Becoming a Critic – The Bureau : X-Com Declassified

The-Bureau-XCOM-Declassified-2

 

image credit: http://www.vg247.com/2013/05/13/the-bureau-xcom-declassified-screens-show-teamwork-aliens/

The game I’ve chosen to critique is a pretty recent game that was released earlier this year, The Bureau: X-Com Declassified.The Bureau is a basic 3rd person shooter with a cover mechanic and a squad command system for directing AI teammates, it’s meant to be a prequel to the X-Com RTS games and is set in 1950’s America in the midst of an Alien Invasion. I was looking forward to this game for a long time despite the negative buzz surrounding turning an RTS game into a 3rd person cover shooter, and after having played I find myself…underwhelmed and unsatisfied as most other people who played it found as well. The game itself is not bad in fact it’s actually pretty fun for the most part and the underlying mechanics are pretty solid, the cover system works as well as other shooters, the shooting works pretty well and the squad command and power usage actually work even better than other games that utilize it like Mass Effect. That is the main problem with the game it is exceedingly average and un-inventive, all of it’s mechanics are either lifted from other games or done much better in other games, in fact The Bureau mechanics-wise is almost a carbon copy of Mass Effect even if it’s squad command mechanics are slightly better. The Bureau also makes the pitfall of being a single player game despite it’s gameplay and mechanics being ripe for local multiplayer which lessens the replayability of the game and is an under-utilization of the potential of it’s mechanics. The objectives of the game are as exceedingly average as the rest of the game, with the objective of pretty much every level once stripped down to it’s core is to run and gun through each level to reach and end objective, which is rarely engaging and becomes repetitive extremely fast. With uninventive mechanics and bland objectives the only thing that could help The Bureau is the story and characters, which once again are bland and generic. The story is reminiscent of pretty much all alien invasion films (especially and bizarrely the movie Independence Day), I found myself not really caring as I blasted my way through alien hoards with the shockingly small array of weaponry. The main characters themselves and the player avatar are incredibly dull with only a few artificial attempts to inject any form of personality into any of them throughout the entire game and I found myself not caring when one of them died or was in danger. The Bureau has a hackneyed plot, uninventive mechanics and very dull characters all in all it is barely engaging enough for players to make it through the campaign.

I can see what the developers were trying to do, they were trying to broaden the X-Com series audience by turning into a 3rd person shooter that would appeal to a lot more to the general gaming audience and gamers who did not grow up with the X-Com series. RTS games aren’t exactly the most popular form of video game and making X-Com into a 3rd person shooter would definitely make the series more accessible to the players of this generation, but the developers fumbled the ball. Early on in this games development it was planned and even shown to be a first person shooter, but severe fan backlash forced them to redesign the game to have RTS elements, hence the squad command mechanic. I don’t know if it was having to redesign the game from the ground up or executive meddling or other assorted problems but it’s clear that the developers did not have the time to get the game as it good as it had the potential to be. Instead of successfully making a 3rd person shooter that was faithful to the series it was based on and had the best elements from it represented well, all the developers made was a watered down version of Mass Effect with references to X-Com. The Bureau: X-Com Declassified is only worth a players time if they feel like playing a Gears of War/Mass Effect – esque game.

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