Hands On: The Bureau XCOM Declassified

By Cara Ellison on July 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

GO EAGLES!
There is a button you can press in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified where it slows everything down like in the tennis replays when you want to see how close the ball was to being ‘out’ but then it wasn’t. Instead of being Andy Murray though, you are Fedora Fedorasson and there is a film grain on everything and aliens are running around on the court. Also it is a third person XCOM game and not tennis.

This Special New Button, named ‘Battle Focus’, means that you can play a cover shooter whilst queuing up orders to your AI friends to do a Special Power on the Other Team.

(The Other Team is aliens, if you haven’t played an XCOM before. Aliens are helpfully mostly labelled ‘The Outsiders’ which is just what my grandma calls people who move into her village in Falkland. So now I just think of the tall dorky fluorescent dudes as people from Fife.)

This function is curiously close to one I saw in that Femshep game I played once, Femshep Effect or something, which had some parts where you went on tiresome missions to mass laser people. These missions obstructed her actual job of punching journalists in the mouth or interrupting people or sitting on her bed eating cybercandy and scanning for minerals. Actually, outside of the awkward battles, quite a lot like my ideal life.

I’m not sure a third person cover shooter where you deploy orders to AI characters was ever actually fun. In Mass Effect it just made me feel like I was Gordon Ramsay in a really hot, incompetent kitchen and I am barking orders at absolute jerks and they are doing their best to dump all of the flour in the gravy, or straight up duck their face in a vat of hot pea soup so I have to call 999. Third person cover shooter AI characters look daft enough as it is, their silly slidy run animations messing up any hopes we have of ever taking their ‘special abilities’ seriously. How can we when it looks like you have just crossed the battlefield as if traversing an ice rink in ballet pumps and then ostentatiously pivoted to target the enemy with a blue firework?

Some magic sponge there, fix you right up, come with me if you want to live etc etc

Instead of making sure the two systems, ‘cover shoot’ and ‘XCOM strat’ work well together, they seem to commit some sort of consensually-unclear frottage. The XCOM: Enemy Unknown setup had no pretences about its turn-based dryness, where it was more intellectual, tactical board game than face-shoot knees-up running-about ‘oooh look I’ve done a magic’. Somehow the way the strategy has been implemented here feels like they have removed the ability to make informed decisions, and you can no longer direct your strategy game by high-functioning sinister CCTV. You’re left in a Battle Focus menu screen most of the time, though the hazard is that you are also getting shot. Sometimes I wanted to shout “I’m a WAR GENERAL not the assistant manager of a school-adjacent Homebase in Milton Keynes”, as my field of vision was overrun by tiny aliens and two guys screaming that they didn’t know what to do.

My two hours time with this game didn’t much make me feel like all of these doubts about Femshep combat should bugger off. Although the AI isn’t completely ‘oh bloody hell what’s he done now’ in The Bureau, it doesn’t seem very enjoyable to play an XCOM game from a third person view, no matter how pretty the main character is or how much he makes me want to put on a delicate Mad Men dress and pretend I like stoic alien-murdering alcoholics.

I want to see these levels top-down to plan impending doom. I want to see exactly how much health is removed from an enemy character every time my team hits them, and not be busy shooting people myself. I want to give my orders by seeing the bigger picture, not by scrolling frantically through targets to find the explosive barrel that might kill the most Fifers. The Independence Day B-movie frame of this pretty-looking thing just served to have me yearn for a Deus Ex in this setting: something with less shooting and more tactics, more stealth, more finesse with plot and information – just something more intelligent.

what's up hi hello hi my face is an immovable cliff face im complex and hurting really i think i don't know

Having said that, the cool team building that we like about XCOM: Enemy Unknown is there, where you can recruit a team to play a level, name them all after your friends, and essentially watch them get permadeathed by your lack of orders as you spend all the time sniping aliens by yourself from behind a box. You can also do that thing where you make them wear clothes you wouldn’t be seen revived in. I was very sad to see that the choice of colours has been muted to grandpa pastels (it is the 60s, I guess), thereby outlawing lurid green. But I did make one of my guys wear the classic purple and bright pink camo trousers (popular with Bronies), and when he went down in battle I saw his expression and just let him die.

Although this game has a lovely emphasis on team racial diversity for a game set in the 60s, what it doesn’t let you do is recruit women into your team, thus proving that you can either be racist or sexist in your fantasy game about 60s aliens, but you can’t eliminate both, because that would probably create some sort of black hole that would swallow the universe. And they have Women Lieutenants With Medals in the cutscenes, even, which makes it even more puzzling that you can’t recruit them. How did they get those medals? Did they make them out of tinfoil? Did they STEAL THEM, the KLEPTO FEMINAZIS?!?! Did they get those medals for Services To Faxing A Memo?!?! Sadly, you won’t get a playthrough of this XCOM where Alec can recruit me into the virtual RPS team as the vengeful Sharpe-esque renegade I am, because ladies aren’t allowed. DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING.

Do you expect me to talk Mr Bond? No I expect you to not wear florescent pants to my evil base you amateur

Despite the unfortunate Unequal Opportunities policy in the bureau, team recruiting and special abilities seem the most interesting part of the whole thing: you can recruit from specialists in recon, support, commandering or engineering and they all come with special doofers. For example: the engineer has a turret he can magic up within a certain radius, or can lay a mine to enable spatially unaware aliens to spread themselves over a wide area. You can get your team to specialise in quite a lot of survival abilities, levelling up their competence in battle, and a nice narrative touch is that recruits can have, say, an FBI background or a Korean War Vet background which directly influence your teammate’s ability to cope with different battle situations. Some backgrounds will give you better endurance, some give your guy a better shot, and so on, depending on what background you give them. That’s a nice thing.

