2K Marin's first-person XCOM reboot, first shown in 2010, has undergone some changes:
1) It's now a third-person tactical shooter slated for a $59.99 retail release on August 20 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
2) It's retitled The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.
3) Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown already rebooted the franchise, so The Bureau is an origin story instead of a reboot.
The Bureau unravels the origins of XCOM, before the organization had state-of-the-art technology, foreign agents, or even knew what it was up against. The story follows intelligence agent William Carter, who finds himself employed by an agency that secretly investigates Russia. It's 1962, the height of the Cold War, and America suspects the Soviet Union has nukes that aren't going to go unused. These rising tensions are quickly transposed when alien bodies arrive, redirecting the agency's efforts.
Much of what was shown and said about the 2010 and 2011 demos of XCOM (the shooter) remain true with The Bureau. The game divides its missions with trips to the underground headquarters where salvaged alien tech can be used to gain advantages in combat. There will also be optional sidequests, including the Codebreakers pre-order missions.
Like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the player will direct teammates who can permanently die. Like Gearbox's similar FPS/RTS-hybrid Brothers in Arms, the player can't run into combat with guns blazing and find success. The player must apply Battle Focus, which lets the them take tactical control: command allies to take cover, move position, or attack certain enemies.
The Bureau associate producer Andrew Dutra says XCOM is about being a hero without playing Rambo. "A soldier is gone for good," Andrew told me. "Our war doesn’t stop for you. Each mission moves the campaign and plot forward. You can’t grind. Consequences have actions."
Dutra confirmed to me that the leaked images from October were legit but from an earlier, unpolished version of the game. The images did confirm one of the biggest transitions from the original reveal to its current retitling announcement: a change in perspective.
"We've been taking that vision from 2011, iterating on it and making it into a full game," Dutra said about the impressive E3 2011 demo. "One big transition is getting away from the third-person and first-person mix. We just went all in with third person for battlefield awareness. The DNA of what we showed there was team tactics in real time. We’ve been refining it and getting it ready for primetime."
Though we have yet to get hands-on, at least in theory The Bureau sounds like the best of both worlds. Fans of the previous trailers will still get the cool atmosphere, 1962 setting, and accessible combat. Fans of the original XCOM and Firaxis' recent reboot will get the tension (via permadeath), tactics, and same world.
"People turned off by turn-based games will get something a little more action-packed and approachable," Dutra said.
I'm especially interested to see how The Bureau sets up the world and organization of Enemy Unknown and how deeply tied together the two games will be. Maybe we'll even see DLC content for Enemy Unknown that takes place in The Bureau's 1962, or vice versa.
I'm glad that we are getting a world where both of these titles can exist. Now I'm hoping I live in a world where both titles are successful.