The Bureau: XCOM Declassified: Some Thoughts


     When I first saw the original (during early development) teaser trailer for The Bureau, then simply titled XCOM, it was a strange and promising first person shooter. (See video below)  Taking the old XCOM strategy and making something new out of it.  Once that was released, there was a massive backlash from fans, and it was changed, and those rabid diehards were sated with XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  All the negative criticisms caused setbacks, and it ultimately hurt this title in the long haul.  In the end what we got from The Bureau still had the great concepts of a game, just much less realized than it should have been.  

     By holding the XCOM name in a death grip, this game damn near suffocated because of constricted creative freedom.  Think of what could've been done if it took a bit more from 2K's Bioshock games.  It had a wonderful retro 60's feel laced with all the eerie horror you could want.


     ...and a dash of X-Files horror and wrapped in a nice Mass Effect suit of N7 armor.
     What I don't understand is how they lost hold of the investigative aspect of the game.  You are given access to a hidden base with all manner of space and technology, but all you have to do is pick things up.  Where's all the customization?  Why can't you choose which abilities you'd like to hone or which weapons to design?
     It seems odd that the starting point for developing reverse engineered alien technology was set up with the various Bureau research areas (the lab, armory, etc.) but they aren't ever used.
     It also makes me wonder about the useless permadeath.  Being an XCOM staple it should've meant more.  When a character dies off, it doesn't matter because you've got a generic agent dispenser at the Bureau's HQ.  One of 4 types that can be only minutely customized can be spit out fairly swiftly, and leveled up while you are out on your own missions.


     When they took on the 1960's era they opened for themselves a perfect starting point.  All the cold war paranoia being subverted by a something much, much worse- an alien invasion.  Idyllic suburban America is a wonderful place to begin sowing the seeds of suspicion and distrust.  A menace that threatens people from beyond the known world.  The enemy should have remained mostly unknown in this game- an obscure enemy in the shadows.  Abstract chaos.
     The Bureau wanted to be world changing, it wanted to be too big.  They should've pulled back from the global and cosmic scale and focused on the smaller scale.  Tighten up the story and let fear work it's magic through atmosphere.  Slow paranoia growth makes more sense for the early XCOM days, as scout ships would be arriving and surveying the land, possibly abducting individuals.
     How different would the game have been if instead of shooting horde waves, you had to track one small gray Sectoid for the first level?  Gather intel and find weak points because in that time period a single one of these can pose a real problem.  And during this hunt you would be encountering all the body-snatcher-esque, zombie-like townsfolk and having to deal with them as the typical game fodder.
     Hell- they could even send agents out to quash conspiracy theorists that have obtained alien tech as sub-missions.

     Isn't this supposed to be about the humble start of a secret agency and the deniable operations of an Area 51 based organization?  The game would evolve from using your simple crap pistols in the beginning to kill one simple Sectoid, to using a hijacked Sectopod to take down a rampaging Muton.
     It would've been amazing if you had to follow leads to small towns and investigate things.  Building tension as the story progressed and only at the end facing a large group of enemies, thus utilizing all the wealth of acquired skills and weapons.

     If they somehow manage to make a sequel to The Bureau, they should take some lessons from The Last of Us (enemy difficulty/strategy), Dead Space (atmosphere), and Mass Effect (a decent story and dialogue trees).  They pilfered the crap out of Mass Effect already, so why not a little bit more?


     I mentioned that they had the beginnings of something great.  I really do think that, it just felt like some things were missing.  Where did all the filler go?  The core was there, and it felt like it was on it's way to somewhere special, but they got kind of lost and confused, and they never quite made it to where it wanted to go- it never reached true completion.  One last delay and large dose of polish could've made this game a true gem.  As is was, I enjoyed a weekend with this game.

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