You know what? It’s almost a shame we have so many good games to play nowadays… hear me out. If I had played The Bureau about seven years ago my mind would have been completely blown. But in this age where games like Mass Effect and Bioshock exist, I can’t help but feel incredibly blasé about this alien shoot-em-up. The Bureau is just okay, and in this day and age, that’s an issue.
Set in 1960’s, The Bureau tells the story of the initial alien attack that sets up the events of the critically acclaimed strategy game from last year, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The story is actually sort of promising to begin with, if you can manage to ignore the game’s poor dialog and creepy facial animations. Things are repeatedly setup that could quite possibly be interesting but in the end just fall flat.
While its narrative is pretty poor, The Bureau’s combat is actually pretty good. Much like Mass Effect, you have two squad-mates accompanying you at all times that you can order-around as you see fit. The only real issue I have with this ordering-system is that your squad-mates need you to order them if you want them to be useful at all. And going to the game’s ordering screen every few seconds really trips up what could be some relatively hectic, and fun combat.
Something that also trips up the game is the constant visits to the XCOM base of operations. The game will drop you into the XCOM HQ, and tell you to talk to someone. You get no on-screen indicator of where to find said-character, and characters will often change rooms between your visits. So you’ll often have to walk around the entirety of your very large base while trying to find your person of interest. To make matters worse, you walk at a infuriatingly slow speed while at your base, on several occasions when I would play the game somewhat late at night, I found myself nearly falling asleep while trying to find the person I needed to talk to. Sure, this isn’t a majority of the game, but these walking/talking sections can take twenty minutes or so.
Another irritating thing I couldn’t understand was the game’s objective menu. On the PC version of the game “O” is supposed to bring up the objective screen, but for some reason it would bring up the character menu instead. I tried re-mapping the key on several occasions, but had no luck bringing up the menu I wanted. Eventually I just shrugged it off. But then, suddenly, toward the tail-end of the game, I pressed the “O” key and the objective menu did pop up, and from it I could switch over to that character menu. I then thought, “wow, did I just not see that on-screen button to switch menus before?”. But luckily my observance is no longer in question because it wasn’t ten minutes later that I pressed the “O” key again and the option to switch to the objective screen was completely gone.
The last enemy encounter in the game is also atrociously long, and puts you at ridiculous odds. I believe the battle was upwards of thirty minutes, and was somewhat difficult. It was actually the only time I died during the game. But if that mission was any indication, the checkpoints are pretty unforgiving.
Here’s the thing. The Bureau isn’t totally terrible. The game plays really well, and some of the character interaction isn’t too bad. Perhaps it should have released as a budget-title rather than a full-priced game when it is so obviously dependent on the recently re-invigorated XCOM brand. It isn’t bad, it isn’t great, and unfortunately, it really just isn’t satisfying. If you feel like you’ve completely run out of third-person-shooters to play, feel free to give this one a go. If not, you may want to steer clear of it.