't change their names or any of the other options on that menu (armor color, armor type, gender, etc). You can also take their gear, but your other soldiers can't use it without doing the appropriate research.

You can summon as many clones of each hero as you choose. If you want to field a team of all Sid Meier clones, you are free to do so.

There are four confirmed heroes so far:

(I'm providing their nicknames for flavor, you don't have to specify them when you customize your character.)

These names are given in the game's files, you can find them in:

(Steam Folder)\steamapps\common\XCom-Enemy-Unknown\XcomGame\Localization\INT\XComStrategyGame.int

Search this file for "SuperSoldierFirstNames" and you'll come across all four, in addition to the strings that prompt you when you enter their name.

Here's Otto, note his 100 HP, Will, and Aim:

enter image description here

Kotaku also has a video guide which shows off summoning Sid himself, as well as Ken Levine.

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I'll point out, as a side note, that Sid Meier ends up in a lot of his games - typically in the Civilization series he is the Science Advisor. –  agent86 Oct 11 '12 at 23:59
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Joe Kelly is actually a reference to a make-a-wish recipient. He was a huge fan of X-Com and toured Firaxis' studios. The dev team decided to make him an unlock character. –  user35409 Oct 13 '12 at 19:41
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@Henry, Do you have a source to back this up? I can't confirm it. Joe the comic book author did work on the X-Men series, including Archangel, in 1991, though. –  agent86 Oct 13 '12 at 21:24
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I hate to break it to you, but X-Men != XCOM :P –  Raven Dreamer Oct 13 '12 at 22:59
    
Might be worth specifying the classes that each are set to Sid Meier – Support Ken Levine – Sniper Joe Kelly – Heavy Otto Zander – Assault –  Marc K Apr 4 at 5:34
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The developers explained how to create the hero unit in the first GiantBomb's quicklook. Its at the end of the video. To create the hero, just enter the name Sid for first name and Meier for last, on any soldier and it creates the hero. Beware, I believe having this hero disables achievements for the current playthrough. The dev's also mention that there are other heroes in the game, but they didn't reveal them.

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I can confirm that achievements are disabled for using heroes. Three other heroes are Ken Levine, Joe Kelly, Otto Zander. (I have no idea who these people are IRL) –  Fambida Oct 11 '12 at 15:57
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Ken Levine is head of Irrational games which made Bioshock. –  Draedalus Oct 11 '12 at 22:11
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