Game review: The Bureau: XCom Declassified

Game review: The Bureau: XCom Declassified

Rating: 7/10
$64.90 (PC); $72.90 (Xbox 360, version tested); $74.90 (PS3)
Action shooter

You may have just survived a massive 90-minute battle and killed off two dozen nasty aliens trying to cut you down to size, but there is nary a scratch on your body and your hat remains remarkably unmolested at the top of your head. You are Agent Carter, America's best secret agent in 1962, at a time when the extra-terrestrial threat has become a reality and you are part of America's - and possibly the world's - first and last line of defence.

If it sounds a lot like XCom: Enemy Unknown, that is because it is XCom. The Bureau goes back to the past when humanity first discovers they are truly not alone. The story kicks off with CIA agent Carter making his way to a military base to deliver a package. But when an alien infiltrator kills Carter and opens the package, the alien artefact magically heals Carter and imbues him with special powers. The aliens wipe out all major military bases and Carter escapes to a secret base which the Americans have been preparing for years to face the Soviet threat.

Together with his team of secret agents, dapper Carter must discover and stop the alien threat. The washed-out colour palette of this beautifully painted world is reminiscent of the Bioshock Infinite style of graphics, which is no surprise as both games come from the same publisher.

Unlike the trademark turn-based strategy of Enemy Unknown, the Bureau is a third-person shooter for the thinking dude. You can take along two of your teammates with you at any time to help you even the odds.

This is not another point-and-shoot game as you need to use your team's powers to defeat the enemy. Some really cool powers include lifting the enemy out of cover and into the air, summoning aliens to attack and distract its brethren so that you can attack safely from a distance, setting up rocket turrets and blasting enemies back with a pulse wave.

The game is very tough, even at the default level. A single mission can last for more than an hour and ammunition is often limited. You can make use of human as well as alien weapons. But you will soon discover that the aliens' versions are a lot better.

The early stages of the game can be impossibly difficult, but things start to look brighter when you rise a few levels up and start unlocking higher-level power. Charging into the fray is almost certainly a death wish and survival requires a combination of shooting skills and some strategic play.

The mysterious plot develops slowly but with great suspense as you try to figure out the secret behind the aliens and a mysterious infection that is turning humans into zombie-like "Sleepwalkers". However, with only nine main missions to clear, the game ends too quickly and just as the pace starts to quicken.

Your teammates are pretty dumb, which means you either waste a lot of time commanding them around the battlefield or you can take matters into your hands and Rambo down the enemy. Still, your buddies are not totally useless as they can bring forth rocket turrets, lay mines and distract the enemy from gunning you down.

The Bureau will not be as big a success as last year's Enemy Unknown but it is a decent game which will provide hours of fun for fans of alien hunting. It is just not spectacular.

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