On one hand, I’m glad that there’s an attempt to put some XCOM in the cover shooter, because both are things that traditionally work well that might mutate into something interesting. But what this plays like is hedging bets on people who like mediocre cover shooters getting into XCOM strategy stuff or XCOM junkies being forced into real-time shootmans. What we’re really looking for is a game where the play seems fluid and unforced, and right now I’m not sure The Bureau: XCOM whatsisname has really found its way out of an awkward mashup. Even if it has found its way out of my silly florescent green uniforms.

However, there was only time to play the initial tutorial missions and a few of the later missions with a team of new recruits, so it’s difficult to see how interesting the rest of the game will be through particular levels. There is an emphasis on story in this game, but I think I’d need to be drunk and full of sugar to think it was good – it seemed like a superficial B-movie thing told humourless and clumsy. My introduction to the main character’s ‘pained’ backstory was cringeworthy, and he seems remarkably functional, uncomplex and crisply-dressed for a man the game has told me that J Edgar Hoover has written off for being an alcoholic family-less loser with no respect for him or the FBI and nothing to lose and everything to prove and he’s a RENEGADE and… oh I could go on. It’s a tad heavy-handed, no sign of emotional peaks and troughs to come. At least in Independence Day you could get on board with Will Smith yelling at jellyfish men and Jeff Goldblum saying ‘must go faster’: they had a little charm and a grin now and then. Fedora man has been botoxed to fuck and is about as expressive as Arnie on Temazepam.

In conclusion:
1) I wish I looked as good as that guy in a hat.
2) ‘The Bureau’ could be a twitch game where you are a bored office worker whose job it is to shred financial documents, get coffee, and occasionally sneak off for a wank in the stationary cupboard, which I hope 2k will consider
3) ‘Bureau de Change’ would be a really good Chow Yun Fat movie, where Mr Fat has to take out all the slowest people at the front of the queue to change money thus saving the world from infinite vein-popping rage and simultaneously implementing world peace
4) Maybe this game gets good after you play it for more than 2 hours.
5) Maybe they will let me make Fedora man wear florescent green
6) Jeff Goldblum.

MORE LIKE MY HEART MUST GO FASTER

__________________

« | »

, , .

174 Comments »

  1. Discopanda says:

    I didn’t read the article. JEFF GOLDBLUM?!

  2. John Connor says:

    Could have sworn I saw a screenshot with a female agent in it. Are you sure you can’t recruit female agents?

    • lowprices says:

      It will be a damn shame if you can’t. Half the fun of nu-XCOM is naming soldiers after friends and family, then cheerily informing people they had been stomped into the ground by Berzerkers or zombiefied by Chrysalids, and most of the people I know are female. I mean, there are better reasons that that, but that’s the reason that will affect me most.

    • Moni says:

      In Giant Bomb’s Quick Look preview they brought up the issue, and the developers reply that it will be addressed in the game, but as a background plot point (paraphrasing).

      I get the feeling that there won’t be female agents, but there will be female desk clerks and secretaries :/

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEh6NnLPUUs&feature=player_detailpage#t=1403s

      • jalf says:

        it will be addressed in the game, but as a background plot point

        “The aliens have released a virus into the atmosphere making all women allergic to guns!”

        • Yglorba says:

          Maybe it has to be researched! Like, you find a dead female alien and bring it back to base and your scientists dissect it and puzzle over its chromosomes and ladyparts and bizarre alien clothing (female) and eventually (after months of study) you make this thrilling sci-fi breakthrough that shows how women can hold a gun and point it at aliens.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      I asked a PR and as of right now, the answer is no female recruits. As I say in the preview, there are women in the cutscenes, but you can’t currently recruit them.

      • katinkabot says:

        I don’t understand this. Did they give you some sort of Call of Duty excuse? i.e. “Adding female models to the game would have been too costly. We would have had to cut out wall explosions or in this case HD fedoras” How am I supposed to make my team?? Why would I even want to play this game? Also, Grandpa-pastels!!! My new favorite adjective. You are the bees knees, Cara. So funny!

        • The Random One says:

          “Women do not wear fedoras. Adding them would harm our vision for the fedoras in this product. I mean hat. I mean GAME.”

        • Baines says:

          Wasn’t that the Gearbox excuse with Aliens: Colonial Marines as well?

          (At least before all the blowback happened. Then a month or so later, it was “We’ve got playable women! We had them all along, and just didn’t want to admit it before they were 100%!”)

      • theblazeuk says:

        It is set in the 50s/60s…. I mean I’m not condoning it or anything.

        • CutieKnucklePie says:

          So aliens from space are less of a departure from reality for you than righting a ridiculous exclusionary wrong? I can never get people who think that wizards, magic or aliens are acceptable deviations from historical reality but gender equality is just too much, man.

          • theblazeuk says:

            And likewise I don’t understand the people who want to whitewash history and feel that since you’re tweaking one element, you may as well tweak the whole lot.

            All historic sci-fi etc is “Like time period x, but with element y” . The more stuff you bolt on the less time period x is our time period x. And is pretending things were all equal and nice really doing justice to the struggles that people went through back then so we can sit here today arguing from our armchairs? I don’t think so.

            However don’t let me knock you off your high horse, I honestly don’t think this particular game is going to do anything really interesting with the setting anyway so should just throw everything in regardless.

        • Nosmirc says:

          Long time lurker, first time poster.

          The fact that the era was basically completely disregarded was pretty damn annoying.

          As someone who railed against the previous versions of this game because, at the time, that was GOING to be the face of XCOM, if you’re going to find faults with the game, put some effort forth and find some real ones. No women in the battlefield? That was a fact of life for women in the military in the 60s.

          http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/rr/s01/cw/students/leeann/historyandcollections/history/lrnmre1960s.html

          And the bit about “emphasis on team racial diversity” is ridiculous. African Americans have been in the US military history since the 1700s, both as slaves and free men.

          http://www.army.mil/africanamericans/timeline.html

          Neither of these points are faults in any shape or form to the game. No female soldiers and the presence of soldiers of African descent are entirely in line with the era.

