The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is free right now


XCOM’s 2013 squad-based shooter spin-off The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is available free for the next day-and-a-bit from the Humble Store. Our Alec will tell you it’s one of those enjoyable-enough 7/10 perfectly average action games, which makes it not bad as a freebie. Me, my interests are slightly more morbid: I want to see the game which changed form wildly as its development dragged on and ultimately was the final game from BioShock 2 studio 2K Marin before 2K killed them. Also I want to shoot aliens with zapguns.

The Bureau is set in the ’60s, pitting those marvellous moonmen against fellas who wore fedoras because that was just the fashion of the day and it wasn’t a bold statement then. Equipped with retro-futuristic weapons and tools, players are sent to blast them to pieces in third-person action, supported by squadmates who can be ordered about. Check out Alec’s review for more on that.

It’s also a game which arrived years later than intended, switching from something first-person BioShock-lookin’ to a third-person cover shooter in that time. I still like the suggestions of unknowable alien horror and powerlessness in the 2010 trailer, back when the game was simply called XCOM:

Back when XCOM/The Bureau was first announced, 2K said they were making another XCOM shooter rather than a tactical game because they had the name lying around and because “strategy games are just not contemporary.” Welp. The drawn-out development of The Bureau, which I’d imagine was in part due to 2K reshaping the game following fan kickback against them saying daft things like that, ended in the corporate death of its makers. The whole thing still seems a terrible shame.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a 2012 reboot of the turn-based tactical games, actually ended up coming out before The Bureau. That line is still doing just grand, most recently with XCOM 2: War of the Chosen.

Swing on by the Humble Store for a free Steam key for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. You’ve got until 6pm on Saturday (10am Pacific) to grab one.


  1. kwyjibo says:

    The lesson here is to not pander to fans.

    • klops says:

      I’m quite sure none of the X-Com fans wanted or asked anything like this.

      • Xocrates says:

        A bit of column A, a bit of column B.

        No-one asked for an X-Com shooter, but it was trying to appease the X-Com fans that truly killed the game.

        In effect, an interesting looking game was ruined because someone somewhere decided to call it XCOM.

        • Bull0 says:

          Then the lesson is don’t badge your shooter game with the brand of a beloved turn based tactics game

        • klops says:

          I don’t see changing from 1st person oil-monolith strangeness to third-person cover shooter as appeasing to fans of X-Com. Both have very little to do with the 90s X-Com.

          Then again, I don’t know/remember about the development the game so what do I know. It just seems strange to change the game to what it is nowadays if fans wanted more of the same.

          • Xocrates says:

            That’s one feature in dozens. Enemies, gameplay, and story were all changed – including adding a pointless and nonsensical connection to the then already released XCOM:EU.

            It’s hard to tell what was planned and what wasn’t, but visibly a lot of the game was changed to make it more in line with what people expected from X-Com.

      • Urthman says:

        I wonder how different the reaction would have been if XCOM had come out (or at least been announced) first? If fans hadn’t thought they were being offered that weird FPS instead of (rather than in addition to) a proper strategy game sequel to X-Com.

        Seems like a real shame. That X-files/Lovecraftian/alternate 50’s setting looked like it could have been really cool.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:


    • Yglorba says:

      But the actual X-Com remake, which was a direct response to fan requests, was an excellent game and did really well.

      I think the answer is that you should choose what you’re doing and stick with it. Pandering to fans is fine as long as you set up a detailed plan from the start after taking a careful look at what people want; discarding most of your work halfway through in response to fan requests is a bad idea.

  2. wombat191 says:

    It’s not amazing, but it’s a decent 3rd person shooter that probably would of been better off with a different IP rather than trying to latch it on to X-com then again there have been some really crappy x-com games over the years

    • S-Hellequin says:

      So true, some actually decent (but not great) games are cursed with a name they can’t live up to, like ME Andromeda and Syndicate

    • welverin says:

      Hell, Enemy Unknown being announced first would have made a huge difference. For the first game in the series announced in about a decade to be shooter, particularly since the last few games were spinoffs in other genres that weren’t good, there was just no way the game was ever going to be received well by fans of the series.

