2K Games’ latest entry in the XCOM series was only announced recently, but had been in development a long time and was recently rebranded as “The Bureau” after many delays over the past years. Delays are frequently not a good sign for the quality of the final product (Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?), but just recently we saw True Crime: Hong Kong rebranded as Sleeping Dogs after a long development cycle and that game turned out great. Was 2K trying to cover up something here, or are we in for a similar treat with The Bureau?
It’s interesting to point out that this game was actually announced before the excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown appeared on our radar, and we quickly found out that the two games are more connected than we previously thought. The Bureau may have the real-time mechanics of a modern shooter, but its backdrop is a extremely similar to Firaxis’ strategy version. The big difference is of course that the action is not turn-based this time around, and you’re right there on battlefield with your squad members. You assume the role of William Carter, an agent with the FBI in a special division that will eventually develop into the XCOM organisation. As such The Bureau can be described as a prequel the XCOM strategy games we’ve come to know and love.
As a prequel story, The Bureau succeeds with flying colors. There is a lot of story development here, and the game is filled with a familiar atmosphere and plenty of intrigue. Even if you’re not a giant fan of squad-based shooters but love the other XCOM games, The Bureau is worth checking out to explore the story of how the agency came into being. My only gripe in terms of presentation lies in the fact that the game doesn’t compare well with other modern shooters in the graphics department. The first/third-person genre tends to be a showcase for what modern engines can deliver, and The Bureau – which started development over 4 years ago – shows it age here.
As mentioned before, this is partly due to the delays which ended up enriching the game to more closely mimic the look, feel and style of Enemy Unknown. This also translates into some of the game’s mechanics, as strategic elements have been incorporated into the game. You can slow down time and position your squad members much like you would in Enemy Unknown, although your options are fewer and the strategic gameplay doesn’t feel quite as deep this time around. Still, your agents can level up and the more experience they have, the more they can help you in the later missions. Because they will also develop new skills, your will gain new combat strategy options, but it never reaches the complexity that the XCOM series is known for. For strategy buffs, just call this one “XCOM lite”.
This ‘not quite the same’-experience is The Bureau’s biggest flaw. It’s not quite up there with other team-based shooters, but it also falls short of the mark as a strategic experience. This keeps the game from being as memorable as its predecessors even though it’s not a bad game at all. It’s entertaining to plan and shoot your way through the game’s campaign, which is backed by an excellent narrative for fans of the ‘little green men’-genre. With a little more polish it could have gone from entertaining and decent to a truly unique gameplay experience that would have been well worth the long wait. As it stands, The Bureau can only be truly recommended to fans of the genre or game series.
CPU: Intel 3770K
Video: Asus GTX 660 Ti
Installed on: Kingston HyperX SSD drive
RAM: 8 GB DDR 3, Kingston HyperX Beast series