      • Deadend says:

        What if it’s because they didn’t have time to get the animations synched correctly, and model for all the gear, and do voiceovers? I could see cutting female agents as a way to get back some money. Shitty. As that is the only real reason I can come up with.

  3. vinny_v86 says:

    This article has frustrated the living heck out of me. On one hand, Cara’s writing style is amusing and entertaining, but on the other it makes it extremely difficult to actually work out anything about the game that’s being previewed.

    It’s starting to feel like being wacky for the sake of it; surely there can be a better balance of entertaining and informative. It was just draining to read, unfortunately. I also have no idea whether I’m excited about this game or not.

    • tellrov says:

      I agree with vinny actually. I haven’t read much about this game so far and don’t really know how it plays or what it’s about. And after reading this article, I’m really none the wiser. It’s quirky and fun to read sure, but I’m not informed at all. Wasn’t sure if I would post this because of the obvious incoming backlash, but that’s just my opinion.

      • Baboonanza says:

        I understood it. The tactical element appears to consist of navigating menus, the AI soldiers are entirely unconvincing and the third-person shooting is as weak as it always is. The setting is appealing and some of the special powers appear interesting but overall it sounds pretty pants.

        • Lambchops says:

          Nice attempt at summing up but you did miss out one crucial bit of information.

          JEFF GOLDBLUM.

          C+, try harder next time!

        • Skull says:

          Thanks Baboonanza for the summary. I usually skip Cara’s articles as they are often needlessly long and full of too much bloat (understandable that some people find it entertaining but I really don’t have time in my day to read such things). But if she is reporting on a game that I have interest in then I like to scroll down to the comments to see if anyone has taken the key points being outlined and written it in a more informative way.

          If you could do this for all of Cara’s articles then I would be a lot less against her becoming a permanent member of the RPS team :).

          • Koozer says:

            Couldn’t read your comment, it was needlessly long and full of too much bloat.

            (this comment has no point. I just thought it humourous. Fnarf.)

          • Strabo says:

            Article clearly lacks at least 3 pivot tables and 6 text boxes of information to satisfy all I want to know about the game. Everything else in an article is boring fluff anyway.

          • Skull says:

            Well..yes, but nothing I write gets published online and I have no obligation to write comments in the fine line of humour and information. Also by starting my comment “Thanks Baboonanza….” you could tell it wasn’t for you anyway. So instead of coming across as “humourous” you just sound like a bit of an imbecile.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I like to think that there are other sites that are robotically factual, if you want that kind of thing. I like that RPS continues the tradition of messing about with words as being important. I certainly didn’t read PC Gamer for so many years because it was informative and concise. Although my purchase of a plastic viking hat with a balloon sellotaped to it that I use to game with to this very day was certainly thanks to Mr Rossignol’s informative article in one of the PC Gamer Money Pits.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      This is not a review. If that helps.

      • vinny_v86 says:

        It doesn’t help. I never, at any point, intimated that it’s a review, instead recognising that it’s a preview.

        • Cara Ellison says:

          I think previews can be anything you want them to be, by virtue of them being largely used by PR as extra, free, advertising. I do have a small remit of information-giving, but here I chose to bring to you the information that of the two hours I played I didn’t find the core mechanic, the mix of strategy and cover shooter, very satisfying. That’s it. You have 2k for the rest, and a Wot I Think for the final say. I just wanna talk about games! I am not a fact sheet or a news wire, I’m a critic.

          • vinny_v86 says:

            I honestly do appreciate where you’re coming from, and generally your writings strike the right balance. It just seemed, to me (I’m only one person in the wilds of the internet!), that it was all a little padded and superfluous even for the wonderfully irreverant and entertaining style that I come to this site for daily, if not hourly :)

            I think like I’ve tried to say too, I really did enjoy the piece for the entertainment value….perhaps it was remiss of me to expect a little more dry information from a short playtest, so perhaps it’s also a reader expectation issue too; the title of ‘hands on’ suggested to me that perhaps I’d be able to glean a little more information on a game that I know little to nothing about thus far.

            Love and puppies!

          • Lusketrollet says:

            I honestly do appreciate where you’re coming from, and generally your writings strike the right balance. It just seemed, to me (I’m only one person in the wilds of the internet!), that it was all a little padded and superfluous even for the wonderfully irreverant and entertaining style that I come to this site for daily, if not hourly :)

            I think like I’ve tried to say too, I really did enjoy the piece for the entertainment value….perhaps it was remiss of me to expect a little more dry information from a short playtest, so perhaps it’s also a reader expectation issue too; the title of ‘hands on’ suggested to me that perhaps I’d be able to glean a little more information on a game that I know little to nothing about thus far.

            Love and puppies!

            Jesus. You probably couldn’t have come off as more submissive and apologetic if you tried.

            Urrrgh.

          • Vast_Girth says:

            If he met an angry woman in real life he would probably melt into the ground.

            Personally whilst i enjoy whimsical mutterings, and thats part of the reason i come to RPS everyday, i do think Cara’s article stray into that territory for a bit too long. Its a bit like she wants to be writing a general interest blog rather than talk about games.

          • Skabooga says:

            Goodness, some days you just can’t win on the internet.

            Edit: The tone of this statement is meant to convey sympathy for vinnie for being pilloried because of the politeness and consideration shown in the latter comment.

          • Upper Class Twit says:

            Wait a minute, are you people seriously getting pissed off because someone isn’t getting pissed off enough?

            Well then, fuck yeah, that’s the way it fucking should be. Fuck you Cara and fuck this stupid fucking preview that I probably only chuckled at a couple of times anyway.

          • Arglebargle says:

            I jumped in to reading the article immediately, and about a quarter of the way through, I thought ‘This is unusually amusing and snarky. I wonder if it’s that Cara writer.’? Sure enough.

            Why is that Watermelon there? –>
            I don’t remember telling you to do that.

      • RedViv says:

        And how dare you go out of your way to amuse people. The People only want Facts, as given by Professional Fact Tellers.

