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Customer Review

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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