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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Platform: Xbox 360|Change
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'The Bureau: XCOM declassified' is a tactical shooter somewhat in the style of Mass Effect that takes place in the U.S in 1962, a period filled with fear and paranoia, when the Cold War was getting hot, the space race was just beginning and the Communists were expected to attack at any moment - but when the attack did come it was not from where it was expected...

In the game you play William Carter, a hard faced agent with more than a little bit of Clint Eastwood attitude about him. As Carter you will lead its field missions against the alien menace.

At the beginning of the game you only have access to the technology of the time - things such as the Colt 1911 pistol, the M-14 rifle, shotgun, sniper rifles and fragmentation grenades.

You will collect better and more effective weaponry and technology as you complete missions, however unlike previous XCOM games, whilst your base has a research lab you will not research new technology yourself; Instead you will find new examples of alien tech and blueprints for new devices which will then become availible.

Whilst new weapons will be more powerful than previous ones, when it comes to mission time there really isnt much of a difference from one weapon to another - your laser rifle might fire red shots but it really doesnt sound or feel any more meaty than the basic M-14, a scatter laser is stronger than your shotgun but it sounds just like your shotgun, and the blaster-launcher (The most awesome of weapons in the original XCOM!) is just an unimpressive looking and sounding rocket launcher.

Missions are conducted from a third-person perspective. In every mission you take control of Agent Carter and can equip him as you see fit from the equipment availible to you at that time. Your team will also consist of two further agents who can be chosen from types such as Engineer, Soldier, recon etc. Unit types have their own special abilities, such as the ability to deploy a laser turret, an energy shield, taunt an enemy, heal an ally or make a critical sniper shot.

Sadly, whilst your agents have names, they lack any kind of personalities of their own and so its difficult to get attached to them. The game borrows a great deal from Mass Effect, but one area in which it doesnt borrow but would have been much stronger had it done so would have been in fleshing out your agents, giving them backstories, histories, individual missions etc.

As far as controls are concerned, you can run, take cover, vault obsticals, aim, fire and throw grenades very much like you could in Mass Effect, but to me the controls seemed just that little bit slower, less responsive and clunky, and I found that there was a particular problem with the aiming mechanics in so far that when you press left trigger to aim, the reticule will frequently leap off to point on the screen other than what you were actually pointing at at the time. Its very frustrating.

The most crucial aspect of combat (as it was in Mass Effect) is tactics and positioning and deploying your team mates in the most effective way whilst using their abilities as appropriately as possible.

This is conducted by pressing B which opens a Fallout style VATS-esque screen whereby everything slows down. Once the screen is open you can select a team mate, order them to move to a different part of the map, use a special ability, take cover, concentrate fire on a particular target or flank an opponant.

Keeping your guys grouped together or failing to use tactics will almost always result in failiure, because as important as flanking and outsmarting the enemy is to you, its just as important to the enemy, and aliens will often sprint from cover to take better firing positions. It is pleasently challenging.

One criticism of this however would be that as the game proceeds, the difficulty level rises, and your agents develop new skills, the game becomes predominantly about ordering your agents about and leaves very little time or opportunity for gun play yourself.

Speaking of 'failiure', this is one of the most distinct areas in which the game...well...fails.

Keeping Agent Carter alive is essential to the game - if he dies, you fail the mission. If Carter does die though, dont worry because you will simply be taken back to your last auto-save point (of which there are many). Sadly the same cannot be said of your team mates.

One of the most popular aspects of the entire XCOM franchise, all the way back to the original 90's game, is that of 'perma-death' - the idea that you will use certain troops on dozens of missions, getting to know their name and getting use to how they work in the field, but then they die - and in XCOM 'dead' is forever!

Perma-death for your buddies still exists in The Bureau, but in a game where the death of Agent Carter just see you taken back to the last auto-save point, all this results in is a game which punishes partial failiure far more severely than absolute failiure. Its ridiculous and makes the whole thing pointless. You can cheat your way through the game by loading in your last save point to save your agents, but whats the point?

Add to this the fact that you are forced to use Agent Carter on every mission and you may have another annoyance. I personally like his Eastwood style tough-guy act and facial sneer, but Carter mighnt not be everyones cup of tea, unfortunately you dont have the option to leave him behind his desk come mission time.

Most of the regular XCOM foes are there - many of them subtly redesigned - as are some new enemy types, and as with previous XCOM games they will be armed with different weapons, exhibit different abilities and operate in different ways meaning that they require different tactics to deal with.

