The story starts simply enough, with you, William Carter, tasked with the delivery of a mysterious package. It slowly builds to a satisfying climax, at times even drawing parallels with BioShock 2. It's in its DNA, inherited from the talented developers at 2K Marin. Outside the narrative, the switch to third-person works brilliantly. It's like being a soldier in XCOM, albeit during the agency's early years.
The game revolves around combat, which is deep and accomplished. Fans of twitch shooters need not apply: XCOM is all about the tactics. Peeking from cover sees you dead in an instant and you'll run out of ammo in a heartbeat - combining abilities and flanking are keys to victory. A radial wheel handles commands, slowing time, but not stopping it.
Giving orders and manipulating the environment is a must, as flanked units take extra damage - the brilliant enemy AI will flank you, too. Although the shooting feels punchy and satisfying - especially the alien tech - when playing the default Veteran difficulty setting, you'll more often be barking orders than popping monstrous aliens' heads off.
Between missions, you feel like a voyeur within the XCOM universe, listening to dialogue snippets, making choices and completing side-quests in the smoke-filled agency. Checking on the research teams' progress is a personal highlight.
On top of this, bar the occasional wonky animation, the game looks beautiful - there's no lack of colour here. The character's faces are animated brilliantly. Carter constantly grimaces and bites his lip. If you're idle he'll even spark up a cigarette - everyone smokes, it's the time period: Mad Men in suburbia.
The dissipated lighting effect that every game since Crysis 2 has used is even applied to the alien guns when they reload - shafts of light splitting through the cracks in the chrome. And this is all married by brilliant sound design, with the discordant humming of the alien technology causing hairs to stand on end. Although not perfect, The Bureau is a brilliant squad shooter with an intriguing story and brains.
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Completed in 13 hours.