Quick Look: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Brad has a groovy time shooting aliens and wearing a vest, but that framerate? Most ungroovy.

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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Review

3
  • PC
  • X360

An entertaining combat system props up this otherwise clunky, harebrained sci-fi action game.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified never quite presents a clear vision of what it wants to be. That might seem like an easy criticism to lob at a game that's spent numerous years in development under different directions and genres, but the final product's issues seem less the result of a team harried by constant delays, and more the result of an underlying concept too outsized for its own good.

As William Carter, you are our last line of defense against the alien threat. Well, you and the two guys you constantly order around.

The simple logline for The Bureau is that it wants to tell the story of the earliest days of XCOM, the world's united force against alien invaders most recently resurrected in Firaxis' excellent strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Whereas that game took place in a sort of near future vision of Earth, The Bureau goes back to the 1960s, when the alien visitors first came looking for trouble. Throughout the game, you play as Agent William Carter, a gruff, no-nonsense ex-CIA operative who finds himself in the middle of a burgeoning war between our planet and extraterrestrial forces almost entirely by accident. After surviving an initial assault, you're recruited into XCOM and given a team of agents to command.

This is the aspect of The Bureau that most closely resembles the strategy games of old. Eschewing the turn-based methodology of the other games, here you'll be in real-time combat as you command your duo of agents around the battlefields of America. Simple commands like moving agents into cover or picking specific targets for them to focus on eventually give way to more intriguing abilities. Your agents, depending on what class they work under, can launch gun and missile turrets, lay down mines, knock back enemies with pulse weapons, develop one-shot kill abilities, and even call down airstrikes. Meanwhile, you have your own set of alien technology-culled abilities, which range from simple lifts of enemies out of cover, to straight up mind-controlling enemy combatants.

This is also the part of The Bureau that works the best. The sheer variety of abilities at your disposal ensures that combat sequences are hectic, but almost never overly confusing. Only a game-ending battle between an overabundance of enemies really tests the nerves. The rest of the time, you'll be out on various missions, either story-focused or side ventures. Most of these are pretty breezy, though cranking the difficulty up will certainly enrich the challenge. You'll need to be on the higher settings if you really want the game's version of the XCOM permadeath system to mean anything anyway. On all settings but the highest, I rarely had any issue keeping my agents alive and well-stocked between missions, which made me wonder why the system was even there in the first place.

Issuing commands to your squad is quick and easy, and the variety of abilities you have at your disposal keeps the combat relatively fresh from encounter to encounter.

The only real issue with the combat is that the game's level designs rarely allow for much surprise. If you find yourself in a big open area with lots of cover points, odds are you're about to find yourself in a fight. If you're just about anywhere else, you might find one or two scattered enemies floating about, but nothing you really need any tactics for. One of the tenets of the XCOM series is its pervasive sense of dread, the notion that a team-destroying threat could be awaiting you at just about any turn. The Bureau has almost none of that, focusing instead on its deeply silly sci-fi storyline to keep you engaged between bouts of shooting whatever happens to be alive and in your field of vision.

About that storyline: While the idea of exploring the roots of the XCOM division is a nifty one, The Bureau handles this exceptionally poorly almost right from the beginning. One problem is the game's sense of scope. It goes straight for the apocalyptic jugular right from the start, meaning there's no real room to explore, get to know the characters you're working with, or really understand what the hell is going on until the game gets around to info dumping a bunch of exceedingly dumb junk on you toward the end. It's hard to explain the endgame of The Bureau without just spoiling it, but suffice it to say it pulls from a gaggle of well-worn sci-fi cliches, and uses them all rather poorly.

It's a shame, because The Bureau captures the atmosphere of its setting rather well. The game crafts a nice balance between its early '60s time period and the invasive alien technology surrounding it, and a solid cast of voice actors do a decent job of keeping you interested, even as the script devolves into absolute nonsense. There's a great soundtrack too, mixing a period-appropriate score with a few pop hits from the era.

