The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – A good game?

The confused Xcom. The hated Xcom! The Xcom that wasn’t Xcom. It was a divisive time, and I do agree partly with the naysayers – it sure didn’t feel like the classic games going by the promotional material. But as it turned out, I took a real liking to it. I can’t say anything about the first-person-oil-slick-enemy-Xcom that was the original pitch because that game never got to see the light of day. Instead, we got an underrated little squad based third-person shooter with RPG elements in the company of a damn good pulp-like story. This game is one of my guilty pleasures, and I think I have finished it three times by now. I’m here to tell you why it’s so good and why you should play it. And there are plenty of reasons to do so!

Let’s go through the setting first. This is a big one if you are anything like me with liking aliens, conspiracies, Americana and hush-hush cloak & dagger stuff. First off. This is an origin story for the Fireaxis version of Xcom. During the game you will come to learn how Xcom came to be as an organization, experience mankind’s first contact and in general gain vital knowledge about the world of this game-series. The narrative all comes together splendidly in an action/thriller-esque buffet in the style of the War of the Worlds movie from the 1950s. It’s a joy to follow the on-goings throughout the game, and there are a lot of characters to talk to with interesting things to declare. These characters are not some one-off dudes either, they got real personalities with their own thoughts and agendas on everything that happens. It’s very similar to BioWare games in that sense – quality personas that makes you want to talk to them.

How about the gameplay? Once again, very similar to BioWare, specifically Mass Effect. On missions, you have two companions with you at all times – agents you get to choose. These agents are separated into a few different classes, like for an example assault and medic. They all come with their own skill-set which you can upgrade when enough experience has been earned. As a throwback to the classic games (and nuXcom) these agents can die in the line of duty – permanently. It’s an awesome addition to the game, and I highly recommend playing with perma-death on. The tension gets real thick when your best man is about to bite the bullet. An experience only dead-is-dead setting will allow for. So you better take care of your men, commander!

Command room looking snazzy

The fighting is the typical third-person cover-shooter fare, with the addition of controllable companions, as mentioned above. In combat, you can slow down time momentary to issue commands to your men, moreover there is a big focus on trying to get your boys into flanking positions. If you don’t the aliens will flank you! On hard difficulty mode I find the game pretty hard actually, so for once the indicated difficulty setting rings true. I think there might be a bit of health-point bloat, but that gets evened out when you finally research better weapons stolen from the aliens. Yes, there is research and equipment capture in the game too!

Between missions, you get to walk around in the excellently designed 50s style underground bunker that act as your base – namely Xcom HQ. As you progress through the story, more areas eventually opens up which let you get to meet new people. Also, folk you have talked to earlier have new fascinating things to tell you. It’s not dynamic in any way, nevertheless it’s a cool feature seeing the base change during the events of the game. There is a lot to take in, and if you play games to immerse yourself instead of just going through it mechanically, it’s a highly atmospheric experience.

Handsome, but so angry

The final thing I want to mention is that the main character William Carter is a driven, well realized man with a mission. It’s not the typical tabula rasa blank player-character, it’s a well-defined character with his own troubling past. Regardless, he was chosen by the brass, and he is the top man for the job – a job that needs doing fast. The voice acting, mannerism and dialogue is a treat, further it’s also one of the few “modern” games that has a real man’s man as the protagonist (he is not without a heart though).

I highly recommend The Bureau. You can usually find it for a few bucks, and well, it’s worth every penny as stated above. Even the DLC with Agent Nico DaSilva is pretty good, so you can’t go wrong now, can you?

Thanks for reading

/Thomas


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