Truthiness: The Bureau – XCOM Declassified

By Adam Smith on June 27th, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Two things to note in regards to this latest The Bureau: XCOM Declassified video. Actually, make that three things because it’s worth mentioning that the name becomes worse every time I have to type it. It’s not the worst use of a colon this side of an alien probing session, but it is a tad cumbersome. I’m also increasingly wary of the stop-start nature of the command system and, yes, I know that may seem a strange complaint coming from a man who loves all things turn-based. I guess I just want it to go the whole way and be turn-based. My final objection, before dropping the video onto your screen, relates to the setting. The nifty period style doesn’t seem to extend beyond the hats – the rest comes across as more futuristic than actual XCOM.

Am I just being grumpy? I still want to play it, however much I might protest.

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49 Comments »

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  1. unangbangkay says:

    Yes, you are being grumpy. I don’t see how it’s that much more different than Mass Effect’s stop-and-start stuff, though obviously you’re doing more here than you ever did there, tactically speaking. I also like how this demo effectively show the player never having to fire a shot.

    That said, it DOES feel a little “advanced” versus XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s present/near-future (like how Star Trek Enterprise looked more advanced than the original series despite being set before it). I don’t remember any of my squaddies being able to telekinetically lift my drones or teleport mines. I hope they realize that discrepancy and come up with a cool story-justified way to force Carter to abandon all that tech by the end and not leave it for future generations to shoot Sectoids with.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Agreed! Looks like Mass Effect with more control of squadies. Which is fine by me. :)

      Tech does seem a bit odd… but should make things fun.

      • Misnomer says:

        That’s easy, it’s even in the title.

        If this is when XCOM was a government agency then simple budget cuts, mission creep, and bureaucratic nonsense is good enough explanation.

        We have way better tech today, but NASA couldn’t get us back to the moon without a massive new research project. We couldn’t even rebuild half the stuff we still have blueprints for from the 1960s at NASA. In some ways our capabilities are better now, in some ways they are worse.

        So just say the bureau lost a lot of funding during a period where there were no interventions needed or a change in political atmosphere. Done.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          The alien spaceguns were separated from the invaders’ computer network for more than a day, which caused the spaceguns to immediately self-destruct and become completely unusable.

          • Frosty840 says:

            Decades of human technological advancement held back by DRM. Got it.

    • Squirly says:

      I’m with this lot. This looks great. I mean, we have a TB XCOM and while I’d like a proper expansion or maybe a sequel in the future, I’m totally ok with playing this in the mean time.

    • belgand says:

      For me it was the opposite. I found it odd that the main character goes through the entire clip without firing a shot. What they’ve basically done is take a tactical, turn-based game and make it into a… slightly different tactical game that isn’t quite turn-based. It seems like there isn’t a lot of reason to have done so.

      A shooter? Maybe. A shooter with some tactical elements where things like cover and flanking actually matter? Even better. But why this bizarre hybrid?

      • unangbangkay says:

        Considering a number of complaints about some highly notable (and competent) shooters lately have run along the lines of “Oh, I love everything about this game except for the fact that I have to play a shooter to experience it”, being able to tell players that they can opt to shoot or command or both in whatever measure they feel appropriate is good marketing.

    • maximiZe says:

      How are people still fine with Mass Effect’s combat?

      • Trent Hawkins says:

        Mass Effect’s combat is dog shit.
        The game was popular because of it’s awesome story not because of it’s horrible combat so why a game would want to steal that rather then the story telling and world building is beyond me.

  2. Caspian says:

    I respect your use of a Colbert approved headline.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    Let’s face it, that name was always going to be downhill after the self-writing ‘XCOM Declassified Declassified’ headline.

    edit: Which apparently you never even used! I am agog.

    • The Random One says:

      I too remembered seeing that headline when you mentioned it. I am anothergog.

  4. Arglebargle says:

    I fear this game is going to be half cooked rice…

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Egads, I hope not! There’s very little as terrible in this world as half-cooked rice. When I still worked in restaurants, I used to have nightmares about rice that would always cook uneven (still have uncooked grains and some wound up being overcooked mush) and that it would ruin my career, making me a laughingstock.