But that atmosphere is all but wasted by the jumps in logic, bizarre character decisions, and plot holes the size of an alien mothership. The script constantly tries to talk its way out of ludicrous situations, but never does so in a way that feels satisfactory or even halfway sensible. Even when you think the game is finally wrapping itself up, it keeps finding ways to keep the adventure going, falling deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole of inexplicable nonsense that it doesn't really even bother to try and climb its way out of.

In theory, keeping your agents alive is crucial, though on most difficulty settings, I didn't have much trouble keeping them around.

The game's various tech issues don't help much either. I played The Bureau on both the PC and Xbox 360, and both versions featured frequent frame rate drops and hitches that got worse and worse the more enemies the game decided to throw at me. Animation glitches (especially from downed enemies, who have some real issues due to the ragdoll physics employed), audio hiccups, and even the occasional seemingly missing cutscene reared their head as well. If I had to pick a favored version, I suppose it would be the 360 one. The PC version generally had a very hard time running on a PC I usually have no problems with.

Somewhere, buried underneath years of reworked development, scrapped and revamped ideas, and a whole host of problems, is a version of The Bureau worth getting excited about. Maybe if it had scaled back the scope of its X-Files-meets-the era of Mad Men concept, focusing on the earliest incursions of the massive conflict brought to bear in Enemy Unknown, it might have helped rein in some of the crazier, stupider, and more aggressively junky portions of the game. As is, The Bureau makes for a decent enough 10 hours of alien-obliterating combat, but all the way through you'll find yourself lamenting the many aspects that feel like they could have, and should have, been better.

Alex Navarro on Google+
94 Comments
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Edited by iragequit

Don't know if I've been oblivious lately but, putting the quick look and the review on one page is a great idea.

Edited by Hailinel

@brendan said:

@dedbeet said:

Shame they weren't allowed to create their original game. I would've liked to have seen how that one turned out.

It's not that they weren't allowed, it's that they couldn't do it. They tried for years. Certain things could have played out differently, but the initial ideas were too unwieldy, and the amount of time and freedom they were given only allowed time for damage control rather than a measured refocusing of core concepts.

All of this.

People that were looking forward to the game's original concept need to understand that at the time that debut trailer was shown, that's all it was; a concept. One that they were incapable of fleshing out into a full game. At no point did the original '50s first-person investigation title actually exist in a playable form. They could never get it to work.

Edited by WesleyWyndam

To anyone experiencing performance issues on the PC:

Turn off reflections and set shadows to medium detail!

Seriously, those two settings turned my i7+Radeon 7950 from a pathetic 15-30 FPS to 60-70 with no noticeable drop in quality (I found the shadows stuttery as hell, anyway).

As for the game, I don't get why people are acting like this is somehow a terrible awful very bad game. I mean, 3 stars is not a 'bad' score. The combat is fun (though a bit rough in the first couple of missions) and offers as much complexity as you want with a pretty dumb story tacked on. As long as you're ok with something more like X-Files/Outer Limits and not 2001, then you'll be fine.

The odd thing to me is how they tried to hype the difficulty. Odds are good that in any situation where you lose one guy you'll probably get killed yourself which means you load the last checkpoint and everyone is alive again. It's not even savescumming, it honestly seems like it is next to impossible to lose a teammate because of this.

Pretty much how I feel. It isn't a great game, but I'm enjoying it just fine. I'm enjoying it more than SR4, tbh.

I did lose a teammate early, only because I didn't notice how fast their revive counter ticked down. Since then, it hasn't been an issue.

Posted by huser

I think they should have stuck with the investigative gameplay. All other things aside, makes little sense in the fiction for near future best of the best of the best black ops GI Joes to basically be fodder against the intro alien footsoldiers (like in the tutorial and that German special ops squad that didn't even merit inclusion) and a 1960's squad is capable of mowing aliens down. Better that a single Sectoid is a MAJOR threat and most of the rest is weirdo X-files/Invasion of the Body Snatchers type paranoia.

Posted by huser

I can't believe they took the obviously correct premise of "it's like Men in Black, but with Mad Men" and turned it into "Independence Day, but with Mad Men clothes, kind of."

I mean, doesn't the "Area 51 Cold War paranoia" backdrop perfectly suggest that the game should be about conspiracies and deniable operations, and not full-blown warfare?

