The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

I played XCOM: Enemy Unknown quite a bit and (surprise) was addicted to it, so that’s the obvious hook for The Bureau, because this different perspective on the already known elements of Enemy Unknown has a high probability to appeal to all these players. It’s a franchise. A series. A bunch of loosely connected games. […] Thankfully it shares more with XCOM than just enemy models. What, at first glance, might look like nothing but another 3rd person shooter, somehow also inherited some tactical features, with which William Carter (the player character) can command his squad mates. Carter and squad mates can level up and learn several abilities (sometimes choosing one skill locks another), using those during fights works quite well and IMHO successfully adds value to the experience. I can’t say that I use the squad features in most games, all too often I just charge into battle and do everything myself and just ignore the AI characters and what they might be doing (that’s how I typically played all the Mass Effect games – hardly ever ordered anyone to attack a specific target, let alone where they should take cover). In this game I actually used AND liked these options. Lucky me, because often fights can’t be won without them. It’s really designed to require these features – the squad is not a mere gimmick.

The game is set in the sixties and that def met my taste, I was also into shows like Dark Skies (don’t know how I would like it today) and seeing an untattooed Jack (with a 60s haircut :D) amused me more than something like that should (I’m pretty sure it was Courtenay Taylor, love that voice). I wondered at first if this game’s plot is to be seen as a reboot or what intent they might have had, because the attackers are clearly the same aliens as in Enemy Unknown, but EU takes place after The Bureau. I kinda decided it was taking place in an alternate universe, although it might be possible the XCOM operation in Enemy Unknown new nothing, because the evidence of earlier encounters was kept from them? But no matter, once I got into the game a bit, I immediately forgot all about that.

I liked the dynamic a lot, of doing missions and returning to the XCOM base in between, then interacting with all the folks there. I read all the notes, letters […] that were lying around and appreciated it, that those were renewed after every major mission. Said missions are started using a map in XCOM operations and are divided into 3 categories, besides the major operations, there are smaller, optional missions and even some that can be dumped upon other agents. These agents then will be unavailable for the next mission (with Carter) and return with a reward after. It does the game credit, that the minor missions are shorter than the major ones, but just as good in every other regard. It’s horrible to me, that there are players who just play the missions that are necessary to finish the game.

The story let me down a bit in some regards, some points are brought up but nothing essential happens with them, they are simply abandoned. There is this agent who can easily be counted among the most important characters in the game and it’s possible for him to die, but even if you save him, he still just vanishes and that’s it. He isn’t even mentioned anymore, let alone shows up again in the agent roster as a potential squad mate. So why did I put in all this effort to save him? There was no pay-off. I guess such things were the parts that had to be cut for some reason. The game is still big though, especially for a shooter. It took me ~17 hours to do all missions and I didn’t replay the last missions to get all the 4 possible endings (the endings too don’t care all that much about many earlier decisions – it’s no Fallout 2 epilogue, not that I expected one).

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