      Nowadays, whenever my friends and I have our Mexican food potluck, I typically cook the Spanish rice and I’m still always paranoid about ruining it. The only time I don’t feel worried is when using a rice cooker. So, yeah… to me,half-cooked rice is terrible. It’s giving me anxiety just thinking about it.

  5. Totally heterosexual says:

    That seems way too linear for the tactics part of a “tactical shooter” to truly kick in.

    Alos, can you seriously just xray the area at any time for the enemy position? I was not expecting hidden enemies to the level of the original game, but this is a bit much.

  6. Frisky Dingo says:

    It may have felt hats but will this game will alienate the hardcore XCOM fans?

    • Shodex says:

      I’m worried that this game is just the publishers following the recent invasion of shooter games and not putting much thought into it before taking a shot at it with the XCOM franchise.

  7. Zenicetus says:

    Meh… I may still buy it, depending on reviews, but my big complaint from these trailers is still the lack of any feeling of danger and risk. The aliens are pushovers, and the agents all act like confident Special Forces instead of being constantly in danger and (usually) outclassed, like in both the original game and the recent XCOM:EU. This game series is supposed to have scary enemies, and I’m just not feeling it here.

    Also, those agent barks are really annoying.

    Also also, did I see “Taunt” pop up briefly on the command wheel? WTF? We’re supposed tell the aliens that their mother was a hamster and their father smelt of elderberries? Was that command wheel originally designed for a different game or something?

    • AndreasBM says:

      Well, you can taunt, or lure, by waving out of cover or something, that would be pretty “intergalactic”. It’s not that bad, but yeah, it’s a bit silly.

      I kind of like it. It looks like Brothers in Arms, but with aliens and more tactics. Neat.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Taunt might mean a hand wave or brief exposure out of cover, but that just reinforces my main complaint. Breaking cover like that would get you killed or incapacitated in the original game or the most recent one, because the aliens were deadly dangerous and not stupid.

        In this game, in addition to looking stupid, they apparently don’t even take opportunity shots when you run from one cover position to another.

        Another thing I noticed was the agent running into the truck bed, and finding a glowing weapon/ammo box… presumably to pick up and use? That breaks another convention in the series where you go into an encounter with just the weapons and ammo you bring with ‘ya. There better not be “health packs” you can find and use, or I’m going to get even more grumpy about this game.

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          bills6693 says:

          I get a feeling the ‘taunt’ command makes the enemy unit break cover and advance on you – or is that not how he got the enemy to walk into that mine at the end?

          Its pretty ridiculous. I mean, the aliens seem to be completely ineffective and mindless, just shooting in your direction till they die – not taking opportunities, not scattering from mines/grenades, they just seem like turrets that run into a position behind cover, right in front of you, then stay there and keep shooting.

          • RamenAwesome says:

            I’ve noticed that some people don’t feel the game looks hard enough but from what I’ve seen this game has the ability to punish you mercilessly. In some of the gameplay I’ve seen enemies hurl three grenades in a row to flush the player out of cover, flank the player and down him with a melee strike, flying enemies float over your cover, and large enemies like mutons scatter the group and then jetpack jumps over to the least protected player.

            Anyway, my point is, I would reserve criticism of the game until you’ve played the game or until its reviewed.

  8. Dowr says:

    I groan every time I see footage of this game.

    And that isn’t because it “spits on XCOM”, I’m fine with franchises deviating, but it just looks like a dull cover shooter with a counter-productive pause feature.

    And can we get away from sticky-cover? Tomb Raider showed how great dynamic covers systems work.

    • Upper Class Twit says:

      What’s a dynamic cover system? Is that the thing where you crouch behind stuff and then you’re 90% in cover most of the time?

  9. SquidLord says:

    If they’re going to make a real-time pauseable squad-based infantry simulator, why not borrow from something that did so well like Full Spectrum Warrior and decouple you from being any particular soldier on the field at any given time. Make the whole interface about giving instruction/command to your guys in managing things from that shoulder-height point of view.