      • tnzk says:

        I think I can see where Vinny may be coming from, but if I may offer something else a little differently.

        Is there an unspoken of 80/20 rule (not the Pareto principle) when it comes to journalism or writing? Basically, keep 80% of it normal, and 20% of it “different”. That way, more people can digest what you are conveying, but also shower you with praise for your inventiveness. I’m personally partial to about a 70/30 split, but 80/20 is unscientifically the most successful of the lot. It’s what made the Beatles popular, J.K Rowling rich, and our own Valve successful when they use to prioritize games.

        I work in movies, so here’s some examples: The Terminator (80% action movie, 20% Austrian cyborg), Jurassic Park (80% action-adventure, 20% ZOMG DINOSAURS), The Dark Knight (80% superhero movie, 20% Michael Mann ripoff), Iron Man (80% superhero movie, 20% Robert Downey Jr.)

        Here’s some examples of movies that went too far: Iron Man 2 (60% superhero movie, 40% Robert Downey Jr), Hulk 2003 (1% Hulk Smash, 99% Brokeback Bana), The Matrix Reloaded (50% action movie, 40% PHIL 101, 10% random orgy party), The Tree of Life (40% drama, 60% Catechism of the Catholic Church).

        So yeah, 80/20. It’s not a Commandment, but it can put perspective into whatever you create! In any case more than a few people have fallen in love with Cara’s writing style, myself included. So you’re doing something right!

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Did you miss all the words where she’s saying it isn’t good and it’s cliche and trite and not fun?

      • vinny_v86 says:

        To an extent, yes. My point being that as entertaining as the writing style is (and it is entertaining, definitely!), it obscures and hides the information being conveyed about the game in hand.

        It’s wearing trying to pick between irreverance and information is all that I’m attempting to say :)

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          Now that you’ve got me thinking about I agree. I thought the article was at least somewhat informative, in the general tone of “this game sucks” but yeah, even though it’s not a WIT I’d still like to know more specific things about the mechanics, controls, options… come to think of it most WITs don’t have enough of that information.

        • Chris D says:

          Let me translate some of the important points I took from the article.

          1. It’s a bit rubbish because you can’t concentrate on the shooting as you have to baby-sit your teammates and you can’t concentrate on the tactics because people keep shooting you and you don’t have a decent view of the battle field.

          2. Jeff Goldblum.

          I will also note that personally I found this article both entertaining and informative and am looking forward to more of this kind of thing. (The articles, not the game, obviously)

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          It seems like the best approach would be for the critic to allocate a segment of the preview to snark and another to facts, clearly signposting each. That way those of us who want easy access to the objective facts know where to look. To intermingle fact and opinion this way is just poor journalism, and it’s certainly not the way to criticise an art form.

          • Lambchops says:

            Frankly, bollocks to that.

            Each to their own but I can’t see how setting out an article with “I’m trying to be witty here” then “OK done with wit, here’s the dry facts” can have any sort of consistent flow or character to it.

            For the next half of my comment I’m going to be mock this approach:

            See it’s shite already!

          • realmenhuntinpacks says:

            43 years on from The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, you’d think expression in criticism would be pretty acceptable. Do you get botherated if Pitchfork don’t explicitly describe how each bar plays out? I don’t want to read dry dissections of what is, essentially, part of the arts pantheon. Why can’t we enjoy great writing that tells you exactly how your correspondent felt while experiencing the thing in question? There’s reams upon reams of dry assessment of game mechanics out there. ‘Poor journalism’ would seem to be epitomised by not having the stones to actually write how you want to, instead dividing up your output into signposted (?!) sections like your audience is comprised entirely of morons…

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Apologies. My comment should have been clearly signposted, thusly: “SARCASM”.

            For the record I love Cara’s style, and you are right to hold up Hunter S Thompson as a patron saint of this sort of reporting. Every time I hear people begging for more “facts” in games reporting my soul tries to escape through my ears.

            I find it quite sad that it wasn’t immediately obvious that my comment was a joke – says much about some of the gaming community does it not?

          • realmenhuntinpacks says:

            Ah jeez, sorry Lenny!

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            My fault!

          • Lambchops says:

            Apologies Lenny!

            My sarcasm detector is usually pretty good (detects parts per billion of ironic content), it’s perhaps malfunctioning badly due to having spent the day dealing with royal baby based chat!

        • Lusketrollet says:

          It’s wearing trying to pick between irreverance and information…

          This, for God’s sake.

    • Didden says:

      I thought it was funny. And also agree with the sentiment about Mass Effect. Still can’t be bothered to finish the second one due to the awful mechanics and… wheel.

    • realmenhuntinpacks says:

      Naturalistic, entertaining, pure RPS. Games writing bores me senseless 99% of the time. Thank fuck we have some engaging writers. Looks bobbins, btw

    • bill says:

      I thought it was pretty clear what Cara’s opinions on the game were and how the game played for her. Which part was hard to understand? Adding some humor doesn’t delete the information.

      That said, the beginning did read a little bit “why isn’t this a turn based strategy game????” which seemed a little odd to me given that there is already a turn based strategy game.

    • The_Great_Skratsby says:

      Even though it’s a preview I have to second this. That was an enjoyable read, but a little more coherency and pacing instead of jumping to the next stream of funnies when describing the game experience would’ve been nice.

    • The Random One says:

      So you say, but I don’t read who wrote each article before reading and thought this was Alec until she mentioned she is female.

    • fdisk says:

      I strongly disagree; the way this article is written is the only reason I got through it. This is a mediocre looking game trying to capitalize on the success of a stellar one. The humor with which this article is written is the only reason I’m even sharing it with my friends.

    • nearly says:

      There is literally not a single paragraph in this article that doesn’t focus on the game, excluding the ending list and the three-sentence paragraph toward the start worrying that it’s basically Mass Effect.

