The Bureau: XCOM Declassified combines adventure and strategy with a first-person shooter in which players must fend off threats and command a small team of special agents in combat.
Alien plague vs. Cold War
In late 1960's America, the troubled nation looks east towards the Soviet Union. But in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, the threat lurks not behind the Iron Curtain and the Eastern Bloc, but on earth. Aliens are attacking, and the secret organization The Bureau must eliminate the threat while preventing a panic among the population.
Strategy, action and adventure
You can definitely classify The Bureau: XCOM Declassified as difficult. This is an adventure, shooter and strategy game all in one. You collect information on aliens, talk to people and drive the narrative forward in a really exciting way - a tried and tested formula of adventure games. At the same time, you must shoot alien invaders like you're in a first person shooter. But, the Bureau: XCOM Declassified is by no means a blind shooting game. It requires strategy and an overview of the entire objective of the game: you can switch to a tactical overview at any time and give instructions to team members.
The plot of Bureau: XCOM Declassified follows a strictly linear pattern. You go through the game environment like a corridor, constantly eliminating new alien waves along the way. There is no alternative to killing, although you can customize your tactics. At the highest of the four levels, you must be especially careful that your teammates don't die in a hail of bullets and botch the whole mission.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified can be fully operated using the gamepad. You can open fire using a pistol, rifle or grenades, which you pick up along the way. Sprinting and taking cover are done with the same key, so you'll often find that you'll involuntarily be cowering behind a box instead of sprinting.
In combat, declaring a sighting draws the crosshairs unerringly towards your enemy. The player must be on guard, otherwise you'll grab the attention of the enemy's teammates. To protect yourself, it's a good idea to send agents to strategic positions. To do this, go The Bureau: XCOM Declassified's tactical view and give orders for colleagues to attack selected targets. Each agent has their own special skills that can be cleverly used.
Overall, the controls are somewhat unmanageable compared to most other shooters. Between explosions, taking cover, and running, there's no real flow in the game. Basically, everything feels a bit cramped.
Gloomy 60s with a futuristic paint job
The 60s were a time when politicians were still puffing merrily away on cigarettes in conference rooms. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shows these smoky, stuffy conference rooms so vividly that you can almost taste the smoke. The characteristic environment of this age is ever present in the game's dark images. From this musty gloom, the high-tech elements of the aliens stand out with their neon lights.
Not quite so well implemented are the somewhat chunky character animations. In typical 3rd person shooter style, you look over their shoulder, and the character is always clumsily shuffling through hallways. The far from outstanding animation synchronization is slightly made up for with professional voiceovers, which are entirely convincing.
Conclusion: Not quite a hit
The strength of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is in the densely narrated action. The outstanding narrator and the atmospheric graphics are backed by a great setting, which are exactly the ingredients of a blockbuster game.
Too bad the clunky controls pull you away from the events; at times, you feel like you're fighting with the game. The strict linear fashion of the game restricts freedom of action too. It's too bad, because the game could have been a huge hit. Nevertheless, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified remains a solid action game with an innovative mix of strategy and adventure.
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