    I’m not going to lie, this looks like it could be very interesting… Even if it’s not “real XCOM.” But this thing where it can’t decide if it’s warm/cold, real-time strategy/first-person shooter – that I’m just not feeling.

    (I realize that I am one of the three people on earth who was a fan of Full Spectrum Warrior, but there you go.)

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      Hypocee says:

      Full Spectrum Warrior Two here, then, and yeah you could make an X-COM game and a half on that chassis.

      I only learned recently from Idle Thumbs that Brendon Chung was on the FSW team, which makes quite a connection with Flotilla.

  10. Zenicetus says:

    One more comment while I’m in a grumpy mood. This looks like an early phase of the game, where the agents are still using conventional rifles and fighting Sectoids. And yet, an agent can create a turret out of thin air, and then levitate it to break alien cover? That’s equivalent to a late-game ability in XCOM:EU, with flying armor for the sniper class. It’s an almost game-breaking advantage when you have a maxed-out sniper.

    Maybe there are even better abilities in the late game, like I dunno…. flying tanks or something. But it still contributes to the feeling that your guys are way too competent against the alien threat. Let’s hope that’s just something they threw in the trailer for eye candy, and it isn’t available this early in the game.

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    strangeloup says:

    At least it’s not called XCOM: The Bureau: Declassified. That would just be silly.

    Also, to add to the grump, everything I see of this just makes it look even more bloody boring. I have absolutely no problem with them changing up the formula, I think the setting has enough to it to support different types of games, but this just looks dull. It doesn’t help that Dude McLeaderguy’s ludicrously gravelly voice (along with, to a lesser extent, the barks of Steve and Gary Expendable) is annoying as hell.

  12. Choca says:

    This looks like it’d be absolutely tedious to play. So many pauses, might as well go full turn-based.

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      jezcentral says:

      Now there’s a thought. “The Bureau: XCOM Frozen-Synapsed” has a nice ring to it.

  13. DarkMalice says:

    Looks OK but I cannot help thinking that it would be better as either full ‘I go, you go’ TBS, or simultaneous-turn TBS. I did like ME2’s pause n play style but this looks a little clunky, distracting somehow. It also seems a lot more shooty than tactical (x-ray/heat vision to see enemies?) i.e. less challenging. Perhaps it will play better than it looks.
    For the record I’m fine with the XCOM Early Years setting, the fact they seem a little gung-ho fits quite well with characters I associate with that era USA (ala L.A. Confidential).

  14. Freud says:

    Fans of the original can’t complain. They have gotten one (excellent) spiritual sequel and will get another.

  15. Caiman says:

    I was going to comment about the trailer but… well… I honestly can’t think of anything to say to that. Seen it all before basically. Could be good, could be shit, who knows. Doesn’t excite me like an X-Com game should, that’s the worrying part.

  16. kud13 says:

    You know, now that we’ve had a proper TBS X-COM, I think I’d actually like to see that horror/investigate FPS they were showing us in the early stages.

    Because in that, despite being a Bioshock ripoff right down to the font style in the title, the enemies were strange and dangerous. Here, it’s goddamn sectoids. again.

    I mean, let’s be honest. Sectoid only come in two types. they’re either a 1)comic relief/pushover greys with paper-like skin that any old bullet sends them sprawling OR

    2) a BAMF psychic enemy that spreads unholy terror in your squad, means half your squad comes back in soiled underwear, and a quarter don’t come back at all, shot down by friendlies taken over by the one fucker who can see everyone without being seen himself.

    And no promotional video will ever show you number 2. Because god forbid, people we want to buy the game might think it’s hard or something. Or maybe, they aren’t the hero. Can’t have that.

    X-COM needs to be a game about fighting impossible odds. to the point where you take some heavy, painful losses before you learn and do better. This game, I’m just not feeling it.

    • Zenicetus says:

      This. Exactly.