      What exactly were you looking for that wasn’t here? The article only ever talks about a two hour experience of the game.

      Seriously, I challenge anybody to copy and paste me every or any sentence from this article that doesn’t tell something about the game.

  4. distantlurker says:

    As a non-native Fifer, I heartily approve of exploding barrels. Up with this sort of thing!

  5. Skeletor68 says:

    X-BLUM: GOLD GATE JEFF GOLD DECLASSIFIED

  6. tnzk says:

    Actually, it’s not that you can’t recruit women, it’s that the women don’t want to be recruited. They thought the whole game would be a bit pants, really.

  7. RedViv says:

    We, ah, handed those medals out to, ah, at least give them something, ah, shiny.

  8. Koozer says:

    Because the one thing we all love in real-time shootygames is giving orders to thick-as-bricks teammates who can’t be trusted to hide on the right side of cover, let alone shoot the right bad guy. Games like this always devolve into either a) spending all my time microing the thickos, or b) ignoring their wails of pain and just shooting everything myself.

  9. DiamondDog says:

    JEFF GOLD BUM!

    Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.

  10. DrScuttles says:

    Cara, I see your picture of Jeff Goldblum and raise you this one.

  11. TreeFrog says:

    “consensually-unclear frottage”

    I am simultaneously impressed and nauseated.

  12. Jimbo says:

    Roger Fedora, surely?

  13. TonyKebell says:

    This article is a joke, its just, “this isn’t Xcom – enemy Unknown, its a half arsed cover shooter, waa, waaaa, waaah”.
    Well it’s your fault RPS and the fault of others like you, who hated on the original FPS, which I think looked pretty cool, who bitched and moaned like fuck, because it wasn’t a strategy game. I knew as soon as the Xcom franchise was ‘rebooted’ there’d be a ‘propper’ one, like enemy unknown, but everyone else bitched.

    Now you bitched so much about there being no strategy in a Xcom game that they turned into a tactical cover shooter, in half the time that they had before to make an FPS and you give it FLAK for being shitty and rushed and unpolished? It’s almost like they had to completely change what they were to doing to sate the moaney hoard of internet bitches…

    (I think this setting looked cool, I’m disappointed that it’s getting fucked up since the devs seem to be scared of disappointing people so hard that every time I hear about they’re adding in more half-arsed strategy elements, they should kept its a simple Bioshock-esque shooter, IMHO)

    • Cara Ellison says:

      It’s not really our fault that they made the design decisions they did. I have a feeling it would be okay if they’d considered very carefully how to implement the strategy parts, and also made the cover-shoot slightly more satisfying. But as I say, I only played 2 hours of it. It could have some spectacular level design going on later. But I didn’t get time to see it.

      • TonyKebell says:

        It’s just so damn depressing to see something that was bland mechanically, but interesting get panned so much that they change it, in a hurry, just to see everyone complain about the rushed changes.
        All I’ve ever see about this games is negative.

        At first it was, Waah Xcom isnt a shooter.
        Then It was, Oh, they’ve turned it into Gears of War
        Now it’s, oh look shitty tactical menus, wish this were just a normal Xcom game.

        I agree that shooting plus real time tactics are finicky, I just wish people would stop asking for it to be more like Xcom, with more strategy and then moaning about the implementation of the strategy parts, when it started of as what appeared to be a pretty serviceable, simple, plot driven shooter.

        • Cara Ellison says:

          True, but they’re surely shooting themselves in the foot if they use the XCOM brand – it invites comparison and makes fans of the brand feel used? They could just make a game that uses the same themes and do what they like. They have put themselves in a straitjacket.

          • TonyKebell says:

            But see, there doesn’t need to be a mechanical connection between games set in the same Universe, I like the Xcom setting, i like the idea of, what if the MIB were based on the Army instead of the CIA, which I feel is the general tone for the Xcom seires. I like the setting, I now that this 1950s setting skews that a little, but it looks interesting they’re approaching the same setting and the same antagonists from a different angle mechanically and ever so slightly different explanation.
            The same way I enjoyed the connection between the Halo shooters and Halo wars (though I didn’t like playing Halo Wars, I did rather enjoy the idea of Halo Wars)

          • Ravenholme says:

            Nah, but there should be some respect for the franchise’s story if that were the case. XCOM makes it pretty clear that the invasion is the first time Aliens have invaded Earth (At no point did the US suddenly burst in and go “Actually we invented you guys in the 60s, here, have some laser guns out of Area 51!”), and more importantly to my mind, it pisses all over the idea that the XCOM initiative was the world getting together and doing something about Aliens.

            Nope, it was the US who did it 60 years ago! (XCOM is 2020-ish, right?) The rest of the world is just catching up to us, haha! USA!

            Nevermind the fact that other people were involved in the Cold War, nope, American Exceptionalism at play, has to be -just- the US.

          • njolnin says:

            Your comment implies that many people have a negative opinion simply because of its title-it’s not the same thing as the game they loved, and they’re much less likely to judge it on its merits. That’s kind of been my impression ever since news of this game first broke. I have no connection to the old XCOM, and no interest in buying this either, but it stands out as too opinionated.

            On the other hand, if a franchise that I did care about was getting some major overhaul, I’d react in an unfair way. Heck, my brow furrows with fan-rage when I hear the voice of the new Garrett for Thi4f, so I’ve got some work to do (though I’m still going to buy it, and the silly old title stuck with me). To what extent can, or should, we examine upcoming games by detaching our expectations and biases from past experiences?

            I suppose that touches on another theme in this comments thread regarding your writing style. It may be unfair to single you out, because I’ve had an issue with many writers who start doing this, but the article reads much more like an entertainment piece for the author to be witty than a serious examination of the game. For previews, I’m not looking for entertainment, but rather an in depth analysis of the mechanics and context of the game. Much of that was missing.

        • Jimbo says:

          Nobody at any point said ‘FPS?? You should make it like the bad half of Mass Effect instead!’

