Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

XCOM Declassified is still a strategy game at heart

7:00 AM on 05.13.2013 // Hamza CTZ Aziz

Defend America against the foreign invaders

Following the huge success of last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown comes The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, the latest entry to the now revitalized franchise. Developer 2K Marin is bringing us an origin story set at the start of the alien invasion upon Earth, and unlike past XCOM titles, this one is presented through a third-person view.

Don't let the perspective change fool you though. XCOM at its heart has always, and will always, be about strategy; going around acting like a wreckless soldier in The Bureau will get you killed pretty quickly. Strategy is crucial, and you need to play smart if you hope to save the United States of America from the threat of alien enslavement.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Release: August 20, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

The Bureau is the never-before-told origin story of the XCOM organization. It was originally established to protect the US from foreign threats like the Soviet Union in the 1960s. But things quickly changed because of the alien invaders.

"One of the goals for the setting period is we're trying to get that juxtaposition of the America that we knew going into the '60s, leaving the idyllic '50s, and heading into a time of change," creative director Morgan Gray told us. "A lot of threat, the scare from the Soviet Union with their bombs pointed towards us, we're just past the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam lurks in the horizon. [We're] contrasting that known tension period of our history with the tension we never realized before, which is, aliens come in and attack and shake it all up."

You play as Agent William Carter, and as Carter you'll be making a lot of choices. A lot of the game centers around your special underground headquarters, where you'll be deciding what missions to take on, managing your agents, and seeing how the war against the aliens is progressing. The HQ features a big map of America that displays numerous current known alien conflicts. The campaign structure is semi-nonlinear, as opposed to your typical level-cutscene-level flowchart, meaning you actually get to choose where to go. There are the operation missions that form the main narrative, optional side missions, and the Dispatch missions, which I'll get to in a bit.

Agent Carter is never on his own, as you'll always have a team of agents to back you up. These agents are fully upgradable, can specialize in different fields (engineer, sniper, etc.), and are fully customizable. Decide what kind of gear they'll have, what weapons they'll use, what skills they'll learn, even what clothing they'll wear. And they will actually die if you don't manage them properly in the field -- yes, there is permadeath, and the loss of someone is meant to be significant. Things will get pretty tough further into the game if you don't have properly leveled agents on your team.

You have a max number of eight agents at all times, two that can go with you on missions and the other six benched at home. You can swap out agents at certain checkpoints during missions, so long as they're at home base, of course. See, while you're on main missions you can send other agents on Dispatch missions, where they'll be taking care of alien threats and leveling up on their own. It's a lot like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker's Outer Ops missions, except here micro-managing your soldiers will actually benefit you since they can come with you on outings.

Thankfully there's an assortment of alien tech at your disposal to stand a chance against the aliens. You'll gain cool special abilities thanks to your upgradable and interchangeable backpacks. One grants a pulse wave attack that knocks back enemies, and another lets you lift up a specific enemy into the air for a few minutes -- that one in particular is good for taking out stronger soldiers. Other backpacks provide health increase, shielding, experience booster, damage output increase, and more.

Once familiarized with my team, I jump into the mission demo, which takes place somewhere in the middle of the story. The US is now mounting a counter offensive against the invading forces, and this mission saw my team and I needing to meetup with another XCOM member, Agent DaSilva. He was sent out on an operation himself, but contact was lost and you need to go find out what happened.

The mission takes place in New Mexico, and on your way via helicopter, you can see a giant alien tower in the distance that you need to enter with DaSilva's help. Also on your ride in, you also see humans infected with the Sleep Walker, which basically turns them into mindless drones that are stuck in a loop where they keep repeating the same patterns, like a scratched CD that won't stop skipping. The virus also allows the aliens to turn humans into sleeper agents whenever needed, making infected humans a threat.

So who are the aliens exactly? They're called the Outsiders, humanoid-like aliens on a quest to conquer the galaxy. So far they've taken over quite a few alien races, like the Sectoids and Mutons from past XCOM games. Other races have been given slave collars wrapped around their necks, and they have no choice but to obey the Outsiders.

Once on the ground, it became immediately apparent how crucial using tactics was. Running straight into a conflict head-on will almost instantly cause you to bleed out, and you'll eventually die if not healed in time. You need to use cover and most of all Battle Focus to maneuver your team around like the master strategist you are.

Once you trigger Battle Focus, the action slows to a crawl and the camera can be moved around freely, allowing you to look at the entire combat area to decide what to do. From here you can decide where to move your men, tell them to flank positions, lure enemies from cover, determine who to attack, throw down mines, place laser turrets -- you have full control over what they'll do on the field.

