Home Reviews Games Preview: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

This game has been through the development wringer, first appearing as a derided first person style shooter a few years back.  However, 2K Games, publishers of the BioShock series, has managed to keep things getting too astray, causing too much damage to the coveted XCOM brand so successfully rebooted recently.  The Bureau manages to give XCOM strategy fans the chance to get into the alien action.

Our demo play is short, but we manage to get a feel for a game that has been through a bit of turmoil in the past few years.  

Set in 1962 at the height of alien paranoia spurred by accounts of Area 51 around Roswell and the government conspiracy to store crashed aliens deep in an underground facility The Bureau: XCOM Declassified sees you playing as Agent Carter, a member of a Men In Black style organisation that is the forerunner of the XCOM agency that we see in the older games, and more recently in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

We jump into the action as a level 3 Agent Carter, sent in to unravel the mysteries of why people are aimlessly wandering around, struck stupid by a virus that turns them into sleep walkers seemingly under direction of an alien mind control process.

This reminded me so much like the older modern warfare game Full Spectrum Warrior, published by the now defunct THQ in 2004, like that game Agent Carter can certain take on the alien threat with violence dealt out at the end of a variety of weapons, however to win the day it will be the orders Agent Carter gives to his squad mates that will make the difference.

Ambling down the street strewn with vehicles, Agent Carter and his two squad mates can take cover as a variety of aliens appear further down the road.  Switching to command mode the player is able to stack a series of commands to both Agent Carter and his squaddies.

The game goes into slo-mo, where all characters continue to move at around 10 per cent of normal speed.  Agent Carter can select commands from a radial wheel, highlighting common commands such as movement or targeting of alien, or, move into each squaddies specialist skills.  For example an engineer squaddie can build a turret, whilst others can lob grenades to scatter aliens in cover.  Agent Carter meanwhile can heal himself and squad mates.

Commands are stackable, and the trick will be to form chained combos that work well together.  One squad mate can build a turret, while the next can move to cover and then perform a levitate ability (it is unclear whether this is a psy command or induced by equipment) on the newly created gun emplacement, giving it the benefit of height over the battlefield.

From time to time the squad can be levelled up with new or scrounged equipment and new perks from individual skill trees.  Agent Carter can also swap in and out squad members to help develop, protect or best service the mission to come.  The game does a good job of explaining all the abilities and options with little trade-mark Irrational Games video vignettes.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is still a while from release, but it is shaping up as something different, sure there are elements of the aforementioned Full Spectrum Warrior as well as command systems seen in older Bioware action adventures, but the setting is interesting injected with tongue-in-cheek fun and the public and critics alike have shown a hankering for more in the XCOM universe, so hopes should be high for this one.


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.