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Gaming review: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

September 14, 2013 08:05 IST

Gaming review: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

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Murali Venukumar

Being average may not be a bad thing, but the best thing that can be said about the Bureau is that it doesn't kill the XCOM brand, writes Murali Venulumar.

Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC

Price: Xbox 360/PS3: Rs. 2499 / PC: 999

Developer: 2K Marin

Publisher: 2K Games

Distributor: E-xpress Interactive Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Tactical Third-Person Shooter

Age Rating: 16+

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified had shaky beginnings. Originally an FPS that was hastily cobbled together in the midst of the success of Firaxis’ XCOM game from 2012, it then found its way to 2K Marin – and evolved into a strategic third person shooter in the process. While the game still maintained its fetching post-war aesthetic, the FPS combat was swapped out for a Full Spectrum Warrior-Lite third person experience. Your two squaddies work on their own should they need to, but the way to play the game is to pull up the command wheel and explicitly direct them to their next objective. 

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Photographs: 2K Marin/2K Games

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Murali Venukumar

The Bureau’s visual style and tone are impeccable, so much so that you’ll work through some of the more tedious enemy encounters to see the next location the game takes you to. The best way to describe them would be a combination of vintage cinema newsreels and a 60s dollhouse gone wrong. Your characters have a plastic-y moulded look to them as well, which just adds to the fun. And while some of the voice acting may be a tad overblown, the period accents and music safely carry the experience.

The Bureau starts with a set-piece level that sets the stage for the alien invasion of Earth. It’s also when you’ll start noticing performance hiccups when things get busy on screen – stutters, slowdowns, the works. One can’t help but feel that this is more a case of dodgy optimisation than aging console hardware. 

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Photographs: 2K Marin/2K Games

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Murali Venukumar

As with Enemy Unknown, you have a homebase to walk around in. You can talk to characters and kit your squad out, but it would have been nice to see a greater degree of customisation. Once you’ve soaked in the atmosphere and gathered enough background on your mission, it’s time to head out to the field. The game plays like a standard cover based third person shooter for the most part, except that your team mates’ lives really are on the line.

You’ll have to find replacements if you they fall in battle, but thanks the main character being central to the story, you’re only option will be to hit the restart button if you get tagged and can’t revive yourself in time. Your (and your squads) powers grow as the game progresses, and you’ll be able to pull off some fancy manoeuvres by the end of the campaign (including some reverse mind control).

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Photographs: 2K Marin/2K Games

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Murali Venukumar

Where the game stumbles a bit is in the actual mechanics of combat. You can’t queue commands for instance, and neither do you have a group execute or a cancel command. You make your choice and commit to it. The camera can also get fidgety when you’re trying to swing it around most densely packed areas, making it feel like you’re taking longer to issue commands than you ideally should. And you’ll also need to handhold them as much as possible thanks to some fairly pedestrian AI.

They’ll take down the occasional foe, sure, but they’ll also idle while being shot in the face, fail to take strategic cover, and generally not be very effective. Soldier on however, and you’ll find that you’re increasing enjoying the combat. Weapons have a nice feel to them and there’s some satisfying feedback from the aliens’ end as well.

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Photographs: 2K Marin/2K Games
Tags: XCOM

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Murali Venukumar

So an enjoyable game made for XCOM fans then, even if it’s nowhere close to the brilliance of Firaxis’ effort. It’s probably best to look at it as more a companion piece to that game than a new franchise thread, especially now that it has the new Enemy Within expansion lined up for release a couple of months from now.

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Photographs: 2K Marin/2K Games

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