And it was the early days of the agency, too! Wouldn't it make more sense for them to start small and--

Arrg, nevermind, fuck it; I'll just rent this game.

Yeah pretty much. Given the very real danger year 201X XCOM soldiers in full getup have, let alone the poor bastards who are merely their country's best special ops troopers, I would have thought hiding, running, and investigating, like say the X-files would have been the order of the day rather than gunning aliens down, since they'd tank just about anything you have, again like in X-files.

Posted by JayPee

I have to say, with a GTX 770 and a decent PC behind it, for what's actually going on on-screen, the framerates seem pretty bad to me. Knocking it down to 720p helped a lot, but gosh - one of the most powerful current market GPUs and I'm doing that to get 60fps - and not even that consistently (this is without DX11 too)!?

That sort of thing niggles while you are playing and trying to enjoy the game. I'm playing through on the "Veteran" setting and finding it challenging. The setting and premise are exciting, but already I'm seeing the cracks in that façade, only a few hours in.

I hope none of the issues above eventually grind me down to never finishing the game, because in the end it is good, but such a level off what if could have been.

Luckily the Steam pre-order got me Spec Ops: The Line (a game I've been wanting to get to for a while) and the entire XCOM back-catalogue (including Enemy Unknown, which I am playing on a harder difficulty than I did on the xbox), so overall that's a pretty good deal I suppose.

Posted by XTraFries

yep. my feelings on it exactly. about 6 hours into it, having a fun time with the combat and kind of tolerating everything else.

which was pretty much what i expected from it, so I'm not really disappointed in anything. came into it wanting a sci-fi tinged tactical shooter, and that's what I got.

Online
Edited by soimadeanaccount

The fact that the gameplay seems to be getting positive response while it was slam hard by people accusing it of going away from its tactical roots sounds like a pretty big win to me.

The performance issue I saw in the QL is a quite a bummer tho.

Story is kind of a toss up, I would like it to be good, but really XCOM EU story wasn't anything to write home about.

Still undecided...

Posted by owlmassive

Im enjoying this game. Some of the levels look nice.. I havnt really had issues with it...apart from my men running into a fight bfore ive ordered them to do something else... im playing on ps3

Edited by Viking_Funeral

Tsk. I don't even think this is Steam sale material at this point. Too bad. It had potential.

Posted by Gremmel

I was gonna buy this but then the YOLO trailer was released and somehow I completely forgot about this game.

Edited by Nerolus

Harebrained? Ouch. Bummer.

Posted by Cretaceous_Bob

I think it's really funny that the end of the story for this game is to fade away into obscurity beneath the shadow of a Firaxis product. Don't have ideas about what'll make you money, publishers. Hire people like Sid Meier and they'll do the rest.

Posted by Cretaceous_Bob

I think it's really funny that the end of the story for this game is to fade away into obscurity beneath the shadow of a Firaxis product. Don't have ideas about what'll make you money, publishers. Hire people like Sid Meier and they'll do the rest.

Edited by Gutlieb

I don't understand how this game gets 3 stars when really crappy games get 4, this game is not crappy. I had good fun with the game, and I don't really understand the sentence that it doesn't know what it's trying to be? wtf it's a 3rd person shooter xcom spinoff.

Edited by Zevvion

@gutlieb said:

I don't understand how this game gets 3 stars when really crappy games get 4, this game is not crappy. I had good fun with the game, and I don't really understand the sentence that it doesn't know what it's trying to be? wtf it's a 3rd person shooter xcom spinoff.

Because it tries to be Enemy Unknown, a strategy game, while it also tried to be a third person squad based shooter. It tries to be a game where your actions have consequences on your men and it tries to be an insightful prelude story to Enemy Unknown.

From what I understand, it's an okay shooter, but your squad mates require constant orders since their AI is pretty flawed, which disrupts the gameplay. The story is not great and doesn't make much sense. Even in conversations it sometimes seems the responses Carter gives have nothing to do with what's going on. All the while, there is no tension because your death just results in a auto-load that also spawns your previous-died squad mates.

