When one thinks of the beloved and revered gaming franchise that is XCOM, strategy and careful planning come to mind. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified takes these notions and tosses them out the window in trade for a updated hybrid of third person shooter strategy with some fun points, but can it hold up the whole game?
The game takes place in 1962, during the height of the cold war. Players take on the persona of CIA agent William Carter, whom before the story has dealt with demons of his own, which the player will discover through cutscenes throughout the game. After an initial encounter with a alien-controlled goverment liason and a mysterious briefcase, Carter is throw into the middle of a national emergency involving visitors not of this world, fringe science and the formation of the XCOM organization that ties the franchise together.
The gameplay itself, unlike the previous titles, is a 3rd-person shooter/strategy hybrid, similar to the popular Mass Effect series. Players can play using the run and gun method, but it soon will lead to an early demise. The strategy part of the equation allows the player to control movement, select special abilities and command their squadmates to do their bidding. However, instead of the pause function of previous titles, the game only slows down time for those heat of the moment gaming decisions. While this may have been an intentional built in function, it can become a detraction to those players who have grown accustomed to pausing in battle to give orders. In addition, while at XCOM HQ, the chat functions mirror the Mass Effect series as well with its ever present chatwheel. Also, the game removes the popular R&D gameplay from the series titles in trade provides discoverable weapons and backpack schematics in the field, the latter which provies various rebuffs and improvements to you characters health, targeting and other abilities. The trade-off, however, may leave fans of the series feeling withdrawls.
The visual aspects of this game are themselves, a mixed bag. While at XCOM HQ, the retro design of the base is fantastic. From the consoles in the control room to the cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air, it takes the player back to an era when men and women met in secret places deciding the fate of the free world. The outside missions, however, left something to be desired. It felt as if someone decided after a while that a randomly placed car or haybale made sense in arena-based cover design. I was a bit dissapointed the developers didnt push the boundaries of the title by making those objects degradeable or totally destructable, which might have amped up the danger factor. In addition, there were points in the game where items either clipped or dropped out altogether. One in particual case involves Agent Carter on his wireless radio. When I first began a mission he had it in hand, when I restarted that mission, it was missing, yet his hand/arm were still cradling the missing item
The audio in this title was something that works at times, but others it sputters. While the inclusion of period-specific music covers (Just spend the money for the real version guys!) was ok. The soundtrack, while trying its hardest to be period era Bernard Herrmann with his signature piano string /bongo beat, just barely reached over the line of acceptable. Sound effects themselves from explosions to battelfield chatter, were just ok and a times became a distraction.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a title that once again proves that a game, while with good intentions and interesting ideas, cannot necessarly rely on one aspect of its parts to float the whole title. While the story has some great detail, the gameplay itself feels recycled and tedious at times. Add in the other aspects and you may want to seriously consider renting this game first before purchasing
Final Score: 6.0/10