The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Hands-On Preview - Nothing to Fear
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When I last played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, I was surprised. Despite the game’s troubled development, the demo was promising, suggesting that 2K Marin might be able to make the best of a bad situation.

Taking squad-based tactical combat, splashing it over cheesy early 60’s sci-fi noir and including just enough nods to last year’s turn-based reboot, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified looked pretty fun. It had potential. But this latest session wasn’t quite so encouraging.

Let’s cover the basics first, before I slap you in the face with underwhelment. You are Agent William Carter, an ex-CIA agent with demons and a drink problem, who has been recruited by a mysterious government division. It’s 1962, a time before the Beatles, before flower power and before everyone got cool; a straight-laced, homecoming queen, fear the Ruskies kinda time.

But, as we know, there’s more to fear than just that. Aliens have invaded, taking over towns all across America and blah blah get your guns out.

Would it be easier if I just explained that The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is probably going to get six out of ten when it’s released? Because that’s how I now feel. I’ve played the first few hours of it and it’s fine, it’s okay, but there’s not one thing about it that’s properly exciting, there wasn’t one moment that made me go ‘Wow.’

Instead it just exists, it’s a game that just exists. There’s no glaringly obvious problems with it; the art style is quite nice, the story is fairly standard sci-fi bobbins and the combat is designed to demand a somewhat tactical approach thanks to a decent selection of different enemy types and level designs. But yeah, meh.

Imagine the Mass Effect series stripped of all the cool characters, the insanely deep galaxy, the brilliant story, the ingenious decision making and basically all of the RPG stuff. That’s pretty much what the first few hours of The Bureau offer. It’s just some mildly entertaining squad-based combat with a strategic angle.

Let me hammer that point home. In The Bureau, as long as you’re continually using the slow-mo Battle Focus menu to push your squad mates into flanking positions around the small maps, you should be okay. The joy of true XCOM games is that every decision you make is fraught with danger and peril, where if you make one wrong move you’re fucked. Based on what I’ve played this isn’t even nearly true of The Bureau and it’s a huge disappointment.

So my session didn’t display much depth or excitement, but there were a few hints that it may evolve into something more sophisticated later in the game. For a start it’s squad-based and you get full control over which classes you choose for each mission, be it Support, Recon, Engineer and Commando. Each of these classes also have their own abilities too, like turrets, taunts and grenades, with which to control the battlefield. 

Beyond that each class learns new abilities as their careers continue, plus there’s a bunch of customisable, unlockable weapon and outfit bits and bobs, some of which are lost permanently along with your squad mates, should you be careless enough to let them kick the bucket. Yet I’m not convinced that this is anything more than dressing for a rather drab game.

If The Bureau: XCOM Declassified can deliver a few stand-out missions late on that improve on the level design, while demanding that you make full use of all the abilities and strategies at your disposal, then it may rise up beyond its current levels of mediocrity. But unfortunately there’s not much evidence to suggest that will actually happen. It's a shame.

Make no mistake, The Bureau doesn’t look truly, inescapably bad. It’s not terribly designed or technically lacking and there’s no doubt that it will find some fans somewhere, especially among those that enjoyed the combat of Mass Effect. It just seems competent at best and desperately, crushingly average at worst.

Where so many 2K titles are clearly labours of love - BioShock Infinite, Borderlands 2 and yes XCOM: Enemy Unknown - The Bureau feels like it’s either a rescue job for a failed project or a factory line product churned out to fill a small gap in the market. I don’t know about you, but neither of those things are particularly enticing.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified hits on August 20th in North America and August 23rd in Europe.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 175
Comment #2 by Roose91
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 05:46:20 PM
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That really is disappointing. Was really looking forward to this. Will wait for some more previews/reviews before I make a decision on cancelling my pre-order though.

Forum Posts: 117
Comment #3 by Blue Papyrus
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 05:53:04 PM
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I hope a demo comes out.

Forum Posts: 76
Comment #4 by Belmont360
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 05:54:48 PM
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@1 troll. nuff said.

Forum Posts: 71
Comment #5 by scott.m
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 06:01:03 PM
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I enjoyed XCOM:EU so much, that this was going to be a no-brainer, even after this preview.
Squad based/turn-based strategy games are always a welcome break up from the "run&gun" games.
Can't wait.

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #6 by PhoenixTemplar
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 06:08:03 PM
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How long after release till it gets a price drop? One month? Two tops.

Forum Posts: 2200
Comment #7 by cheevo360
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 06:17:54 PM
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Oh this is not going be good, great or above it. Look like this going be medicore title. Hmmmm 2K Martin, WTF wrong with you!!! :(

Now I remove this game off for most excite games in Summer 2013. :(

Forum Posts: 2200
Comment #8 by cheevo360
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 06:21:07 PM
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But I getting this game still but achievements only now. :)

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #9 by richardwarnercool1
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 07:01:11 PM
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Until the game is released, all of this is just speculation. There is still a month to go till it gets released and only then will we know how good or bad the game will be. Until then, let's just have a little faith and try to be a bit optimistic.

