Graphics:
6.5
Gameplay:
6.4
Sound:
7.0
Control:
6.9
Replay Value:
6.6
Overall Rating:
6.7
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
2K Games
Developer:
2K Marin
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Action/Strategy
Release Date:
August 20, 2013


XCOM: Enemy Unknown offered gamers a compelling blend of action and real-time strategy, and it was continuously intense, inventive and engaging. One would’ve hoped to find similar qualities in the recent spin-off, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified , but unfortunately, it doesn’t capture any of the emotional bonuses we enjoyed in Enemy Unknown . The narrative is actually solid but the gameplay, despite the requisite depth, often feels monotonous and tedious.

From a graphics standpoint, The Bureau doesn’t necessarily excel in any one area. There are some nifty special effects you’ll encounter when on the battlefield (alien technology can generate eye-catching space-age phenomena), and the cut-scenes aren’t bad. But much of the presentation is dark and foreboding and as a result, we start to feel bogged down by the atmosphere. On the plus side, the developers really went all out creating an alternate reality that looks like the US in 1962. I appreciate the obvious effort and I have to admit, this environment is one of the few truly compelling elements of the game.

Technically speaking, it’s not the most advanced game you will ever see, but it works. That analysis holds for the sound as well: We get plenty of solid voiceover performances along with a host of special effects to accompany those flashy alien-created visuals. The soundtrack is actually great, as it fits the motif beautifully and – while a tad offbeat – keeps us ensconced in this alternate reality. But the thing is, you’re always focusing so heavily on what you have to do, that you actually start to ignore the graphics and audio; they’re there, but you’re just so intent on the task at hand.

And of course, that tends to happen when you’re involved in any form of virtual strategy. While The Bureau is essentially a strategic third-person shooter, the depth and robust micromanagement will definitely satisfy the RTS fans. Well, provided they’re willing to take part in various activities not normally associated with the genre. There is some covering and firing but the majority of your time will be spent at HQ, accepting new orders and prepping for confrontations, and on the battlefield, continually appraising the situation and issuing commands. It’s relatively straightforward at first but as you progress, everything becomes much more complex.

You and your teammates gain experience, level up, and earn new abilities on the skill trees. It’s not just about executing those hard-earned skills, though; it’s about performing them at the appropriate times. Furthermore, while you will start off simply healing your allies and trying to keep them alive, you’ll eventually have a plethora of options from which to choose. Airstrikes are always fun, but so is setting laser turrets and confusing foes to fire on their buddies. On top of which, you don’t keep the same two allies throughout the story, as you can hire new teammates. They can also be customized and deployed as you see fit.

The first problem arises with the fact that these alternate buddies aren’t all that distinct. Even though you can control their progress, you don’t ever feel as if you need an agent’s particular abilities. However, at the same time, if you lose him in combat (and when you do, he’s gone for good), you really miss that ally. Not because he was specifically critical to your plan of attack, but simply because it was another body that fired bullets and responded to orders. After trying out several new agents, I started to question the purpose; why not just stick with the original guys? This limits the scope of the depth and will disappoint strategy aficionados.