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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.
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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.
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.
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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
Title: Bionic Commando
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Rs 3,499), and PlayStation 3 (Rs 3,499)