I'm assuming that's part of the reason why. I expected 2 or 3 stars for this. It's been getting similar scores all over and some of the stuff I saw of the game didn't seem more than okay.

Edited by SpudBug

The original trailers and being a big fan of Bioshock 2 had me really excited for this game. Shame how it turned out. Looking forward to buying it at $20 or so sometime next year.

Posted by fox01313

Great review Alex. If the story was tweaked some to just flow better (from this & other reviews I've seen) & kept it turned based like the other X-com games, I think this would have worked out a lot better. One thing that Nocturne proved to me & many others that a mix of the X-files & the Untouchables film captures that pulpy setting quite well of gumshoe detectives, magic/mad science & more that really hasn't been done enough for the theme of a game which many people would be down for I believe.

Edited by leebmx

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

Edited by smcn

For the people talking about getting it on a Steam sale, know that the keyboard/mouse controls are atrocious. (It does have native Xbox controller support.)

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

I've used Gamefly since 2011, I just happen to be close enough to a shipping center that the receive/return rate is fast enough to warrant the subscription.

For the most part, I don't think most people still rent games. I guess there's just enough for Gamefly to stay in business though.

Posted by august

Despite people shitting over the original pitch, I thought it looked pretty interesting.

I was hoping this is what we'd get after the release of Enemy Unknown but in the end we got little more than a game that plays a lot like Mass Effect or Gears of War.

Agreed. I mean I understand why X-Com fans wanted the art design of the original but let's keep in mind that the art style of the original is some generic 90s comic book bullshit. This looks at least potentially creepy.

Edited by leebmx

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

I've used Gamefly since 2011, I just happen to be close enough to a shipping center that the receive/return rate is fast enough to warrant the subscription.

For the most part, I don't think most people still rent games. I guess there's just enough for Gamefly to stay in business though.

Yeah I forgot about services like Gamefly. i was still thinking you meant going to an actual shop like Blockbuster or whatever. I wonder if there is anywhere where you can still physically rent games.

Edited by Cybexx

Its on my Steam Wishlist waiting for a price drop. I probably would have grabbed it this week if there were not a handful of much better reviewed games released.

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

I've used Gamefly since 2011, I just happen to be close enough to a shipping center that the receive/return rate is fast enough to warrant the subscription.

For the most part, I don't think most people still rent games. I guess there's just enough for Gamefly to stay in business though.

Yeah I forgot about services like Gamefly. i was still thinking you meant going to an actual shop like Blockbuster or whatever. I wonder if there is anywhere where you can still physically rent games.

I have a local chain of rental stores still around called video warehouse. I haven't been there in years, but I'm pretty sure they still rent out the most recent game releases.

The only other thing I can think of that rents out games physically is Redbox.

Posted by Bummey

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

Redbox, $2 per day.

Edited by ryanwhom

I appreciate that a bunch of people who never played the game are super sure its mediocre but I played it and I really dug the combat. There's a good synchronicity to the different classes and you can set some interesting stuff up, which was never the case with Mass Effect. Like, you need to learn to optimize how to use your skills here or you'll die, you cant just pick people off as they stand around. The game doesn't get enough credit in that area. Yeah it very often feels like what it is, a game made by the Bioshock B team. So it never reaches its potential. But I do think it had a lot of things going for it and could be great in a sequel.

As for story, they touch on bits that could be interesting but never go far enough. Like the soviet role in the post-alien invasion, your main character's sorted past and the tension with his boss, various spy intrigues etc. Its all there, everything they need for a great game. It probably all read great on paper.

Posted by Zevvion

@ryanwhom said:

I appreciate that a bunch of people who never played the game are super sure its mediocre but I played it and I really dug the combat. There's a good synchronicity to the different classes and you can set some interesting stuff up, which was never the case with Mass Effect. Like, you need to learn to optimize how to use your skills here or you'll die, you cant just pick people off as they stand around. The game doesn't get enough credit in that area. Yeah it very often feels like what it is, a game made by the Bioshock B team. So it never reaches its potential. But I do think it had a lot of things going for it and could be great in a sequel.

