Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Bureau, XCOM Declassified: Turkey or Hidden Gem?

Is "The Bureau" a bad game or has it just been judged to an impossibly high standard? Firaxis's 2012 reboot of the iconic series XCOM, Enemy Unknown met with universal praise so why did "2k Marin's 2013 tactical shooter set in the same universe receive such lukewarm reviews?

After reading some of those unflattering reviews I approached the game with hesitation. Now having played for a little over an hour I am confused.  I have only completed the long introductory chapter and one real mission but what I have seen so far is wonderful. This doesn't feel like a bad game. This feels like a superbly crafted great game. When does it start to fall apart? 

The atmosphere so far is terrific. There is a beautifully constructed 1950's vibe going on with hard smoking square jawed men and women in severe suits who working for a mysterious government agency which is the last chance to save the earth from alien invaders. Lots of sound effects and incidental details carry over from Firaxis's triumph so it all feels wonderfully XCOMmy. As an added bonus your character is a dead ringer for Boardwalk Empire's troubled prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon). This is a world that feels both familiar and exciting. 

So if it isn't the setting that annoys people it must be the game play. How bad can it be? From the little I have seen so far the gameplay feels very similar to the Brothers in Arms games: tactical shooters with a combination of first person and squad based elements. As it happens I loved the Brothers in Arms games and so far I am equally loving The Bureau. 

Of course it may all fall apart later. Tactical shooters like this struggle to balance the first person elements with the squad tactics. Lacklustre AI can mean that it is often easier to ignore your squad and just fight it out yourself. I am very familiar with these difficulties from the Brothers in Arms games however and I have made my peace with them and when you do pull off a clever manoeuvre with your squad it feels very satisfying. 

I wonder though how much of the disappointment with this game stemmed from the fact that it is a departure from the turn based tactics formula that XCOM fans expect. 


Unknown said...

I have played a good amount of this game and besides the fact it is essential to use your team and to a point seems difficult to do so, after you figure out how it all comes together to defeat a hoard of outsiders or a single sectoid, it really makes it much easier and in my opinion more fun, especially to have them use their abilite. Leveling up perks and customizing your equipment also adds a little depth, even though there's a max of 4 slots to customize (wish more). All in all so far I really enjoy this game.

mbp said...

Hi Nicholas. Thanks for the comment. I am near the end of the game myself ans till enjoying it. There are some faults certainly (perhaps it gets a bit repetitive) but I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys tactical shooters.