XCOM reborn as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, hits Aug. 20

Long in development, twice reworked, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, now a third-person tactical shooter, hits this summer, publisher 2K Games announced this morning.

The Bureau hits North America on Aug. 20 and the rest of the world three days later and will sell for $59.99. The title, in development by 2K Marin for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, will tell the origin story of the XCOM organization. Set in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, the game traces how The Bureau, an organization created to deal with the Soviet Union threat, metamorphosed into a group designed to handle an alien threat. Players will take on the role of special agent William Carter at The Bureau who both fights to thwart an alien invasion and cover up the existence of extraterrestrials.

Unlike previous XCOM games, The Bureau will have players taking on the aliens in a real-time third-person shooter, rather than in an isometric turn-based tactical game. But Morgan Gray, creative director at 2K Marin told Polygon that the game won't be a typical run-and-gun shooter.

"What we're attempting to do is a third-person squad-based tactical shooter," Gray said. "Putting you right there in the field. No more sitting back, watching everything unfold from a god's eye view."

Gray said the game's action strives to be somewhere between the methodical pacing of a military shooter like Full Spectrum Warrior and the faster paced action of a game like Rainbow Six.

"What we're trying to achieve on the gameplay front is a very tactical ... a game that demands skillful play from the player and a game that expects that," he said. "In true XCOM fashion, it's not just your Rambo brawn, but it's using your brains, your team, the technology at your disposal, creating plans and then executing them."

While gameplay never freezes to allow for decision making, in "battle focus mode" time dilates, Gray said.

"There is never a frozen time, you're always making snap decisions," he said. "To use a sports analogy: It's more about calling audibles then huddling. We are trying to emulate the fantasy of being the squad leader out in the battlefield versus the commander sitting at the desk who has all of the time in the world observing from afar."

This morning's announcement comes nearly three years after 2K Marin's XCOM was first unveiled at E3, though at the time it was in development by 2K Australia. That version of the game was a first-person shooter based on the XCOM franchise. The reaction to the initial concept for the game sent the team back to the drawing board to revamp the game and show it again during E3 2011, where the reception was better but still not great. Now, with the remake of the classic XCOM tactical game out, this shooter variant has a chance to take a run at the franchise.

Gray says that The Bureau will "at a high level" looks a lot like what was shown, visually at E3 2011.

"2011 for us was showing sort of an expression of we think we've cracked the code of finding a different reinterpretation of the classic XCOM DNA and then we spent the rest of the time iterating on that and refining that," Gray said. "I think it will draw a nice through line from what you saw there, but obviously we've been dark for awhile. We have so much new stuff that we've cooked up, refined and has become a game that we're currently poised to finish.

"Things like the period are going to come through, the visual aesthetic is going to seem slightly familiar, some of the high-level aspects of the story, but there's a lot we've been cooking up in the shadows."

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