As for story, they touch on bits that could be interesting but never go far enough. Like the soviet role in the post-alien invasion, your main character's sorted past and the tension with his boss, various spy intrigues etc. Its all there, everything they need for a great game. It probably all read great on paper.

Hard to take you seriously when you say stuff like that. You obviously never played Mass Effect on Insanity or online. I still play it today and if you don't have your combo's in check, you're not going to win any meaningful battle.

Also, the fact that you constantly have to give your teammates orders or else they will try to get themselves killed is not what I call fun. You say no one played the game, while that seems to be criticism everyone who played it has.

I admit I haven't played it, but the video's I've watched all showed me enough to make me think it is indeed not that great. The Mass Effect style conversations are not great either. It makes it seem like the two people never met and two different writers wrote their different lines respectively.

What I've heard from the story, it doesn't really do anything to actually make use of the 'early days of XCOM' setting. There is so many questions one might have of how XCOM was formed. From what I hear of people who have actually played the game, they don't make good on any of it.

Posted by Zevvion

Imagine if people had reviewed XCOM EU and counted the ridiculous story, cartoon characters and logic holes against it.

Dude, they totally did? Pretty much every review of Enemy Unknown says the story is paper thin. Some moments were cool because the guys in the cutscenes were your guys, that you went on missions with; that made it somewhat special, but there isn't enough of it to make the story interesting.

I don't think any review left that part out. It's just that the gameplay was so insanely fun and good that the almost non-present story is not enough to make it any less fun.

There really aren't logic holes though. It's not the type of story to take super seriously. I thought the characters looked fine for what it was.

Posted by ryanwhom

@zevvion said:

@ryanwhom said:

I appreciate that a bunch of people who never played the game are super sure its mediocre but I played it and I really dug the combat. There's a good synchronicity to the different classes and you can set some interesting stuff up, which was never the case with Mass Effect. Like, you need to learn to optimize how to use your skills here or you'll die, you cant just pick people off as they stand around. The game doesn't get enough credit in that area. Yeah it very often feels like what it is, a game made by the Bioshock B team. So it never reaches its potential. But I do think it had a lot of things going for it and could be great in a sequel.

As for story, they touch on bits that could be interesting but never go far enough. Like the soviet role in the post-alien invasion, your main character's sorted past and the tension with his boss, various spy intrigues etc. Its all there, everything they need for a great game. It probably all read great on paper.

Hard to take you seriously when you say stuff like that. You obviously never played Mass Effect on Insanity or online. I still play it today and if you don't have your combo's in check, you're not going to win any meaningful battle.

Also, the fact that you constantly have to give your teammates orders or else they will try to get themselves killed is not what I call fun. You say no one played the game, while that seems to be criticism everyone who played it has.

I admit I haven't played it, but the video's I've watched all showed me enough to make me think it is indeed not that great. The Mass Effect style conversations are not great either. It makes it seem like the two people never met and two different writers wrote their different lines respectively.

What I've heard from the story, it doesn't really do anything to actually make use of the 'early days of XCOM' setting. There is so many questions one might have of how XCOM was formed. From what I hear of people who have actually played the game, they don't make good on any of it.

Why would I want a game where the AI is entirely self sufficient? At a certain point you're hiding behind a barrier and letting AI fight each other. Why even show up, just watch youtube clips at that point. Yeah, you have to order your companions around, the game doesn't play itself. People acting like that's a flaw perplex me. Just watch a movie, sounds like you don't want to be playing a game. I didn't have a problem with the bad AI because the direct commands always worked as intended, it was easy to send people to the cover I wanted or target who I wanted but yeah, I have to do it myself. Cus I'm playing a game.

And ME classes didn't have synchronicity. I'm comboing all the time with my AI dudes, I can put down a turret exposed and cover it with a shield that reflects bullets and the enemy will target it cus its exposed and get hit with its own fire. Or I can float something and critical shot it, or I can use the sheild attack with stun, then crit shot. Or I can taunt someone then put a mine in its path. ME didn't have skills that worked well together, they just had skills you use independent of one another and you never needed it cus every enemy AI always did the same thing. This game has a lot more enemy unit variety so you can't use the same tactic every time, which you could in ME for me.

