Thursday, October 8, 2009

In Defense of: Bionic Commando (The New One)

It's not technically up on the main page yet, since I'm still working on editing/formatting a few more pieces, but Sotenga's review of the new Bionic Commando is now part of the full article. He gives it a favorable review, despite a detailed deconstruction about how awful the plotline truly is, and his overall assessment is pretty spot on.

I actually really enjoyed this game a lot, although it's easy to spot where the issues are. It made the famous mistake of trying to appeal to everyone and completely failed in the process. Retro fans disliked the complete change in atmosphere and tone, while modern fans were somehow under the assumption that this was an open-ended game, and disliked its linearity, as well as its difficulty. I think two things caused this: GRIN shot themselves in the foot by making Bionic Commando Rearmed (unofficial HG101 Game of 2008) so awesome, so the change was made incredibly apparent, and it had the unfortunate situation of releasing next to Infamous and Prototype, two other games that satiated action gamers in ways that Bionic Commando didn't.

Personally, I'd like to think of this as this generation's PS2 Shinobi, another 3D revival from about six years back that also emerged to middling reception. Both have their own fair set of issues - the pits and checkpoints in Shinobi, the load times in Bionic Commando, the repetitive level designs in both of them - but the core mechanics are just so damned fantastic that, for me, at least, it completely overshadowed any of its other issues. For Shinobi, it was the air dashing and wall running; for Bionic Commando, it's (obviously) the swinging. It doesn't really feel like the older games, but there was never any way it could in 3D. So much of the platform swinging is automatic that it loses that aspect, but it more than makes up for it with its application in combat.

Any of the major battles are made much more exciting when you're surrounded and start getting pelted up bullets, when you can leap off the nearest cliff, turn around in mid-air, latch on to something (hopefully) and slowly regain some health while firing what few enemies you can see. It is, in practice, a variation of the cover system that's been popularized by Gears of War, but infinitely more interesting because it can be used almost anywhere, without having to duck behind designer-placed obstacles. It also makes important use of vertical space and the ability to traverse it quickly, greatly enhancing any strategic combat options.

And for me, latching onto an enemy, reeling in so I slam into them and send myself flying backwards into the air, while spraying fire towards any other enemies - well, that's just as awesome as the first time you launched an enemy into the air and juggled them with bullets in Devil May Cry. It has the same exact impact as not only looking cool, but serving a important function in the game itself.

A few weeks after its release, Gamestop dropped the price to $20, although it's back hovering about the $40 mark now. That'll probably drop again come the holidays, which hopefully will convince more people to give it a go. I know this is another one of those games that's going to be showing up in "LTTP" threads for years to come, and maybe it's only in time that it'll get the respect it deserves.


  1. Look.

    I'm a die-hard bionic commando fan to the bone.

    I hate radiation. Just couldn't get past it. When I'd try to do cool things, I was geigered to death. The water system didn't help, either.

    Swing system is so fucking good, it makes me mad at GRIN that they fucked up so much other shit, and tanked their company. This is one of my most loved franchises EVER. 20 more years we'll probably have to wait for a sequel. Fuck.

    BTW, just discovered your site, and I love it. Fantastic stuff. :)


  2. The radiation seemed like a last minute patch-up job, like they realized that they couldn't just let the player go anywhere, but it was too late to actually redesign the levels. It is very annoying, although I only got killed maybe twice from it. As long as you focus solely on the radar and your next checkpoint, you're usually pretty clear from it.

  3. The problem with that is that I LOVE to explore. I'm a huge MetroidVania(ha) fan, and seeing such a beautiful, extensive world on my screen just begs me to go out looking... plus all of the hidden emblems hanging around to be found... how could you NOT want to venture out into harm's way?

    Wait, that brings up another ridiculous decision: when you die, why do your found emblem things reset? And what's up with not being able to go back after the game, pick a specific level, and be able to collect the emblems then? They went OUT OF THEIR WAY to be jerks to the player.

    Even Rearmed gave you the benefit of the doubt with items you've acquired. Funny how the design philosophies of each game were SO different.

  4. That one also struck me something that they just didn't have time to implement properly. Isn't it weird that the Level Skip lets you JUST play the chosen section and then kicks you back to the title screen? I'm not sure if that was intentional design decision.

    It wasn't something that really affected me, though, I've never been much for the collectibles and I largely ignored them on my playthrough anyway.

  5. I'm pretty sure it was intentional... I mean, it all SHOULD be if you're creating the game! :P

    I'm not ALWAYS a collectibles whore, but in this case I totally was since of course THIS is what I've been waiting numerous YEARS for! I would love to see the same engine with a Simon Viklund directed bionic commando and no trite story, boring characters, or nuclear bombs. Dreams, my friend.

  6. Hey guys; about bionic commando, i was wondering, should i go for the rearmed or this latest version?

    Keep up the good work on HG101, i love the site.

  7. Go Rearmed, especially if you like retro games. It's a great revival/remake of the NES one. Just be sure your controller isn't lame, which is a polite way of saying buy PS3 version unless you've got a 3rd party 360 controller with a better pad.

  8. Even though this post is technically about championing the new one...yeah, Rearmed is definitely the better game. If you're not sure, go back and play the original NES game, because Rearmed is a remake of that, with more modern graphics and sound, and some tweaks here and there.