          Once the real XCOM game got both announced and released in the time they were messing about with this, I don’t think anybody really cared too much what happened to this game. The first version looked more interesting than this (obviously, because this looks awful), but none of them have looked great.

          • TonyKebell says:

            Yeah none looked great, but all I (emphasis on I) ever saw about declassified, before it was declassified was people bitching it wasn’t a top down strategy game. Which has obviously led them to, “lets add strategy to our shooter, wait its far to hard to access the battlefield in 1st person, lets make it 3rd person and add the cover mechanics every 3rd person game needs to have”. I know their choices are typical stupid choices we’ve seen made by developers making sub-par 3rd person tactical shooters over the last few years, but i feel its more of the fault of whining people wanting more strategy in their shooter.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            LOL I think you give too much credit to whining people.
            It’s the fault of the developers or publishers. Put the blame where it belongs. If they truly had some sort of “artistic vision” or if this was a labor of love then they would have made what they were passionate about. This is probably more of a cash grab/commissioned work than a labor of love. If that’s true, it was never going to be very good despite perspective/cover/strategy/action or any of that.

        • jalf says:

          You do realize that there are actually a lot of different people on this planet, yes?

          Perhaps the people complaining about XCOM being a shooter are not the same as the people complaining about XCOM being Gears of War, and those people may not be the same as those complaining that it’s not a “normal” XCOM game, and those people might not be the same as those who just say “eh, it just doesn’t look like a very good game”.

          Yeah none looked great, but all I (emphasis on I) ever saw about declassified, before it was declassified was people bitching it wasn’t a top down strategy game. Which has obviously led them to, “lets add strategy to our shooter, wait its far to hard to access the battlefield in 1st person, lets make it 3rd person and add the cover mechanics every 3rd person game needs to have”.

          “All you ever saw”? Really? You saw *no* mention of any other opinion about the game? In that case, you either *chose* to see nothing else, you forgot about it since then, or you’re making this up just to have someone to blame.

          Ever since this game was first revealed, it has had a broad range of criticisms (and some positive input) *from different people*. Of course there were people who saw the initial reveal and said “XCOM games should not be shooters”. Just like there were people saying “looks good, but why is it called XCOM”, and so on.

          But show me *one* game which did not have a group of people complain about it. This game did, because just like every other game ever presented to the world, it was, well, presented to the world. A lot of people saw it, and when a lot of people see something, they have diverse opinions.

          If the developers were not prepared to cope with this, if this forced them to mutilate their own game, then this game has much bigger problems…

          Did you see a great outcry against the original alien design? Because I didn’t. What I saw was “regardless of whether or not the gameplay is any good and whether or not this game should be called XCOM,those aliens look bad-ass”.
          And then they changed that.

          That, to me, does not imply a conspiracy among consumers, collaborating to sabotage the game with their whining.

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        Everyone’s a critic. How many games have you designed thus far, Cara? So far all I see is sub-par writing.

    • bill says:

      I don’t see how the article is a joke. I do agree that the original looked more interesting. I don’t think it’s Cara’s fault that they changed it though.

      1 – They announced an XCOM FPS that looked ok, but people wanted a tactical turn based game.
      2 – They announced a tactical turn based XCOM game and everyone was happy.
      3 – They changed their XCOM FPS into a dull looking 3PS team cover shooter. Why did they do this? Now that people have the tactical XCOM game they wanted, why not also release the XCOM FPS you wanted to make?

      I don’t think anyone was against the idea of an XCOM FPS spinoff – they were just against the idea of converting xcom wholesale into an FPS (as had been done to numerous other games like syndicate).
      Playing in a 50s XCOM world would actually be pretty cool, as long as it doesn’t totally replace the original.

      I thought the first trailer looked like Bioshock with cool black cubes… i wanted to play that one.

    • The_Great_Skratsby says:

      Hate to break it to you but the developers torpedoed their own game, it was without strong direction when it was well into development, and changed hands in 2K’s internal studios (from what I understand it was originally more of a 2K Canberra gig).

      The Fireaxis XCOM was well underway before it was announced, bad PR and the devs unable to clearly define the shooter, and the sequence of trailers that began to focus more on ‘the guns’! and ‘aliens brothers in arms’! straddling more into a lack of identity territory means it’s no wonder that the higher ups pulled it, and reprocessed.

      What you’re dreaming of was a pipe dream in itself – and I say that as being someone who was exited for X-Com flaming Alliance when that was announced, and that became X-Com Enforcer.

      Ho hum.

    • fdisk says:

      I have news for you; that other game was going to be as shit if not more than this one even if it looked good in a coupe of screenshots and videos.

      XCOM’s entire appeal is that it’s a brainy, tactical, intelligent game. The action has nothing to do with it, twitch gameplay does not belong in XCOM. I’m not even going to touch on how having the Aliens in the 60s makes the plot in Enemy Unknown completely irrelevant.

      There are certain games that belong in certain settings. Blizzard tried to bring Warcraft to the Adventure genre and they canned it. Starcraft was shit as a third person stealth game. They tried turning Everquest and Baldur’s Gate into Gauntlet clones and they failed. On the shooter side Halo was crap as an RTS.

      I’d rather they would have just put their time and effort into an Enemy Unknown sequel or proper expansion.

  14. ChampionHyena says:

    “consensually-unclear frottage”

    Has… has no one else mentioned this line yet?

  15. Robin says:

    OMG LOL so random etc.

    Inserting interminable streams of consciousness between dry infodumps doesn’t make either less of a slog.

  16. TsunamiWombat says:

    Why do all of you people hate whimsy

  17. kwyjibo says:

    “What we’re really looking for is a game where the play seems fluid and unforced.”

    Yeah, like a first-person shooter. But no, that wasn’t tactical or XCOMy enough! So instead of FPS fluidity, we get pitched battles of attrition where you wear the enemy down with your slightly better positioning behind conspicuously placed “I can’t believe it’s not cover” cover.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Still bedazzles me that more people don’t try to imitate Star Wars Republic Commando – It got FPS and squad command right without it being overly complicated, imo.

