Review: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

There are bad games, and there are disappointing games.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, the latest entry in a storied franchise, whose last (downloadable) iteration was much enjoyable, now finds itself with its shoe in the piss-bowl as it were. It’s hard to tell if the quality of code I’ve just had the misfortune of playing through is a direct consequence of the fall of GRIN (the developer behind the first Rearmed) and the shifting of development duties to Fatshark, or if Capcom were still trying to figure out a place for themselves in a newly aligned videogame landscape to offer the new developer any guidance. Regardless of the reason, there are better things you could be doing with your time than trudge through this unnecessary, misguided sequel.

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The game picks up just as Nate Spencer (who has apparently spent the last couple years preening his new mustache rather than honing his combat and platforming skills) is para-dropped over an island I can’t recall the name of. Your mission is to rescue the leader of an initial recce party who is being held captive by the island’s despotic ruler. As expected, the premise doesn’t get much more complex than a standard rescue mission with a couple of twists thrown in to keep you from nodding off. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, and to be fair to the writers, some of the jokes do work. Some.

Those of you who played the first game may remember how successful it was at translating the ego-stomping game mechanics of the original arcade version into something that the modern gamer would actually play without tossing their controller at a wall and storming out of the room. More than the fine-tuned controls though, what made the game fun was how the levels were crafted to take advantage of the limited legacy control scheme. Instead of building on all that good work, Fatshark added a jump button and called it a night. While the ability to hop around isn’t a problem in itself, you’ll soon find that it’s a wholly unnecessary addition that doesn’t sit well with the bionic arm. Having the two functions together and building levels that cater to both is, to me at least, what lets the game down.

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Your jump has just enough power in it to qualify as a hop. It’s hard to live the life of a commando when you have trouble making it over a barrel. Your grapple-arm still shoots out at three fixed angles, and while that hasn’t changed, what has is the general responsiveness to your control input. It’s very hard to chain grapples and jumps when you need to pause to reassess every platform. There’s also a fair bit of shooting to be done. Unfortunately, the soldiers serve as little more than brain-dead cannon fodder. This makes the vast number of weapon unlocks and upgrades Fatshark have thrown in next to useless, as you’ll find yourself sticking to your initial selection. The new weapons also act as keys to unlock previously inaccessible parts of levels, which gives you some incentive to suffer through them again. Or maybe not.

The game comes with a limited lives system, so prepare yourself to start levels from scratch as you fall to your death over and over. What changing your difficulty setting to casual does though, is affect the layout of levels. You’ll see makeshift ledges and platforms cobbled together from planks of wood, just so you get a bit of leeway with your platforming. Cute. Boss fights are your usual pattern based grinds, and some of them are near broken thanks to a regenerative heath power-up you gain early on.

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Presentation is, surprise-surprise, also a mixed bag. Spencer’s had a bit of redesign work done on him, and his timeless 80’s muscleman cool has given way to punk-jerk. The conservative graphical stylings of the first game have also been eschewed for an excessively bright, cartoony, cel-shaded appearance. However, there’s a nice depth of field effect and certain levels have action packed background plates that look quite nice. While the weapon effects aren’t punchy enough, Simon Viklund’s superlative nerdcore score more than compensates with a soundscape that is equal parts modern and throwback.

Conclusion

Bionic Commando isn’t terrible. There’s a lot of content to unlock and work your way through, including challenge rooms and an after-thought co-op mode. If you take your time with the platforming and excuse a lot of its faults, you’ll certainly squeeze your money’s worth out of it. But should you bother when there are better games out? No. Play Shadow Complex instead.

  • Lots of content to unlock
  • Frustrating mechanics
  • Regressive gameplay
5

A sequel to the sublime remake of the classic side-scroller.

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Game Info

Available On
PS3, Xbox 360
Reviewed On
PS3
Developer
Fatshark
Genre
Platformer
Age Rating
16+