Short Story: It’s decent; it’s not as bad as the vitriol says it is. However, it’s also not a great game. There are better games coming out that deserve your money but that fact doesn’t mean that The Bureau: XCOM Declassified isn’t worth being played.
Well, it’s time to take my stab at reviewing one of the more polarizing games of late.
I checked out some of the reviews for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified before I actually picked it up and my heart became heavy. I had been really excited for this game and seeing that people, whose opinions I trusted, dump disdain on this game made me a little apprehensive to play it. I decided to review The Bureau before Blacklist because I knew that I would like Blacklist and had a sort of emotion of just wanting to get The Bureau finished. When I started the game I was cynical of almost everything I saw. Oh no, the facial animations can be pretty touch and go. Crap, the game can be a little slow on the punch to load textures when a mission starts. Are you serious, the game DOESN’T pause when I give orders?
Most of the popular complaints that you can see others having about the Bureau I was finding myself sharing. I trudged my way through the start of the game and… something weird happened.
I started to have a good time. I started to have… fun.
I think we more critical gamers have the problem that we become too jaded about our games. We become more “sophisticated” in our tastes and find more things unsavory. We scoff at those below us who purchase Call of Duty games each year instead of our more divine titles. Call of Duty and games like it are deemed as terrible because all they are is a copy of games that came before. We laugh at the simpletons who find satisfaction in this like cows to a trough.
Crap, I forgot that I already have my copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts preordered…
Don’t get me wrong, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has its faults and those faults can be jarring and will remind you that you are indeed playing a game. However, The Bureau is able to provide enjoyment if you are willing to let your guard down and enjoy it as the game that it is, not as the straight port of XCOM: Enemy Unknown into a shooter that I think most people were subconsciously wanting.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a squad based tactical shooter that relies upon the player issuing directions to their squad mates to in order to better take advantage of the enemy units. This is the main feature of the game, besides the standard shooting that most gamers will be comfortable with.
There are some things with the command system that was frustrating. The cursor that pops up when issuing a command that directs where the squad mate directs their ability can only travel where a character can travel. The cursor cannot travel through walls or other large structures. This can lead to some frustrating issues where you can’t place a turret where you really should, no matter that the turret is a deployable ability. This issue is nowhere near game breaking though, and sufficient pre planning and improvisations in the field will be the main focus of your strategy.
As far as the abilities, they are of a varied mix and are all really useful. Different types of squad mate’s abilities work together to make you feel like you are actually thinking about what you’re doing. Using your Lift power on an enemy so that you can immobilize it and order an airstrike on their position is always a gratifying experience.
There is a decent variation of weapons to gain as well, given the length of the game. However, there can be moments where the enemy has weapons of a higher technology caliber before you can acquire them and this can lead to moments where you really feel underpowered.
My main issues with The Bureau has to do with the plot of the game. The Bureau takes the skeleton of the basic XCOM story and applies its own wallpaper to it. However, if you’re knowledgeable at all about the XCOM games then you’ll be able to see it. Without spoiling anything, you have your alien base assault, XCOM base defense, and the attack on the alien fortress orbiting Earth. This predictability even led to the end of the game and how the alien threat was resolved.
Also, a minor spoil warning here, this game does something that really irritated me. You play the majority of the game as William Carter, a former C.I.A. agent who has been thrown into the alien conflict while still dealing with his own demons. As the game progresses you develop a connection with the character, even passed his ridiculous dialogue.
“Sir, how are they going to stop the aliens?”
“We shoot them.”
That’s not a direct quote as far as I remember but… that’s the type of dialogue to expect.
So anyways, you play through the game until you get to the third act. Things have become dire in the shire and big decisions ned to be made. Then… you switch characters. Not only are you forced to play as another character but it’s a character that I never liked. It’s a character that always seemed suspicious and would grind my gears. Then you’re forced to play him instead of Carter.
Also, there’s the stereotypical “two people need saving, you can only save one” mission. Ugh.
Don’t buy this game for the plot, the plot is about as robust as a cat’s morality at a catnip farm.
This is all such a shame in light that the game could have had an amazing story. The idea of fighting off an alien invasion during the height of the UFO fears could have been really cool. Shadowy government agents in black suits and fedoras doing battle with beings hell-bent on our demise… also with fedoras. Can we get someone to Photoshop a fedora on a sectoid? Please?
So did I like this game? Yeah, I had a fun time playing it. If you are someone who enjoys action games that make you think about your actions and how to go about combat than give this game a go. However I would also advise to not pay full price. Give this game a rent and see if you enjoy it. The achievements list is really easy and on one play-through I acquired 24/32.
I beat The Bureau a few hours ago and I intend to see how much I can get for a trade in. If I want to finish the achievements then I’ll rent it. Hopefully since this game is still relatively new I’ll be able to get a decent amount for it so I can pick up Saint’s Row IV this week,
So many games to play and not enough time to do it…
Still, give this game a chance. Contrary to the majority of the reviews out there it doesn’t suck, it’s quite playable. The combat is a blast at most times if the difficulty is turned up enough. However, don’t expect a deep and interactive story that will make you truly care about what’s going on.
In the end, really, you’re shooting aliens. What else do you need? Hey aliens, welcome to Earth.