Binary Domain Xbox 360 review
If Blade Runner, Gears of War and Snatcher had a baby, it’d probably end up looking like Binary Domain…
It's a shame to admit it, but these days, seeing the Sega logo on a game often makes you second guess your purchase. What was once considered to be a video gaming giant has, in recent times, often been the purveyor of sub-standard titles and some truly poor releases. There have been some exceptions, notably the really rather good Vanquish, but it's fair to say the company has lost much of its previous lustre.
So, when I saw the announcement, and initial info regarding Binary Domain, I was cautiously intrigued. The premise of I-Robot-style exploitation and discrimination, and robots who think they're human was enough to pique my interest, and I'm happy to say that, although it's not perfect, Binary Domain is another chalk mark on Sega's triumph board.
The game's story, which I have to say is handled very well, and is even a little thought provoking at times, sees a group of special forces embark on a top secret mission to infiltrate Tokyo in order to arrest a rogue robotic scientist who's the main suspect in the creation of ‘Hollow Children', robots made to look human, who don't even know they're mechanical.
These covert robots have been found infiltrating even the upper echelons of the US government, and so the powers that be want to know what's going on. Enter protagonist Dan, and his wingman Bo, who infiltrate Tokyo before meeting up with the rest of their team, before heading from the lower city slums to the upper city and their target.
Binary Domain is a third person, cover-based shooter, and it bears many of the, now typical, systems seen on the many Gears clones on the market. You can hide behind cover, blind fire, vault over low walls, roll between safe spots, and so on. It's all very familiar, but it's implemented well and works. Likewise, the combat system is great, especially when it comes to the reactions of the myriad of robots you'll be shooting at. These guys don't just take a few bullets and fall over, instead, as they take damage, bits of them are blown off in a satisfying manner.
This destruction isn't just eye candy though, and you can actually target and damage specific parts of your foes. Take out their legs, and they'll be forced to crawl along the ground, Terminator-style. Shoot off an arm, and they'll pick up the weapon with the other, before attacking you again. Blast off their head, and they'll start to attack their allies.
It's an interesting concept, and one that's very well worked, and it helps to make each and every fight interesting and enjoyable. When going up against heavy weapons wielding ‘bots, you'll start to think of the best way to target them to make your life easier, and hitting leg shots on rank and file grunts can slow them down, giving you breathing room. The game also encourages this robotic dismemberment, as you're awarded more cash if you shoot off robot's bits.
The weapons on offer to help you do this are fairly dull and routine, consisting of the usual machine guns, rocket launchers, shotguns and the like, but they're all functional, and get the job done. Your character's main weapon (as well as your teammates) can be upgraded as you earn cash to spend at vendors dotted around the city, which is a nice touch.
What did you say?
During the mission you'll have teammates fighting alongside you, and it's here where one of Binary Domain's major features is found. If you connect your headset, you can use the microphone to command your allies instead of the controller, much like the system seen in the Rainbow Six series. Here, though, the system tries to be more in-depth in its functionality, and there's a whole host of recognised words, and the system is used in and out of battle. While fighting, you can bark out orders telling your allies to hold position, regroup, attack and charge at the enemy, and outside of combat you can talk to your cohorts when prompted.
These little interludes occur when an ally asks you a question or requests you confirm orders, and you can utter a selection of responses, either agreeing with your partners, disagreeing with them, or even insulting them. Depending on how you respond, your teammates' opinion of you will change, and they can like you more, or begin to dislike you. If they hate you, they're not going to take your orders, so it's important to keep them onside.
Now, this all sounds good, but I found the voice recognition to be pretty poor. Even after spending a while training the system to recognise my commands, and getting above 90% accuracy, in the game my commands were not only ignored, but often totally misinterpreted, making the whole experience frustrating. This is compounded by accidentally saying something that causes your ally's opinion of you to drop. I eventually decided to ditch the mic, and go back to good old buttons.
This is a real shame, as it's one of the main selling points of the game, and if it worked, it'd be a superb feature. As it is, it's one that may work for some, but many will find the system to be very hit and miss.
Down in front!
There are other problems with Binary Domain, although most are very minor. Team mates often stray into your sights, meaning you hit them, in turn lowering their opinion of you, and they'll also happily push you out of cover if they feel like it. On more than one occasion, they also failed to reach me in time to revive me due to glitching out and getting stuck.
They're also sometimes quite hit and miss when trying to achieve some set piece tasks. Early on there's a situation where you have to protect a team mate while they move a fuel canister (very) slowly towards a blocked path. However, the character that asks you to cover them while they do this instead runs around fighting, not doing what they're supposed to do, leading to the fuel canister being destoryed by the enemy. In the end, I moved the canister myself instead. If you want a job doing well...
Luckily, Binary Domain does much more right than it does wrong, and the little touches that compliment the solid combat are welcome. This includes a nanomachine upgrade system that can bestow stat buffs on you and your team, hub-like section where you can learn more about the word and some great boss battles against massive robots (the spider robot being a definite highlight).
This is all presented well, and visually this is a great looking title. The voice work is solid, and this, coupled with a story that's a lot better than most, and told well, further makes Binary Domain a recommended title.
I wouldn't advise grabbing this if you're looking for a good multiplayer game though, as the included online component is very weak, and screams bolt-on. It's an uninspired affair that bears none of the good aspects found in the campaign, and it's totally forgettable. It's a shame, as the subject matter is ripe for some unique and original online action, but it's a missed opportunity and merely a bullet point on the feature list.
Binary Domain is a very solid, and well presented game. Most of its faults are only small niggles, with only the poor voice comms being a big issue, and even then, thanks to the ability to use simple button commands, it doesn't make a great difference. If you're looking for a solid shooter that has some meaty combat, this will more than suffice.