The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

There has always been a fascination with space and what is beyond the stars, and according to XCOM there is definitely something out there. Be it little grey men with giant black soulless eyes or other constructs with heartless looks of equal measure. This time there is something different – I can use a scope and blast those bastard invaders straight back to where they came from.

The Bureau had a less than stellar start back when it was first announced as a first-person shooter. Straight off the heels of a very negatively received Syndicate it would seem that it wasn’t the right time nor quite the right genre for XCOM to resurge in. So instead we saw a true remake that stuck right by the original while The Bureau took a seat and spent some time to find its feet in the form of a tactical third-person shooter.

The story starts with an odd and unexplained occurrence in washed-up agent William Carter’s life, as he is attacked by something that is not quite terrestrial before being called to duty by The Bureau. From there we see Carter’s character jump right to his feet and hit the ground running killing aliens in a late 50s/early 60s setting. That obviously means some kick-ass suits, a little bit of jive talk, and some really old and fun Sci-Fi homages and clichés. From here on out you see Carter try to save the world and grow a deeper understanding of the oppressive alien invaders. Although this is not story telling at its best there are some fine moments in which both the setting and genre blend perfectly for some cool looking set pieces and old school sci-fi moments.

The game does well to blend the ideas of XCOM with a third-person shooter but excels at neither.

Tactical third-person shooters are not particularly popular in modern games but a lot of parallels can be drawn from the Mass Effect series in terms of powers and abilities, mixed with some familiar things from the XCOM series. The game does well to blend the ideas of XCOM with a third-person shooter but excels at neither. There are some great strategies to employ which you will have great fun with, and learning how to position your team becomes critical as you gain flanking bonuses and other attributes for efficient placement of your team-mates in battle.

For me some of the highlights definitely come from the The Bureau itself. Here you can run around and talk to many of your colleagues as they conduct wacky experiments with alien technology or spread rumours in what is obviously a nod to the hub of the original XCOM games. You can even complete short side missions that make more technology available for use in the field or free up new minor missions to complete too. You can even find some really cool polaroids, recordings and journals chronicling the events from different experiences and discoveries from all across America about the alien invasion.

There is still the level of customisation available to you that there was in the most recent XCOM game for your team, aside from yourself, where you can change what they wear, as well as their names. They can all embrace the new fashion of wearing shiny tin foil space suits. If you like that kind of thing it will certainly draw you in and make you more attached but it did lack some depth and I wish there were more ways to customise each and every one of them.

For the me the most appealing part of The Bureau is definitely the setting and the visuals. They aren’t the best the consoles has to offer but they are charming. The sepia-toned sixties are something to behold and the well dressed gentlemen make a welcome change from your usual ubercool leather clad heroes of sci-fi movies, here is looking at you, Neo. Carter even wears a turtleneck. The missions and locations all feel like suburban America was invaded and captures the iconic look of those times right down to the way the agents talk. I had great fun just imagining the amount of Brylcreem that would have been used if they were people in real life

The Bureau is not perfect, however. You can occasionally find your team mates floundering amidst alien crossfire if you neglect them long enough and it can be a bit of a pain to revive them. There is also the rather jagged movement of character’s mouths when they converse and a lack of anything beyond the single player campaign that really limits just how much you can play The Bureau for.

I loved The Bureau, blemishes and all. There is obviously great room for improvement but for its first foray into the wild I had tonnes of fun. It’s the kind of game you can’t quite just zone out with because you need your wits about you in the higher difficulty levels but it’s easy enough not be as punishing or daunting as the real XCOM series. It nimbly walks the fine line between the genres but stumbles at the trickier parts. It is definitely worth a look but if you want a real third-person shooter this isn’t for you. If, though, you something a little different to play then give it a shot.







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