The final battle of my recent playthrough was quite cinematic. I genuinely thought at one point I was going to fail the mission. Warning: this contains massive spoilers for the end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (and Enemy Within).

The members of the assault team were battered and bruised by the time they reached the final chamber of the massive alien ship.

Colonel Gary Johnson could feel the presence of the strange alien device at the far side of the chamber. After connecting his mind with a smaller version of that device back at XCOM headquarters Johnson had been able to lead the lead the team through the ship to this chamber. He didn't know exactly why he needed find it or what he was supposed to do when he found it, but he did know it was important. And it may be Earth's only chance at surviving the alien invasion.

As the team crossed the chamber, three of the frail looking alien psychics codenamed Ethereals appeared on the far side then disappeared into the shadows. The cybernetic soldier Zinchenko charged across up a ramp to close with one of the Ethereals. As she reached the top of the ramp another Ethereal appeared. Before Zinchenko could fire, she felt a blast of pain in her head that almost knocked her out. Then a voice in her head told her the Ethereals were friendly and the humans were the enemy. Zinchenko turned and fired her particle cannon at the closest XCOM soldier, killing her instantly.

Johnson led two other soldiers up the ramp to kill the aliens. They took down one Ethereal but the one controlling Zinchenko was too tough to fall immediately. Johnson realized that one must be the leader.

Johnson called back to the sniper perched back near the chamber's entrance."Ferrari, do you have a shot at the Ethereal?"

"Negative."

Johnson then made the toughest decision of his career. "Do you have a shot at Zinchenko?"

Ferrari hesitated before whispering an answer. "Yes."

"She's too dangerous. There's no option. Take her down."

Ferrari blinked away tears as she brought her plasma sniper rifle to bear on her friend. Ferrari and other team members had been mind controlled on previous missions but the team had never had to resort to killing them. And Zinchenko had saved the team on several occasions. A streak of green plasma crossed the room and struck the cyborg in the head. Zinchenko fell to floor dead.

The Ethereal leader retreated up a ramp towards the strange alien device. Colonel Hall charged up the ramp in close pursuit and rapidly fired rounds from his light plasma rifle into the alien until it fell.

"That was for Zinchenko," Hall said.

As the alien leader died, the third Ethereal collapsed as well. Suddenly the whole ship began shaking violently. Johnson felt the alien device calling to him. He yelled to Hall. "Get the rest of the team back to the Skyranger."

"What about you?"

"I have to stay here. There's something I have to do."

Hall took one last look at Gary Johnson before leaving the chamber. Johnson was approaching the alien device with his arms outspread as if to grasp it. Hall would keep the Skyranger at the extraction point as long as he could but he suspected he would never see Johnson again.

Top image is the same team on an earlier mission.