THE BUREAU: XCOM DECLASSIFIED review for Xbox 360 - CGR Undertow
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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - Xbox 360

An awesome concept, interesting setting and use of contrast can’t save The Bureau from technical shortcomings.
  • Release date: 2013
  • Genre: Third-Person Shooter
  • Developer: 2K Marin
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Rating: Mature (M)
  • Players: 1-Player
  • SpaceVault page Created by: CGR
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I play a lot of shooters and love sci-fi so this game was right up my alley. The combat mechanics is heavily influenced by the first Mass Effect game, which to me is only a positive thing. Being a shooter and not an RTS 'The Bureau' is somewhat more linear than 'Enemy Unknown'. However there's a nice variety of combat settings and the gameplay is a lot of fun if you like something a bit more tactical than your average TPS. It also has some RPG elements in the way you can level-up your team.


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Review by Matt Paprocki

Clouded with steamy sepia tones and unsophisticated ’60s era visage, The Bureau’s demanding strategies harness thin XCOM traits, implanted into a listless rut of third-person alien extinguishing.

Inflexibly faced CIA gun runner William Carter calls upon snappy sweaters and blinking backpacks as extraterrestrials zip onto Earth’s surface. With a dour past and addiction struggle, Carter is recruited into the US government’s XCOM program out of necessity. Carter manifests himself as a tenaciously aggressive leader, and inexplicable technology decoder as XCOM seeks answers for this perceptually American attack.

Space faring interlopers have come to ransack our planet, but as most American thought methodology goes, Bureau is unconcerned with the affairs of others. It is also a truism where we often think of ourselves as impenetrable, even invincible, and Bureau swings for American might. Despite swift firing laser guns and dominating, countryside-smashing motherships, leftover World War II rifles are capable of subtracting shields or armor from football field sized mechanical attackers.

Historical credentials briefly bring in noted political figures before broadly casting them out for a hastily composed, suspender loving agency destined for narrative death throes. Bureau patches together tumultuous development into something resembling cohesion, although gaps in tiered conversation can reveal erroneous deletions. Carter’s reaction to a display of technology – sans visual depiction of said showpiece – is inexcusable.

Bureau’s conceptually powerful center casts a shell of merit over the design, a punch-and-run cross country extermination fest with tapering RPG elements. Fallible squad members with intelligent AI build class-based offensive and defensive repertoires, joining Carter in unusually uncertain field work. XCOM work as Ghostbusters (of sorts), responding to distress and puncturing voids in the unwelcome settlers takeover blueprint.

Side missions are punctuated by sullen discovery, small town American savagely brutalized, citizens murdered with malice or stricken with thought numbing sickness. Banners proclaiming spirit for high school football teams sullenly taper to the ground, and businesses have been impulsively abandoned. Legitimacy is captured in these sights, aided by hidden audio materials nudging those emotional lows.

Inside alien craft, Bureau becomes indistinguishable from science fiction obsessed with futurism. Aesthetic is abandoned for glowing doorways, light bridges, and floating interfaces, all of which could be embedded into any Halo sequel. Identity is forcibly removed as plot elements cycle into telepathic XCOM mainstays, without manufactured preparation. Bureau is relentless with governmental and science squabbles before abruptly shuffling into nonsense fiction.

Much of this 2K published title has been left in pieces, some in dire condition. Dialog trees insinuate broader storytelling integration, yet go nowhere until jarring third act decisions suddenly shift plot directions. Swift working radial menus throw orders to squadmates, in some cases uselessly as powers prove ineffectual. Some of these were unquestionably considered for deleted combat scenarios. There is a lack of cohesion within investigative elements, shock or excitement displayed at newfound alien wares, while Carter briskly trounces superior technological gadgetry as if these barriers were normalcy.

Bureau wanders into walls blindly, unable to orient itself as it digs a metaphorical hole. Extraneous side missions deliver cautious blasts of cover shooting, capable enough to earn respect as familiar low level Sectoids splatter like target practice fruit. Story driven missions wander into egregiously overlong two hour plus play times. Slogs through unfurnished rooms amount to nothing, while forthcoming open floor clearances contain small populations worthy of their own electoral vote. Strategic shoot-outs sag uncontrollably and transport iniquitous levels of shielded hostiles. Higher difficulties fail to present measured opportunity for issued commands so much as luck within pressured crowd control.

Carter executes his decisions of sound mind – essential given fattening late game enemy clusters – yet in paradox to his personal entanglements. Billed as an alcoholic, Bureau inserts misunderstood, hastily edited sequences of mental strife to build a mindset left untouched anywhere else in this XCOM prequel spin-off. Carter is firm, even arrogant, and lacking signs of internal conflict. He becomes little more than someone to bounce exposition, wasting potential fabrication of a purposeful, intriguing lead.

Carter is thus defined by his guns. Out of desperation, so is The Bureau. Haunting images are smothered via over-reliance on cruddy duck and cover tropes which fail to exude design passion. XCOM’s roots become slightly poisoned by this stitched up developmental wreckage.