  3. Addie says:

    The lesson here is, if you’re not going to pander to fans and instead take a radical new direction, then it should in fact be new and radical and not a second-rate copy of the shooting and team-directing from Mass Effect 1. Because in that case, no-one’s happy.

    I got The Bureau on sale for a fiver, for which it provides a few hours of entertainment. It looks good, it’s quite a stylish rendition of the 60s, the voice acting is surprisingly sweary but not offensively poor; however the game play and plotting is just so uninspired in every way. Expect no surprises here at all.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yes, definitely don’t expect any surprises.

      (That way the surprises will be better.)

  4. Ansob says:

    It’s a solid Brothers-in-Arms-style tactical shooter with decent writing, and pretty good, especially for the fat price of £0.

  5. karnak says:

    The original 2010 trailer hinted at something like an FPS set in a 1950’s setting with hints of lovecraftian weirdness and “non-euclydean” horrors.

    As a huge original X-com trilogy fan I was intrigued by it. I knew it wouldn’t be nothing like the wonderful “Terror from the Deep” or the other strategy games. But it looked interesting and unusual and I thought it looked great.

    I still remember the crys of outrage from thousands of fanboys on youtube who were feeling their safe-space under threat.

    In the end the original project was scrapped and we got a mediocre shooter.
    Never, ever, listen to the fans.

    • Bull0 says:

      Didn’t that outcry also lead to 2k green lighting XCOM Enemy Unknown?

      • Xocrates says:

        XCOM:EU was already in development when this was first announced, and given that one also had a failed prototype along the way and had a fairly long development cycle it’s pretty much impossible it hadn’t been greenlit by then.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Apparently the words “safe space” can now designate anything vaguely related to nothing in particular, or at least in their rough possible vicinity.

      • Tiax says:

        Well, it’s still useful when you want to belittle a random group of people so as to make you feel better. No biggie if the group in question is poorly defined or even non-existant.

    • aepervius says:

      They made change because they realized a huge part if their vore target audience rejected the concept. If they had targeted a new ip this would not have been a problem, but also a higher risk. As for “fanboy” you are displaying your color here, why not add “entitled” for more fun ? If people do not react and make display of their feeling about a game/lootbox/sexism in games , how are we going to influence the industry ? We are the supposed consummer, and targeted audiences. We are not the “consummed”.

    • subedii says:

      The project didn’t change direction because of the fanbase (Heck, for the most part they were pretty heavily targeting to the console fanbase at the time, and basically all the console publications were gushing over it).

      The project changed directions (and kept changing directions) because they had no real clear vision on what they even wanted the game to be.

  6. Konservenknilch says:

    Reminds me of the Syndicate FPS, which was also not a terrible game, but a bizarre use of the license. Fans of the originals were pissed off, and gamers new to the IP wouldn’t benefit from it in any way.

  7. Spuzzell says:

    It’s 6/10 at best, but I played through it happily enough.

    For free it’s absolutely worth it, fill your boots chaps and ladies.

    • Premium User Badge

      DuncUK says:

      I’ve filled my boots and chaps by putting them on, but I’m not sure the ladies I know will appreciate such an inappropriate suggestion.

  8. StAUG says:

    It’s not the worst game in the X-Com franchise. Which isn’t saying much, but still.

  9. snowsurfer says:

    I’m a long time fan of the series, from the original (at release), TFTD…then not any others until the release of the new games, and I don’t understand the hate this gets. It’s nothing spectacular but a decent amount of fun. Not like it is hurting the rest of the games in any way.

  10. malkav11 says:

    The game they originally pitched would probably have been cooler but the game we got is a pretty solid squad shooter with decent visuals, decent writing, and, if you get in deep enough, some ideas I surely wasn’t expecting. Definitely worth free.