Forum Posts: 4288
Comment #10 by DEG23
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 07:18:19 PM
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That's disappointing to hear, I was really looking forward to this. I'm a massive fan of the whole 60's alien conspiracy theme so i'm still tempted to give this a go.

Forum Posts: 154
Comment #11 by a fat turkey
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 09:25:34 PM
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Lol cool characters and ingenious decision making in Mass Effect....

Forum Posts: 213
Comment #12 by lazygammer13
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 09:38:13 PM
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Well, that sucks. I was quite interested in the original pitch for the game back when it was still in first person, but ever since then, it's looked worse and worse. I had hoped that it might still have SOME unique saving graces, but I am no longer optimistic. :/

Forum Posts: 37
Comment #13 by singhellotaku617
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 09:50:25 PM
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Pretty much what I expected, a mass effect clone thats every bit as average and dull as mass effect.

"With all the rpg stuff stripped out?" You mean like Mass Effect 2 and 3?

Forum Posts: 14
Comment #14 by Astartes Marine
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 @ 09:53:01 PM
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Quoted from the article:
"The joy of true XCOM games is that every decision you make is fraught with danger and peril, where if you make one wrong move you’re fucked. Based on what I’ve played this isn’t even nearly true of The Bureau and it’s a huge disappointment."

Your disappointment would be my relief. Not everyone craves or even enjoys ballbreaking difficulty/challenge. Danger and peril are fine in my eyes but the "one wrong move and you're doomed" concept got tiring more often than not, and for many of today's games it just pushes the concept of trial and error which is quite frankly not fun.

As for the actual game itself, I'm playing the wait and see approach. I'm interested because of the series and the setting, I mean how often do we get games about aliens in the '50s? We'll see how it turns out.

Forum Posts: 142
Comment #15 by Tragik T
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 01:18:39 AM
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Picture #1 = PIPBOY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Forum Posts: 50
Comment #16 by lukeather
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 01:53:40 AM
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I was looking forward to this game going back a few years ago but now i am legitimately disappointed. Also i know the series is popular but i didn't realise this was going to be a squad based game, etc, so now i won't even be picking this up from the bargain bin... Unless it is an extremely easy/quick 800+ Gamerscore.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #17 by skychotic
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 02:21:20 AM
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I'm not surprised. There are games that get delayed for good reasons (GTA V) and then there are games that get delayed for bad reasons, like this one. IMO it's too crowded of a market to make mediocre games nowadays.

Forum Posts: 65
Comment #18 by Lord_Statn
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 02:51:22 AM
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I loved the combat in Mass Effect, and I loved XCOM: EU, so it will be really hard to convince me not to buy this. I've played a lot of shitty games in my life that "average" doesn't scare me any more. Not that I expected this to be the new black...

Forum Posts: 4596
Comment #19 by WalterWhite
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 03:07:21 AM
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Unless I just haven't noticed it, I don't see a ton of negativity on this site when it comes to game previews. To say this is worrisome would be an understatement. The Mass Effect comparison was more than enough to send me running.

Forum Posts: 755
Comment #20 by Hurricane Of 87
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 03:42:09 AM
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@19: Saints Row IV was shat on just the other day but I think you'd have to go all the way back to Warfighter to find the one before it.

Forum Posts: 1127
Comment #21 by Emperor 95
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 05:33:54 AM
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@13 shit man, you gonna cause a flame war!

i would consider myself to be in the same boat as @10 and @12

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #22 by Kaunte
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 05:37:48 AM
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Refreshing to see a game preview that does something other than sing praises and promote and upcoming product. Too often even the shittiest games have previews written about them that are out to make the game look like the next Half Life or something.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #23 by HolyTaco
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 08:50:09 AM
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Forum Posts: 96
Comment #24 by Aliasalpha
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 09:11:39 AM
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Any idea what difficulty level you were playing on (I assume they didn't let you pick)? That might solve several of the problems in one if it has a hardcore ironman type mode

Forum Posts: 28
Comment #25 by fat_hill
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 01:40:14 PM
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I appreciate your honesty and it's lessened my excitement a little but I'm still going to get it - I love all things Xcom ever since I played the original back on my Amiga and I like the different take on it.

Forum Posts: 753
Comment #26 by Fire Mage
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 09:14:00 PM
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I say again, they scrapped (mostly) the original idea that seemed like it was going to be awesome, then they put it into Development Hell.

Now we get a game that, instead of trying to be newer and interesting, tries to buck off of the XCOM name and try to move more towards the EU game. But it's not going to live up to that.

Forum Posts: 488
Comment #27 by Daniel55645
Friday, July 26, 2013 @ 03:07:41 AM
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well that sucks, i was looking forward to this, i may still gamefly it and check it out. but 1962? looks more like late 40's

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Game Info
2K Marin
2K Games


US August 20, 2013
Europe August 23, 2013

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