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HundredProofSam

Review: Bionic Commando

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Review: Bionic Commando

 

Bionic Commando is the long-awaited reincarnation of the classic side-scrolling platform shooter from Capcom, which was recently remade as Bionic Commando Rearmed for Xbox LIVE and PSN. Developed by Swedish studio Grin, best known for the PC versions of Tom Clancy’s GRAW titles, Bionic Commando has received a complete overhaul, and now takes on a 3D third-person perspective. And it’s not a remake either; it follows the exploits of Nathan ‘RAD’ Spencer, the protagonist from Rearmed.

 

Before I get to the gameplay and other aspects of the game, let me get the story out of the way. Bionic Commandos are soldiers who once fought for the good guys (the government), and were instrumental in helping them defeat the bad guys (terrorists). Soon after the good guys won, they turned their backs on their bionic saviors. They lost faith in the bionic commandos and labeled them freaks. The government started rounding up these soldiers; some were killed, some escaped, few were captured.

 

Fast-forward to the present, and the bad guys are back, this time as pro-bionic terrorists, and the good guys find themselves in a tough spot once again. And in their hour of crisis, they turn to Bionic Commando Spencer, rotting in prison and stranded on death row. A nuclear attack has taken out half of Ascension City, and Spencer is sent in to take out the terrorists. He finds himself in a ravaged concrete jungle and the only humans around are terrorists soldiers. As a result of the blast, parts of the city are highly radioactive and Spencer cannot venture into these areas; they act as boundaries to the game environment. The levels are as linear as they come.

 

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The USP of Bionic Commando is the features of the bionic arm; all other weapons play second fiddle. As detailed in our preview, the arm has multiple uses. It helps Spencer get around by using the arm to swing across the environment, not unlike Spiderman. It can also be used as a weapon; you can either kite objects such as concrete blocks and cars and toss them at enemies or grab an enemy with it and reel yourself towards him in a drop-kick. As cool as it looks, this maneuvre inflicts a surprisingly low amount of damage. Once your adrenaline meter is full, the bionic arm can unleash a more powerful melee attack that will take out all enemies within a fixed distance.

 

You can also use the arm to shake loose certain objects. This can help you break weak walls or drop monorail carriages on unsuspecting enemies below, both of which cannot be done with the other available weapons. You can also punch heavy objects into the air and roundhouse kick them onto enemies while in mid-air, similar to the kite maneuvre. To take out many foes at a time, there is Death From Above, an attack performed from higher ground, whereby Spencer lands hard, sending a shockwave through the ground and killing or wounding those in the vicinity. So there’s a lot the bionic arm is capable of. It’s offensive uses make it the weapon of choice, with all but the most powerful firearms merely used as backup.

 

You will spend a lot of time in the game swinging. Since the city is left devastated following a nuclear attack, there are many craters in the ground and getting around on foot isn’t an option. Even if it is, swinging across is a lot quicker, and once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun too. Mastering the swinging mechanic takes a bit of time, and the training section, which will seem instantly familiar to those who’ve played Bionic Commando Rearmed, does a pretty good job of showing you the ropes. But the key is stringing these swings together and even after you’ve got the timing and the direction right, there is a fair amount of trial and error involved.

 

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Various sections of a level are broken up by minefields, which are basically electrocuted blimps suspended in the air that cover distances of a level where traveling on foot is impossible. You must defeat enemies that protect a computerised hub and doing so will allow you to hack into this hub and deactivate the minefield and progress further. Traversing these minefields though can often be frustrating, because even after you’ve mastered the timing of the swing, you’ll very often miss a blimp even though you’ve done everything right. When the minefields are large, this can get especially infuriating because you will have to do it all over again.

 

Adding to the frustration are the game’s long load times (on both platforms) and ridiculous checkpoint system. These combine to make the game’s otherwise 9-10 hour single-player campaign seem a lot longer. When you’re at a difficult boss fight, where you’re bound to die a few times, it would help not to have to swing half a kilometer to the boss fight location each time you die.

 

But while the swinging mechanics are less than perfect, they are endlessly fun all the same and are particularly useful during boss fights, not only because the bionic arm is vital to overcoming these bosses, but because it lets you move around a lot faster and gets you out of tricky situations. The boss fights themselves are a lot of fun and quite varied too. Firstly, there are the mini-bosses, which are human-controlled mechs called Biomechs, and flying killing machines called Polycraft. One-on-one they’re easy to take out, but when the game throws two or three at you in a confined space, you will have your task cut out for you. And to make things more interesting, you’ll also have snipers gunning for you. The bigger bosses are quite a handful and as boss battles should be, finishing them off really feels like an achievement.

 

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The common theme here is that the game is meant to be played at a fast pace. While you can take your time across the minefields, once you’re in the thick of the action, you have to keep moving to survive; taking cover is rarely an option and the bionic arm is the key. Besides swinging, you will also need it to climb objects (it works strikingly similar to the wire controls in Lost Planet) and pull yourself out of a tough spot.

 

Unlike the original Bionic Commando, there aren’t any tricky platform-based segments or puzzles in this one. Instead, the game is more action-oriented and variety comes in the form of different level layouts and enemies. Besides the bionic arm, you also have standard fire arms, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, grenades, grenade launchers, etc at your disposal. But from the way the weapons work, it’s clear that the focus remains the bionic arm. The shooting mechanics are extremely basic, and the shooting-only segments are the low points of the game.

