Bionic CommandoIf you thought Bionic Commando was just some game Capcom made in the 80s, you'd be mistaken, as in 2008, they remade it with 3D graphics and a remixed soundtrack, as well as a health bar, and there's a sequel to be released in 2011. In between, fans were treated to a fully 3D Bionic Commando game, simply titled Bionic Commando. Oh, shit, would it get confusing if you didn't label this one as Bionic Commando 09... but then again, I guess it was just an excuse for them to not think of some cheesy title like "Bionic Commando: Future" (which would actually make sense, since this takes place 10 years after the NES game/7th gen remake). Titles aside, the game is very well made, with too many good things going for it to be so *bleep*ing angry about it.
Story: 10 years after the events of the NES Bionic Commando, a government operative known as Joseph Gibson or "Super Joe" runs an organization known as the Tactical Arms And Security Committee (or TASC), which trains bionic warriors like Nathan "RAD" Spencer in Ascension City. Unfortunately, Spencer gets betrayed by his own government and falsely imprisoned, and with this, the Great Bionic Purge - which is where bionic parts are being destroyed and bearers of them are dying - begins. Before Spencer becomes another victim, an experimental weapon detonates in the city, spreading radiation all over the place and kill a lot of people. Turns out, it came from BioReign, a terrorist organization, and they're threatening invasion, so it's up to Spencer to get his arm back and take down BioReign before they actually invade.
Get that? Because I had some trouble actually getting the story. Why would you want to invade what you turned into a shithole? That would be like me invading the poverty stricken villages of Africa, or what's left of the world in Fallout 3. Also, the game seems to leave a few too many questions unanswered, leaving the door open for a sequel (which I'm not sure we'll ever get because this has bugger all sales behind it and the developer, Grin, is dead). Other than that, up until the absolutely goddamn *bleep*ing shitty plot twist that made me contemplate smashing my 360 to dust because it was so *bleep*ing ridiculous, the story wasn't that bad. It didn't make that much sense and it had many plot holes, but the characters definitely helped me give somewhat of a crap. The dialogue is tongue in cheek, giving the game a bit of attitude with some grin worthy lines that can get some chuckles every now and again, and this pretty much makes up for the decent at best storyline, but it will not, under any circumstances, make up for the most ridiculous plot twist I've experienced in a long time.
Gameplay: For the most part, Bionic Commando plays like a fully 3D version of the NES game - you're able to swing around the world like a monkey or like Spiderman... in fact, Bionic Commando feels like the PS1 Spiderman game where you go through levels, beating up bad guys while swinging across pits to reach a far away platform. Basically, take that, fix the camera up (oh, god, was the camera bad in that game, or what), relinquish the ability to walk on walls like a spider, and give Spiderman a few guns and explosives, and you have this game.
Each level consists of you swinging across whatever you can, either to avoid fire, or to get to Point B. It's a simple structure, but goddamn, does it get hard as it goes, or what? Thankfully, it's of the rewarding sort, where you're rewarded for skill, rather than time or whatever today's games do. Your skill in using the bionic arm is not limited to finding vantage points, but to also manoeuvre around the battlefield, away from crossfire. You can get pretty creative with the bionic arm, either with attack points, or escape routes. You also have a pistol, sub-machine gun, a sniper rifle, a shotgun and a rocket launcher, but, although they're good for picking off some enemies (especially rocket launchers against mechs and sniper rifle for stealthy bits, and especially later in the game when there are LOTS at once), they're boring. I prefer to latch onto an enemy and kick him in the head, but you can kick ass the way you want to, either with them alone, or with a combination of the arm and weapon. The choice is yours, in the long run. Creativity can't really extend to the route you take, because level structure is pretty damn linear. I have no problems with linearity for a game like this... I mean, I wouldn't have minded a sandbox game like the PS2 Spiderman games, but I'm also cool with the linear structures.
Two problems I have - first is the time it takes to unlock the bionic arm's full potential. The game is just about over when you're able to use the arm to it's fullest extent. Shit, halfway through the game (or so), you're given the ability to use your arm to throw stuff at enemies. That's a bit too late to give the player an ability that would help greatly with fighting off swarms of enemies. These abilities became very useful, and here we are in the first half, shooting and latching. Whoopee. Not enough time for fun with the arm, unfortunately.
