The Bureau: Declassified

A bit back, I got The Bureau, primarily because it was being given away for free. I had fairly low expectations, to be honest: I remember when a shooter XCOM with no substantial XCOM-ness to it was what we were hearing about, I'd already been spoiled on the main twist of the game, and it's not as if EXALT in the remaquel somehow evoked a cool concept suggesting The Bureau was doing something cool.

To my surprise, I actually really like The Bureau. In a lot of ways, it's the game the remaquel is trying to be, and it's surprisingly fun and interesting in and of itself. I was also pleasantly surprised at how obvious it is the developers were focused on the gameplay and didn't care that much about the plot -there's a lot of weird dialogue and plot errors of the sort that suggest the plot wasn't really given all that much attention. Stuff like characters alluding to an object or idea by a term that was never introduced before, yet using the term as if it's already-established and meaningful to all involved. Usually a shooter game with a story clearly cares about its story, even though in most cases said story is awful and nonsensical, and it gets frustrating when the gameplay really could've used refinement. The Bureau's gameplay could arguably have been better -it really seems to have had this notion of dynamic mission generation that the final product just doesn't do, and that would've been amazing if they'd pulled it off- but I'm quite happy to see a game that prioritizes polishing its good gameplay instead of polishing its bad plot.

I really like the core four classes. At first glance, the Commando appears to be your generic soldier class that does normal soldier things, But Well, which is usually boring and bad, but in actuality each class offers different forms of battlefield control. The Engineer is good at denying specific areas to the enemy, the Commando can pull specific enemies out of cover so you can tear them apart, the Support makes it easier to hold a position even in the face of eg flanking (Oh, and I guess they're also better than usual at medical stuff), and the Recon is... kind of a weird grab-bag of utility skills and just straight-up murdering vulnerable targets, but hey. This is a lot better than the classes in the remaquel, which is quite the surprise given that I would've expected a shooter game to fall flat on its face at the 'classes' thing. I've seen other shooters try to do classes: usually the best they manage is 'melee vs range' as any kind of meaningful focus, and even that is often iffy.

The story of The Bureau is silly in its actual execution, thanks to the usual video game insistence on having the player character personally do all kinds of important things, necessitating improbable enemy logistics so the player character has a convenient target to shoot to death to end a war and all that stuff, but the core idea is surprisingly sensible for justifying an alien invasion that doesn't catapult humanity into the stars, doesn't involve us auto-losing because the aliens get fed up and employ orbital bombardment which we can't do anything about, and could potentially have even provided a good basis for the game's prequel status to the remaquel if the plot had been a bit more willing to think about what would be plausible to cover up and what wouldn't and so on.

And seriously, the core gameplay is just fun. Surprisingly so!


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