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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

By acharris7706-09-2013
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

2K Marin
2K Games
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel i5 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
AMD Radeon HD 6950
4 GB
12 GB
9.0c, 11

The Case

This time around 2K games decided to take the XCOM series in a different direction. Instead of keeping with the classic overhead, turn-based gameplay they opted to do a third person shooter and have the combat system of other games. How this would work in actual gameplay I was not sure, but being a fan of the series I decided to keep an open mind and I give the game a go. Now if you will indulge me I will give my honest opinion on the game.

The Trial

I have always been a fan of the XCOM games since I played UFO: Enemy Unknown (or XCOM: Defense as it’s known in North America) and it is the game that got me into the Turn-Based Strategy genre. I liked the remake, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, that 2K games did so I decided to give the latest offering a try.

Poor alien, can’t even go a toilet in peace.

Poor alien, can’t even go a toilet in peace.

The Bureau is set in the 1960’s and it follows Agent William Carter, a CIA Agent and former war hero who is recruited by Director Faulke to work at The Bureau. Agent Carter’s story begins in his hotel room, with a very important case. An agent is sent to bring Agent Carter to Director Faulke but she seems to have been taken over by something...alien. A struggle occurs and Agent Carter is shot, but managed to kill the strange woman. Tough with some strange power involved our hero is fully healed.

The game is split into missions and the first of these starts you off with just one squad member. Then as you progress you meet your third squad member to finish the mission. Once you finish you are given the choice to select missions, squad members and equipment you want to take with you. The missions are pretty linear, with the only time you’d deviate from the path being when you go into rooms to pick up additional ammo which you will find very helpful after a lengthy battle. The battle focus mode, which is where you give your squad members orders, is not really complicated to use but it can be tricky as it only slows time down and doesn’t actually stop it. There are the basic commands which all agents start with and these are, move, mark target, and taunt.

Agent Carter only has 2 orders on his part of the focus wheel and these are healing and lift. Before battles it is best to take a look around and see where you can position your agents so that they are ready to attack. During the battles, if you or any of your agents get injured, bringing up the battle focus will allow you to issue a heal command and heal the whole squad. To be able to use the healing again power you will have to wait for it to “cool down”. But if during the battle you die you can issue an order to get one of your squad members to revive you and if an agent dies you can go and revive him yourself. Be aware that if all agents die you fail the mission, as you must keep one squad member alive to maintain the roster.

Do you know what's this about?

Do you know what's this about?

As you progress through the game you will unlock perk bonuses which can be used to upgrades to yourself and your agents ranking level, to unlock new abilities for use via the battle focus. During battles this system can be slightly odd, as often even though they were given orders to move to cover and what not, they would start moving and go somewhere else. Sometimes the friendly AI just decides to move from their cover all on their own and then moaning that they are getting injured and hurt, even though I put them somewhere safe. Often I was able to finish a battle without the agents’ help and only keep them alive to finish mission.

The game’s weaponry is pretty good and there’s also a variety. You have got weapons from the 60’s, like rifles and pistols, through to futuristic laser rifles and everything between which is unlocked as the game progresses. You also have the gun turret which can cause damage to bigger targets. Throughout the missions there are many ammo pickups to top up your weapons after a battle, but ammo can be collected through supplies crates as well.

The games story is ok but it does drag on and at times it almost seems irrelevant. There is nothing in the storyline which is going to grip you and there will be times that you are tempted just to press the skip cut scene button as you feel like you won’t miss much. The characters have no depth to them and you never feel like connected to the main character. The characters you meet along the way come and go, but when they die you won’t remember them 15 minutes later as they don’t seem to have much purpose other than to help Agent Carter...and die. The game’s story moves along in the cut scenes with Mass Effect-like option selection. At points you have to make a choice, like for example you come across someone infected. Do you quarantine or kill them? It just feels too black and white.

They got balloons here.

They got balloons here.

The game is around 10 – 15 hours long, though most of this is made up of cutscenes and it could be slightly shorter if skipped. The audio of the cutscenes is good with a very professional and well-spoken voice acting. The in game sound effects are detailed and with the regular weapons the sounds are close to what those type of weapons sound like. The alien weapons however have been given a sort of futuristic sound, which you would expect from an alien weapon. All put together the sounds make the game seem realistic and adds to the overall gameplay experience.

