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on August 21, 2013
I imagine that's exactly how this game came to be. 2K games was in the maternity ward, Firaxis Games at her side, both awaiting the arrival of their second XCOM child. "It's Beautiful," said 2K as she passed the child to Firaxis for inspection... but then.... then Firaxis started noticing that the child looked a lot like Mass Effect. "It's in your head," 2K repeatedly assured him. But he couldn't shake it, and eventually 2K sobbingly confessed to one night... a drunken mistake with Mass Effect. "I want no part in it!" screamed Firaxis as he stormed out of 2K's life. Alas, what's bad for Firaxis and 2K's overly-contrived-metaphorical marriage isn't necessarily bad for us.

The Good:

Gameplay: I suspect this will probably be high on a lot of people's "Bad" list, but I rather enjoyed it. It's nowhere near a normal XCOM game, so if that's what you're after you should probably pass this up. Rather, this plays very much like mass effect. It's a third-person tactical shooter. Like mass effect you use the same button to sprint and take cover, you can pause game to issue commands (not pause really, but ultra slow motion) to your squad and you have conversation decision points to help get information and drive dialog. Your squad doesn't seem to use abilities on their own, which is arguably good and bad. It means you won't have your squadmates using their special abilities at stupid times and thus forcing a cooldown, but it also means if you slack off on the micro-management they aren't really helping. I like that you can queue up commands, so for flanking bonus you can tell them to cloak, go behind enemy and snipe. Then it's hands off, they will go do those three things. No doubt about it, you will lose some of the tactical aspects when genre-shifting; but I personally think they found a nice balance.

Story: While not nearly as broad in scope as something like Mass Effect, it fits nicely into the XCOM universe. You'll see a lot of familiar units and weapon concepts, but being set in the early 1960's, it also has a lot of different stuff which I think contributes nicely to the game. In games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown you can build a base, but in this game you can walk around and interact with people in the base. I enjoy getting more immersed in games like this but it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

The Bad:

XCOM: As I said above, it doesn't bug me at all, but it will bug many many people to call this XCOM. This game is to XCOM what Halo Wars was to Halo. (Full disclosure, I liked Halo Wars too) That is to say, it takes a well-loved franchise with a clear formula and completely changes the type of game it is. XCOM has been around forever, and it's been a turn-based tactical strategy game with base-building included. Now it's a tactical shooter. Some people won't make that jump, and I don't blame them. If they'd somehow made this an MMORPG I certainly wouldn't be onboard, but I was fortunate enough that they made it into another genre that I appreciate so it all works out. If you don't like games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age you definitely will not like this game no matter how much you love XCOM itself.

Misc: It seems like every game needs to have a protagonist with a low-gruff-raspy voice... it's how you know that your character means business. Oh, and it helps if his direct family died and he somehow blames himself, so you can give him a kind of "I can't let this happen again" mentality. Complete with cliches like "I work alone" and "I don't play by the rules," character development is often boring and predictable. I'm not really docking much for this, as it's an area that most developers pay very little attention; but I wish games would put forth the extra effort.

Summary: This game is worth it if you go into it with the right expectations. Go in knowing it's not like Enemy Unknown, and preferably having an appreciation for the other similar games described above. I haven't really browsed other reviews, but I imagine there will be quite a few negative ones. Some will say they tried to be 2-3 different genres and didn't master any of them, and they're right. That said, it's still a fun game for me and if you're still interested after reading about its potential disappointments, I'd say wait for it to go on sale and give it a try.
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VINE VOICEon August 20, 2013
The Bureau follows just after the founding of XCOM, with supporters wanting to use the agency to fight the commies and others trying to turn attention to the mysterious Outsiders. Agent Carter is tasked by the director of the Bureau to deliver a briefcase with and artifact to the Bureaus HQ. Along the way, he is attacked by an infected Air Force lieutenant, and when he recovers, the artifact is gone, and Earth is under attack.

Thus you are dropped into XCOM: The Bureau(I really think the title works better that way), a rather fast-paced intro followed by a well put together plot of the more insidious alien invasion that preambles Enemy Unknown.

Graphics are well detailed, and the battle overlay is very well done. Colors fade out but enemies are highlgihted brightly, and it creates a kind of tunnel vision. You can't just pause and plot your moves: you have to be aware of the environment and know what orders to give rather than just waffle about, because you could lose track of that piece of cover you wanted to move to when its all muted grays. And the battle plan doesn't fully pause, so you can't just rely on it to give you oodles of spare time to make a plan. And Carter actually calls the orders, a nice touch given the normal system is just understood to be telepathy. Backgrounds are rich and varied, and you feel like you're traveling through an underground government bunker or a high school without feeling like its a series of cookie cut and pasted rooms.