You weren't ME staff, don't throw dumb assumptions at me because I enjoy playing this game more than some game you love. If ME doesn't get "real" until you play it on the hardest mode, then most people didn't experience the "real" game. I play most games on default difficulty because most designers build their games around that. If ME built its game around insanity, then set the game to easy mode by default, sounds like they don't have a lot of confidence in their fans to figure shit out. And based on people's frustrations with this game such as it doesn't play itself, I can understand that sentiment.

Posted by galland101

I thought the game was all right. Not the best, though. The squad AI was really annoying as my team kept on moving around getting themselves killed. The story had some plot holes in it, but it was serviceable, until the endgame when it throws you a curve ball. Where it really falls down is on the technical side on the PC. I have a GTX 680 GPU and I had to turn off PhysX in order to keep my frame rates up. I would say this game qualifies as a budget title and is well worth $30. Those who pre-ordered it on Steam got a good deal with Spec Ops and the XCOM collection pack. I'd wait for it to go on sale now.

Posted by leebmx

@bummey said:

@leebmx said:

@themanwithnoplan said:

It'll be a nice rental.

Do people still rent games? Where do you rent yours from?

Redbox, $2 per day.

Wow, just looked that up. It looks like a phonebox that rents videos and games? What do you do - just put your card in and then post the game back through when you are finished? Can you buy games from them? Does it keep charging you if you don't take it back?

Posted by illmatic19

The Wolf keeping reviews ALIVE!

Posted by Zevvion

@ryanwhom said:

@zevvion said:

@ryanwhom said:

I appreciate that a bunch of people who never played the game are super sure its mediocre but I played it and I really dug the combat. There's a good synchronicity to the different classes and you can set some interesting stuff up, which was never the case with Mass Effect. Like, you need to learn to optimize how to use your skills here or you'll die, you cant just pick people off as they stand around. The game doesn't get enough credit in that area. Yeah it very often feels like what it is, a game made by the Bioshock B team. So it never reaches its potential. But I do think it had a lot of things going for it and could be great in a sequel.

As for story, they touch on bits that could be interesting but never go far enough. Like the soviet role in the post-alien invasion, your main character's sorted past and the tension with his boss, various spy intrigues etc. Its all there, everything they need for a great game. It probably all read great on paper.

Hard to take you seriously when you say stuff like that. You obviously never played Mass Effect on Insanity or online. I still play it today and if you don't have your combo's in check, you're not going to win any meaningful battle.

Also, the fact that you constantly have to give your teammates orders or else they will try to get themselves killed is not what I call fun. You say no one played the game, while that seems to be criticism everyone who played it has.

I admit I haven't played it, but the video's I've watched all showed me enough to make me think it is indeed not that great. The Mass Effect style conversations are not great either. It makes it seem like the two people never met and two different writers wrote their different lines respectively.

What I've heard from the story, it doesn't really do anything to actually make use of the 'early days of XCOM' setting. There is so many questions one might have of how XCOM was formed. From what I hear of people who have actually played the game, they don't make good on any of it.

Why would I want a game where the AI is entirely self sufficient? At a certain point you're hiding behind a barrier and letting AI fight each other. Why even show up, just watch youtube clips at that point. Yeah, you have to order your companions around, the game doesn't play itself. People acting like that's a flaw perplex me. Just watch a movie, sounds like you don't want to be playing a game. I didn't have a problem with the bad AI because the direct commands always worked as intended, it was easy to send people to the cover I wanted or target who I wanted but yeah, I have to do it myself. Cus I'm playing a game.

And ME classes didn't have synchronicity. I'm comboing all the time with my AI dudes, I can put down a turret exposed and cover it with a shield that reflects bullets and the enemy will target it cus its exposed and get hit with its own fire. Or I can float something and critical shot it, or I can use the sheild attack with stun, then crit shot. Or I can taunt someone then put a mine in its path. ME didn't have skills that worked well together, they just had skills you use independent of one another and you never needed it cus every enemy AI always did the same thing. This game has a lot more enemy unit variety so you can't use the same tactic every time, which you could in ME for me.

