Gamer's Notebook

Spooky games bring out the X-Files in us all

By Chris O'Neal 06/06/2013

 

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, will be available Aug. 20 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
Remember Me is available now for PS3 and Xbox 360, $59.99.


The late-’90s had most nerds dying to become the next agent exploring the X-Files. Mulder and Scully were the king and queen of paranormal, and the envy of every novice investigator. It didn’t hurt that the two had supermodel good looks or that a new monster appeared weekly. Reality can feel a bit dull by comparison. Good thing, then, that the world of video games is so immersive! Instead of putting yourself in real danger, a multitude of games offer the ability to investigate the strange, weird world of the supernatural from the comfort of your living room.


The Bureau: XCOM Declassified brings us back into the trippy world of alien invasions and government secrets, as it has for the last 20 years, ever since that first alien encounter on the original PlayStation and Windows.


You may recall that 2012 saw the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and think that there sure are a lot of XCOM games being released as of late. You’d be right to think that. The series has been getting a serious reboot, and the developers are stepping carefully around the details. XCOM isn’t a series to be trifled with. Proof lies in its 50 percent success rate — of four proposed titles, XCOM spinoffs and sequels, only two have been (and will be) published.


The Bureau is a different kind of monster. Developed by 2K Marin, the same iffy force that brought us the first uncalled-for sequel to Bioshock, The Bureau is a third-person shooter revolving around a need to strategically guide your AI partners. This isn’t Mass Effect, where one can point and click a location and the AI will do the rest. Positioning is key to survival, and the consequences are immense. Characters that are dead stay dead.


There’s no need to worry about that, though. This is the 1960s and you’re equipped with all manner of alien weaponry. You and your partners are able to survive the fiercest firefights while looking absolutely stylish in a suit and fedora. Note: Fedoras are cool on certain manly men from a bygone generation, not so much on Captain Anime of the 21st century.


Barring any unforeseen cancellations, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is set for an August release. Keep your eye on the sky and look for this title when it becomes available.


Psychological spookiness is something that only masters can truly perform in a real and satisfying way. The Shining comes to mind, or John Carpenter’s The Thing. We might be overlooking the world of science fiction, though. In sci-fi, horror can pop out of seemingly innocent situations.


While developer DONTNOD Entertainment’s Remember Me sets itself up as an action-packed sci-fi romp, there’s something truly scary about its premise. In future Paris, individual memories are bought and sold by multinational corporations. Junkies live in sewers feeding off memories, and trained individuals are sent out to collect (i.e., steal) the memories of poor saps on the streets.


You take control of Nilin, an elite memory hunter who has had her own memory erased. Now on the hunt for her own memories (as well as stopping to take a few here and there), Nilin encounters a spooky world where science has run amok.


A pivotal scene from the trailer shows Nilin avoiding obstacles as a humanoid robot chases her down a corridor in a scene reminiscent of The Terminator. But the game attempts to dive into a deeper philosophical message that doesn’t quite click. Gameplay is rather straightforward and offers no room for exploration. Battling enemies has an air about it that would be more comfortable in a lesser title.


Let’s put aside the poorly thought-out gameplay for a moment and think about what could have been: a truly psychological horror story in which your memories are not your own, set in a futuristic world where you are a commodity and the very people who hired you are now trying to terminate you. Even Mulder and Scully might have trouble getting out of this one. (They totally would, though.)


Chris O’Neal realizes that the truth is out there but will let someone else deal with it. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.

 

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