During cut scenes the game makes use of a 'conversation wheel' much like Mass Effect, and you have the choice between making diplomatic or aggressive responses to the questions you are asked. The problem with this is that - unlike Mass Effect - there is no advantage or disadvantage to the type of response you make, so you can either be helpful for no reward, or be a bit of an ass just for the sake of it. Either way you will be no better or worse off.

There are some cool moral choices to make as the game draws to a conclusion, and this really added to the game. Sadly the first 90% of the game is entirely devoid of similar tough decisions.

Graphically the game doesnt do anything new. The 1960's setting, vehicles and dress are cool. In between missions you can walk around you head quarters which is complete with overhead projectors, smoky briefing rooms, medical bay, a helicopter pad (your Skyranger is a chopper in this game) and so on, but animations and backgrounds are a little plain and dull. Likewise the sound in the game isnt anything special, although the voice acting is okay if not exceptional.

Theyve tried to do something completely different to everything thats gone before with The Bureau, but unfortunately its a gamble that ultimately fails. Rather than successfully opening up the XCOM franchise to a wider audience all the game really does is leave us with a poor mans Mass Effect that will probably disappoint fans of third-person tactical shooters as much as it isolates existing fans of the XCOM franchises. Its not that its a dreadful game - its just dreadfully ordinary.

The only real consolation for me is that its less than three months until the release of XCOM: Enemy Within, which will be a welcome return to what XCOM has always done best.

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on 18 September 2013
A lot of people have panned The Bureau because of the change made in development from being a first-person shooter to being a third-person tactical shooter (similar to Mass Effect in more than one way). I am not sure that it was such a bad thing.

The Bureau has you playing as William Carter, an agent with a troubled history who is recruited to join the new secret task force that was being set up to combat a Soviet invasion, but now finds itself dealing with alien forces. You lead a squad of three through the various missions the game has to offer while also interacting with agents in the XCOM base and also dispatching other squad members to complete missions away from the fold while you handle the main ones.

The concept is pretty good, on the whole. A few details do let the game down. Most of the time in the base is spent running from point a to point b, and the investigations there often do not feel like they are worth the time you spent running around. However, there is a lot of backstory and watercooler chat going on if you pay attention. The dialogue system also has a problem in that if you choose to (or accidentally) skip a line, you might not have got all of the content even with subtitles on, leaving you wondering why something unusual has just happened. The checkpoint system is also unforgivable. You can fight for a good fifteen minutes to finally have a Muton dropped on you who takes your squad apart, and the last checkpoint was before the fifteen minute fight.

That said, there is a lot in the game's favour. The squad combat feels a little rushed, but is immersive. It can be fun playing with different abilities, and the game encourages you to cause diversions by putting up a turret, throwing out a hologram of an agent to draw fire, or even eventually mind controlling aliens to attack each other. These factors allow for a greater level of strategy than some might expect, but diversions and gunfire are pretty much it.

The story is well told, with only a couple of minor qualms. I did find Carter referring to Axis before I had been told the name, but I may have skipped a conversation line that indicated he knew it already. Being stuck in the base except when on missions does mean that some of the terror of being a tiny force facing the ever-progression invasion of the planet is reduced, but some of the conversations and soldier reactions do encourage the fear a little. Notes dotted around the maps and autopsy reports found around the lab in base add to the depth, but I did find myself wishing for sidequests in-mission, rather than simply doing the one thing and running from fight to fight.

The game is definitely an interesting experience, and I would recommend it to XCOM fans for the story it provides, and the look at the history before UFO: Enemy Unknown took place. However, don't go expecting the XCOM experience that you are used to. If you are a fan of Mass Effect-style games, then it is definitely worth a look - just don't expect the variety and expanse that those games offered. If you're new to the franchise, then maybe just give it a go and experience a new world told a different way.
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on 8 August 2015
It plays a lot like mass effect although without the complex conversation trees or strategy it's a good game. You're not going to be impressed by it but if you like the way that mass effect plays and how you order your troops to behave and perform actions in that game then you will enjoy this XCOM spin off. You will probably especially enjoy it if you feel invested in the XCOM world as the real time third person perspective that THE BUREAU plays in allows you to see enemy behaviours in ways that you wont have before.
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on 28 May 2014
a very enjoyable game in the mould of Mass effect 2 and 3. this is a tactical 3rd person shooter, not a run n gun type of game.
taking cover and flanking enemies and giving orders to your squad is essential for completing missions and staying alive.
if your team take too much damage, they will bleed out, fail to revive them in time wil result in Permadeath.

