The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Game Analysis and Review
By Christopher Jester
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Director: Morgan Gray
Producers: John Chowanec, Alyssa Finley
Designer: Zak McClendon
Artist: Hogarth de la Plante
Writer: Erik Caponi
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: August 26, 2013
Genre: Tactical Shooter
Some concepts just do not work once they change genres. This is very apparent in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was an excellent strategy game that had the player control XCOM players as they attempt to fight back invading aliens. What helped that game succeed was the painstaking task of having the player care about the members of their team, whether they survived or perished on the battlefield. The game kept players on their toes and with their mind focused on keeping team members alive, it made the game all the more difficult. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is the opposite of both of those feats. Ultimately, the player likely won’t care about the characters, nor is it all that difficult.
Outside of the familiar Sectoids and other unique aliens from the XCOM universe, this game does little relating to the source material. Honestly, this game could have easily just have been called the Bureau. The XCOM part just feels tagged on. It feels like any typical third-person action game which gives a player a control of a character: there is a run button, a shoot button, and a few other controls. That is about it.
What makes it worse is that the game does a lousy job at being a third-person shooter. With its clunky controls and tank-like running, the levels are quite straight-forward with very little else to do besides shoot aliens. The only saving grace is the minor bit of tactical strategy with the use of the power “wheel” that can be brought up to assign powers and tactics to the additional members of Agent William Carter’s team. Whether it is useful or not may come down to how the players want to tackle certain objectives. Any lazy player could play most of the whole game without ever pulling this wheel up altogether. The most useful of these powers seemed to be the Critical Shot. This delivers a powerful headshot that should put down most enemies in the game.
The Bureau’s predecessor, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, was a nail-biter every time a team was sent out onto the battlefield. And that was for one reason: team members who died stayed dead. There was no reward in losing a team member whom you had built from scratch and customized to be this badass once the battle got thick. The same cannot be said for The Bureau. While team members or squaddies can die, Agent William Carter cannot die. Therein lies the problem. Squaddies can bleed out but once Carter dies, it revives the dead members and Carter back to an earlier checkpoint. Ironically, it defies the whole purpose of using a permadeath feature.
Visually the game falls somewhere in between just good enough and bad. With next-gen just a few months away, it is a bit sad to see games coming out this late on current-gen that does not go to the max with what they can do graphically. Cutscenes are poor with voice synching issues in most occurrences. It takes away from the appeal.
Perhaps because of the 1960s settings, visually the game seems to have a sepia tone in its coloring. Or, it could be just the game just does not look all that great in general. With the obvious aging of the Unreal Engine, this game faltered graphically. Surprisingly enough, there have been superior third-person shooters on this same engine that looked fantastic. It is this sort of nonchalant mindset that the developers must have had. There are numerous scenarios where players are given choices without any major consequence. Suddenly, players are rewarded with powers or weapons without explaining how they got them.
Simply put: this game is a mess. While it can be enjoyable for some mindless shooting in a ‘60s scenario of an alien invasion, that is about it. Once again, this is one of those games that would have served better as a Playstation Plus game and/or an Xbox Arcade release. A full priced retail release of such a cluttered game is borderline ridiculous. It becomes more infuriating when the title of XCOM is used. It is far from having the magic of what makes the XCOM series so unique and innovating. Instead The Bureau fails at enriching the series and ultimately should not be the host of the title of such a beloved series.
PunchDrunkGamer Score: 4 out of 10
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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