Audio is great, and a huge improvement in my mind over Enemy Unknown to have more than just a handful of voiced characters. Not to give away plot points, but you definitely pay more attention to what people say since theres a chance they may be sleeper agents. They also worked well to create a language for the aliens, and its so eerie that you kind of shudder when you hear it clearly for the first few times.

The storyline is very creepy, and definitely has more of an X-files feel rather than a Mars Attacks! one, and the tone and overall creepiness of the game is so organic that hearing an Outsider bark out orders in their sibilant tongue can give you a startle scare when you're creeping through a bunker.

The only nits I have are with specific items. The character faces are so detailed they can look weird when they talk, kind of like watching a Mr. Ed episode. The enemies drop in from surprising and annoying points at times, and in XCOM they'd do a cutaway to let you know you had another enemy squad apporaching, the only way you know about it this time is when an agent screams for help. Some of the abilities are overpowered, and you'll quickly come to rely on the deployable turrets. Cover is dicey. You'd think a brick wall would be better than a car for cover, but you'd be wrong. Theres should have been a more "covering fire" ability particularly for Carter, since its when you're moving from cover to cover that your agents will become bullet magnets.

Overall, this is great. Series fans may balk at the change in core gameplay, but the experience is fresh and well put together, and the story got ramped up to the point that more people will be pulled into the franchise. The system can be merciless, but thats just another reason you know its a real XCOM game.

I'm rather baffled that I've gotten so many negative votes so quickly. Could you please comment why if you find this review unhelpful.
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on October 9, 2013
XCOM is a strategy game. Always has been. But here comes the Bureau and all of a sudden, you get to actually be on the team, lead the team, be in the 60's with makeshift sci-fi gear and fight a desperate battle for mankind's survival. Wow... so it's NOT your usual XCOM game. It IS set in the same universe and you do have quite a vast amount of tactical options in the field making this game quite an interesting hybrid. And honestly, a rather well executed one.

I do not believe that this game is to be considered as just another FPS. It is definitely a game apart from the mass. The battles are rather fierce and playing on harder difficulties is a worthwhile challenge. The storyline is not the most original, but on the other hand, which game delivers such a thing nowadays? Crysis 3? Dead Space? It's all been pretty chewed up by now and it's rather tough to come up with something truly innovative. Plus, you have to take into account that the game is kinda-sorta an extension, or rather an insight on how XCOM came to be. So it should be easy to forgive the soapy plot. A big thumbs up to the cast who voiced the characters, they've done a really good job.

Graphics are really neat and you can tell the Unreal Engine has been pushed, maybe a little too much as on rare occasions, the framerate drops considerably for some unknown reasons (reflections? Cloth simulation? Couldn't really pin point the issue). There are other oddities sometimes (clipping, collision, aso) but really nothing which would really hurt the gameplay.

Overall, The Bureau is a very enjoyable game, with lots of possibilities to explore (tacticians get ready to sweat) and a rather beautiful environment to immerse into. Worth the money and a nice addition to the XCOM saga even though it definitely is a game apart from its predecessors. Before you go on a rampage because it's not a true XCOM game, give it a shot. I can't say I was disappointed at all. So four stars just because it lacks a bit of polish and because I just wish it had more missions to play.
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on September 9, 2013
The game looks great (the 50s style is dead on) but the unreal engine really chugs more than it should versus other games using the same engine. The lip syncing is off but, that isnt a dealbreaker.

The combat steals heavily from Mass Effect, but it is superior to ME in that the combat actually has some genuine tactical thought to it. The combat is frantic and not everyone is going to like that. Note that you have to play the game for at least 5 hours before your team gets cool combat abilities that allow for all of that tactical thought.

Unlike Mass Effect, your team isnt hyper-accurate with guns at every shot. They miss. Some are going to be annoyed by that but I thought it was more "realistic."

Perma-Death. Ugh. this is the part that makes no sense. Your teammates can die forever, but it is easy to restart from the last checkpoint so the permadeath makes no sense whatsoever.

You spend a lot of time walking around an X-Com base; it can be marginally interesting but you may soon get bored. The characters in the base are not that interesting unfortunately.

Bottom line? much better than some reviews suggest, but still a game to find for 25bucks
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on January 26, 2014
Let me start off by saying this game is not terrible. It's okay. Let me go over the pros and cons of this game.