It's super easy using the Battle Focus commands. Each agent has a command wheel that pops up so you can easily choose what they'll do, then you just fly around the map and select what happens where. While the action is crawling, there's still some level of tension at play. Things are still happening, and you have to make decisions on the fly lest you or your teammates die. You also have some quick command actions tied to the D-pad so you can tell your teammates to move/attack a specific object or to regroup without having to jump into Battle Focus.

One of the bigger battles has a great mix of aliens. Outsiders are shooting back from a safe distance, supported by their own Commander that could summon in protective barriers. At the same time, the Sectoids are advancing the field, while the black goo creature that we've seen from the earlier versions of 2K Marin's XCOM are coming right at us like crazed attack dogs. To add icing to the cake, a Muton gets summoned in last before the battle was finally over, and it is in that calm I finally remembered to breathe.

With The Bureau, you are right there in the heart of the battle with your men, as opposed to being this God-like figure that's removed from the battlefield. "We've taken a look at the XCOM franchise and we looked at what we consider the pillars of the franchise," Morgan stated, "which for us is team tactics, tools, technology, terror, tension -- there's a lot of Ts that all fall into that.

"Obviously looking at 1994's original XCOM, we wanted to find that translation of that game. How would that translate into something that would possibly bring a new audience into the XCOM family, let them experience XCOM in a way that fans have never seen it before, or new people who might be of the mind that they don't like turn-based games -- and they're wrong because turn-based games rock -- would finally go, 'Well that's something I'm into, I like the thought of using cover, I like having to make decisions on the fly as the bullets go'?

"So our goal was to go, what is that core of that XCOM experience, how does it translate into this new perspective? We wanted to move beyond the 'I have a God's eye view, I'm looking at my squad below, and I am personally removed from the damage' and now to 'I'm a coach, I'm on the field with my men.'"

After a few encounters, my team and I meet up with DaSilva and things aren't looking good for him. His squad was wiped out and he's been infected with the Sleepwalker virus. There's a dialogue tree allowing you to grill him about what's happened, and eventually you'll come to a point where you have to make a decision. DaSilva offers himself up as a distraction against the Outsiders, which will in all likelihood get him killed, so you and the team can enter the alien base. You can either let him come along or send him back to HQ so the boys at home can research a cure for the Sleepwalker Virus.

There will be choices you have to make, some that will have immediate effects and others that will affect the storyline. In this case, I choose to send DaSilve back to HQ, thus finding a cure for the virus and saving infected humans.

Our hands-on time was short, but I didn't need long to tell that I really liked The Bureau. I love the mix of being right there in the action, and at the same time needing to be quick on my feet making decisions on the fly. There's a sense of urgency that you feel from having to make decisions while there's terror coming from you in every direction. There's stress, sure, but there's also instant gratification once you've won an encounter, and that's exactly what I enjoy when it comes to strategy games.

Photo Gallery: (7 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

  Aug 08

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified devs discuss art style

New developer diary focuses on tone and visuals

  Jul 27

Dominic Monaghan is an agent for The Bureau

The LOST and LOTR star is the hunter or is he the prey?

  Jul 22

This trailer for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is spooky

And that's not just because it has a clown in it.

  Jul 17

The Bureau: XCOM walks a tightrope of strategy and action

Now if we can just get some psionics in here...

  Jun 19

Post-release DLC for The Bureau hits Xbox 360 first

And a first look at the 'Codebreakers' bonus mission

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Little Slice of Childhood

Top 5 Reasons Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 IS AWESOME!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

Things I'm Thankful For

Cblogs of 11/25/15 + Turkey N Stuff

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Played all of Life is Strange today in one sitting. Bloody hell. You should all play it. Only game this year to make me cry. Bravo developers. Possibly the most valuable thing I've ever bought for £10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Last night, got farther than ever in Wasteland 2. This is my third playthrough-once thru beta, once through the orig version, now on Directors cut. Worth the restart, and it speaks highly of the game that I like it enough to do this. DAMONTA HERE I COME!
KeithTheGeek avatarKeithTheGeek
GUYS HELP I KEEP BUYING MORE AMIIBO. Today it was Little Mac, since he went back up on Gamestop's website. I probably would have gotten Captain Falcon as well if I wasn't already running a little short on cash.
BigDoniel avatarBigDoniel
50 hours in and I can safely say that Xenoblade is the best JRPG I've played in years. Should hopefully be finished in time for X too!
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -