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IndianVideoGamer Hands-on: Bionic Commando

icon_preview1With Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5 already released and well-received this year, Capcom will be hoping to keep the momentum going with the May release of Bionic Commando. For those who didn’t get a chance to play the original side-scroller, Capcom had released the brilliant Bionic Commando Rearmed on Xbox LIVE and PSN last year. But long before the release of Rearmed, Sweden-based studio Grin was already deep into development of a true next-gen Bionic Commando game.

A lot has changed in Bionic Commando’s next-gen debut. While Rearmed proved that there is still an audience for a side-scrolling 2D action game, the new Bionic Commando adopts a 3D third-person perspective. Lad, the protagonist from the original, is now replaced by the more laid back Natahan ‘RAD’ Spencer. The first game was heavy on platforming despite the lack of a jump option. Instead, Lad’s bionic arm did all the traversing for him. And while the new game adds the option to jump, a bulk of the platforming is still heavily reliant on the bionic arm.

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Bionic Commando: Now more beefy for next-gen

The bionic arm works similar to Spiderman’s web, attaching itself to objects within a fixed distance, and allowing RAD to, either pull himself towards it, swing from it, or use it as a projectile. The bionic arm remains the USP of the game and while you also have melee attacks, guns and grenades in your combat arsenal, the thrill of using the bionic arm as a lethal weapon is unmatched.

The build we played included a training level and the first level of the game. You’ll spend a considerable amount of time in the training area, because it will take a while to get used to the way the bionic arm works, particularly for traversing. Swinging using the bionic arm is heavily dependent on momentum and there is a very brief window during your swing, when you can let go and carry enough momentum to reach the next object. There is an on-screen indicator telling you when you’ve hit that sweet spot, but it can still get tricky. Besides platforming, the training level also teaches you basics such as the use of weapons and grenades.

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“Swinging using the bionic arm is heavily dependent on momentum”

The first level looked like the city had just been hit by an earthquake measuring 20 on the Richter scale. The level is broken up into different parts, and deep, wide cracks in the ground separate these fragments. Getting from one part of the level to the other requires you to deactivate a minefield (a group of electrified blimps suspended in mid-air) by getting to a check point. Once the minefield is deactivated you can traverse across the blimps to get to the next section, but you will meet resistance on your way to the checkpoint.

You can take out enemy soldiers in many ways, the most obvious of them being the use of standard melee attacks, guns and grenades. Other then this, you can also use your bionic arm to perform melee attacks. This is done by attaching your bionic arm to the enemy and propelling yourself towards him and hitting him with a drop kick. Doing so will result in the enemy unrealistically flying 20 feet in the air, at which time, you can perform more melee attacks for maximum damage. There were also parts where we were able to use the bionic arm to derail a monorail carriage and drop it on unsuspecting enemies below. Very cool.

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“The thrill of using the bionic arm as a lethal weapon is unmatched”

The most fun way to inflict pain on your enemies though, is to toss big, heavy objects at them using your bionic arm. You can attach the bionic arm to a car, and a press of the triangle button on the PS3 controller will toss it in the air. While in the air, you can aim at your target and pressing circle will throw the car in the direction of your target. You can also do the same with dead enemies, but we weren’t able to throw around any other objects in the environment, which was a bit of a bummer.

There is a distinct mix of styles in Bionic Commando. While the character and environment design as well as the camera perspective and controls are, for most part, in sync with current trends in action games, elements of the game’s presentation, namely the death animations, RAD’s cheesy one-liners, human-sized ammo pick-ups, and enemies flying 20 feet in the air from one punch, all seem to be thrown in there for an old-school feel, because besides these, the game bears little resemblance to Rearmed.

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When short on ammo, use car

A lot of the game involves you swinging from place to place. Unfortunately, the less than intuitive swinging mechanics and dodgy camera angles make swinging less fun than it should be. The twitchy camera can get quite annoying, particularly when you have to change direction while swinging. Hopefully, this was an issue in the early build we played and may well be ironed out for the game’s release in May. Besides this though, Bionic Commando looks like a lot of fun, and online multi-player with these gameplay mechanics has a lot of potential. It may not end up as a pathbreaking title, but it certainly looks like it will pack in a lot of mindless fun, so you may want to keep an eye out for it.

Bionic Commando is out on Xbox 360 and PS3 this May, and on PC later this year.

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