Pros:
-Weapon Variety, excellent
-Squad Customization, good
-Personal Customization, really nice
-Some relevant choices in story
-Equipment Customization, nice
-Lots of different abilities you and your squad can use
-Some of the enemies are recognizable from previous XCOM games

Cons:
-This one is really personal: All the ads for this game show the main character wearing a fedora and vest, or some other suit/dress clothing. This outfit is present for one level, then he just wears a sweater the rest of the game. It kinda killed the whole 60s secret agent thing for me.
-Story: The story isn't super interesting but and it is hard to care about it for several reasons.
-Characters that you can only learn about through either dull conversations are way too long audio recordings
-Uninteresting characters
-Really long waits, like to access part of a base you have to sit like 20 seconds in this stupid decontamination field, and then the doors open,
-you often have to walk around your base trying to find that one sidequest that was vaguely mentioned,
-There is also no map to the base, no quest log
-Really bad squad controls, they never use their abilities without you telling them, but they rarely listen
-They never take cover on their own and will disobey and order after complying with it for 10 seconds
This next con is a minor spoiler for the game, so be warned.

There is a potentially really interesting segment where a Russian spy is discovered in the XCOM base. This leads to one of the best scenes in the game where your character and the spy converse in Russian. You have the option of trying to turn him into an XCOM agent. Only problem is, if you do, he looks exactly like one of the 3 skins your agents can have, and sounds exactly like all the other agents on missions.

All in all, this game is pretty average, but very dissapointing. Some random story stuff happens to characters you have no reason to care about. Wouldn't really recommend unless you are super hardcore XCOM fan (I'm not, I just like third-person shooters).
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on December 27, 2013
Let me start by saying I am a big XCOM fan but that doesn't mean im going to like a game just because the name XCOM is slapped on something
Before i buy a game i usually do a little research and i saw video and read reviews about the game and they all had the same thing to say; "This isn't an XCOM game" usually bring up the installment before this one which was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and it is true its nothing like Enemy Unknown but if you look back at the series we will find a game called XCOM Enforcer which was also a third person shooter so i really wouldn't trust those reviews

Now as for my opinion the game i found to be fun but flawed
Its a basic third person shooter with a cover based system while its good its not the best
i feel one big reason this game was given such bad reviews when released was because they paid a lot of money for very little game play
the game has no multi player so you only have the campaign to play and that only provides about three days(non-continuous) worth of game play when played on normal difficulty setting
The game also lack an interesting story, most of the time i played and never thought about the story i just wanted to get back out on the battlefield so if your looking for a good story there is none to be found here there was so much they could have done to have developed the characters and also so many plot twist that i thought would occur but never happened keeping the story bland
The game-play is fun its real neat how you can be both out on the battlefield and at the same time shout out orders i feel that real put you the player into the boots of a leader the gun mechanics arent the best but once you get your alien tech it all gets better
The game provides a rank up system that gives you and your team mate new abilities everytime you rank up and they are very handy,
The characters environments and enemies a designed very beautifully everything looks so nice

In the end i recommend the game but only when the price dips to or under 20 dollars
the game while fun has its many flaws that cant be overlooked the very little game play provided isnt enough to be a stand alone game it felt more like i was playing a long demo they should have put more into the campaign if it wasnt going to have a multiplayer and they should have developed a better story and expanded on the character presented and thats why i give it
three sectoid corpses out of five
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on January 20, 2015
This is a stain on the XCom name in my opinion.
A mistake like XCom Apocalypse.

While the graphics were nice and gave you the feel of being in the 50s, it wasn't enough to get me past the gameplay issues.
Boring combat, recycled environments and enemies, crappy camera, lack of weapon customization.

I think they should of just gone all out FPS if they wanted to pursue that element instead of going hybrid like this game.
It might have made the difference.

Wish I had not purchased this one, but I am a huge Xcom fan and at least have the whole collection now.
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on May 6, 2014
I'd be irritated if I paid >$20. But I got it on sale <$10, and at the price I find this an okay game with a nice visual look and setting that needs to be used more in games (possibly even exploring themes and issues from the 60s era, although this game does work them in somewhat, like Red Scare, McCarthyism, aliens among us, and exploration of "alternate" identities). This game doesn't go that far into those themes and issues though; it's more like a slightly smart/political spy thriller movie in this regard--more about the action, but enough attention to the issues that at least it can't be accused of being blind to them completely. As for the gameplay, fairly repetitive, and at times frustrating b/c of AI and UI. Mass Effect does the squad-action shooter-rpgish gameplay better. And, well, I swear, years-old Republic Commando did squad AI much better (could just be nostalgia filter).