      These agents show no vulnerability, and the player controlling them has no reason to fear for their safety. Or at least, care about who you’re throwing into the meat grinder. Without that, it’s just another generic third person cover shooter.

      • Upper Class Twit says:

        Well, according to this here hands on preview from PCGamer, the game is actually hard as balls, and your dudes get wasted in a second if you’re not using cover and tactics intelligently. So at least there’s that.

        I think I’ll agree that this game doesn’t seem to “get” XCOM, primarily in that it lacks the tension that is so integral to the combat in other games (including the new one) and the larger strategic layer that is so integral to the, err, larger strategic layer, I guess. But there are worse game ideas out there than Rainbow Six Lite vs. Aliens, and for what it is, this doesn’t look all that bad.

        http://www.pcgamer.com/previews/the-bureau-xcom-declassified-hands-on-a-punishing-and-tactical-take-on-xcoms-origin-story/

        • maximiZe says:

          According to PC Gamer Dragon Age II has the best RPG combat ever and maybe gaming’s best storytelling.

  17. Jerppa says:

    Graphically looks like Mafia 2 gangster enemies replaced by aliens.

  18. Muzman says:

    Hey does some indie want to pick up the idea of a 50s SWAT4-esque alien investigation game? Coz that looked like it might actually be good.
    Horrid whiny Xcom fans seem to be placated now so it should be safe.

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    bills6693 says:

    I get a feeling the ‘taunt’ command makes the enemy unit break cover and advance on you – or is that not how he got the enemy to walk into that mine at the end?

    Its pretty ridiculous. I mean, the aliens seem to be completely ineffective and mindless, just shooting in your direction till they die – not taking opportunities, not scattering from mines/grenades, they just seem like turrets that run into a position behind cover, right in front of you, then stay there and keep shooting.

  20. aircool says:

    All armed response units should be made to wear a shirt and tie.

  21. SirMonkeyWrench says:

    Every time I see footage of this game I think of Ghostbusters, I’m pretty sure its the incredibly stylish backpacks.
    This got me thinking further about how perfectly suited Ghostbusters would be to the XCOM strategy formula, except I suppose the stakes would now be ‘don’t get slimed’, as opposed to ‘don’t have your face melted by super-heated plasma’.

  22. Snargelfargen says:

    Agreed on the barks and the difficulty. Presumably that’s because the enemy AI is nonexistent at this point, because that looked way, way too easy.

  23. Shodex says:

    I hate this stuff. They always treat this real time combat with a tactical stop like it’s combining the best of both worlds, but it’s not.

    With XCOM the turn based combat is hard wired into the game, characters stood idly until you made your decisions and gave then orders. But the game wasn’t ever paused between turns.

    With this you take the excitement of real time action combat, and then frequently wrench the player from the action by making a full stop so they can order the squad around. And since you’ll be viewing the battle from the perspective of one soldier at a time, you will constantly have to pause and whip around to get a good idea of what’s happening. Observational skills are generally hampered when hiding behind a conveniently placed chest high wall, and bullets are flying around you.

    It completely breaks the flow of the game and throws the pacing out of whack. A game should be either uniformly fast paced like a regular shooter, or slow paced like a turn based strategy. Never should it mix and match both and continuously start and stop. Look at it like driving, you should either drive fast or slow. Not drive fast and then occasionally hit the breaks and come to a stop, only to speed up again and repeat.

  24. Josh W says:

    How odd! That’s a plausible crosspolination of xcom’s more covershooter elements and mass effect’s command wheel.

    I can see bioware and a few other companies looking at this with great interest, see if it can push the formula forward a bit. I love the idea of folding in some of the developments that have been done towards covershooter stealth as well.

    Anyway, what I find weird about it, is that this doesn’t seem like something that started development before the new xcom, it feels very strongly like a development from it.

    Anyway, I think it’s very likely I’ll be playing this soon, over a friend’s shoulder! Should be a good way to overlap our skills.

    Also, it appears that that wheel is a proper subdivided radial menu, nice!