The Bureau: XCOM Declassified preview: mash effect

XCOM has been delayed so often and has changed so drastically that it may be hard to keep track of what the game is. Is it still a FPS? (No.) Is it related to last year’s XCOM game? (Not really.) Is it still called XCOM? (No, it’s now called The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.)

Don’t worry if you haven’t been able to keep track of The Bureau’s many changes. XCOM as it is today can be best summed up as this: Mass Effect, set in the 60s.

You and your two selected squad mates respond to a crisis, landing in an isolated area to investigate. As you explore, you’re ambushed by a hostile alien force. You take cover, firing at the aliens while using your powers. You can lift up enemies from out of cover, and so you select that ability from a radial menu that slows down the action.

With the hostile alien threat gravitating, you bring up the radial again and command one of your squad mates to take a sniper shot. It does critical damage, letting you and your team to use your remaining powers to deal with the remaining enemies.

After the battle, you can talk with an eyewitness, selecting options from a radial wheel. Will you talk like a reassuring hero–or as an “evil” jerk? After you’re done, you can pause the game and assign new abilities based on your characters’ branching skill tree.

This entire experience could describe any mission in Mass Effect or The Bureau. The similarities between the two games–especially with their use of radial wheels for combat and morality-based dialogue choices–are uncanny. Both games even offer similar powers–and cooldown periods.

That’s not to say that The Bureau is entirely a clone of Mass Effect. It is a far more tactical game. Whereas in Mass Effect, you could play it entirely like a third-person shooter, you won’t be able to get away with that in The Bureau. Instead, you’d be able to play it largely without ever having to fire your gun at all–a feat that’s certainly impossible in BioWare’s RPG series.

The Bureau encourages far more tactical play by making the enemies far more durable and aggressive. And thanks to XCOM’s signature perma-death, every single encounter could have serious repercussions not only for the remainder of the level–but for the game as well. No longer will you be able to Rambo your way through a checkpoint only to have Garrus auto-revive after you clear the area. You’ll have to play a lot smarter than that. Thankfully, you can because you have far more control over what your squadmates do.

Like in Enemy Unknown, you’ll be telling your squadmates where to go and how to get there. By moving the analog stick, you can paint a path for your soldiers to go: through a building, around rubble, and eventually sticking to cover. You’ll also see the same iconography as in Enemy Unknown, indicating if it’s full or half cover, and if it is exposed to enemy fire. By being able to control your squadmates so precisely, it’s akin to playing a three player co-op game by yourself.

In the demo I played, I found it unnecessary to ever really fire my own gun; calling The Bureau a “third-person cover shooter” seems wholly inaccurate afterwards. Instead of twitch shooting at enemies, I found myself thinking about how to move my squadmates and ensure they can create effective crossfire opportunities. Concocting power combinations proved to be fun as well. Like in Mass Effect, lift and sniper shot work well together. You can also place mines with one character, and use a different character to use a taunt ability to lure a gray helplessly into the explosive.

While it’s clear that The Bureau draws a lot from Mass Effect, it still felt like an XCOM game to me. As an Enemy Unknown enthusiast, I found the transition to playing The Bureau incredibly easy. Sure, it may look drastically different than a turn-based strategy game, but the way you approach enemy encounters remains largely similar–assuming you don’t want to lose a single man in your playthrough, of course.

It’s certainly been a long journey for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. And while the game may have strayed very far from its original vision, what it’s transformed into today has me eager to play more. As a combination of Mass Effect and classic XCOM, The Bureau could very well become two great tastes mashed into one.

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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified preview: mash effect

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Weekend PC download deals: EA games for cheap

Alice is out this weekend, actually enjoying her life. So, based on the laws of the Cult of GameFly, the next person on the Shacknews team alphabetically is responsible for this weekend’s PC deals post. Or else.

Some highlights this weekend include Bulletstorm and Syndicate oddly bundled up into a $7 collection, the newest Hitman for only $5, and a Steam powered re-release of System Shock 2 that also happens to be on sale. Onward!

Here’s our selection of this weekend’s PC deals:

GameFly

You’ll need to use the code GFDMAY15 to get these prices.

