Friday, May 29, 2009
Going into last year's E3, there was one booth I was more excited to go to than any other. Capcom was showing off three big-name sequels that I was dying to get my hands on - Resident Evil, Street Fighter, and Bionic Commando. While I was blown away by the former two, the latter didn't impress me much (despite being a big fan of the NES original). I couldn't get the hang of the swinging mechanics, and I was concerned over whether or not it would be significantly improved upon before release. I'm glad to say that the retail release of Bionic Commando proves that early builds are early builds for a reason. The finished product is an enjoyable ride that should satisfy any fan of action games.
Without solid swinging controls, this game would have failed no matter what. The series' legacy is all about swinging from building to building with your bionic arm, and it's more fun than ever in this installment. The left trigger controls all of your arm actions, whether you're swinging or attacking. You can toss enemies hundreds of feet, tear down street signs, perform a 360 degree whip move, hack terminals, and plenty more with your gigantic appendage (insert joke here). Despite being able to swing through the city like Spiderman and hurl cars hundreds of feet, you can still drown in three feet of water for some reason.
Many of the action sequences are a blast to play through. It's exciting to swoop into enemy territory by propelling yourself off a skyscraper and greeting them with a giant "Death From Above" move as you hit the ground. There are countless ways to dispose of your enemies, and that's what keeps the gameplay fresh throughout. As an achievement junkie, I also loved the way these were handled in the game. You can view all the achievements and their requirements by hitting the Back button, and it tracks how close you've come to acquiring them. Not only do you get achievement points upon completion of the challenges, you'll also receive in-game upgrades. Getting 20 points added to your GamerScore is great, but getting an armor or accuracy upgrade along with it is even better.
Bionic Commando isn't without its downsides, however. Those looking for a more open-world adventure will be disappointed to learn that the game is very linear. It's very "point A to point B", and there's plenty of water and irradiated areas that will prevent the more adventurous types from exploring Ascension City. Go too high, die of radiation. Go too far off the beaten path, die of radiation. It's a cheap way to keep the player on the intended path, and it proves to be very frustrating.
The other main issue I had was with the main character himself. Nathan "Rad" Spencer was a generic action hero back on the NES, and now he's a Mike Patton-voiced, dreadlocked moron who spouts cringe-inducing lines whenever he takes out an enemy soldier. Yes, this battle-hardened professional soldier still spouts lines like "SUCKS TO BE YOU" and "NAILED YA!" like an eighth grader in gym class.
This new Bionic Commando is not a masterpiece, but it can be a hell of a lot of fun in places. Despite its linear nature, afterthought multiplayer, insufferable protagonist, and disappointing final boss fight, it's well worth checking out if you're a fan of action games.
First Play: 8.5
Replay Value: 7.5