The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review by HolyHalfDead

08 Jul 2016 27 Oct 2017
11 1 5
When The Bureau: XCOM Declassified was officially announced in 2010 as a FPS, it was not well received by fans of UFO: Enemy Unknown (PC, 1994) and X-COM: Terror From The Deep (PC, 1995), both of which were created by Julian Gollop and published by MicroProse. The release of The Bureau was delayed several times from it's original 2011 release date to August 2013, and went from a FPS to a TPS. During that time 2K Games released XCOM: Enemy Unknown which was a remake of the 1994 game, and what many fans of the series really wanted.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a cross of Prey (2006), Mass Effect and BioShock 2. It obviously shares the same background as the X-COM and XCOM games. You get to meet Sectoids and Mutons up close and personal. You operate from a base, that has Laboratories and Engineering sections. However that is where the similarities end as this is not a TBS, so if that is all you are interested in you can skip this game, and the rest of the review.

The story-line is based on alien invasion and abductions, and the horror of experiencing this first hand, hence my comparison to Prey (2006). As well as being a TPS, you have two squad members with you on every mission. Whilst you can just leave them to it, you will make them much more efficient by bringing up a command wheel that slows game time and issuing them orders. There are four different squad member classes, each with a different focus on combat and support. They can also revive you if you are downed and they get to you before you bleed out, which can save restarting from the checkpoint. Between missions there is time to explore and have conversations. Your dialogue choices will make subtle differences to the story-line. Those who have played Mass Effect will be familiar with this. The early 1960's alternative universe, and visual elements in the game have a lot in common with BioShock 2, which should come as no surprise since it is also from 2K Marin.

Graphics and Audio
I like their imagining of a 1960s United States under alien invasion. The human models are detailed and lifelike, and there is a varied range of alien types. The levels are detailed, with good depth and clarity. Watery areas are done well, but you come to expect that from the BioShock people. I didn't experience any area transitioning delays, although I do play my games from the hard-drive. The character voices overs are good, as is the atmospheric background music.

It is possible to get all the achievements in a single play-through if you are prepared to start on Commander difficulty. If you have a thorough play style, you will pick up all the achievements naturally. But if you prefer sticking to just the main story-line, you will need to pay attention to the achievement descriptions, or you may not meet their requirements. The game has a level select, so if there are any achievements you do not get by the end of the game, at least you don't need to start the game again from the very beginning, only from the point where you first missed the requirements of that achievement. There are audio logs and collectables during the missions and between missions but there are no achievement tied to these.

After seven play-throughs of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM: Enemy Within combined, I didn't really need more of the same from this "prequel". I thoroughly enjoyed the original X-COM games and the BioShock games, so I was certainly interested enough in the premise of this game to pick it up. If you are prepared to spend the time on all the optional side conversations and collectables that give background information, you will become more engaged with the characters and the fate of humankind. I think if I had played this straight after Mass Effect 3 or BioShock Infinite I perhaps would have given it a lower score, however it is the only game of that style that I have played this year.

It is now $20 on the Xbox Marketplace, although you can pick up a new copy for half that fairly easily. If it was a game you overlooked at the time of it's release, it is worth considering at that price. I certainly felt enough love for it that I took the time to write this review.
Evil GenieExcellent review! Has all the useful information I like to see in a review. Great job!
Posted by Evil Genie On 08 Jul 16 at 23:28
misfit119Informative review. A few critiques. I think you could have given more info on the gameplay. Like mentions of the various class abilities and stuff. Other than that, good review. Really enjoyed this game for what it was - a solidly above average third person shooter that has almost nothing to do with Xcom.

Oh and there were actually three X-com games (you didn't mention Apocalypse), two spinoffs and even an email game. Good times back in the day.
Posted by misfit119 On 09 Jul 16 at 00:41
HolyHalfDeadThanks for your comments toast I was surprised how long this review got, just by covering everything I wanted to mention. "A solidly above average third person shooter that has almost nothing to do with Xcom." shares my sentiment.

I do remember all those other X-COM games, but some of those weren't as well received either ;)
Posted by HolyHalfDead On 09 Jul 16 at 00:59
BigNev44Well done HHD, for a 1st review, you went into a lot of detail and gave examples of the old PC games, especially if people want to look into playing them now, I bought the bundle from a Steam sale 4 years ago cause I fell in love with Enemy Unknown.

Gllad to see more fans of the series, still counting down the days for XCOM 2 on the X1 in September.
Posted by BigNev44 On 09 Jul 16 at 01:43
Dresden N7Great review, thumbs up!

(I would change one thing: mentioning the two BioShock Infinite achievements is unnecessary. You can end the sentence right before the word "unlike".)
Posted by Dresden N7 On 09 Jul 16 at 08:04