there are 4 classes of operatives; recon, Tech, Soldier, Support. each with their own sets of abilities to use in battle. the powers are great fun to use and without them would result in a quick death for all your squad and yourself, so using them smartly and giving orders in battle is essential. the action can get pretty hectic, but never to unmanageable degrees. even on Commander difficulty i managed to complete the final mission with only 1 ally after one died at the start of the final boss.

if you purchase the DLCs, the light plasma pistol is a life saver throught the game especially during missions 2-4 when you havnt unlocked many abilities, will get you out of tough situations on commander difficulty.

the settings are very nice, from forests, to farms, to towns and alien ships. no 2 levels will look or feel the same, i love the art design on the levels personally.

approximate playthrough time on hardest setting including DLC missions is around 20 hours. so its well worth the money. i just wish they had made more DLC.

if youre a fan of cover based tactical shooters, like ME3, Spec ops and are a fan of the Xcom series aswell, then this game is a must. dont get me wrong its not going to match ME. but its certainly one of the more enjoyable and well mechanically designed games out there. 4 stars.
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on 21 March 2014
If you like tactical shooters and sci-fi you should consider this game.

This is a 15+ hour game. My first playthrough took 17 hours. You have main missions as well as optional side missions.

The progression is mostly linear however towards the end you get to make choices that affects the ending. There are multiple endings.

The combat mechanics are based on what you had in the first Mass Effect game: you use a wheel to order your team around.

The Bureau is a tactical game where success depends on how well you manage your squad.
The gameplay is linear but not less so than other shooters like Max Payne 3, Binary Domain, Resident Evil 5 and so on.

You don't do any sort of facility management like you did in Enemy Unknown. This game is all about the combat.

Keep in mind that The Bureau is not an RTS.
It is irrational to compare the gameplay against Enemy Unknown since they don't even belong in the same gaming category.
It is like comparing Far Cry 3 to Forza makes no sense.
Instead the Bureau lies in the same category as Ghost Recon and Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway.

There's a wide variety of settings in the game. It is not the same map over and over.
Visually the settings were well designed and often looked quite spectacular. I was genuinely surprised by this.

True, what you do in each map is the same; you do combat. However that is true of every other shooter out there !!!
The whole point of a shooter IS the combat, that is what you buy them for.

Most importantly the combat never got boring for me.
Partly because the game is very challenging and demands tactical thinking, and partly because the abilities you get to use are great fun.

The abilities you can use are very cool, each soldier class has its own set of abilities:
* mind control to make an enemy attack it's own squad
* set-up turrets, place mines and a healing-bot
* shields barriers, taunts, scattering the enemy, critical snipe shot
* holographic decoys, lifting an enemy up into the air, force wave that blows the enemy away

You can send out members of your squad on their own missions. You unlock some of these missions by interacting with NPCs.

You manage your squad's weapons, abilities and gear. Most of the weapons are class specific. You can even decide the color of their clothes.

The game has the "Earth Invasion" heme, which is one of my favorite sci-fi themes.
The voice-acting was great however there are gaps in the flow of the narration, where things are not explained or not introduced in a logical manner.

The first half of the game will feel unoriginal, however towards the end the storyline got really cool and interesting.
It took me completely by surprise. It was awesome.

I also want to say that 'Declassified' gives the enemies much more personality than what other XCom games have done.
So as far as storylines and characters go this was a richer experience for me than the previous games were.
For this reason I feel that 'Declassified' complements the older games rather than opposes them.

The AI can be dumb at times: not take cover, gets stuck on things etc. You need to manage them all the time.
This is only a negative thing if you want to have little in Mass Effect 2 where hardly any management is actually needed.
If you want to have more control of your team then this is only a positive thing.

Ordering your team around feels clunky because the pointer that directs their movements has to follow objects in the environment.
For example you can't just move your pointer over the stairs, you need to follow the outline of the stairs and then click the destination point.
In other words physical objects in the environment determines how smoothly it feels to move your team around.
This was annoying for sure but was not a game-changer for me.

The game had a dialogue bug that forced me to reload the last save, but this only happened once in my entire playthrough.
There were a couple of audio bugs but these did not actually affect anything.
I don't remember any glitches - if there were any they must have been insignificant.

If you like tactical combat, shooters and sci-fi you should give it a chance.

