The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - 5 things you should know

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified's live-action trailer published at the end of April marked its third "reveal" since 2010. Back then, it was... let's say poorly-received by fans. In the past 3 years however, we've seen the release of a "real" XCOM update for strategy fans with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which has helped smooth the way for a different take on the franchise, albeit a rather US-centric retconned version.

I spoke to senior producer Nico Bihary from 2k about the game's story and the noticable similarities between this version and last year's Enemy Unknown. Watch the interview and gameplay footage here and you'll recognise many of the enemies and UI symbols.

Here's what I learned from getting hands-on with the game:

1. It's a shooter set in the US

The Bureau is now a third-person shooter with tactical elements. Set during the 60s, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US has been building up their defenses, anticipating invasion by the Russian. Instead, the aliens came and the anti-espionage Bureau was forced to change their focus over to alien research.

I played a 30-minute hands-on demo, taking our protagonist William Carter, into battle to rescue fellow agent Da Silva who vanished along with his team on a mission in Pima, New Mexico.
Off we go to Pima and it's all American suburbia – bungalows, gardens, school buses. Only the houses are destroyed, cars have jumped the kerb into the gardens and the school bus has a large "Evacuation" banner hanging from the side and has smashed into a wall. These aliens were on a terror mission and it looks like they succeeded.

XCOM fans will know that the XCOM initiative has always been a global programme with funding from many nations. I'm choosing to believe that this story is simply the US's story of what caused them to opt into the programme. I will be very unimpressed if the story ends in a U-571-style Americanisation of them founding the entire XCOM programme.

2. You can customise your three-man squad.

The Bureau XCOM Declassified- William Carter
The Bureau XCOM Declassified- William Carter

Prior to each mission you pick two squad members. Each team member has a class and gains new skills when leveling up:

  • Engineer: Land mines and turrets

  • Commando: Taunts and more aggressive powers

  • Recon: Sniper

  • Support Officer: Medic

Everyone wears a backpack that imbues powers and healing from the technology you research back at the base. Squad members will gain XP throughout the missions from combating aliens and discovering new technology. You can't change their hair or faces but you can customise their names and pick the colour of their clothes or camo. I put my William Carter in a natty Michael Jackson-inspired combo of black shirt, trousers and white vest. He looks good on the field and, rather more importantly, I no longer think of LA Noire's Cole Phelps every time I see him.

At certain points in a mission, you'll come across a resupply crate where you can change weapons, switch your loadout and, bizarrely, swap members of your squad in and out. We'll deduct points for realism but carry on regardless because it's a game. Game logic. You can't switch the individual colours on real-world camouflage clothing either.

3. You control your squad directly

The command wheel (known as Battle Focus) looks and behaves a lot like Mass Effect's. Your three squad members have different sections of the wheel and it merely slows down the action, never pausing the game. Where everyone in Mass Effect is effectively a one-person army, The Bureau places much more emphasis on working with your teammates. Use the engineer to lay down a mine and get your commando to taunt enemies into it.

You also need to specify where they stand and what they shoot. If they kill an enemy they'll keep shooting away at whatever's nearby but they'll also ask for orders. Constantly. They'll also come running to resuscitate you if you go down. Make sure you do the same for them because if they die, they're gone along with all their training.

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