What ho and hail, Lusipurrians! I wish to relate a tale of woe and unhappiness, a general malaise laid upon the mind of the humble author. Once upon a time, I heard news of a new X-COM game. Being an old UFO Defense fan (which should come as no surprise to those who have read my previous feelings about old strategy games), my ears perked up and I began a hunt for further information. Upon viewing the gameplay trailer, I discovered a game completely unlike the X-COM of old- the subsequently dubbed “XCOM Shooter.” To be sure, I did not necessarily belong to the naysayers of the gaming community (or press), but I did get the distinct impression of mediocrity. It reminded me quite a bit of the Brothers In Arms franchise, but with very little examples of innovation to the style. In short, it was a game I followed because of nostalgia and interest, but no great glee.
And then XCOM Enemy Unknown was released. How happily I gobbled that game down. How engaged and excited I was to play a game which not only understood the core mechanical elements of X-COM but happily played all their chips on the square marked “Turn-Based Strategy for Consoles.” It was an incredible gamble, made all the more impressive by how much critical success Firaxis saw for their efforts. In light of this situation, it is not all that surprising that the XCOM shooter slowly faded from the spotlight. First its websites went dark. Development teams were shuffled into other studios. Some people theorized it to be a dead game, built upon too many odd ideas. However, like a human being infected by a Chryssalid, the dead rose. With a vengeance. An ugly, ugly vengeance.
Most of the time I am happy with games set in the past. The past is a supremely rich and engaging arena, and the conformist aesthetic of the mid 60s in which The Bureau: XCOM Declassified seems to be relishing in is a very good example of that. Yet, if aesthetic were the only crucial elements to a game, then LA Noire was frakking Game of the Year. At this stage, we have very little to go on with regards to the gameplay of The Bureau aside from the fact that it is a Third-Person Shooter which follows a single character, William Carter, as he fights against an alien incursion. Oh, and there is the bit where 2K Marin Creative Director Morgan Gray describes the game as a “third-person, squad-based tactical combat expression of the core pillars of the XCOM franchise, which we define as team, tactics, technology, tools, terror, tension.” My oh my, SOMEBODY at 2K Marin has a hard-on for alliteration.
That quote made my skin crawl the first time I heard it, in that it could very well be an indication of a game made by the worst sort of committee, ideas and concepts thrown together to sound pleasing to as many people as possible. Diversity is a concept best suited for narrative and character design- once it starts infringing upon my gameplay mechanics is when problems begin to erupt. Identifying no less than six “core pillars” of the XCOM Franchise strikes me as attempting to cover as many demographic categories of gamers as possible. It also fails to instill confidence when the few identified gameplay mechanics, such as the “Battle Focus” ability, function as an empowerment tool and therefore counter to at least two of the “core pillars” identified.
Of course, there is plenty of time to be proven wrong on all of those points. 2K Marin may miraculously pull all those disparate materials together into a seamless and engaging experience, and if other interviews are any indication they have put together a nifty narrative to accompany the game. Besides, I am generally an optimist and do not like to judge things before they come ou- OH WAIT THERE IS MORE! Gray followed up by explaining (in a hipster elitist voice, I like to imagine) “It’s pretty hardcore…we’re not trying to make a hyper-accessible game.” Oh dear God save me from swooning, a developer promising a “hardcore” 3rd person shooter that is not being made for all those sissies who are into games nowadays. Since when has accessibility been a bad thing? Any developer worth their salt knows that accessibility is important because they should be trying to encourage a wider audience, thus gaining more profit.
Let alone that accessibility DOES NOT have to mean easy, but that is a post for another time.
Either this game is sincerely trying to appeal to a niche audience with myopic visions of games long past or they are trying to throw as many buzzwords as they can into interviews without accurately describing the game. In both cases, I color myself less than impressed. Nonetheless, I wish 2K Marin the best and will continue to follow the buzz surrounding The Bureau, if only to see whether it ends up as a workable product or a game of boy-band level bad ideas. What about your thoughts, Lusipeons? Did any of you get worked into a despair upon the release of new information about The Bureau, feel betrayed by the changes made in the downtime between 2010 and now, or are you genuinely excited to try it out? Let me know in the comments, along with any other pertinent information so that you may be suitably judged.