Game Reviewed: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher 2K Games
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox 360], PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Action, Third Person Shooter
Rated: M for Mature
When a title simply known as XCOM was revealed back in 2010 it was a first person shooter, looking to set itself apart from the beloved original. Since then 2K Marin has made dramatic changes from its original concept and ended with The Bureau. Regardless of being a bit closer to the series’ roots in terms of perspective, it takes away many of the series signature features and lacks what makes XCOM great.
The Bureau is a prequel set in the 1960’s during the Cold War. While we feared nuclear war with the Soviet Union a much different war than we could comprehend comes from the unknown reaches of space and a hostile alien invasion commences to lay waste to humanity. Players take control of William Carter, a federal agent who has been recruited by the XCOM agency to battle against our invaders. As the story progresses it becomes ever more convoluted and confusing with an, albeit, nice twist near the end.
The Bureau borrows heavily from many aspects of Mass Effect, from the power wheel during combat to even how you converse with people. From the XCOM headquarters you can select a mission you’d like to take and from there you choose two other agents to accompany you. From 8 agent slots there are four classes to choose from with 2 agents in each class.
The great thing about these classes is that they are all well balanced; the bad thing is that they’re too balanced. No matter what combination you choose there is no advantage or disadvantage compared to another combo you could’ve picked thus there is no need to carefully pick the right squad mate for the job, just pick and go. The rest of the team left behind can attend to other mission to complete and level up.
Combat is as close as Mass Effect as you can get without the intensity, the strategy, or the fun. When out on the field you do the exact thing over and over until the missions will continue to show a repetitive common denominator amongst them throughout the game. This will end up being tedious and truly show how shallow the experience is.
You can bring up the power wheel during a firefight which brings everything to a near standstill. During this time you can issue commands to you two team members, however, the incompetent A.I. will lead them to occasionally bomb rush towards the enemies. You will need to micromanage each movement to prevent this from happening, if not your squad will lead themselves begging to have you get them up.
If you don’t reach a team member in time they will stay out of the game for good, one of the few things that return from the original XCOM. Even with the treat of perma-death looming over head there isn’t as much of a serious impact as XCOM or Enemy Unknown because you can simply reload the last check point. If Carter happens to fall in battle it will reload the checkpoint. And to push the absurdity even further there is no limit as to how many times you can revive each other! For the only thing that they managed to keep true to the series, they sure know how to take the “perma” out of perma-death.
The combat is the substance behind The Bureau and can be fun at times, but doesn’t keep it from anything more than mediocre. When you and your team members level up you can unlock powers like controlling enemy minds or setting a fire mission. What is irritating is when using long ranged powers where you can set where they can go. You can’t simply go straight to the point you want to go, instead you’ll need to go around obstacles to place your powers which is an unneeded nuisance.
Movement all around is perfectly sound, but when you’re in the middle of a firefight things can get a little hectic. Multiple functions are assigned to one button causing for some unwanted actions; you wanted to reload, but instead you picked up another weapon or you need to get to take cover and you vault the wall and get pew-pew’d by blasters. This kind of poorly mapped controls make combat that much more frustrating.
The esthetic of The Bureau’s representation of 60’s America is a detailed world of muted colors with a slight yellow hue to it. It’s kind of what I’d imagine the 1960’s would look like, as if we were to watch an old video from that point in time. The character models are especially buzzing with retro style of 60’s clothes and hairstyles. The trope of a slightly mad scientist, Invaders from OUTER SPACE, and the troubled agent are all here.
There is an uneasiness surrounding each level of The Bureau. The music can come as frightening at times not because it’s scary but by how they amplify the intensity of hearing fighting in the distances. When in a fight the music does well to capture the action, but is drowned out by the constant whining of downed teammates. And during conversations with your buddies down at XCOM headquarters you can notice a slight lip-sync issue which isn’t much of a problem if the acting aspired to be more than just ok.
XCOM focuses on too many things at once when it should’ve focused on being an XCOM game. The story is contrived and doesn’t pick up until the final hours, even then the plot derails and becomes confusing. The combat is unpolished and not quite like the previous entries in the XCOM series, but I’m not holding that against it. It tries to do something different yet fails to deliver anything more than a subpar Mass Effect knockoff.
Visuals: 4.25 /5
Overall Rating: 2.75/5