‘The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’ proves that even the aliens were cooler in the 60s

The Bureau XCOM Declassified

All of the recent teases were legit: 2K Games will release The Bureau: XCOM Declassified on August 20, 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC platforms. It’s the game that we’ve all been affectionately referring to as “the XCOM shooter” since it was first announced back in 2010. It’s still a shooter that builds on the concepts established in the turn-based strategy side of the franchise, though the perspective has switched from the first-person view that we last saw at E3 2011, to a new third-person perspective.  We’ve also confirmed with 2K that this will be a full-priced $59.99 release rather than the download-only offering that had been hinted at in recent rumors.

The Bureau sends players back in time to 1962, when the first sign of an extra-terrestrial menace made itself known. The XCOM organization won’t yet exist at the start of the game, with protagonist William Carter instead being assigned to a mysterious body known as The Bureau. “William Carter has been bouncing around different government agencies before he finds himself brought in for the birth of XCOM,” 2K Marin creative director Morgan Gray tells Digital Trends.

“He’s as surprised as anyone else about what transpires. William becomes your viewpoint into this world, and a fully defined character in his own right, with a back story that gets expressed throughout. He helps guide you through what starts as a fairly simple ‘aliens are invading our planet’ [scenario] and becomes a much more complex… narrative that runs throughout the course of the game.” 

Gray goes on to explain that the events of XCOM Declassified are effectively what puts planet Earth on the galactic map, which in turn informs the story events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and other, as-yet-untold stories set further along in the fictional timeline. The game’s secret invasion is overseen by a race of extraterrestrial slavers, and it is these slavers that introduce the various races of the galaxy to our solar system. There’s much that remains unclear at this time, but Gray’s description nods toward 2K’s ongoing efforts to more fully define the XCOM universe.

The Bureau XCOM Declassified

“Secret invasion” is the operative phrase up there. The earlier XCOM shooter reveal showed off a story set in a world ravaged by an alien invasion. However, as anyone who played Enemy Unknown knows, the present-day fiction catches most of the world off guard. XCOM Declassified now fits into the established fiction, with the all-out global invasion replaced by a more covert assault. It won’t make a ton of difference on the battlefield, as the idea is still to put players in the shoes of what amounts to a “combat quarterback,” but it remains an important distinction.

“In our story, we’ve had to hide and remove all the mentions [to alien invaders],” Gray explains. “We fought in the nooks and crannies. Out of the suburbs and into the rural parts of America, to places where we can keep the war secret, because… we’re still at a time when we can’t let the Russians and the other foes know that there’s something out there that the Big Green Machine, the U.S. military, can’t defeat. So part of the story that you’ll be experiencing is how the war is kept in the shadows. How XCOM is started and then slightly hidden from the world until it is needed again.”

Other than the jump from first-person to third-person, the game is largely the same as it was back in 2011 in gameplay terms. You control one soldier on the battlefield – Carter – but you also issue tactical commands to a squad of agents using the game’s Battle Focus interface. The game paused when this tactical interface was called up in earlier looks at the game, but that approach has changed in the time since we last saw it.

The Bureau XCOM Declassified“We actually thought we were doing ourselves a bit of a disservice [with play pausing],” Gray explains. “If we are going to be the more immediate battlefield representation of the XCOM pillars then freezing time… that’s not what we’re shooting for. That’s not what the guy in the field is experiencing. We want the planning [in the heat of combat] to feel like calling audibles. We want you to feel like… you could die at any moment.”

Squad management off the battlefield is important as well. Players will cultivate a team of alien hunters just as they did in Enemy Unknown. You’ll be able to give them names, plot out how their skills develop, and equip them as situations demand. Much of this unfolds back at home, at the base. One thing to be clear on, however: base management is not at the level that it was in the Firaxis-developed game from last year. “Outside of the combat missions, we have a central hub from which you’ll conduct research, recruit agents, handle some of the maintenance of the war effort, and engage in some quest lines… but the main focus is to get everything set up back at home so you can go into the field and bring the battle to the enemy,” Gray explains.

It’s all a lot of talk at the moment, but we’ll have more insights to share soon. 2K will be putting The Bureau: XCOM Declassified in front of games press in the coming weeks, and the previews and interviews from those showings should provide added insight as we move toward the marketing juggernaut that is June’s E3. The message for now is simple: the XCOM shooter is alive, and newly re-branded as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It’s coming our way on August 20, but we’ll have more to share on how the game is coming together very soon.

Product Review

Anybody seen my grenades? ‘Battlefield V’ shows up late and unprepared

Battlefield V’s War Stories give us a new perspective on World War II, but the game’s lack of polish across both its campaign and multiplayer modes are almost impossible to ignore.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

The best free-to-play games you can play right now

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.

The Army wants YOU … to play esports with soldiers

The U.S. Army is creating esports teams for games such as Overwatch, Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and League of Legends. The initiative looks to boost recruitment, after missing the mark for the first time since 2005.

If the speed of AMD’s Radeon RX 590 doesn’t entice you, the game bundle will

AMD's Radeon RX 590 is a new video card that targets 1080p gaming at maximum detail. Starting at $280, it fills a gap between the Radeon RX 580 and the more expensive Radeon RX Vega. AMD says the new RX 590 can beat Nvidia's GTX 1060 Ti.

PlayStation 4 celebrates fifth anniversary with ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ bundle

The PlayStation 4 is officially five years old today, November 15, and to celebrate the anniversary, Sony is offering a new console bundle that includes a free copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

‘Hitman 2’ makes a target of the unkillable Sean Bean, but you’d better not miss

Famously mortal actor Sean Bean will be available to kill in Hitman 2 beginning November 20. He'll be in the game as an Elusive Target for two weeks and you'll only get one chance to take him out.

Bug is turning ‘Fallout 76’ players into mutants even more terrifying than usual

A bug linked to the Power Armor gear in Fallout 76 appears to be turning players into bizarre naked mutants, complete with extremely long limbs that are more than a little unsettling.

Tips for surviving the nuclear wasteland in 'Fallout 76'

Before running into nuclear wasteland with your Pip-Boy, take a moment to consider these Fallout 76 tips. From food and water to maintaining weapons and armor, here are the things all beginners should know.

Find a fish and get your boogie on with Fortnite's week 8 challenge

The Fortnite season 6 week 8 challenges have arrived as we near the end of this spooky season. The big free challenge this week is the Fortnite fish trophy challenge where you need to dance with different fishes. Here are all of the…

For the first time ever, PlayStation will be a no-show at E3

For the first time in the event's history, E3 2019 will not feature Sony or PlayStation. The massive event almost always features a lengthy press conference from Sony, often after all other major companies give theirs.

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.