Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin
Release Date: 8/20/2013
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XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the best RTS games to come out in years. It had tightly coordinated tactical gameplay that packed a punch and kept you on your toes. The Bureau kind of keeps this idea while bringing you into the dice-rolled battles firsthand so you can control them. The game takes place after the Cold War when agent William Carter is tasked with helping save the entire planet from an alien invasion. That is one hefty mission, but you have squadmates to bring alongside you.
XCOM is a third-person cover-based tactical shooter. It pretty much feels like a zoomed-in more detailed Enemy Unknown. You will encounter some of the same enemies and the art style is even the same. You can snap into a cove and order your squad to do things like lifting an enemy up, heal, revive, throw out traps like mines, sharpshoot, an enemy, etc. You can queue these up while time slows down and watch it all unfold. It’s a very powerful tool in this game and can get you out in a pinch. The shooting itself is mediocre. Weapons never feel all that powerful and somehow just feel off. Ammo runs out constantly and you can end up weaponless a lot of the time in a hot firefight. At least the level are well laid out enough for you to find adequate cover and plan your attack.
There’s really not much else to the game outside of shooting. You move from fight to fight pressing switches or finding the intel. The game is a bit on the cinematic side and the opening sequence is pretty awesome. Once you are back at HQ you can walk around and talk to people, start side missions, and upgrade your squad and loadout. You get the same death penalty as in Enemy Unknown. A completely leveled-up squad member can be lost in battle if you don’t revive them in time, however, the revive time is way too quick to pass. It’s not enough time for someone to go to a battleground and save someone. This becomes frustrating since leveling up takes so long. When you do choose squad members you can choose from Snipers, close combat, medics, and various other classes. This mainly just determines their skill tree.
I also found it annoying that weapons are slow to unlock. 25% through the game I only found a few weapons and two alien weapons. There are various other blueprints or tech you can find to turn into other things, but it’s not as deep as Enemy Unknown. What’s here is solid fun, but it gets repetitive and boring quickly. Every battle turns out the same, you get the occasional boss fight but it just gets so monotonous that there would be more substance. The game looks pretty good on PC but looks very dated on consoles. It’s nothing special, but the attention to detail in the Cold War-era atmosphere is pretty awesome and engaging.
As it stands, The Bureau is a solid shooter that takes the tactical RTS gameplay and puts you in the driver’s seat. The atmosphere is well captured and the skill tree system makes battles easier, but the frustration of perma-loss when a squad member dies is excruciating. The overall combat can get dull and repetitive early on with nothing in between.