The 404 previews The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Last month we learned that the XCOM shooter wasn't dead in the water, but instead ready to make its debut in August with a new look and revised gameplay structure.
Juxtaposed against 1960s American suburban life, The Bureau is stylized historical fiction that looks a bit like "Mad Men" meets "War of the Worlds."
Now assuming a third-person tactical shooter experience, The Bureau puts players in the role of Agent William Carter, a member of a secret government faction tasked with combating an extraterrestrial invasion.
During these XCOM missions, Carter becomes the "combat quarterback," equipped with the ability to command the members of his team and even call audibles on-the-fly. Battle focus, as it's referred to in-game, is a time-stopping head-up display that hardwires almost every conceivable command to a control wheel onscreen.
I asked senior producer Nico Bihary why the change from first-person to third-person. He said the team had looked at what they created for the original XCOM shooter and realized: "Why not just pull out the whole thing into a third-person perspective so the player can see the entire battlefield?" In hindsight it makes perfect sense. In a game where you're in charge of most of your team's tactical actions, the shackles of a first-person view seem restricting.
So while The Bureau is mostly a different experience compared with last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there are plenty of homages that veteran fans of the series will appreciate. The audio and visual iconography of the series remains intact throughout, providing a comforting sense of familiarity.
On the other hand, though, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is almost a new genre in its own right. Even though Bihary says it wouldn't be possible without titles like Uncharted and Mass Effect, the team at 2K Marin has cherry picked elements from staples of modern gaming and carved out a new style of play that might take a minute or two to get used to, but ultimately is extraordinarily satisfying.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified hits Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on August 30.
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