Verdict: Sorta Fun
In a Nutshell: A swinging remake of an old action platformer.
“Bionic Commando is back, now on the Xbox 360 [PS3 and PC], 20 years after the NES classic was initially released. And returning with it is the swinging bionic arm game mechanic that made it so popular and critically acclaimed. Bionic Commando makes the move to 3D, and gamers will be able to grapple, swing, and scale a giant environment filled with buildings, canyons, and more.”
- Fun Rating: Sorta Fun
- ESRB: M
- Players/Mode: single-player / campaign, multiplayer / pvp
- Game Duration:~30 hrs
- System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Developer: http://www.grin.se/
- Website: http://www.bioniccommando.com/
- Cost: $59.95
- Demo: Available on Xbox Live Marketplace, Playstation Network
|Would I play this again?||Perhaps multiplayer.|
|Would I recommend this game?||Yes and no. Depending on one’s preferences some could love and others hate.|
|Was the story good?||The story was hard to follow and disjointed.|
|Was the music good?||Excellent score blending old low-fi NES tracks with richer symphonics.|
|Were the graphics good?||Impressive at certain points, disappointing in others.|
|Was this game difficult?||Moderately|
|Was this game frustrating?||Extremely- Frequent long loading times, invisible walls, radiation contamination, badly spaced save points and an inability to swim can make you want to shred the DVD at times.|
|Was this game offensive?||Some language and violence might be offensive to some.|
|Was this game worth your time/money?||I enjoyed it but I’m not sure if its worth $60.|
Playing the game
Bionic Commando combines elements of a platformer and first person shooter with that of a 3rd person action game. The most significant game mechanic is your character’s bionic arm which gives you numerous super-human abilities including a grappling-hook-like ability to swing from place to place, lift and throw extremely heavy items, and slam enemies with punches. In addition to your bionic arm’s various capabilities you are given a variety of weapons, including a sniper rifle, machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades to battle your enemies. You begin the game in the middle of a city that has been mostly destroyed by a catastrophic attack. At first to be a sandbox similar to Grand Theft Auto however it quickly becomes clear that the designers have used radiation clouds, invisible barriers, bodies of water and other impediments making your progress very linear. Game play is primarily broken up into map sections where you encounter groups of enemy troops and have to defeat them to unlock nodes which allow you to progress to the next section.
What the game gets right
The level design is hit or miss but when its good its excellent. Its quite eerie as you travel through an empty and devastated Ascension City. Buildings have crumbled and fallen, large areas of the city are under water. While the game does force you into a linear path, the bionic arm does allow a semi-novel vertical aspect to the maps. You can take a conventional path and run and gun along the surface or climb to the top of skyscrapers to snipe or pounce on unsuspecting foe. The swinging mechanic isn’t perfect but it is very satisfying to pull off that perfect swing arcing you into the sky then diving to the ground slamming a group of enemy soldiers. Several special bionic combo abilities give you an exhilarating sense of raw destructive power as you fling cars into enemies or swing your bionic arm around knocking entire groups of soldiers to the floor. The heavier weapons quite satisfied my “sploding” cravings. The boss battles against various mechs and aircraft were just challenging enough to get my heart pumping but not too difficult to make me frustrated.
What the game gets wrong
In many ways it seems like the game is trying to be several kinds of games at once and unfortunately inherits some of the more frustrating characteristics of each type of game. As stated before, the game allows you to move around relatively freely similar to an open world sandbox game. Unfortunately as you get familiar with the game you quickly realize that there are numerous ways you can experience frustrating and unexpected deaths as you try to explore the world. Radiation clouds and contaminated buildings are supposed to be delineated by a blue glow, this can help you know what areas to avoid- unfortunately sometimes the clouds don’t seem to come out of nowhere. Another frustrating discovery is that your high tech Bionic warrior’s kryptonite is ordinary water. The game explains you are too heavy to swim so you must avoid water like the plague. As soon as you are unfortunate enough to take an inadvertent dip in liquid, your character drops like a rock. Unless you are able to lock onto something to grapple onto to pull yourself out you die within a few seconds of immersion. I found the target locking for the bionic arm to be buggy, which can be frustrating as you fly through air the grasping desperately for a light pole or tower to keep you from a radioactive or watery grave.
Throughout playing the game I never felt completely comfortable with the control scheme, it seemed each time I picked up the game I needed to become reacquainted. I also found there are far too many map loading points which at times seem to be placed randomly. The game is saved at oddly spaced intervals. There are many instances where I spent 10-15 minutes battling foes and traversing the map only to find myself hit an unexpected radiation patch and have to start over. While this was a common experience in the era of games I grew up with in the early 90′s, I did not experience any nostalgia for this type of save architecture.
Sum it up
While reviewing this game there were various points where I got soo irritated with the game that I had to stop playing for a day or so. It has been challenging to write a review that expresses the fun I had playing the game without overshadowing it with the many imperfections and irritations I experienced. Bionic Commando is by no means a bad game, there are just a number of extremely irritating things it gets wrong. It seems like with a little bit of extra polish it could’ve been a great game and perhaps this is why I’ve been so hard on it. I couldn’t help compare the game with Parallel World’s Crackdown which in terms of game mechanics had a good number of similarities. Compared to Crackdown Bionic Commando seems like it doesn’t have a clear direction. The radiation and water hazards combined with the badly placed and infrequent saved game points might make this game too irritating for some but I found it fun enough to keep me going. One aspect of the game that was consistently good was the soundtrack. The music mixed in epic symphonics with remixed 8-bit tunes from the old Bionic Commando as well as a lot of new material and helped add mood to the varied environments in the game. I could complain about the hard to follow and sometimes unintentionally comical plot but honestly it didn’t bug me much. This game is meant to be over the top and in many ways it succeeds in that endeavor. To those unsure as to whether they should purchase the game I’d suggest checking out the demo, if the control scheme and fighting mechanics don’t bug you too much you just might really enjoy this title.
Note: I did not play multiplayer for this review so this review solely applies to the single player campaign.