Developer: 2K Marin / Publisher: 2K Games / Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC / Release Date: August 20, 2013 / ESRB: Rating Pending
If you remember a couple of years ago, at E3 2010, 2K Games revealed a shooter set in the XCOM universe. It looked kind of poor. Weird, in fact. Dominating in the demo—despite very cool demo room furnishings that illustrated the 1960s world aesthetic in which the game would be set—was an alien fuzzy blob that was, not to put too fine a point on it, awful. Like, if you were covering up the actual enemy with a bunch of squiggles on the screen (maybe for a surprise factor), in some kind of real-time blur effect, then it might look like the alien blobs. They were a mess and D-movie low-rent. It wasn’t a surprise to see the game disappear into the vapor-sphere.
But not so fast. While 2K Senior Producer Nico Bihary confirms that “blob-tech” still exists in this reboot of a reboot, and the enemies of this new XCOM will be familiar to franchise fans, The Bureau is now a third-person action game that takes its tropes from the XCOM universe, but aims to galvanize them in the 1960s setting with a fresh take on storytelling.
We got just the basics of the plans ahead as we’ll see more in the next week or so, but like the recent XCOM strategy reboot was your thinking man’s strategy game, The Bureau sounds like it aims to be more your thinking man’s action experience.
It’s 1962 and feelings in the United States are positive. JFK has set up The Bureau to find potential “situations” and then cover them up. The alien-powered event that starts the game puts an end to the cover-up, but brings The Bureau to the fore in fighting this new threat.
You play as William Carter, your classic lone wolf agent by the sounds of it, in charge of two agents who you will name, customize, and no doubt grow to love, and then mourn as your tactical mistakes on the battlefield end their burgeoning careers with a harsh but real perma-death.
The early notes are that the shift to third-person allowed the developers to show the battlefield more clearly, allowing you to survey and choose strategies and tactics. But the perspective doesn’t mean Gears of War, since using battle focus involves using your team’s skills to maneuver and institute skills like recon (that boosts damage effects) and support (that adds buffs and allows for a dodge move).
Customization of your team is now a hallmark of the XCOM franchise, and bringing it to the action arena is a fascinating move. You have control over the look, skills, and naming, then pick and choose from your squad for specific missions. Those elements sound familiar from the strategy game, but here you’re dumped into a Pleasantville 1962 good ol’ U.S. of A. facing this alien threat with action, tempered by battleground tactics, shaping your decisions that could, we hear, change the entire course of the war.
The reboot of the game was, according to Bihary, down to “making it more XCOM, more strategic.” The team has proved once that it can successfully reimagine those concepts to a new audience, and with The Bureau we can’t wait to see how they invigorate the third-person action genre.