I'm not even accounting for the XCOM-tie-in, or the letdown after the early hype--I can understand why people would be pissed, but I found it decent enough in an alternate-fictional-history sense. But I'm not counting that in the stars-score above. This game stands on its own feet/merits, but there's not too much game there, or replayability.
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on January 6, 2014
Pretty much everything I wanted from the canceled XCom Alliance game that we never got. Yes, it apes Mass Effect, in more than a few ways. It has the third person cover-based shooting and pause-and-command system of Mass Effect, along with the mechanic of storyline choice steering your experience.

While it lacks the overwhelming scope of the Mass Effect games, it does offer a deeper tactical system than found in Bioware's games.

The story is fun, even if you need to stretch your 'suspension of disbelief' a bit. Honestly, considering that you had to do the same for the previous X-com games, it's not a surprise. In the second half of the game, the stakes get raised and the plot twists in some interesting and unexpected ways.

The voice acting is pretty solid and the overall flavor of setting it in that weird time period of the space race, yet before the hippie cultural revolution was a jolting and interesting choice.

It is 3rd best X-com game, past the first and the recent tactical remake.

The game is not without it's flaws, of course. The lip syncing and actor motion capture lacks polish. Also, the graphics are stylized and simplistic, yet run horribly on the highest graphic settings. It's also rather brief, with very little in the way of fleshing out and side missions.

Also, it lacks the research, production, interception and base management of the previous games, so if that is what defines an Xcom game to you, you may be disappointed.

This game with has convinced me that this will be cult classic game, like Vampire: Bloodlines or Alpha Protocol (though not as broken as either of those) and that not everyone is meant to 'get it'.
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on April 12, 2014
I love the 60's aesthetic of the game. The wardrobe, the environments, the fact that when you run into NPCs on a mission with a lot of dialogue your NPC companions break out their smokes, and lean up against the wall to take a break while you're talking; Little flourishes like this make the game enjoyable from the outset.

The story is nothing great; it's just something to chain the action sequences together (and that's fine). The voice acting of the major characters is up to industry standard as well, though some of the disposable NPCs and recordings you'll find are not very good.

I've never played Mass Effect (which I am told the mechanics of this borrow from heavily). I enjoy the concept, but I found the control to be very clunky in combat. The cover/shooting works about 75% of the time, but you end up in very tense situations where they fall apart. Like tying major functions to the same button with only slight context cues as to which it will perform at any given moment: Trying to run away from an enemy bearing down on you? If you don't use dead-on sniper-like accuracy, you just as likely to stick to a wall, or hopping over the wall towards the enemy you were trying to get cover from. Similarly you might want to take cover, but find yourself simply running at the surface. If you get frustrated and start spamming the "take cover" button, if you finally do engage the wall you'll hop over it. Some surfaces just inexplicably won't let you take cover, and some low walls will have you "take cover" but will leave you standing up/exposed instead of crouching down. Some tall walls just decide they don't want you to shoot around a certain corner either.

Other interactions have similar awkwardness to them: if you jump down from a slightly higher surface, you will stand there and do nothing for a few seconds while getting shot at. It is very frustrating to have these kinds of things in a tense gunfight.

Your companions were nice for their ability, but they expose themselves too much and need constant babysitting. Flanking is difficult because they keep following you and don't like to be more than 20-30ft from you. Even if you give them another position to run to, they'll run there and then run back to you.

I actually played this game on the second-easiest setting (The bad reviews were a warning that I'd want to get through it as quick as possible). Your average encounter was boringly easy (my fault for the difficulty selection), but there were some that were ridiculously hard. The last encounter in particular took me about 5 tries to get through. Also, the game pulls lots of cheap shots like enemies teleporting in. Sometimes you take up a defensive position only to have them spawn in right on top of you leading to a complete party wipe in about 2 seconds. A lot of the difficulty was because of the combat mechanics discussed above. Losing because I made poor decisions or was too slow to make them is acceptable; Losing because a half-dozen very different actions are tied to the same button is less than fun.

The game is...dare I say it...too long. Either that or it just paced and placed its climaxes too awkwardly. I thought it was going to end like 4 different times, and it just....kept....going.

The graphics (including art direction) and audio are great. The game just felt like certain pieces were highly polished, and others were hastily tossed in and no one over tested them. The concept is solid, but it's a shame this one got released half-baked.
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