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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review - Boots on the Ground

Joshua Vanderwall | 20 Aug 2013 04:00
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You, as Agent William Carter, get access to the most profoundly useful abilities, from Heal, which regens your whole squad's health to full, to Mind Control, which temporarily takes control of an enemy unit. You'll pick two agents to accompany you on the field, from a total of four classes; Recon, Engineer, Commando, and Support. You'll also be able to equip any two weapons in the game for yourself, though the classes are restricted to certain weapons, so, for example, the Engineer can only use shotguns and their equivalents.

Finally getting your hands on the traditional XCOM weaponry will be an absolute treat for franchise veterans. Picking up your first Laser Pulse Rifle, which gives you the three round burst you're all too familiar with, is thrilling, and as you progress through the game, you'll get into the more advanced Plasma weapons that you've yearned to wield since you researched your first Plasma Pistol. You'll even get a new-and-improved Blaster Launcher, which fires three high-damage plasma projectiles in rapid succession. Depending on the difficulty, this can easily one-shot a levitated Muton, so the fact that this unlocks fairly early in the game diminishes much of the challenge.

That's not to say that the game is not challenging. You'll likely get pummeled by the first Muton you encounter, unless you lower the difficulty. The focus on team tactics is no joke in The Bureau, as the heavy enemies - really only Mutons and Sectopods - will absorb dozens, possibly hundreds of bullets before you start doing any real damage. Keeping your squad on the move and out of range of the Muton's ground pound ability, or keeping them in cover from the highly-mobile Sectopod is crucial to taking these armored units down. The Elite Mutons and Heavy Sectopods later in the game really ramp up the challenge, and short of a Lift/Blaster Launcher combo, can take a good bit of teamwork to finally take down.

What The Bureau lacks in compelling story, it makes up for in challenging and novel gameplay. Instead of the simple squad commands of, say, Army of Two, you'll have robust movement, focus fire, and ability commands for each squad mate. Taking cover is as imperative in The Bureau as in any XCOM game to date, and clearing the Outsiders out of a small town in the Midwest feels just like XCOM should feel. Given the mediocrity of the story, The Bureau is not a must-play for XCOM fans, but if you're a fanatic looking for a new way to experience your favorite franchise, or just big into squad-based shooters, you'll definitely want to check it out. All told, The Bureau's gameplay is excellent while you're in the field, but every other aspect of the game, from wandering through HQ to the extensive, but tragically bland dialogue, will leave you wanting. Spending almost half your time on the mediocrity really drags the game down.

Bottom Line: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified doesn't tell much of a story, and the gameplay is split between the action-packed missions and the supremely boring HQ meanderings. You'll have a ton of fun when you're actually on missions, but that only accounts for 60% of the time you'll spend in game.

Recommendation: If you want some backstory for the XCOM franchise, read some fanfic. If you're just looking for an exciting squad-based shooter and don't mind a little bit of downtime, then The Bureau will be right up your alley.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Game: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Genre: Shooter
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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