The other problem - and this might sound weird, but it still feels like a problem - is the lack of backtracking. Maybe it's because I've gotten far too used to Xbox 360 games allowing for some backtracking, but it just feels really weird. Now, I know what you're thinking - what's so good about backtracking... see, there are collectibles and challenges (ranging from "shoot down 500 enemies" to "kill 3 mechs with just melee attacks" to "headshot 50 enemies") you can get and complete in each level, and there is a good chance that you'll miss them. Naturally, you'd want to replay the level, just to get those last couple of tokens you missed and complete that one last challenge. Tough luck kiddo, because the only way you're doing that is if you restart from the beginning, from square one, and it'll be as if you've never collected or done anything. Basically what I'm saying, is that you have to get 100% of the game done in one run. I'll understand restarting the collectibles, but why the hell would you restart the challenges? We busted our asses for some of them, so why do the developers feel the need to be cruel and sadistic by making us do them again!? It's not challenging; it's tedious! Freaking tedious! Goddamn!
Controls: The controls in this game take some serious getting used to, though thanks to the tutorials at the beginning of the game, the time it takes is lessoned somewhat, because you're given some time to screw with the bionic arm. Once you get used to the game's physics engine and the timing to launch the arm to swing like a monkey, you'll be having a blast with it! The other controls are simple and easy to get the hang of, and although the load times are a little on the long side, they're pretty convenient to first time players - either ever, or in a long time - as the loading screen shows you what button does what if you hold a button for long enough. It's actually fairly ingenius if you think about it, since the load times are a bit on the lengthy side.
Graphics: Although far from fantastic, the graphics are fairly good. Some nicely rendered surroundings greet you as you zoom through them with your bionic arm, and the character models aren't half bad, either. There are some problems I have, though. For one, it can showcase some blurs, either to save on memory, or to keep the framerate up, which is silly, because - secondly - there are times where the framerate loses it, like it lags like crazy at some points. Not a game killer in the slightest, but damn, does it get annoying in some instances... The last problem is the consistency; there are some parts that look good, and some parts that look rushed, like they haven't been textured completely or bump mapped correctly. That's a damn shame, because the overall look of the game is pretty good, too.
Audio: There isn't a dull moment in the soundtrack. Ranging from electronic to rock to orchestral music, it can really enhance the mood of the cutscenes and make the gameplay seem more interesting. Without the soundtrack, the game would feel a lot more dull, and without the awesome voice acting, especially from Mike Patton (of Faith No More fame), the cutscenes would be a hell of a lot lamer. Seriously, the audio aspect of this game amplifies a lot of the game, moreso than a bunch of others do. The only other games I can think of where the soundtrack makes the game twice as good are Chrono Trigger, Nier, Resonance Of Fate, Axelay, Alone In The Dark 08 and just about every Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest/Warrior game ever made. Excellent stuff.
Replay Value: The major source of replay value, you would think, is the multiplayer, but since hardly anybody is up for a match, this is almost useless. It plays out like the single player does; just against other bionic commandos, that's all. It's pretty fun, just swinging around, looking for either vantage points or escape routes.. The other side of replay value is within the achievements, and trust me when I say that it could be more desirable if you were given the opportunity to replay levels to try and get those collectibles and complete the challenges without needing to restart goddamn everything. There aren't any multiplayer-relevant achievements/trophies - only ones pertaining to the challenges, boss slaying and difficulty specific ones, like completing the game on hard and Commando (or very hard).
Overall: Bionic Commando is a pretty damn good game that was rewarded... with crappy sales and the developer going down to hell... I guess if you're not Capcom themselves, or any other high profile third party developer for that matter, don't expect the masses to buy your games. It's a shame, because there were questions left unanswered, though maybe Capcom has a sequel somewhere in the backburner... With that said, if you can appreciate a tongue in cheek story with the gameplay wielding true difficulty where skill, creativity and patience in getting used to the controls is rewarded instead of shunned, Bionic Commando ought to be the next game on your shopping list.