4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 17.2 hrs on record
Posted: Jun 13, 2015 @ 6:20pm
Updated: Dec 21, 2015 @ 8:04pm

A Paladin’s Review: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It's Really Not That Bad, For What It Is
  • Genre: 3rd Person Tactical Shooter
  • Developed & Published by: 2K Marin and 2K Games
  • Platform support: Windows, PS3 and Xbox 360
  • Business Model: Base Game
  • Copy purchased by myself
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The Bureau has had a troubled history. It spent a long time in development hell, changing studios and the game’s design multiple times. Though its 1960s aesthetic was the only thing that stayed consistent during this process. It was originally titled “XCOM”, a first person shooter with some tactical play. It was originally intended to be the focal point of the series’ reboot. The reboot of a beloved turn-based strategy game with mechanics that had become legendary by this point and time. (Yeah, it doesn’t take a genius to see where 2K might have gone wrong). The response to “XCOM” was severe dislike, leading to the game to be pushed back into the shadows of the public eye. Instead, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released by a different development team and became really successful. Potentially leading the series to a new and bright future. The FPS “XCOM” wasn’t anywhere to be seen and there was much rejoicing. A year later, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified stepped from the shadows. In all of it’s glorious 1962 aesthetic, 3rd person tactical squad based action. It largely got mixed or negative reception. So, the question becomes: did The Bureau justify that reception? Well, let’s find out.

Turn-Based Tactics Combat System
There’s no turn-based strategy here. There is a tactical commander’s view that let’s you order your squadmates where to go, when to use abilities and on which alien/enemy targets. A large chunk of your game time will be spent going from combat spot to combat spot. As a whole, the combat is simply ok and it works. It has its satisfying moments now and again but it’s not the most exciting. Especially if you’ve played games in this genre before. However, one thing that I did like were some of combos you could make with different classes. Though I felt like they barely scratched the surface with class synergy and I’d like to see more useful combos in the future. Oh, I didn’t mention this but there are four classes in the game. Commandos (your bruisers), Engineers (deploy turrets and mines), Recon (Snipers) and Supports (medics). Each class has their own distinctive abilities and weapons. The weapons are reasonably weighty with a good amount of impact and firepower to make them all enjoyable to use. The cover system is a bit sticky and unwieldy at times. Far too often, I’d find myself trapped in a spot with no good way out. Or my agents would often find themselves in similar situations.

Story and Characters
If there is one thing I can say about The Bureau, it’s a story of conveniences. Somehow I’m supposed to believe that an alien invasion of this size would be kept secret from the public. The only reason I can buy this is that it’s the 1960s and communication was severely hampered. That somehow, I’m supposed to believe that an alien we captured becomes our ally in a quick heartbeat. Somehow, I’m supposed to believe that we can capture alien weapons and items with the “Venn Brace”. Which I can only assume is a magical tool we carry on our arms. (Where did that Venn Brace come from again?). A lot of this is either swept under the rug or just goes by you so quickly I think they’re hoping you won’t notice because SHINY.

DLC Thoughts
I didn’t play the DLC and from what I can see, they don’t seem worth paying or plaything them. One is a gun pack, the other two are short uninspiring missions. I can’t help but feel like these were possibly cut from the final product to be sold as DLC. I didn't feel any particular compulsion to pick these up.

PC Settings & Optimization
The Bureau has a lot of graphical settings. There’s a reasonable amount of screen resolutions to choose from. Windowed mode, v-sync and film grain that can be turned off and on. It also supports up to 120FPS if you’re wanting that. Field-of-view is supported from 65-100 degrees. Any larger changes have to be made in a .ini file. PhysX is featured in the particles & clothing and can be disabled. You’ve got texture, world, shadow and effect detail sliders as well as anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, decal persistence, ambient occlusion and screen space reflection sliders. For the most part it’s a pretty decently optimized game. Though I did have several areas of combat situations where the framerate dropped pretty hard. A DX11 mode also exists that makes the game look somewhat better. However, it’s an incredibly costly mode for not a lot of gain which I couldn’t get it to run at a stable framerate.

Final Thoughts
It’s a good thing that 2K didn’t lead their reboot of the XCOM series with The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Not to knock too harshly on the developers, but this would have killed the franchise dead. Now? I actually kinda want a sequel to this. A good sequel that stays with these developers, doesn’t get passed between multiple teams and doesn’t go through development hell. I think they have a good foundation started, but could use some more work to flesh everything out.

As for XCOM Declassified currently, well, it’s just not that bad. It’s got a pretty good story and a decent enough combat system. It does try to be XCOM though it does lack many of the features of XCOM. There’s no research, no base(s) management, you can only command two other squadmates, it’s got less customization and less of the XCOM experience than it should. But for a 1960s take on the XCOM universe from a different perspective, I still kinda like it. It’s got a story with some pretty unique twists and turns, a pretty diverse cast of characters and seventeen hours of enjoyment.

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