The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Preview
XCOM is a well-known name in video game history. It enjoyed a triumphant return with last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was a stellar, addictive title that featured an engrossing blend of action and strategy. Now, developer 2K Marin is poised to issue another franchise reboot of sorts: It’s called The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and it deals with – as you might’ve expected – an alien invasion. But what can we expect in regards to storyline and gameplay? Is it going to be similar to Enemy Unknown or is this an altogether different beast?
Well, let’s start with the plot and main character. We will play as William Carter, a member of the early XCOM team that will eventually become kinda like the Men in Black. It’s 1962 and the Earth has been invaded by The Outsiders, a race of aliens that demand obedience. First on the agenda is a job for Carter and his crew; they’re to investigate the death of a fellow agent. That’s when things begin to unravel and you soon start to realize that humankind is in danger. As for the aforementioned gameplay question, let’s just say that when the sh** hits the fan, you won’t be facing a generic, simplified third-person shooter. Thankfully.
You will directly control Carter but more importantly, you will issue commands to your team. Selecting just the right order from a pop-up radial menu will be critical to success; perhaps best of all, time will slow so you can think and strategize. Positioning your allies will also be essential, and then you can assign them priority targets and select special abilities. There will be multiple classes with which to experiment, and your team should work together to bring down the opposition. For instance, you’ll be able to taunt the aliens to lure them out of cover, and employing other resources – like a remote-operated turret, for example – is a good idea.
The reason you have such amazing abilities is thanks to reverse-engineered technology. Yes, we’ve taken a little of what the aliens have brought, and have worked to turn it against them. All agents in the field will have unique capabilities, so make sure to examine each situation carefully. You’ll have to be careful, though— stick to cover, issue your commands conservatively to start, and only advance when it appears safe to do so. Why is it so critical for you to be cautious? Because when a member of your team dies, he’s gone for good. Death is indeed permanent, unfortunately, so you’re going to have to compensate for that challenge.
The cool part is that you can level up your agents by sending them off on Dispatch Missions. They will be in circulation and you’ll be able to extract them for use whenever necessary. This reminds me of the training missions on which you could send assassins in Assassin’s Creed. They were easy and effective, and they resulted in better allies that just get deadlier with every passing day. You’ll keep tabs on everything at XCOM headquarters so when the action hits the streets, you should be ready. To sum up, this one looks like it’ll be great for franchise fans. This mix of action and strategy is definitely appealing on a number of different levels.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified launches in North America for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on August 20.
5/13/2013 Ben Dutka