 

The game sports fairly diverse environments and each is designed to make best use of Spencer’s bionic arm. Starting out in a city in ruins filled with lamp-posts, monorails, and street signs, you move through giant underground caves, the city park, which is more like a small forest, and a giant botanical garden. The colour palette used is bright and vibrant and that makes these different locations stand apart from each other even more. And you’ll keep moving from one to the other so you’re never tired of seeing the same scenery again and again.

 

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As I mentioned above, the single-player campaign is about 10 hours long, and it’s all thoroughly enjoyable, load times and retarded checkpoint system notwithstanding. The bionic arm adds a whole new dimension to what would have otherwise been a standard third-person shooter. Also worthy of praise are the boss battles, which are pretty challenging even on normal difficulty.

 

There’s also an online multi-player mode, which in concept, has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the online servers aren’t active yet, so we only have the Xbox LIVE multi-player demo to go by. There are 16 multi-player maps and they’re all designed to make swinging an integral part of gameplay. Unlike most multi-player shooters nowadays, where you can choose weapons before the match begins, here you start with a pistol only and more powerful weapons and armour are placed around the map as pick-ups. This levels the playing field and the scramble to get to the best weapons first is a lot of fun in itself. The demo only had 8-player deathmatch, but the full game supports 10 players with team deathmatch, capture the flag, and other modes, as well as the ability to upgrade your bionic arm. The multiplayer too is fast-paced and you’ll need to keep swinging to survive.

 

Visually, the game is pretty impressive and handles well on both platforms. Environments are well-designed and I was particularly impressed when I first ventured into the city park. The environments are bright and colourful without being gaudy. Animations, particularly Spencer’s swinging animations, are extremely well done. While this game bares little resemblance to the original, there are certain touches that might seem a little old-school. The first of these are the enemy death animations, which are overly exaggerated, especially during explosions. Giant ammo pickups also further the old school feel.

 

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On the audio side, Spencer’s random and often inapplicable one-liners on killing an enemy or completing a task are laughable. If it was intended to sound tacky, then it’s a job well done. The music barely stands out and there isn’t much voiceover work besides the sporadic cutscenes.

 

Conclusion

 

Grin have done a fine job in not being weighed down by the need to stay true to the original. Instead, they’ve tried to make Bionic Commando as much fun as possible even if it meant straying so far away from the original that hadn’t it been for the name and concept, you wouldn’t see any connection. And they have succeeded, because despite its obvious flaws, it’s a blast to play. It starts out feeling mediocre and the controls seem clunky, but it quickly wins you over with its charming style and challenging gameplay. Just give yourself long enough to get used to Bionic Commando; you won’t want to put it down till the credits roll.

 

(+) Though far from perfect, swinging is a lot of fun

(+) Challenging boss battles

(+) Immersive level design; varied and beautiful environments

(+) Cool bionic arm powers; other weapons pale in comparison

 

(-) Insipid story

(-) Poor checkpoint system

(-) Shooting controls could be tighter

 

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Title: Bionic Commando

Developer/Publisher: Grin/Capcom

Genre: Action

Rating: 18+

Platforms: Xbox 360 (Rs 3,499), and PlayStation 3 (Rs 3,499)

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Nice one Sam. Pretty much covered all the points.

 

Load times are zippier on the Xbox 360 version of the game if you go for the HDD install.

 

Checkpoint system is still retarded though. Hated it the most during the submerged city levels.

 

The Xbox LIVE achievement system and the in-game Challenges/Rewards have been tied up pretty nicely together.

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When you’re at a difficult boss fight, where you’re bound to die a few times, it would help not to have to swing half a kilometer to the boss fight location each time you die.

 

I am sorry but thats just inexcusable in this day and age, its not the NES we are playing on anymore. Bad checkpointing is always a deal breaker for me.

 

The price isnt helping either. At 3.5k they can shove it.

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nice review sam...and a fair enough score as well...i will definitely be getting this game (dunno when) for the boss battles :happydance:

 

just like to point out:

And it’s not a remake either; it follows the exploits of a new character – Nathan ‘RAD’ Spencer.

 

nathan "rad" spencer is the same character than appeared in bionic commando rearmed and this is supposedly a sequel to rearmed set in the future...so he's not exactly "new"

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The game seems like a lot of fun, judging it from your review. Price is very steep though (like any other Capcom title), Apart from the price, I don't see any other reason stopping people from buying the game after reading your review,

 

Very well written Sam, Kudos. I would have definitely bought it, if it were available for the PC.

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^^ nice review samwa .. will wait for pc version to hit the shelfs ..

 

 

and yeah sam you need to optimize gi for google .. i tried searching for bionic commando review expecting that GI should come at least in first page of results if not as first result GI is the first one with a review out.

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nice review. still not convinced about the swinging mechanics.

 

btw a small mistake, plz correct it

Visually, the game is pretty impressive. The game handles well on both platforms, which is commendable for a first-time effort

GRIN also made wanted: weapons of fate and the REmake of BC used the same engine as this game.

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