by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Survive, Adapt, Win
It is the early 1960's and the Americans and Russians are on the brink of war. But America soon discovers that the Cold War is the least of their worries. Entire towns are decimated by an invading alien race known as the Outsiders, their inhabitants transformed into zombie-like creatures. A small team located in a deep underground bunker - initially set up in the event of a war against the communists - has been set up to combat the invasion. You take control of William Carter, a former soldier and CIA agent with some personal issues as a member of the XCOM team in an attempt to rid the world of the Outsiders.
The Bureau is a squad-based third-person shooter. The story plays out well enough with some background history discovered via the use of notes scattered around the locations (both in and out of the headquarters) as well as voice recordings similar to those of the BioShock universe. The story itself isn't totally engrossing, but does flow nicely enough.
Welcome to XCOM
After the initial cut-scene Carter finds himself at the XCOM headquarters. Whilst in the deep underground bunker, Carter can interact with some of the important people within the organisation. You are free to roam around the headquarters at your leisure and find some titbits and meet some characters. The time spent in the office is a tad on the boring side, but once you get out into the field, things are much more fun.
For each mission, players can select two of the other operatives housed at the Bureau. Each agent comes from one of the four categories - commando, engineer, recon or support - and with that comes specialised abilities. As each of the agents gains experience and rank up, they gain access to improved abilities designed for each of the classes.
As William Carter, gamers have the option to switch between two weapons. As well as picking up weapons and ammo from fallen earthlings, Carter can scrounge around dead enemies for their futuristic weapons and use them against them. As mentioned, Carter - as well as the other squad members - have a number of abilities that they can use to aid in the combat. Combat is often won by your use of the game's cover system. Carter and his allies will automatically seek cover behind walls and other large objects.
The game auto-saves at numerous points throughout each mission, and the saving icon is a great indicator that a battle is about to ensue. The save points are quite valuable, especially at the higher difficulties as there will be times when you'll need to reload a checkpoint.
Battles are a lot of fun and experimenting with your abilities and those of your squad is quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, you squad doesn’t help all that much. For many of the missions I scored ninety percent or more of the kills. And despite the plentiful cover in all of the missions, the rest of the squad often found ways of getting themselves injured to the point of requiring medical assistance. On more than one occasion, I was involved in my own skirmish and was unable to reach them in time to revive them. You can order your other squad mates to heal downed agents, but once they are dead – this can happen to Carter as well – agents are permanently dead, removing them from your agent roster. It can be somewhat of an annoyance, as by that stage you would have invested some time into the agents and upgraded their abilities. Loading a checkpoint can bring them back to life, though, if you’re that way inclined.
Combat and cover system work well, enemy AI is well designed
The story is extremely linear, squad AI is disappointing