Mission Select Screen;
Interesting ideas for gameplay.
Poor execution of good ideas;
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a 3rd person shooter by developers 2k Marin and published by 2k Games of course. This game was being developed around the same time XCOM Enemy Unknown was and if I recall correctly, there were many who were concerned that it was going to be another XCOM Enforcer instead of the XCOM game everyone wanted. That’s when EU was released and as much as I remember, everyone was happy and became excited for the new style of XCOM game, including me. I had a lot of big ideas for what I thought The Bureau should be, and what I thought it was going to be when I started the game. I left unsatisfied.
The gameplay is a very standard fare linear 3rd person cover shooter in the vein of Gears of War sans what made that game good. Every mission is basically you walking down a hallway towards a large room with strategically placed waist high boxes everywhere and enemies on the other side. In my experience, you do this repeatedly for about 40 minutes each mission, with some cut scenes taking place sometimes during a hallway, and sometimes at the start of the arena. Your tactical choices are basically move NPC A along one wall against the waist high boxes, move the other NPC along the other wall and shoot at the enemies. The pacing feels off, like it isn’t sure if it should be a slow paced tactical game, or a fact paced COD style shooter. One touch I did enjoy though was the ability to grab your character’s hat after it fell off. The controls are a pain as well. With no crouch button, and the run button being used to enter cover, it can make battles a difficult experience if you have to change cover often.
Graphics wise, the game looks pretty enough. I don’t personally have a computer powerful enough to play it at max graphics, but from what I can tell, graphics is one thing they didn’t skimp on. When every character talks, their mouths move, they have wrinkles in their faces, even gaps in their teeth. I didn’t notice any graphical glitches, either. The world definitely has a 50s and early 60s feel…at first. The alien tech looks pretty standard fair, steel, lights and wires, look suspiciously designed for human interaction. The aliens themselves are…unique I guess. They don’t wow me. There are more types of aliens and enemies than there are in EU, and look different from the rest of the enemies.
The story is dreadful. Unlike EU, the technical talk about any of the information feels very forced and is completely unconvincing. The inclusion of the phrase “XCOM” feels very amateurish as well. The whole scene and in fact the whole beginning of the game they refer to the place as “The Bureau” when suddenly, after the director’s intro, he says “Welcome to XCOM” with no explanation of what XCOM means, as The Bureau was created not to fight extraterrestrial threats, but rather to fight foreign threats, mainly a communist invasion. I could go on and on about various things I don’t like about the writing and tone, but I’ll keep it short to save time. Everything about the writing feels very amateurish and unconvincing. The protagonist is especially annoying, a failed attempt at writing a hard-boiled detective character with a tragic past. From his voice, to his face, I dislike everything about him.
A few times, mainly during cinematics, I witnessed some…confusing scenes. Like when I asked the radio operator to check out a signal. She never moved or looked away, but somehow was able to preform said task, and get the feedback from it instantly. Or when annoying protagonist William Carter threw an ashtray, and it made no noise.
The game is a disappointment on every level, except maybe graphics and sound, though if those are big on your checklist for buying a game, you’d probably best avoid this game as well. The game is stable, I haven’t personally seen any game breaking glitches, and it does have interesting ideas for making a 3rd person shooter better, including squad management, and a mission select screen, there isn’t enough here to warrant buying it for more than 20USD. The only hook of this game is that it is an XCOM game, and personally I think that works against it. I was never afraid of the enemy or had any sense of dread besides the fact that I had to keep playing the game to properly review it. Avoid this game till it is in the bargain bin.