  • Bulletstorm and Syndicate Bundle (Origin) – $6.80
  • Crysis Collection (Origin) – $12.74
  • Dead Space + Dead Space 2 Bundle (Origin) – $8.50
  • Dragon Age Bundle (Origin) – $8.50
  • Kingdoms of Amalur Complete (Origin) – $6.80

Amazon

  • Hitman: Absolution (Steam) – $4.99
  • Sleeping Dogs (Steam) – $9.99

GamersGate

The Bethesda Weekend sale includes:

  • Dishonored (Steam) – $14.99
  • Doom 3: BFG Edition (Steam) – $14.99
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Steam) – $14.95

Get Games

This week’s special offers include:

  • Alien: Colonial Marines (Steam) – $16.99
  • Company of Heroes 2 (Pre-order) (Steam) – $46.79
  • Defiance (Trion) – $41.99
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Uplay) – $12.74
  • GRID 2 (Pre-order) (Steam) – $38.99
  • Tomb Raider (Steam) – $24.99

GOG

GOG’s Adventurers Assemble sale includes:

Impulse

Impulse has a few games on sale, and here are a few:

  • 2K Ultimate Bundle (Steam) – $69.99
  • Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (Steam) – $14.99
  • Painkiller: Hell & Damnation (Steam) – $4.99
  • Spellforce Complete (Steam) – $9.99

Steam

Steam has a few games on sale, and here are a few:

  • The Ankh Pack – $3.74
  • BIT.TRIP Collection 2012 – $11.98
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II – $40.19
  • Castle Crashers – $7.49
  • Retro City Rampage – $7.49
  • Sanctum: Collection – $4.74
  • System Shock 2 – $6.99

See the rest here:
Weekend PC download deals: EA games for cheap

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Retail forced Deep Silver to charge $5 for Metro: Last Light’s ranger mode

No one gets surprised when a publisher announces retailer-exclusive pre-order bonuses for their AAA game. However, very rarely do publishers go on record to admit that retailers are strong-arming them into the practice. But that’s exactly what Metro: Last Light publisher Deep Silver did while explaining its partitioned ranger DLC.

Available for free with pre-ordered copies of the game, Koch Media global brand manager Huw Beynon explained that “offering game content as a pre-order exclusive is a requirement by retail.”

“Game makers and publishers now live in a world where offering game content as a pre-order exclusive is a requirement by retail, and Ranger Mode seemed like the best choice since it was a mode for hardcore fans who would most likely pre-order the game, or purchase it at launch in any case,” he told PC Gamer. The alternatives were to make story content exclusive for pre-orders or to make ranger mode a timed exclusive–both options were rejected.

Gamers that don’t pre-order the game will have to shell out $5 for the extra mode, a policy that Deep Silver says isn’t of their own doing. According to Beynon, “the lowest 1st Parties would permit us to charge for content of this nature” was $5.

Metro: Last Light will be out next week, alongside our own review.

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Retail forced Deep Silver to charge $5 for Metro: Last Light’s ranger mode

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Defiance first DLC pack detailed, show renewed for second season

Defiance, SyFy’s ambitious TV show and video game hybrid, is continuing to pick up steam. The show has been picked up for a second season, while the game’s first downloadable content has been revealed, assuring that both the game and show will continue into the foreseeable future.

A post on the Defiance blog notes that the team has five DLC packs planned for this year. Each one will have a store update, along with a free and paid update so that free players can continue to play with their paying friends.

The first pack, nicknamed “Enter the Castithan,” will cost $10. Paying players will get access to the new Castithan species, a new story mission, Castithan battle arenas, a few new items, a unique Raptor vehicle, and a handful of extra outfits, weapons, and pursuits. Free players can access the new weapons class, Sieges game mode, a PvP map, the ability to join friends in battle arenas, Duels, extra voices, and UI updates, among others. Finally, the store update will include new mods for your Castithan blades, lockboxes with the new Charge weapons, variations on the Raptor, and customization changes.

The blog also notes that they’re working on a “TV Tie-in” patch, set to release later this month. It will include bug fixes and improvements, the Sieges mode, and (naturally) closer ties to the TV show. The show itself was Syfy’s second largest premiere ever, and its current highest-rated original series.

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Defiance first DLC pack detailed, show renewed for second season

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Command & Conquer dev: ‘We need to wash the stain of C&C 4 away’

Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight was not well received by critics and fans, something that new developer Victory Games is well aware of as it creates a new Command & Conquer. A new developer diary video explains how the team is trying to get back to what made the series great to begin with.

“The first thing we said was we need to wash the stain of C&C 4 away,” lead designer Samuel Bass said, “and to do that you really need to get back to your roots.”

Part one of the Beyond the Battle video series talks about the generals and units, as well as the importance of fan feedback in the design. “Godfather of RTS” Louis Castle, co-founder of the old Westwood Studios that built the first Command & Conquer, also makes an appearance, discussing the core concepts of the original, which were “building a base, defending that base and building an assault army that you could go attack the other base.”

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Command & Conquer dev: ‘We need to wash the stain of C&C 4 away’

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