The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review

Written by Rick Lane

September 13, 2013 | 10:24

Tags: #the-bureau-xcom-declassi #xcom

Companies: #2k-games

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review

Similarly, The Bureau Headquarters is also where you select what missions to embark upon. There are main-quest missions, side-missions, and "agent" missions, which you don't take part in directly. Instead they're a very convoluted way of training up new agents should you lose any in the field. Despite the illusion of options, you're just picking which chocolate to eat first, and like the optional dialogue choices, the secondary missions don't seem to have a point other than to pad out the game's length.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review
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It may seem unfair to compare The Bureau to Enemy Unknown, given their diverging approaches to the XCOM Universe. Except, well, they're ultimately not that different. The Bureau apes Enemy Unknown's structure at almost every turn. It just does it less well. This is exemplified nowhere better than during combat. On the one hand, it's a real-time, third-person, cover-based shooter. But it employs a tactical movement and action system for your agents that is very similar to Enemy Unknown.

Pressing, "space" slows the game down to a crawl, and brings up a set of tabs used to order your agents around. Movement orders are enacted by physically moving the order icon around using the arrow keys, and then press enter to lock in the position where you want your agent to move to. This also goes for directing abilities such as throwing mines and your pet blob. Other abilities simply require you to point them in the direction of the enemy you want to be affected, like taunts and shockwave blasts.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review
Click to enlarge

Tactically, this works fine. An enemy who is flanked or affected by an ability takes much more damage than one who is in a strong position of cover, and it's simple enough that you can fire off orders and create basic strategies fairly quickly. Meanwhile, the guns are punchy enough to make the shooting enjoyable. But it's just a watered-down, fiddly version of Enemy Unknown's tactical gaming. What takes a single click of the mouse in Firaxis' game involves manually moving icons around the map as if they were actual characters in The Bureau. Similarly, the cover shooting works well enough, with good weapons and slick animations, but there's nothing special about it, nothing to differentiate it from the eight years of cover shooters that have gone before.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review
Click to enlarge

It has other problems too. The environments are pretty enough, but the actual level design is flat and uninspired, rarely requiring you to do anything other than repeat the three-step strategy of laying traps and disabling enemies with abilities, flanking and then executing. The only time this changes is when the game throws a particularly powerful opponent your way, such as a heavily armoured Muton. At this point everything rather falls apart, because the game's systems aren't designed to tackle opponents who waltz through your gunfire as if it were a Fred Astaire musical. The lowest point in the game occurs when you're pitted against a giant floating metal doughnut (seriously) that destroys cover with a laser, in a cover-based game in which most of your abilities are ground-based. It's more ridiculous than a Lady Gaga Hallowe'en costume.

Unfortunately there's very little to recommend about The Bureau. It simply can't decide whether it wants to be XCOM or not, and the result is a confused, bloated game blandly presented and laden with derivative mechanics that are much better implemented elsewhere.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04