May 31, 2010
This is the first game I’ve ever played that I refuse to accept a series sequel as canon.
Growing up my dark horse of gaming cred was being one of the largest fans of the original NES Bionic Commando. As a young vanlandw I remember leaving the NES paused though a day of school at a friends house in attempts overtake the Badds and save Super Joe. When emulators were big in college I was finally able to make Hitler’s head explode and save the day with a story to tell. A few years ago when Capcom was doing their relaunch of the brand with Bionic Commando Rearmed the launch trailer for the Next Gen Bionic Commando left me worried but hopeful. It appeared to be absolutely unrelated to the game I played as a boy but as a man hurling oneself off a building and swinging around sounds like a dream come true for gaming.
After following the green dot though Accession City I was right to be worried. Bionic Commando does everything a brand relaunch should avoid doing. They should have taken a look at how well Metal Gear Solid transitioned from it’s humble starts to it’s A list endings. Take the right stuff from where you started rather then shedding everything that made that was right in the first place.
Saying the 2009 edition is loosely related to the 1988 offering is an understatement. After thinking about what Rearmed ultimately became the developers were selling it as a remake but it was clearly a re-canon(not sure if this a real term or not) of the series. The Next Gen game is clearly (and loosely) based off Rearmed much to my dismay.
I will go as far as to say Nathan “Rad” Spencer is one of the worst video game characters of all time. Gamer Melodico posed the question “Who is the worst video game protagonist of all time?” and I confidently left a ballot with the following comment…
Yesterday I made it though a third of Bionic Commando (XB/PC/PS3) and Spencer in that game is horrible. He sounds to be similar to Cole (Infamous lead) where he’s always pist off and has absolutely no reason at all to be doing what he’s doing. During all this while murdering people he will display bouts of glee it’s just odd.
It’s a shame because the swing mechanics are great and it could be a good game if the protagonist’s drive could have been fixed.
During every cut scene or radio communication Spencer sounds like he’s furious. He’s also very vocal about not wanting to be doing what he’s doing and questioning his orders emotionally (emo?). Spencer is also voiced by the highly over rated Mike Patton. He did a terrible job in The Darkness and in Bionic Commando he’s no better. It’s not like his material here was his to ruin but he must have remembered only one line from Spencer’s character bio about being recently released from prison and carried it though the bulk of his performance. As the player you must ask yourself if you or I were just released from prison and released to a recently bombed city to stylistically kill hundreds of enemies how would you feel?
During game play Spencer of course has the typical one liners when eradicating his opponents. Using the sniper rifle he will vocally laugh almost devilishly or say something stupid like “That’s gotta hurt!” or “I’ll send you the bill!”. Before a boss battle Spencer will seriously for just one time in the entire game break the fourth wall and speak as the player saying one of the worst lines I’ve ever heard ever.
“Is that a long health bar or are you just happy to see me?”
Along with being a prick Spencer is absolutely unrelatable and I don’t see how anybody could feel sympathetic for him. Spencer’s main motivation though the game is to uncover information regarding his missing wife but when you find the conclusion it’s unfathomable why she would even give a shit about him in the first place.
Though the game your best friend will be the “marker”. HQ will constantly send you the right way to go and I would advise to never attempt to go anywhere other then that marker. In a development decision I’ll never understand there are 150 “collectibles” though the game that contribute to an achievement and unlocks viewable concept artwork. For reaching most of the collectibles risking death is required or to go off the beaten path and search them out. Due to Accession City just recently being bombed parts of the city are blue and radioactive thus unaccessible. The games biggest crime is an affliction upon a gamers natural habit to explore or put another way break the game. Anybody who plays any game does this without even thinking about. Test the limits. See what you can get away with. Some of us like to look around and try to find easter eggs or find optimal paths.
Not call uno when you have uno and see if you can get away with it.
Bionic Commando punishes you to no end for doing this. Going into some of the radiated areas for a second will kill you. Game Over. Restart from checkpoint. Some of the collectibles will put you in harms way thus killing you thus making you sit though a long loading screen and taking away your progress. At least three times after finishing a long section of multiple boss type characters just trying to get to the green dot by mistake I swung into blue death resulting in doing that hard section over again. To make matters worse many areas are surrounded by water and Spencer being equipped with metal boots and one non-human arm your character will sink to the bottom. One bad swing and your ef’ed. Every game should checkpoint how Halo does where wiping an area of enemies the game checkpoints thus even if you screw up the enemies you killed are dead. They could have even allowed challenges and collectibles to stack after death so you wouldn’t have to redo so much. A gamers time is precious…
I played the game on the PS3. Owning Rearmed thankfully gave me the unlock of the “Classic” Spencer model as updated Spencer just looks like a reggae singer. Digital Foundry found technically (Frame Tearing) the PS3 version eclipses the 360 version (Link 1, Link 2) but I found frame rate issues in multiple areas. There are also multiple blur effects implemented so beware if those type of filters hurt your eyes. Last year Game Stop had the game on sale for $20 new so when I went to pick up a copy they showed a small bit of humanity and gave me the pre-order patches for free! I hate Game Stop.
Finished the game on “Hard” difficulty and really wouldn’t have had any problems if I wasn’t playing to complete the challenges. In a game like this achievements are typically given for reaching story points in the game but in Bionic Commando 90% of the achievements are for completing challenges like swinging and killing six enemies or killing a certain amount of guys with one attack. The masochist in me would almost do a run on “Commando (super hard) difficulty and try to pick up the three challenges I missed to get the ”Bionically Challenged” trophy as that would be two gold trophies but I doubt that will happen. I also found 87/150 of the collectibles and passed about 10 I could have gotten but the fear of the blue death, redoing fights, and the devil water the decision was made to pass them.
There was a man long ago that said and I quote “but in the end it doesn’t even matter”. The final 5% of the game is actually quite fun and almost inspired. The last two boss battles are not hard and there is some deviation from the city scape. Sadly the initial impression of the game is what I’m going to remember most and I believe most reviewers feel the same way I do. The swing mecanics I was so excited about sadly aren’t given the room they need to work. The game shockingly doesn’t have many vistas where it opens up and lets you swing around and the combat gets in the way many times. Point A to Point B. Green Dot to Green Dot. Most of your arm work goes into killing people or climbing up structures to kill people. I would love to see an open world/sandbox game take the swing mechanics and use them properly.
Bionic Commando ends like most games that want to be trilogies do. After the credits an indecipherable message that requires the internet to figure out plays on top of a cliffhanger ending for Spencer. Video games have never been kind to their early adopters imagine if you paid $60 dollars for this game for an ending that answers hardly nothing but selling you more. Typical.
Postscript: There were a few things in this post I forgot to mention that is worth bringing up. First are the horrible advertisements littered throughout the city scape of the game. Normally I don’t get up in arms about this but these ads are horrible and might be worse then the ones contained in Mercenaries 2. Most of the billboards are extraordinarily low res textures and I would almost assume it was done on purpose so they stick out even more. The in-game posters for the Dark Void game in particular are impossible to even make out whats on them the textures are so low resolution. There are buildings that are named “Bionic Commando Rearmed” but they might be movie theaters I have no idea. Pepsi ads are on buildings and oddly placed Tricell ads as well. Tricell is from the Resident Evil verse so building a bridge there makes no scene at all.
On a positive note the soundtrack is done very well. There seems to be multiple composers so it’s hard to give proper credit to one individual. From the original tracks to the remixes from the original game there is not one bad track and worth checking out.