The Bureau is Underrated Because of the XCOM Name

It’s strange that some players and critics expect The Bureau’s squad to act more like that of Mass Effect, because that change would cause the two games to play in a functionally identical way. Both provide characters with a small group of cool powers they can use to turn the tide of battle, and in Mass Effect, it’s often the smart use of characters’ special abilities that’s necessary to drive out entrenched enemies.

In The Bureau, that’s even more true: using powers well is essential, and again harkens back to the strategy element of the game. More than that, though, it’s possible to create useful combos of powers and abilities that actually often make The Bureau feel like a stronger execution of what the Mass Effect series wanted to accomplish with combat. The squad doesn’t just run off and do whatever, and it certainly makes fewer dumb decisions than Garrus and Liara used to when left to their own devices. You must work with your squad, and they with you, to be successful in The Bureau’s fights. That’s what a squad is for.

But again, that XCOM name hamstrings the game, causing The Bureau to feel as though it’s straddling two genres without being able to commit to either. The opposite is true, in fact: 2K Marin is plying the space between that’s difficult to utilize and express, and one that only a few other games have managed to do well. If you play The Bureau the way it’s meant to be played — with heavy emphasis on squad control and smart use of combos and different squad loadouts — you get an experience that’s far less Mass Effect or Gears of War and far more Brothers in Arms or Star Wars: Republic Commando.

When The Bureau was first announced as a shooter, there was backlash from players about the game losing important XCOM elements — so 2K Marin made changes, hybridizing more traditional XCOM elements into the game’s new third-person shooter formula. The criticism then became even stranger, as complaints were lodged about the game not sticking to its shooter roots, or not doing the XCOM things well enough.

For my part, I can understand players wanting a more traditional game, one that’s either tactical or shooty, and not so much a combination of both. There are complaints to be leveled against The Bureau even when taking into account what it actually is, as well. But I think writing the game off altogether is a mistake, especially when doing so because you’re expecting it to be something that it’s not. Added to a list of games such as Brothers in Arms and Republic Commando, The Bureau is a title that does a lot of things right. If you play it the way it’s meant to be played — methodically, tactically, and with an eye toward strategy — it’s a much better experience than expecting it to be a Mass Effect or Gears of War clone. That’s not the game The Bureau is, and that’s not the game it needs to be.

Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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5 Comments on The Bureau is Underrated Because of the XCOM Name


On October 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm

THANK YOU! God… thank you for this. I had a damn good time.


On October 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm

It’s nice to see some one else likes this game.


On October 25, 2013 at 7:25 am

Many people forgave Fallout 3 for not sticking to the Fallout formula because it was just so damned good despite all the initial backlash against the change. So why can’t people do the same for this game? Mind you, I was one of the many vocal people when this game was first announced as an FPS. I’m sure that outcry, coupled with the success of the other X-Com remake, prompted the developers to switch gears and we got what we have now, which is more akin to a third-person tactical game, and one that does deliver solid gameplay.


On October 25, 2013 at 9:08 am

I agree with you Phil….to an extent. The friendly AI in this game was quite bad at times. When people complained about having to “baby sit the squadmembers” it wasn’t because they were expecting the game to be like Mass Effect. It was because of how often said member would not do what you wanted them to do.

You had to move them in tiny increments because of how often they had a tendency to pick the most round-a-about and most dangerous way to get to a location, instead of the most direct logical route. When a member got to a specific location, you had to check on them every 3 seconds because of how often the AI would decide to move. Despite being completely safe behind 100% cover, not taking any damage from being shot at, the game would decide to move this character to a spot that offered less protection which would in turn result in the death of this character.

I agree Phil that a lot of the XCom purists could stand to have the stick removed because isometric point and click isn’t the one and only way to build a strategy game. However, this game is not going to help that cause because it’s not a very well made game. There are A LOT of legitimate issues with the game that stem beyond “this isn’t the XCom I grew up with”.


On October 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

You raise a lot of good points about how companies can have the “branding” of a game back fire on them.

The only hole I could see in your argument is relating any game now a days to Mass Effect; to much of that fan base seems forever bitter about 1% of that trilogy’s experience.

Not gunna lie, I’m happy that the comments of this article that uses the name “Mass Effect” haven’t exploded into the typical debate we’ve seen on this site before.

Sorry for my own little tangent there; great points all around Phil.