  11. Freud says:

    This looked so good in development and then they turned it into a third person cover shooter.

    I’m glad the proper X-Com reeboot was successful and this wasn’t.

  12. Edgewise says:

    One quibble:

    “Our Alec will tell you it’s one of those enjoyable-enough 7/10 perfectly average action games, which makes it not bad as a freebie.”

    Personally, I feel that a good game is usually worth far more than the money you spend on it, and even a mediocre game is worth far less, perhaps not even the time you spend on it. For instance, I still think of Soul Calibur as more than enough justification for buying the Dreamcast back in the day. And I probably spent nearly a thousand hours in the original Battlefield 1942, so the cash-per-hour on that is through the floor. And they were all good hours!

    • Konservenknilch says:

      This. My Steam/GOG backlog is already ridiculous from the various sales/freebies, but my time is valuable as well. So I’d rather spend some money on a game, which, while not perfect, I a least genuinely enjoy than an a free “meh, could be worse” one.

      For example, I love point&click adventures, which are never very long, but those are some joyful hours.

  13. poliovaccine says:

    Obviously as an XCOM game it’s a non-sequitur, but as a game in general, on its own mechanical merits, I’ve had some fun with it. There isn’t a whole lot else out there with a similar aesthetic, which always appealed to me, probably via Fallout. And the squad-based fighting is arguably more solid than it was in the first Mass Effect game, so I enjoyed being able to do that stuff without meticulously waypointing Tali so she wouldnt fire continuously into a corner she couldn’t round, or the like.

    But mostly I just dig the way this game was apparently somehow intended to help the process along of UFO disclosure, between, like, John Podesta and that Tom guy from Blink 182 haha.

  14. haldolium says:

    This is not a “7/10” shooter, it’s below average imo, XCOM or not, it is not a good shooter or good game.

    I really wouldn’t bother with it.

    • Yglorba says:

      I think you have to take that number in Videogame Review Units, where 8/10 is average, 7/10 is below average, and highly-intelligent mathematicians with fancy degrees and abstract thinking have speculated that we may one day discover the existence of numbers below 6.

      • haldolium says:

        obviously I was referring to this link to

        It’s even listed there, but it isn’t that kind of game and falls behind almost every other rightfully mentioned title. It’s just not worth the time. I already got it for free a year or so back and it was just a waste of bandwidth to download it. It isn’t a good game under any aspect. It does nothing particular right. And by now it’s also old and age really didn’t help with the first facts.

  15. Booker says:

    A lot of XCOM fans must be douchebags are something, because all the hate this game gets isn’t warranted at all. None of the stuff actually in this game is bad.

    The graphics were good for the time (and I still like them), some of the characters are interesting, the voice acting is really good (e.g. Jack from Mass Effect 2 plays a prominent role), the story is at least as good as the ones in the XCOM 1+2 games and it’s fun to fight the aliens from a more direct vantage point. Games should do such genre-jumping more often in general.

    I’ve played this game 3 times over the years and it was fun each time.

    It even has several possible endings…

    Now I might have a weakness for this setting since I grew up on TV shows like Dark Skies (essentially X-files in the sixties), but there are a thousand worse 3rd person shooters out there.

  16. Morat Gurgeh says:

    I have no comment on studios, publishers or quality. Just a hearty thanks for the heads up about a free game.

  17. mercyRPG says:

    Perfectly entertaining game! Highly recommended!

  18. GravityBoom says:

    Well I’m going to give it a shot just because 1) it’s free and 2) it might give me a little more of the XCOM squad based combat I enjoy.

  19. ggggggggggg says:

    the decision to publicly announce this game first, with a bunch of statements calling people who wanted a TBS xcom stupid entitled nerds who need to keep up with the times while secretly developing an actual TBS xcom has got to be one of the most baffling own goals in the history of the games industry