Bionic Commando Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Activision’s Spider-Man games have achieved great success with the swing mechanic, thus, since Spider-Man 2 came along, the games have been as fluid and as graceful as the Spider-Man swing should be. With GRIN’s game being the newest Bionic Commando in years, obviously as you can swing through the sky it was going to receive comparisons to said Spider-Man games.

Despite the title, Bionic Commando isn’t a remake, although the true downloadable remake (also developed by GRIN) gets the title of Bionic Commando Rearmed, confusing, eh? Back to the game in question, this one isn’t a remake but instead a proper sequel to the 1988 NES original, in which you once again assume the role of Nathan “Rad” Spencer (looking very different these days, with his dreadlocks and his beefier frame), complete with bionic arm and all.

The story is pretty mediocre, and many fans are actually disappointed with the results. In the Bionic Commando timeline, this new game takes place a decade after the NES original, the paper thin Spencer has been imprisoned due to the very fact that he’s a bionic, but when a nuclear bomb is detonated in Ascension city, he’s unleashed from his cell to clean up the mess, hopefully finding out what happened to his wife (who just happens to be missing without trace) along the way. There’s some silly plot twists and some very shallow characters, this is definitely not storytelling at its finest.

As Ascension city is now in ruins, the game takes place in some devastated surroundings: rubble, smoke and fire certainly did a fine job at sucking me in. Those expecting an entire cityscape to swing around (in the same vein as the Spider-Man games) are in for a letdown, though, as the game rudely stops the inquisitive gamer from venturing too far.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some sizeable environments, though the game is very linear and due to a blue smog, there’s just some places that you cannot go, at least without succumbing to a massive overdose of radiation. This doesn’t only make many of the environments feel smaller than they could have been, it also can be the cause of annoying moments, in which you find yourself quickly dead, only then realising that you’ve wandered off into an area that the game forbids you to be in.

Fortunately much of the game makes up for this annoyance, Spencer’s bionic arm certainly makes for a lot of fun, being both a fast and fluid manner to travel around your environment, as well as a deadly and versatile weapon.

As a tool of travel, the bionic arm’s grappling hook can attach to many objects, be it buildings, trees, rooftops, girders and buildings, though you can only attach it when a crosshair turns blue, which then gives you the freedom to swing back and forth, using momentum and stellar controls to throw yourself forwards from the swing and then into a crowd pleasing leap. It’s a fun and very energetic game to both watch and play, and this is only one of the tricks of that heavy (it’s so weighty, that it makes Spencer sink faster than an anchor when in water) bionic arm.

As a weapon, Spencer’s bionic arm can cause all sorts of havoc. The character recalls certain abilities throughout the game, there’s a simple melee attack, eventually you’re able to pick up and send objects flying towards your enemies, there’s a lashing whip manoeuvre, and it‘s even possible to attach the hook to enemies and then jump towards them with a teeth spilling iron kick to the face, or just pick them up and lob them in the direction of other enemies, perhaps even opting to drop them from a great height and to a bone shattering end. After saying all the latter, it may be pretty pointless for me to say that the bionic arm is heaps of fun to use, though I’ve come out and said it anyway.

Believe it or not, there’s guns as well, though the shooting isn’t all it could have been and pales in comparison to the bionic arm. There’s a nice choice of weaponry, though, ranging from a pathetic feeling pistol to sniper rifles, machine guns and a rocket launcher that sends enemies flying forwards. Whilst it’s the bionic arm that really made an impression on me, the shooting is decent enough and all these options allow you to put all your combat abilities into a mixing pot, and then using them liberally.

Going back to the structure of the game, there’s a number of optional challenges for you to overcome. Completing many of these challenges comes with perks: perhaps you’ll get more ammo for a specific gun, faster reload times, more health and so on. Unlocking these upgrades is certainly much better than being rewarded a load of useless artwork. Each environment also has a certain amount of tokens to be found, some of which will require some daring actions with the grappling hook in order to reach, although if you miss some of them in an area first time around, as the game is so linear there’s no way to go back and seek them out (even a level jump feature doesn’t allow you to find them). A design flaw or a piece of demonic design from the old days? That’s for you to decide.

As it’s 2009, this Bionic Commando also has an online mode with three very ordinary modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag) and room for up to eight players in each game. I could see how the multiplayer could be quite interesting, in using the abilities of the arm, although I can’t exactly comment on it as there’s not a soul playing it. A real shame.

Swinging from one thing to another, the visuals are lovely (despite some framerate stutters here and there), and seeing Spencer jump from a massive height or swinging through the air satisfies immensely, simply because the animations and sense of speed are so fluid and energetic, whilst the camera follows the action superbly. Aurally, the voice acting does its job for what are basically a bunch of shallow characters, whilst the music makes great use of the Bionic Commando theme with a superb remix, you know done with proper instruments and everything.

Bionic Commando may suffer from flaws here and there, though that’s not to say that it isn’t a thrilling and satisfying game, because that it certainly is. Spencer’s combat options allow for plenty of experimentation, giving you the freedom to do your own thing and look really stylish whilst doing it.

Spidey, you have some competition.