Published on August 22nd, 2013 | by IceCube
REVIEW: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Release date: 23rd August 2013
Available on: PlayStation 3, XBox 360, PC
Summary: A little over four years ago, 2K revealed this third-person shooter about an alien invasion in the 1960’s. While the concept was praised for it’s Doctor Who-like sci fi vibe, the visuals failed to impress. Fast forward to today, and after a number of noticeable delays and redesigns (and even the release of another XCOM game, Enemy Unknown), it’s finally here.
Concept: You play as special agent William Carter, a hardened man working for the US Bureau of Strategic Emergency Command, tasked with preventing E.T.-like aliens from invading towns and cities. Like the earlier strategy games, you decide which US province to aid before customizing your sidekick field agents and their skills and load outs. It also throws a story in there for good measure.
Graphics: A soft sepia tone adds an old-school element to the world, but some areas clearly have more attention put into it than others. Some sections look plain and incredibly bland, whereas key areas are ramped-up on texture. The game suffers from an occasionally-choppy frame rate in action-heavy cutscenes, but combat remains smooth. Facial detail on the characters are very well done.
Gameplay: Between missions you can discover secret notes around the Command Base and chat to allies with Mass Effect-like conversation options. Probing deeper into topics can unlock additional side challenges and missions. On the field you need to think fast! Cover-based shooting is stressful action experience, where at any point you can slow time to a crawl and instruct your sidekicks where to move and who to shoot. Each character has abilities to help, like healing and critical strikes, but success mostly depends on the wisdom of your commands and steadiness of your aim.
Sound: While the voice acting is good, it doesn’t synch very well with mouth movement. Some would-be sound effects don’t seem to be in there at all. Your allies do the right thing by calling out when they need you assistance, but in those situations it’s usually too late to do anything about it.
Awesomeness: There’s a sprinkle of everything in this game: action, strategy, story, secrets and dialogue, but the execution of these things are a mixed bag. Blasting aliens from the pipsqueak “close encounters of the third-kind” types, to the giant, armored behemoth-types is a true test of cunning and wits. The story, however, is weak, as conversations flow illogically and nobody seems that surprised by the fact there’s f ****** aliens attacking Earth!
Final Word: In all the fine-tuning over the years, this game lost the original thing it set out to do: the discovery of the unknown. It is now a shooter mashed with strategy elements borrowed from the previous games in the series, which proved to be successful in last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Perhaps it was a marketing influence but keeping the “weirdness values” of the original idea would have helped improve the story that struggled here. At the same time, the visual improvements, strategy, conversation options and battle planning make this a likeable shooter with a twist.
Score out of 5 bugs
Summary: 1 = Poor, 2 = Average, 3 = Good, 4 = Great, 5 = Amazing