  18. bill says:

    There have been (almost*) no games where giving commands to AI team-mates was fun. Ever.

    It always sounds like a great idea – add some tactics and depth to my FPS by allowing me to command teammates around the battlefield. But it always results in – make every encounter take 5 times as long as a standard FPS by making me issue the same basic tactical orders to my team-mates each time.

    It also tends to make failure/replay more annoying as you have to just repeat the whole thing again.

    I remember picking Brothers in Arms over CoD because it sounded more deep and tactical – but then it was just boring boring boring with the orders thing.

    *My exceptions would be space games like Tie Fighter and also Space Hulk – Vengeance of the Blood angels. In Tie Fighter it was really easy to issue orders while doing other things, and in SH-VOTBA it was just very atmospheric and awesome (and probably also because it was based on a board game).

    • Lambchops says:

      Swat IV’s team AI was decent as well if I remember rightly.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        It was passable but most of the time I ended up doing everything myself regardless as the AI squad chaps always inevitably got themselves killed by doing something stupid (like not tasering the dude waving a gun at them) which is more of an AI problem though.

    • nil says:

      I quite liked Brothers in Arms; albeit considering it more as a tactical puzzle-em-up where your reward for completing a stage was the opportunity to shoot many mans in enfilade.

    • Nick says:

      Republic Commando and Rainbow 6 Vegas worked well for me.

  19. Moraven says:

    Looks like Brother in Arms with to much xcom tactical overlay.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, I too like to hang loose, sink a few beers and go completely eagles from time to time, before I straighten my tie and go back to chaffinch for the workplace.

  21. MattMk1 says:

    Hmm. Feels like someone trying way too hard to follow the “RPS style guide”. Wrong ratio of style to substance…

    • Gap Gen says:

      RPS needs a set of sliders for this. You can drag it all the way to the left to bare all the facts, or all the way to the right to strip all the snoozeathon information/press release text in favour of a discussion about the time the writer’s cat tried to eat a shoe. Or you can tick the box marked “Alec Meer” to replace all the text in the article with the words SPACE and MARINE.

      • Lambchops says:

        I like this idea. I wonder what we’d get if we set sliders to Jim?

          • Koozer says:

            Johnny 5 and Tom Servo better be in there somewhere.

          • DrScuttles says:

            Yes and yes. As for Wall-E…
            edit: I found him. Clever. It distracts you with all “oh, hey, it’s that wee dude!”

          • nindustrial says:

            Of key import is knowing what wall-e actually looks like. I searched for a while before refreshing my memory with an internet search… and realized I’d already found him.

        • RedViv says:

          Sophistication, most assuredly.
          How much money would be made if you could only use the More John side of the John slider until you pay?

          • Gap Gen says:

            Or if you could pay $5 to activate “Burqa mode” where all references to women are removed from the site. Or I suppose you could just wait for Conservative Party legislation to undo social progress (although granted, yes, they did pass same-sex marriage).

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            RPS Crysis nanosuit ahoy!

            MAXIMUM JOHN: Gives a bonus to punching patriarchy. Also to the throwing of chickens, for some reason. Massive penalty to healing.

            MAXIMUM CARA: Everything turns into psychedelic rainbows that dance with you, but your walrus thinks it is a rhinoceros. Jaffa cakes inexplicably appear.

            MAXIMUM NATHAN: Your time zone is immediately set 6-9 hours behind GMT. Your ping for European servers is increased and you gain a Constitutional right to bear arms. +1 to all saves vs. Monarchy, unless the attack involves Tourism.

            MAXIMUM MR. STONE: You gain immense respect and a modicum of fear from all who approach you. Your appear to enemies to be superimposed over a selection of WWI fighting aircraft, which they must identify correctly before they can attack you.

          • The Random One says:

            MAXIMUM CRAIG: All articles are prefaced with “I haven’t actually played [relevant game], but here’s some news on it…”

            MAXIMUM PORPENTINE: You cannot grasp the true form of Maximum Porpentine.

  22. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Excellent as always, Cara.

  23. Ernesto says:

    So now we have X-Com-likes set in the near future (XCOM), somewhere in the 80′s (Xenonauts) and this one in the 60′s…
    I can’t decide! We need reskinned versions of all of the X-Com-likes. Modders…Go!

  24. wondergra says:

    The only problem I have with the content of this article is that there is now a record somewhere of me having googled ‘frottage’ on a workplace computer :( … and then talking about it an internet forum. So eh, thanks for that.

  25. Misnomer says:

    I really didn’t mind that combat in Mass Effect 2 or 3 at all, 1 was a bit iffy. It seems like people always complain about the AI, but in those games if you simply assigned the AI targets with a quick press of Q or E you would watch them do quite a nice bit of action. Sometimes they were a bit silly, but typically if I took Liara and Garrus with me I would be watching a lot more kills than I was making (I found Edi to be by far the worst and some of her powers glitched terribly, but I could take most of the AI on missions with me and manage exactly as much as I wanted to…usually picking powers and weapons only in tough situations like bosses and walls of snipers).

    Republic Commando is another example of a game that does the real time squad orders right, though that was from First Person. I wish more games would emulate that one as it was a joy to maneuver with your squaddies.

    Yeah, generally this article was a bit rambly for me and seemed to be (as others have pointed out) a frustration that it is not a “pure genre” Cara enjoys. It would have been nice to know how it compares to ME type controls and actions rather than just saying that it sucks like ME. Really doesn’t help for those people who actually like this type of game.

    (Oh and the women may have had medals from WW2 as WAC or WASP service. WACs existed until 1978 and could earn medals . Also, nurses were highly decorated: For example, Ruby Bradley: “She was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1958 and retired from the Army in 1963. Her military record included 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze stars, two Presidential Emblems, the World War II Victory Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.” or Elizabeth P. Hoisington of WAC with her Distinguished Service Medal, 2 Legion of Merit medals, and a Bronze star http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_P._Hoisington).