With the DLC 'Hangar 6' you can add 3-4 hours of gameplay. It consists of a number of "arena fights", where you fight wave after wave of enemy attacks.
However there is a strong storyline component to what you do, which ties in with the core game. The DLC is meant as a prequel or introduction of sorts.
If you liked the combat in the core game you will like the DLC as well because it focuses even more on it. It is quite challenging too.
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on 14 April 2014
first it was billed in the vain of bioshock (story fps) then changed to a tactical third person shooter.

think of this game as mass effect lite. tactics,powers,alien horde with harvesting humanity story its all there.

if you loved mass effect franchise then play this. they do say copying is the sincerest form of flattery.
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on 27 August 2013
First off, disclaimer, I am only halfway through this game but felt it deserved a review. I have also played fulled Xcom Enemy Unknown which I believe to be a brilliant squad based tactical shooter.

That out of the way, I do not understand why people are complaining about this being a third person shooter. It's in the same universe as Xcom, but rather than being up above the action it actually puts you into it. If you bought it expecting otherwise I advise you to spend longer when picking what to buy.

I thought Enemy Unknown was brilliant, however I would not want this to be just a carbon copy but set in the 60s. How often do we as gamers complain for sequels/prequels etc just being more of the same? Plus, whislt Xcom franchise is known as a top down squad combat series, it has gone outside that previously.

In some ways it can be compared to Mass Effect (a series which I think is great), but I do think the combat is superior as it retains the requirement of tactics. If you play this like Mass Effect you will die. Mass Effect allows you to stand fairly in the open with your squad and fire at will. That will not work here. It keeps its roots in requiring a tactical mind to play. It is very rewarding to go into the tactical mode and quickly put a plan together to divert attention away whilst you flank the enemy. The rewards for doing so are just the same as in Enemy unknon.

The previously review states about losing agents is a pain, as you can not do anything about it, there is a load function that lets you restart any mission, and a number of autosaves (fortunately something I have not needed to use). I also think this game (so far) has a better and more engaging story. The main problem for me with Enemy Unknown was that you sent 4-6 faceless agents into battle. There was no character in them, so whilst you got attached to them, it was only for the abilities they had. The fact your character is a member of the story improves it.

Graphically it is on par with other games at the moment, soundwise too, the voice overs are good and the music suits the environments.
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on 17 September 2013
I should start off by saying that I have been playing games since the days of the Sinclair ZX81 and I have subsequently played more games and on a longer line of computer formats and consuls than I would care to admit or remember. I therefore feel that I've been around long enough to know a good game when I see one and spot when a title is given unfair treatment by reviewers who seem to be stuck in a linear mindset of one-size must fit all.

I loved X-Com Enemy Unknown. It was fresh, challenging and made you think. Nothing about Enemy Unknown should detract from the successes of The Bureau, which is also fresh, challenging and makes you think. It's such a shame that some reviewers award far lower scores than it actually deserve because it's compared against an expectation that nothing should be changed from the original formula. In other words fan-boys and fan-girls who presumably must have exactly one slice of toast, with 2.2grams of butter, 1.5 dollops of Robinson's shredded orange marmalade, one hard boiled egg (7.7cm circumference) and 353 ml of milk for their breakfast EVERY day, because change wouldn't be good.

The Bureau is a great game in its own right. Graphically the game creates a wonderful world full of tasteful pastel colour, great environments and detail that deserves recognition for what it does and how it makes the player feel drawn into the game. The game does a fantastic job of inviting you into a well thought out and portrayed sic-fi adventure that would be fitting of many a AAA movie, and is not too dissimilar in storyline to Independence Day. The vistas are lovely to look at and the 60's setting offers a welcome change to the humdrum of other game designs. The thought behind the overall theme and the atmosphere it creates is as good as any Bioshock or Mass Effect game. Later in the game the alien-ship architecture and technology together with glimpses of a stunning galaxy are on a par with, and often better than, many of the AAA movie titles you could think of.

The interaction between characters is very much like Mass Effect and once you've chosen a certain line of dialogue you want to pursue, I loved the slight twist on how your character delivers the message in the same way that the lead characters in Mass Effect did. Yes it's a simple development trick but one which captures your attention and satisfies you if you are even slightly interested in video games telling a story rather than just knocking on a 2ft thick plank of wood.

Controls are tight and the method of selecting skills, attributes and weapons is very simple and intuitive and never interfere with gameplay.

