Mid-Century Modern: Hands-On with The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

 

That said, there are some hiccups. Most abilities have long-cooldowns, including Carter’s conveniently unexplained healing spell. This can sometimes translate into an unwelcome bout of countdown watching. Squad AI, while generally good, can also be a little frustrating — no one likes to babysit squishy allies all the time, moving them to places where they won’t get cut down.

The abilities are also a little generic. This might only be a problem on the lower tiers, but the initial archetypes do grate. Critical hit, taunt, and squad buff are fun, sure, but they’re not particularly creative — hopefully squad mates get abilities that are more distinctively XCOM later in the game.

If they survive that long, of course. The Bureau does have perma-death, and while you have the choice of calling in reinforcements at a supply drop, or simply reloading a save, it’s a welcome concession to the high stakes of the original game.

Also welcome are the familiar alien designs; 2K Marin and Firaxis are in close contact, and if you’ve played XCOM: Enemy Unknown you’ll be pleased (though not too pleased) to see recognizable Sectoids, Outsiders, Mutons, and Sectopods charging at you out of the murk. There are also other, more subtle links, including the distinctive shield designs that denote soft and hard cover when you’re issuing move orders to your squad mates.

After leaving the college town, the demo opened up a little, providing a choice of different side missions. A trip to a Montana farm doubling as a secret missile silo was fun and well-designed, but had to be cut short in favor of an interview with 2K Marin creative director Morgan Gray, which is available here.

The Bureau: XCOM declassified has a lot of potential: there’s certainly a market for a third-person cover shooter with brains, and the XCOM universe is ripe and ready for a more narrative-driven approach. The 60′s setting is an inspired choice; one hopes that a few generic touches and some slow pacing in the game’s early hours give way to a more distinctive, exciting experience as The Bureau picks up steam. For more on the game, check out the Game Front video preview below, or peruse the interview linked above.

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