The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, a continuation of the hugely-popular XCOM franchise of turn-based alien warfare titles, transports players into the 1960’s, and in the middle of a huge alien invasion which is determined to take over the human race.
IT News Africa had the opportunity to play development code in July- but is the retail release title just aliens blowing hot air, or is it a must-have for XCOM fans?
What we like about it
The question posed is actually a bit tricky to answer as it all depends on what gamers enjoy, and if they have played previous XCOM titles. The turn-based tactical role-player XCOM Enemy Unknown was the last title in the current XCOM franchise, and The Bureau is nothing like it.
To some degree it retains the basic XCOM mechanics, but for the most part, completely new changes await players of the newest addition to the franchise.
While regular players might be familiar with the almost top-down view of the turn-based tactical titles, The Bureau puts players in the shoes of Agent William Carter as he battles an invading horde of aliens in a third-person shooter view.
As chaos erupts around the US, the government activates a secret agency – The Bureau – to contain the alien threat and to make sure the US population don’t get wind of the invasion. Carter is drafted into The Bureau with other agents and it’s up to them to find out what the aliens seek.
Playing as Carter, the title takes on the familiar feel of a third-person shooter, but what makes it a bit better is the fact that players will have a number of agents at their side during battle. This is where the XCOM mechanic comes into play, as players will be able to give orders and directions to the other agents in their squad during battle.
It’s incredibly easy to execute orders, as all that players have to do is bring up the Battle Mode screen and highlight the action and agent within the activity wheel. Once executed, agents will move, mark, snipe, scatter or just cause chaos (depending on their abilities and skill level).
In terms of graphics, players can see that the graphics are far better than Enemy Unknown – which is expected. While not a lot of attention has been given to smaller details, the necessary aspects in the title make it enjoyable.
The graphical style also complements the 1960’s feel that developer 2K Marin is portraying, and similarities can be seen through this title with other 2K games. But in all honesty, when aliens start landing on the porches of rural America, players will not have the time to notice
What we don’t like about it
The fact that players can order their squad into different positions and execute abilities and skills is essentially what XCOM is all about, but the problems seems to be that once a member has fulfilled their assigned duty or skill, they will often move around by themselves and get injured or killed. And, once an agent in a squad is killed, they are removed from the game forever – upgrades and experience included.
This often leaves the players in Battle Mode more than they should be, as agents constantly need to be told what to do and where to take cover. It seems as though they have no real thought of their own, or no sense of the danger ahead of them. Which places the gamer in a mini babysitting role – which is not ideal when the bullets and lasers start flying around.
The title also follows the all-too-familiar format of most third-person shooters, where players arrive at a hotspot, have to take out all the enemies in the area, and then move on to the next hotspot – rinse and repeat.
While some missions do have the players engaging in different actions, the general combat mechanic is clearing out areas of enemies before being allowed to progress to the next area.
The voice acting, although sufficient, could have been a bit better, as the lead character sounds like Charlie Sheen who has been smoking to the point of almost losing his voice – and is actually voiced by Mark Hildreth.
While The Bureau attempts to put a new spin on the XCOM franchise, we are not totally convinced that it was all for the better. At the end of the day, if the squad-based orders are removed from the title, The Bureau would be nothing but a mediocre third-person shooter with awkward movements and some weird button placements.
The title also follows the all-too-familiar format of most third-person shooters, where players arrive at a hotspot, have to take out all the enemies and then move on to the next hotspot – rinse and repeat.
While the title might be fun to players who are familiar with the XCOM franchise, for that same reason regular players might not enjoy this as much as the other turn-based titles. It’s a step in a completely different direction to what defines XCOM but the innovation leap might not have been big enough.
Our score: 7/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor