Friday, August 14, 2009

Bionic Commando Review

Bionic Commandowas released back in May of this year, and it did not fare well, neither in sales nor was it a critical darling. While some of the smaller websites gave it a decent shake, the bigger sites were not so kind. Whether or not this says anything about me, the bigger sites were wrong and the smaller sites are in fact correct. Since I am a smaller site, really just a blog, I guess that means I am automatically going to give it a good score. If that is what you thought, then you are right(ish), since I am not giving an actual score to the game. Read on to see what I loved, hated and thought was just fair to middling.

What I Loved:

The Gameplay: The gameplay of Bionic Commandois superb, it was super tight and well-polished, so I was surprised when I found it so easy to swing through the game with ease. Targeting is a breeze and your claw can grab onto anything. There were so many times that I thought I was falling to my death only to have my claw snap onto something at the last minute, a saving grace. Shooting was no different, nor picking things up and there are a multitude of things that you can do in the game to take out your enemies. Want to throw one at another, you can, want to punch a car at a mech or soldier, you can. It was things like these that made the game fun as hell to play and kept the variety going to the end.

The Graphics: The imagery and scenery in the game is phenomenal, it’s not the best in some areas, but overall the game looks great. Ascension City had an incredible level of detail, as did Ascension City Park, those two areas stood out to me as the best and most well developed areas of the game.

Swinging: Technically this falls under gameplay but I wanted to give it a better definition here. It can be a pain to swing in both the original Bionic Commando, and in Rearmed, and it’s one of the things that made the game easy to pick up and play. One button controls your arm mechanic, L2 on the PS3, and you can attach it to anything, unless it’s an area you cannot explore. If your target is greyed out, usually a jump will take into range to connect. You can zip to an object/enemy which makes traveling faster on ground, or you can swing. It feels great in 3D, it was meant for 3D and it’s obvious that Grin wanted to make that experience as smooth as possible. It can be sort of a bear at the beginning but it takes five minutes to get used to. It is very hard to explain how natural it feels, but it does and made this game great. Also, swinging is probably easier on the Xbox360 since it has actual concave triggers.

Music: The music in this game was top notch, the early levels had a score that reminded me of Dead Wood and if you have seen that show you know that its musical scores were awesome. The later areas were just as good but the early ones stuck with me more. If you have a surround sound system then it would be wise to immerse yourself in it, it adds volumes to the experience.

The Mobile Boss Fight: You may think it’s silly to call out a specific boss fight in a game, but if you play a lot of games then you surely have your own list of ones you love. The boss fight is pretty epic and the most fun of the entire game. It also has the most memorable line to start a boss fight that just made me chuckle “Is that a long health bar or are you just happy to see me”, out of context it sounds retarded but when you get there you will see.

What Was So-So:

No Hacking: There are relay stations peppered throughout the game that serve the same purpose they did in Rearmed, deactivate alarms and a look into what the other side is doing. Hacking takes place automatically and I wish they would have put in a mini game of sorts, for me it would have added another layer of depth to the game.

Later Levels: Some of the later areas in the game were difficult to navigate and the objects in the draw distance were very generic looking. It was disappointing in a way to get to that point and not have those objects fleshed out more. Sometimes the combat was just a touch unbalanced and I experienced frequent deaths, some frustrating, some not. You always have the tool to get through an area with ease, so if you die one way it will be a lot easier to just use a move.

Challenges/Collectibles: The challenges are the main force behind upgrades for the weapons you get in the game. Some are easy, some are tricky, and some are just seemingly impossible. Collectibles are the same way, but another aspect to them is some are just very hard to see or find at all.

Final Boss: The last boss fight was weak, period. It’s only redeeming quality in my eyes was that it was reminiscent of God of War. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.

What Pissed Me Off:

Explanations Please: There were some baffling things in the game that I think they would assume people should just know outright. The best example of this I can use is swimming, since your arm is obviously heavy, you cannot swim, there is water early in the game and you will drown because you won’t know what to do. There aren’t a lot of instances that leave you hanging, but there are some that make you want to punch a baby.

Repeating Stuff: Get that hard to reach collectible or complete that difficult challenge? Then you died? When you die in Bionic Commandoand you have filled certain requirements, like collectibles or challenges, it doesn’t checkpoint it or save. That means if you die and haven’t reached the waypoint you have to do it again. This wouldn’t be a big deal if you didn’t die often, but you will and it definitely is one of the things that set the game back a notch in most people’s eyes. Technically you don’t have to complete it since once you complete a challenge you get your trophy/achievement, but if you like your upgrades then you have to do it again.

The End: The end of the game is weak, but it’s so weak that you feel cheated after playing all that time, dying and restarting, that it will irk you. The story unfolds nicely throughout the entire game and just ends, sorry that should be considered cheating. The game is great until the end, and that’s a shame because I would have loved to see a sequel.

There was a lot to love in Bionic Commando, and not too much to hate. The things to hate are pretty minor when looking at the big picture because it is a very good game, and fun as hell. The sad thing is the game got raked over the coals in early reviews and sales suffered a great deal because of it. This is the primary reason that user reviews are a better indication of whether you will like a game or not, sometimes there can be a 40 point or more difference in the average of either publication reviews vs. user ones. The multiplayer isn’t anything to write home about but I play games to be entertained by their story not multi. I would definitely check the game out to at least rent it and form your own opinion as learning curves vary between people. The game is a permanent own for me though, so make of that what you will.

PS3 version was played for this review and completed on Normal difficulty setting. 58% of collectible s and challenges were obtained/completed, as well as 58% of the trophies. Game is on sale at all major retailers for $59.99 or less.

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