You weren't ME staff, don't throw dumb assumptions at me because I enjoy playing this game more than some game you love. If ME doesn't get "real" until you play it on the hardest mode, then most people didn't experience the "real" game. I play most games on default difficulty because most designers build their games around that. If ME built its game around insanity, then set the game to easy mode by default, sounds like they don't have a lot of confidence in their fans to figure shit out. And based on people's frustrations with this game such as it doesn't play itself, I can understand that sentiment.

You are getting two different things mixed up there. There is no 'real' mode in any game. You play the mode that suits your playstyle. I like to get get stuck in a game to the point where I have to master the mechanics in order to proceed. Playing certain games on normal makes me feel like I'm just going through the motion. When I play on the hardest setting, I am actually learning and in my case: I find that incredibly satisfying. Other types of games, I play on normal or even easy, just because the learning of those types of games isn't fun for me and being punished for being unable to play sucks.

Therefor, some games I play on Normal, some on the hardest setting. That's the point of difficulty settings. You don't get a 'real' version anywhere, you just make the game playable for all kinds of people. To get to my point: you said in your post that The Bureau makes powers work in synchronicity and you didn't in Mass Effect and you thought that was a plus for The Bureau. So I was pointing out that if that stuff is what you think is fun, then you played the game not on the difficulty setting that was suited for you. That's not the game's fault. In fact, when choosing a difficulty in Mass Effect, it even says under every difficulty what's expected of you. It says right there under Normal that using powers isn't required in order to win and it says right there under Insanity that using powers is crucial to victory.

And just to having said it a second time: yes, Mass Effect's powers DO work in synchronicity. Admittedly not so much in the first game, more in the second and a lot in ME3. For instance, warp causes damage over time and is a biotic power. If you use an instant biotic damage power on a target that is afflicted by warp, say, Biotic Dash, you'll cause a biotic detonation for increased damage. There are tons of combinations to make and almost classic RPG style the ability to create strings of powers that cause huge amounts of damage or protection. You need that stuff on Insanity and you sure need it even more in the harder challenges in multiplayer.

To get to the point of the AI, you're getting it a bit out of proportion there. It's not that people want the AI to kick complete ass at what they are doing. Or rather, they could, but not if that made you unneeded. But there is a difference with AI that doesn't even need you in order to win and AI that needs you every single second or else they'll pull the stupidest of decisions that gets them killed. If there was an ingame mechanic to justify this behavior, like panic, I could understand it. But they shouldn't be doing what they are doing when they are in control of themselves and try to survive. It's not overpowered friendly AI anyone wants, it's just competent friendly AI that can ensure their own survival for at least a little while without the player having to babysit them every step of the way.

All that said, I actually didn't mean to piss you off. Maybe I should have done a better job with the tone of my post.

Posted by MindGrinder

Wrong perspective. Wrong genre.

Posted by MindGrinder

Wrong perspective. Wrong genre.

Edited by HH

I haven't gotten to the end yet, but to me this game is superb, just the way it handles (on 360), the way it plays, the way it looks, and especially the way it sounds, all add up to more thrills than even the great The Last of Us provided. GOTY for me, and I don't give a damn how the story develops or how it wraps up, because since when was that anything but a sideshow? Since The Last of Us I guess, but are we that spoiled already?

Edited by Nictel

Steam Summer Sale 2015!

Posted by limecloud

Sooo many long comments. Keep it short guys.

Thanks for the review Alex

Edited by Budwyzer

Well I quit on it the second mission in, because the AI made it unplayable. I tell my squad-mates to "Take cover behind this truck.", instead what they do is run to the farthest point across the field of battle to a place that would provide cover. So I reissue the commands and they just stopped, pivoted in a circle and die. It was like they see that the aliens were firing at them, so decide the best place to take cover would be right behind the aliens as they would be out of LoS, except that means running face first into lasers...

Contacted 2K about a refund on this as I tolerated it all the way through the first mission and couldn't take anymore. I paid for a finished product, not one that depends on updates being released for it to work as intended.

Edit: Meant 2K, not EA

Posted by CrystaljDesign

Great review, I think I caught a typo though.

even as the script dovetails into absolute nonsense

I think you meant devolves, not dovetails.