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Alien Invasion

American LandscapeI never was a big fan of XCOM. I haven’t got the faintest idea why, because basically I like all the SF sub-genres, the tactics and the turn-based combat. The XCOM-series simply did not catch me, even if I know it got famous by its own rights. But, when some years ago news and first trailers got published about a TPS-TBT XCOM, I felt I wouldn’t be disinterested. And I was not. In this form XCOM perfectly fits for me.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (in short: The Bureau) finely gives you one of my favorite settings; the atom-scared years of cold war, when Russians are blamed for every attack on the USA, even if it is squarely alien by origin. The setting of The Bureau is a post-apocalyptic 60s, but there are no wastelands yet, because you can watch the process of destruction. Or not the process, rather the destruction itself, caused by an abruptly attacking extraterrestrial army.

CarterIn this environment you play the great adventure of the uncharacteristically named veteran special agent of the CIA, William Carter. By controlling him you exterminate the aliens, collect their technology, give commands to the companions, and discover the secret behind the power leading the extraterrestrials. Okay, summarized this way The Bureau seems not a big deal, but it is a fine tactical shooter, and has an overwhelming atmosphere, in spite of the story being strongly average.

Some says the AI of the teammates is very weak, but it seemed to me that I saw people disoriented by the chaos of the battle, doing the best they can in this state. This is the point of leading a team: The boss (namely YOU, the player) can reason the battlefield, estimate the situation, and find solutions by active, proactive or defensive reactions. The others are doing as ordered, or the team falls apart. The definition of “tactical game” includes the fact that your companions are dead without your commands. If they would be independent, there would be no need for tactics, because the AI would solve the situations without you.

EliriumMaybe I am too protective of this game, even if I must admit that its story is not a great one. After Bill Carter meets aliens, he gets a healing ability, and the extraterrestrial invasion starts (there is a relationship between the two things, but I won’t give you spoilers). Carter gets to the secret base, leads operations of strategic importance, and helps in creating teams for the less important missions. Meanwhile it turns out what guides the aliens, how to face them, and where that healing ability came from. Toward the end of the game there will be more and more and stronger and stronger enemies to kill. Finally, “Carter” (I’m still not giving spoilers away, so the name remains between quotation marks) gets to the chief villain. The story has the basic hero + woman + monster trio, and that is enough, played well with little twists, but nothing exceptional.

Oh HellBut the atmosphere is awesome. Every frame shows the bars and cars and hairstyles and clothes of the USA in the 60s. Patriotism, fright of nuclear weapons, cold war, early Rock’n’Roll, hippie undergrads and aliens. All this feeling is colored by blue energy, red laser, green plasma rays, and a black mass making people brainless sleepwalkers. You read the notes a policeman left behind while he and his fellows went deeper and deeper into an alien bunker. When he starts to repeat himself, you just sit frozen and feel sorry for him, even if his death has no importance regarding the story. As I wrote above: the atmosphere is overwhelming.

Kiss Kiss Bumm BummOf course, The Bureau is not flawless. It is short, even in my easy tempo it took only 20 hours to play through, and if you are really good, you can put it down in 8-9 hours. Besides, the story is average. You know, I have no presumptions, but first time the fans heard about an XCOM action game in third person view, they just cried out. But exactly that was why I felt like playing it. We are not alike, and a great part of the XCOM-lovers would accept nothing but the good old isometric view. Even some critics expected a very very XCOM-like game, if that means anything. Anyway, the game fell short of expectations. It is obvious, that there would be much more in this setting.

But why do we have expectations?


The Bureau boxTitle: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Marin, Australia, China
Style: TPS-TBT

What I liked:

What I didn’t like:
linear story
there would be more in it


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