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Bionic Commando was one of the games I eagerly awaited. Summer is not the best time for game releases as developers and publishers focus on holiday shopping seasons for the loud ones, so anything that looks playable is like a gulp of water in the desert for a hardcore gamer in the hot hot summer. And this one had some catch in it, promising vast city scapes and Spiderman-like swinging on ropes as the main method of travelling. It also couldn't hurt that the main character is voiced by Mike Patton himself, lead singer of the recently re-united band Faith No More as well as many side projects, whom I deeply respect as a great artist. Of course this is also the first non-remake, full-scale Bionic Commando since the Nintendo release over twenty years ago.
Was it worth the wait? Is it great? Read further and you shall know.
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The graphics in the game are quite good. They're nothing that would stand out as a surprise, but still they're nice, sharp and pleasant to look at. I especially enjoyed the water (you can see it in the screenshot), but many games show us great water and other graphic miracles. Another thing that appeals to me is lack of over-the-top bloom in the game; it exists, but in temperate doses. I am not fond of the "bloom everywhere" trend that seems to be getting more and more popularity in modern games, especially shooters as the primary genre for high quality graphics. I tend to turn bloom off or minimal where it is possible, so this game had it's big graphical plus for me. Overall, you shall not be disappointed by graphics in Bionic Commando, as the game keeps up with most of the powerful graphical engines out there nowadays.
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Gameplay is ... precisely average. But let's look at it point by point:
You control a bionically enhanced supersoldier named Nathan Spencer. Bionic enhancement mainly consists of an arm that can act as a grappling hook by shooting out an attachment to almost any oblject. This helps you move somewhat similary to Marvel's famous superhero Spiderman by swinging from object to object, landing on and crushing on your enemies, tossing and pulling certain objects around and generally have a good time. Spencer is also equipped with heavy boots that let him fall from any distance with no harm done. The drawback is that water tends to short-circuit your cyberarm, thus making it dangerous to stay in any liquid area for long. Aha, a restriction!
And here we come to the most annoying part of the game: restrictions. Being tossed into a huge destroyed city that looks like Prototype's Alex Mercer was having a party here, you could expect to enjoy free roaming similar to the aforementioned game, but that's not possible! There are blue barriers everywhere that threaten you with certain death should you stray off your path. The game explains them as radiation, but a restriction this blatant shows you that this is a railroad trip to the finish.
Well, this game is not a sandbox. What else we have got? Ahh, the combat. Bionic Commando is the first non-remake and non-mobile entry in a series of platformers, the original arcade and NES versions once lauded as some of the hardest games ever. For me, it is refreshing that some of this difficulty has been kept; you can die very fast, be it from enemy bullets, falling in water, or in other painful ways. I hadn't seen a game with such attitude even if played on Medium difficulty for a long time. The challenge is here, if you want it. While mixing it up with some swinging and clawing is obvisously more fun, your character also carries a sidearm, a grenade and a primary weapon from the classical assortiment of shooters - sniper rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher etc. The gunfights themselves are pretty average and nothing new, except for the high chance to die.
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So, this game is what it is - just another third person platformer/shooter, made nicely, but delivering nothing new. If you like swinging on ropes and some tactical challenges, pick it up and it will entertain you for a few days. If you are looking for something original and fresh, there isn't much here. The choice, as always, is yours.