The graphics are ok, but the game has a lot of glitches and the cut scenes seem to have major frame rate problems. The details on the human characters are not very realistic but the details on the aliens are very good. The game is definitely not very polished and looks like it was put together in a hurry. It is a shame as if a bit more time was taken to polish up the game it would have been a better overall experience and we would've had a more satisfied feeling on completion.

The Verdict

This game should really have been called The Bureau and left at that. There is no way this should be classed as an XCOM game because the only connection that it has with the XCOM series is that the battles are tactical based and even then only loosely on the superb tactical action of previous XCOM titles. Overall a decent, solid game, but fans of the XCOM games might be disappointed.

Case Review

  • Out of This World: Aliens look very realistic and detailed.
  • Keep Your Focus: Battle focus mode is useful for upgraded powers.
  • More Bang: Good weapons and plenty of ammo.
  • What Not to See: Cut scenes suffer terrible framerate drop and glitchy visuals.
  • Plastic Surgery: Details on the human characters nowhere as good as the Aliens.
  • Tell Me a Story: Storyline is not that interesting and characters have no personality.
  • A Close Encounter: Should not be called a XCOM game.
Score: 3.5/5
Pretty decent action-tactical game but it doesn’t really feel like an XCOM game.


The Bureau is a game with a very interesting development history. First it was an FPS that was scrapped due to all the negative feedback it received from the gaming community. Then it was a TPS that we barely know anything about, which was apparently scrapped as well. From the ashes of these two games rose The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. And the influence is apparent. There are quite a lot of familiar elements that remind you of the two previous projects...but only slightly.

The game itself was supposed to be a cheap cash-grab to recoup for all the lost development time on the previous projects. A quick, cheap and simple game for those who were still interested in the initial idea, with a cherry on top of the squad management layer. Unfortunately the first issue is that it’s not that cheap. Actually it’s a full priced game...with the quality and value of a cheaper, downloadable title. The rough edges are obvious throughout the whole game, further enforcing the notion that you’re getting ripped off. Issues like missing sounds, stiff animations, missing features and primitive level design is something that is just unforgivable for a full priced game.

Though the main issue is the game’s price, or rather its value, it’s not all bad. The Bureau has a certain level of charm. Especially if you forget that it’s an XCOM game. The story, even if a bit nonsensical, entertains. The levels all look and feel different with very little recycling, though it could have done with a bit more exploration. The game is like that in every aspect; it has something good to it instantly followed by the “but” which makes my final recommendation of: buy it, but only during a sale.

Score: 3/5


Stockholm syndrome is when the kidnaped starts to sympathize with the kidnapper. Basically, something akin to what happens while playing The Bureau. The game doesn't start very well. Unreal Engine 3 is showing its age, the main character isn't exactly sympathetic, the pacing sucks, the script is flat out missing in places, the combat is not that hot... but somehow, it gets better...eventually. Not 20 hours in – suck it, Final Fantasy XIII – but against all reason you start loathing it less (“liking” would be too strong). It doesn't become a good game, just...less bad.

And it gives you reasons not to play aplenty! The combat is directly ripped from Mass Effect, with an arcadey flanking mechanic which means that even if you shoot an alien in the face while he hides behind a crate, he'll take less damage. Incidentally, you can always tell if you're going to have a big shootout by the number chest high walls present. The AI of your teammates is horrible and you can't even leave them to be in one place. Because if you go far enough, they'll abandon their position to rush after you. Even the guns don't feel fun.

It also sucks as an XCOM game. The downtime in the hub is a strange mix of “we're all gonna die!” and “here's some information about aliens that we just pulled out of our asses”. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you put effort into catching aliens and researching their technology. Here, technology leaps are unexplained and alien weapons stop exploding in your hands once you find one of your own. And for all the talks of horrible struggles, you're not actually seeing them anywhere or feeling it affect your actions. In the end, it's a mixed bag and if you're an XCOM fan, save your money 'till Enemy Within comes out in November.

Score: 3/5


Comments (3)
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Posts: 3290

Pretty much everyone seems to say the same thing. Not bad, just meh

Posts: 351

Yeah this game has a rough development, it looked cool when it was first shown and then just disappeared from the radar.

Posts: 267

Well, at least they decided not to call it just "XCOM".