  26. noodlecake says:

    “I’m not sure a third person cover shooter where you deploy orders to AI characters was ever actually fun”

    I’m pretty sure it was. I know a lot of people who really enjoyed the combat in Mass Effect. In fact I don’t know anybody who thought it wasn’t fun. Granted the first one was a bit iffy but they’d nailed it by the third one.

    • The Random One says:

      Hi, noodlecake! I’m The Random One. Nice to meet you!

      Now you know at least one person who didn’t like ME’s combat, and was in fact befuddled that his alien chatting simulation was constantly being interrupted by a far inferior Winback 64 clone.

  27. jonahcutter says:

    I had no problem registering the info-y bits of the article as I read it. I enjoy Kara’s looping (not loopy), flowing, cursive kind of style.

    I enjoyed Mass Effect combat.

    This game continues to look middling.

  28. strangeloup says:

    If you cut out the actual gameplay bits of the trailer it looks mildly interesting.

    I am testing a new tactic of trying to say something nice even if the game in question looks pants. I might reconsider if it has Stationary Cupboard Wank DLC.

  29. Synesthesia says:

    Great piece! Mass effect’s combat was awful and boring, i wonder what pushed them to make something like this? Seems like the game design has been very fiddly and insecure since the beggining. Ah well. I still have an iron man game im too afraid to continue. My first terror mission is coming, and i’m too afraid to do it. Will my fiddly laser rifles be enough against zombies? I don’t want to know. Guess i’ll make a Jeff Goldblum soldier to save the day.

  30. Sinomatic says:

    Yes. In the last week we’ve had an article written by a fucking table, but *this* article is too stylized, random and whimsical…

    I despair.

  31. soopytwist says:

    Best. Review. Ever.

  32. Spidy09 says:

    “or can lay a mine to enable spatially unaware aliens to spread themselves over a wide area.”
    I like that, I’m an “enabler” by nature.

  33. Homu Homu says:

    What I got out of the article is that it’s a third-person cover shooter and thus I have no interest in playing it.

  34. rampofdeath says:

    I enjoyed this, I generally skim hands-ons as by their nature they’re vague and general. This delivered the usual rough experience replete with the standard “only a preview, maybe everything will miraculously improve upon release” qualifier but bundled a few “snigger out loud” moments, which is a plus in my book.

  35. Fox89 says:

    As someone who didn’t really like the Mass Effect combat system but thought it might be really good in a game that wasn’t Mass Effect, I’m looking forward to this. I don’t expect this to be brilliant, but if we can get a fun, vaguely tactical, reasonably interesting story in a cool setting I’ll consider it £30 well spent.

  36. vinny_v86 says:

    I forgot to stick to my guns in an ignorant and trollorific vein; forgiveness please.

  37. jsbenjamin says:

    I do so love Cara’s writing! More guest posts from Cara, please!

  38. nindustrial says:

    This sounds about how I’ve been expecting so far. A somewhat mediocre offering. I do look forward to thoughts on the final release.

  39. rustybroomhandle says:

    There is a soup reference in this article…

  40. MacTheGeek says:

    I thought the Emergency Services number had changed.

    Isn’t it 0118 999 88199 9119 725…

  41. Arglebargle says:

    Apparently, women could not serve as agents in the FBI til 1972. There were a few early women special agents, but most of them were ‘eased’ out in the ’20′s. Blame J. Edger Hoover for this. Actually J Edger was pretty despicable on a number of fronts, so that’s not surprising. One of the biggest crooks in Washington DC for decades, and that’s saying something.

    Added as a point of order, so the proper base is there for the arguments. It is historically valid that only men are available as agents.

    It’s also historically valid that ‘something’ happened at Roswell, NM!

  42. Bear With Me says:

    This article was fun to read! Thank you Cara!

    And it catches the main issue with this upcoming game, from the perspective of Enemy Unknown players: is the combat tactical level deep enough?

    For me, the big issue with EU is that the game was mostly a teaser, a demo – indeed, a good one, but it screams for EU 2, in which the very nicely designed combat missions fit in a real game, and not the ridiculous, artificial, added on top, strategy layers (panic, funding, bonuses for adjacent labs…).

    Therefore, I am very very hungry for an evolved XCOM EU; therefore, when XCOM Bureau shows up in the news, I become interested. Hopefully we get more of that deep tactical experience. Sadly, I can’t really see it right now in the Bureau. Maybe we have to adjust a bit to the fast arcade action, unlike the chess pace of the other game.

  43. Kefren says:

    Good stuff, article better than the game, words win.
    To be honest I can’t think of any third-person games I’ve ever enjoyed. (Will probably turn out there were hundreds and my memory is having a bad neuron day).

  44. 00Eek says:

    You have the best writing style of all time. Of all time!

  45. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Why is Jeff Goldblum in this article? Seriously. Is he voicing a character? Because then I’m pre-ordering at once.

  46. MrKablamm0fish says:

    I don’t think there’s a school next to a Homebase in Milton Keynes…..

    *nitpick of the day*

  47. Gazz says:

    Can I downvote a review?
    Now I don’t intend to buy the Bureau for my own reasons but this was just bad…

  48. Just awful. says:

    I can honestly say that you are the worst writer i have ever seen in my entire life. The way you refuse to tell any information without jamming a horrible joke that takes 7 lines to get it’s lack of a point across is the biggest problem. It seems that you forget that the reason people clicked on “X-COM declassified hands on” was because they wanted to hear about X-COM declassified and how it played, NOT to be told half baked jokes that spit in the face of humor. all of the information i got out of this 13 paragraph article is that the running animations aren’t very good, it’s not a turn based strategy game, the running animations are wonky, and you can’t recruit women. 3 things, 2 of those things don’t affect the gameplay in any way. this article is worthless.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>