The Bureau: XCOM Declassified will take the “classic XCOM formula” and put it in real time.

It’s 1962 and the threat of war with Russia is has all levels of government on alert. To combat the threat of a Russian invasion, various agencies have been created to safeguard the United States. When the terrestrial threat is overshadowed by an otherworldly invasion, however, The Bureau must refocus its energies on combating the alien menace. Such is the beginning of XCOM, the organization tasked with preventing the extermination and/or enslavement of the population of Earth. Nothing is ever easy, though, and to throw a spanner in the works, they must keep their activities out of the public eye. Whether this is something the player will need to keep in mind during missions, or if it’s just a part of the narrative is unclear, but it is most assuredly in keeping with the XCOM mantra.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified focuses on third person tactical squad based combat, where you play as William Carter, a hardened agent in his own right, who was recruited by The Bureau to lead other, lesser agents into battle against the alien incursion. The combat is real time, so you won’t have the luxury of thinking out your battle strategy while your opponent patiently waits for their turn. It’s also not a run-and-gun sort of environment where you can simply Rambo your way through combat. No, the campaign was described as “relentless” with the classic XCOM staple; agent permadeath.

It’s not enough that your agents can die in a firefight and just stay dead, no, this is XCOM, which means that you’ll be leveling up your agents, growing attached to them, feeling personally responsible when one of them kicks it, and possibly rethinking your involvement in the XCOM project as your dear comrades in arms start to drop like flies. Each agent will be assigned a class, like Commando or Recon, and level up courtesy of experience gained in combat. Each class will have skill tree(s) which allow you to unlock powerful abilities to aid you in combat, such as telekinesis, advanced turrets, and flash bangs. Naturally, you’ll be acquiring and researching alien technology as you progress through the game, though the details are sparse, the fact remains that you’ll most likely (hopefully) be blasting your way through the final chapters of the story with a Plasma Rifle in hand.

Staying true to the “classic XCOM formula,” The Bureau will be a strictly single-player affair. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the multiplayer component of Enemy Unknown, and XCOM has been a traditionally single player experience, so I’m not terribly distraught by the fact that the development time was spent focusing on the single player portion, rather than the requisite balancing act of multiplayer.

The term “hardcore” was even bandied about, which means you’ll likely be losing a number of agents before you see the game through to its conclusion. You’ll need to be able to use both “brains and bullets” to get through the origin story of XCOM and the subsequent cover up of its existence. If, like me, you’re a die-hard XCOM player, then The Bureau sounds like it will have more than enough on offer to entice you to give it a shot. If you’re not an XCOM person, however, but you’re interested in a shooter that’s not quite a shooter, then you may well find yourself entranced with the XCOM universe when all is said and done. At least that’s what 2K is hoping for with this latest entry in the franchise.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified launches for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in the US on August 20th and internationally on August 23rd, and will retail here in the states for $59.99.

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