After a 20 year hiatus, Capcom has finally decided to allow GRIN studios to resurrect its Bionic Commando franchise. Last year, the critically acclaimed Bionic Commando Rearmed came out over Xbox Live Arcade and was a success with gamers who had witnessed the original as well as those that hadn’t. How did this year’s Bionic Commando fare?
I’ve always contended that the best games are those that provide a challenge – keeping you on your toes rather than providing an experience that’s too easy or too frustrating.
Bionic Commando walks the fine line by being the first game in over two years that nearly made me want to toss my controller at the television.
Don’t get me wrong, the grapple mechanics work flawlessly…when you’re doing them correctly. Here’s a situation that happens so frequently in-game that it becomes cliché: you’re swinging majestically across the alleyways and streets of the city to suddenly find yourself at a place with a large body of water. With a rather shallow explanation why, we’re told Spencer’s arm will drag him down in the water, but that he can swing as gracefully as Spiderman through the air.
As you swing through the city to the aforementioned area, you find that all of a sudden you run out of prime swinging real estate only to have to latch onto tiny weather-balloon-like “mines”. These parts are infuriating because one missed swing and you’ll sink straight down into the water.
But that’s not all you get with the package. You also get ridiculously frustrating robot battles where it’ll seem like you’re fighting an invincible army of robots – be prepared to look at the loading screen (the same screen during the whole game tries to teach you the controls) MANY, MANY times.
Not much to say about this in Bionic Commando. It’s one of those rare titles where the graphics look like nothing special, but are nice enough that you can’t really complain. Water drips appropriately and the destroyed aesthetic of the city is enough to maintain the illusion.
The one gripe I have with the graphics are that occasionally, lag will happen during a cut-scene or two and it ruins both the timing of the subtitles as well as any other sense of immersion.
As a final point, while the environment is fairly good-looking, don’t expect much out of the character models outside of Spencer himself – Super Joe is stereotypical, as is the entire rest of the faceless cast.
It had been a long while since I hadn’t cared a bit about the story of a game. Starting to play inFAMOUS this morning, I realized how much I had missed a decent story reviewing these last few games.
Bionic Commando’s story is even weaker than the weakest points of its gameplay. Trying to offer up a “twist” ending or anything in-between really did nothing to reduce my apathy. Simply put, the GRIN developers threw in key words into the Generotron 2000© and came out with this nonsensical pile of garbage.
Honestly, I had wished I could just play the game without a single piece of dialog or story – it might’ve been better that way instead of the insult to the intelligence of the player that the current one provides.
Close to 20 years later, Capcom proves that perhaps it’s not better to let go of the reigns to another company. While GRIN does an admirable job making you feel great while the swinging mechanic works, at the points when it doesn’t, the ENTIRE game breaks apart. You get no sense of the arm being a connective tissue of sorts between you and the world. Rather, 50% of the time, it’s yet another bad decision in a game littered with them. The one redeeming quality of the game is those few moments when you feel invincible while swinging. Also worth mentioning is the fact that I breezed through the campaign in two sittings – my recommendation? If you’re invested in the Commando franchise, rent it at Blockbuster.