Yes, as some reviewers have pointed out, the selection of skills mid-fight does pause the 'action' but this is not an action game in the same genre as COD, it's a tactical shooter and one in which tactics need to be considered, actioned and then reconsidered and re-actioned to keep on top of the enemy onslaught. The enemy will try to flank you, then they introduce ones that can fly, so overhead becomes a problem too. If you accept that issuing orders and actually leading your team is a key focus on this game, you will automatically realise that the selection of skills mid-fight is not a hinderance but actually the core skill in the game. Where will you direct your team to take cover, what weapons should they deploy against who, which enemy needs to be taken out first, can you afford to ignore part of the battlefield in favour of tasking everyone to concentrate fire-power on just one foe, who needs medical attention, who is about to die, do you provide that medical attention yourself or direct a team member to do so? It's all down to you and you can approach a fight in any way you please.

Before you begin a mission you will choose which squad members to take with you. That choice will have a bearing on how easy or how successful you are in completing the mission. Each squad member can be levelled up through experience and you can choose which attributes and weapons they should carry with them.

Okay, so you cant upgrade weapons as such, but you can choose which weapons to take in a fight. As such you will be able to choose from rapid fire weapons with lots of ammo, laser weapons with medium impact and a decent amount of ammo or heavier plasma weapons which don't always have the range and many have limited ammo. You can upgrade certain elements of the squad's attributes. Generally that focusses on a choice of harder-hitting weapons or an ability to distract enemies or offer squad-healing abilities according to what you think would be most useful. To say there isn't choice is simply pants.

The Bureau can be challenging and on harder difficulty levels it demands real focus on your team and constant reassessment of risk and tactics. It can all become quite frantic at times. Once a mission is complete you'll return to base where a few discussions with other characters will take place. Again I found those visits to the base very interesting in developing the story and I spent a little time just soaking in the atmosphere of the very believable (in a sci-fi world) bunker and the people who work there. I do not agree with those who suggest the visits to base are long and drawn out and completely unnecessary. Why were they tedious guys? Because it tells a story rather than mindlessly hammering at a trigger every second of the game? Mmmmm....

Overall I rate this game very highly and would recommend it to those who love tactical shooters, Mass Effect and who love the XCom theme but who are open minded enough to accept that a new take on a theme can be hugely enjoyable without being a carbon copy with a new front cover?

A new adventure anyone? Or would you prefer a lemon-curd sandwich?
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on 13 May 2014
First I need to say that this game has been massively misrepresented as an XCOM game. It’s set in the XCOM universe but that’s the end of it.

Which is where the brunt of the negative reviews come from.

That aside.

This game is brilliant.

I will say give it enough time to get into the main story though, the first level doesn’t do the game justice. But it’s a 40 minute run to get past this “tutorial/prologue”.

If you’ve ever placed Spec Ops: the line or Mass Effect 2 or 3, you will definitely enjoy this game.

It’s a linear game with some RPG elements. But ultimately you’ll be commanding your squad to use there various skills and powers whilst utilising your own set of unique abilities on the battlefield to get the upper hand and overwhelm your foe.

The game has 4 side classes depending on your desired play style for your AI. They all come in handy but you’ll make short of most enemies on any difficulty if you play the game smart. Running in and trying to kill everything yourself is a sure fire way to end up bleeding out on the floor. Does feel like a second wind if you get a kill option should have been applied here but your allies should get you up without to much of an issue.

Storyline is pretty much run of the mill with some “surprise events” happening along the way. You won’t feel too attached to any of your allies or NPC’s in the game. But this doesn’t take from the fun of killing a load of aliens.

But for a short 10 hour stint this game is fun the DLC is cheap enough to warrant buying as well and this adds another 2-3 hours to the game but again is more of complete these 10 challenge missions which can be played separately to the main game.

I bought this game for £10 and feel I got more than my moneys worth, I wouldn’t at all have felt cheated if id paid £40.

Give it a go, if you don’t like it, well you’ve only wasted £10.
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on 2 September 2013
First off, I'm a big fan of the X-Com series, I was eager to play The Bureau. Then I started playing......., imagine a very weak Mass Effect, poor group dynamic, only four support (team mate) classes -you're stuck with the same class every time- and mediocre team mate abilities. Commanding your team (you and two team mates) is pretty good, using the command wheel, however, the fact that on higher difficulty settings you have to issue commands with an alarming frequency, it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the game, almost as much time is spent ordering your two goons as there is shooting. The game is pretty linear and there is no research at all, the fact that most of the guns are new designs, or plays on original designs is a positive and a negative. As a long time fan of the franchise some of the best bits is seeing (shooting) some of the old school bad guys (some, again, slightly reworked). Poor shooter that I think I completed only out of nostalgia for the originals. Poor form on 2k's behalf considering how long this has been in production and how many revamps this title has had, the first person shooter version must have been truly awful.
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