Bionic Commando Review
- Posted May 18th, 2009 at 01:04 EDT by Steven Williamson
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A classy remake of a classic title, Bionic Commando is the undisputed King of Swing.
- The intuitive and smooth swing mechanic
- Swinging across some brilliantly designed and great-looking locations
- The addictive side challenges and hunting for collectibles
- The lackluster gun-play and firefights
- The deceptively small size of the game world
Capcom has had a monumental influence on the videogames industry over the years by conjuring up new ideas and creating some innovative game mechanics that have managed to stand the test of time, as well as motivating others along its illustrious path. Bionic Commando, a 20 year old NES and arcade classic, is a prime example. Capcom took the platform genre and spun it on its head, demonstrating perfectly how it has the ability to think outside the box. Unimpeded by conventional constraints, the Japanese developer took this popular genre and put its own spin on things by doing away with the traditional jump button and incorporating a swing mechanic that added a whole new dimension to 2D platform hopping. As a result of its ingenuity, the original Bionic Commando is still a game that is talked about to this very day.
So, it was with great anticipation that Capcom announced a new console version of Bionic Commando, a sequel to the side-scrolling classic of yesteryear. Though this latest iteration has received the obligatory next-gen graphical makeover, it still incorporates the basics from the first game in the series, including the swing mechanic. Essentially, Capcom has adapted and refined the old swing-and-shoot gameplay from its 1980’s side-scroller and has, evidently, done a remarkable job in the process. As a result of its latest efforts, Bionic Commando's gameplay still feels incredibly unique and stands out among the deluge of standard run-and-gun titles currently on the market.
The story of Bionic Commando takes place ten years after the NES version and follows Nathan Spencer, a government agent who has been wrongly imprisoned by his own employer and then stripped of his Bionic arm. The story picks up on the day that Spencer faces execution for the crimes he has supposedly committed, but a terrorist attack on Ascension City changes things drastically. An experimental weapon is detonated downtown, causing an earthquake which devastates the city and makes buildings crumble to the ground. With the entire population wiped out, terrorist forces move in to occupy the area and Spencer is offered a lifeline by the FSA who want him to help investigate and eliminate the terrorist threat in return for his freedom.
Spencer isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill army commando. His Bionic arm wields enormous power and projects a grappling hook that allows him to move around the city both horizontally and vertically by latching onto various objects and buildings. Swinging across the devastated metropolis of Ascension City, main missions generally involve heading from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ as you hack into relays, see off enemy grunts and indulge in mini-boss battles against a range of Biomechs. There are also a significant number of side objectives and collectibles to pick up along the way, all of which actively encourage you to use and make the most of Spencer’s swinging ability.
Initially, the swing mechanic does take some getting used to. During the initial training level, we often fell to our death by mistiming jumps, so assumed that gameplay would become even more frustrating once we actually began the main mission. While there are some extremely challenging environments to traverse -- especially if you stroll off the beaten track on the search for collectibles -- it actually took us little more than half an hour of playing the main mission to get to grips with swinging. By that point we were hooking onto suspended roadways, monorails and lamp-posts, chaining swings together and zipping up the side of skyscrapers. A few minutes later, we were taking leaps of faith from massive heights, expertly latching onto piping on the way down and then swinging ourselves with pinpoint precision smack bang into the middle of a group of unsuspecting terrorists. You also have total control over camera angles throughout the game, so there's no dodgy camera issues to impede your jumps. It's a feature that helps immeasurably in making swinging an enjoyable and free-flowing experience. Furthermore, it means that swinging relies purely on your skill as you try to get jump angles right by tilting the camera around, getting your timing spot-on, and of course making sure that when you let go off an object there’s something to actually latch onto. Having environmental ... (continued on next page) ----