Review: Bionic Commando

That’s right, having recently finished this version of Bionic Commando from Capcom, it’s time to do what I’d like to think I do best and review it. Hopefully this review goes better than the game did, despite having played at first on easy mode.

The story is pretty basic, you play as a or perhaps The Bionic Commando, a muscled man with a bionic arm who has enough character depth to be angry, primarily at the government for taking away his arm and jailing him, not to mention putting him on some list to be executed. The other memorable characters include Mag, who shows up later in the game as well as one agent from the government. There is also a plot twist involving the missing wife of the bionic commando, and the plot twist that resolves it has to be the worst twist I have ever experienced. It’s not so much telegraphed directly as it is slightly, and you think “there is no way they’d write some twist that bad into the game” but they did, with just enough handwavium added to make it seem plausible in a fantasy setting, not a science fiction future setting.

To summarize the story, you’re pardoned from execution and sent with your arm to a town that was recently attacked by bionic separatists of some sort. There you shoot a bunch of them as you battle the occasional boss and recover some sort of artifact before the inevitable double crossing. You then fight your way through more goons, defeat the one big boss, kick him off a tower and then game over. Just kidding, there is a bunch more to play and you still have to go and defeat the true final boss in a giant quick time event. Defeating him is just pushing a few buttons when prompted and then victory!

The characters are pretty basic and lack depth. Mag seems to be the character with the greatest depth and complexity, and she makes a couple minor appearances and that’s it. However, she seems to have the greatest emotional and character depth, in addition to greater motivations to her actions, while the bionic commando is just angry.

His character plays a bit like a stereotypical idea of masculinity as seen by a 14 year old. The game went for a darker and edgier feel to his character, so what really happens is he shouts constantly and says ‘fuck’ at every single possible opportunity. the worst part is, it takes away any impact the use of obscenities could add. Mag as a character swore less, but it gave her statements impact when she did, while the commando never sounded angrier than his default state.

The gameplay could be greatly improved would be the shortest summary of it. The game is nearly as linear as possible while also being unhelpful. The usual way to get around is to swing, and the swing mechanic would be excellent if it was always an option. In many places it’s either swing or fall to your death and/or drown, or the choice of swing or radioactive death. The shooting mechanics work well enough, and the arm adds in some excellent moves and potential uses, although you just ‘remember’ them throughout the game as the game sees fit to dole them out.

There are a few extremely annoying enemies that move extremely fast, so you can swing over to get away, grab a rock to throw and they’re already right on top of you and you then die. For added measure, bullets do effectively no damage to them. While they aren’t bosses or even mini-bosses, they’re just an annoying and frustrating addition.

The game also presents itself as open world. You get dumped off in a huge city with things everywhere you could climb or swing on. However, the game has a set path in mind, and if you deviate from it, the radiation gets you. Of course, you could wonder why the radiation has nice linear paths through it and the paths only open up further when you get the objective done to allow you to progress, but that would likely tax the writers way too much to try and explain. After all, they thought glowing blue radiation as opposed to a linear corridor or invisible walls was a good idea.

The game as a whole is a little insubstantial, you get into it, hit a boss fight and expect that to be the end and then it drags out. You walk into an amazing arena type area for an obvious boss fight and you get one short cutscene in which your character defeats the boss, no action needed from the player. The main character is constantly angry and swearing, and the story is both overused and boring.

Score: 2/5 not good

Pros: It has some amazingly fun moments. Swinging around the top of a tower to defeat a boss helicopter thing was tremendous fun, and the swinging to get around has its fun moments.

Cons: The game is full of moments that make you shout “BULLS***” in rage as it kills you in some annoying and fiddly way. The controls are not very good or mapped well, they’re designed for a gamepad and not a keyboard. The story is boring and overused and not very well written, the character unlikable, most everything that happens is handwaved or ignored, and the game presents itself as something it isn’t.

Summary: It isn’t the worst game around, and it would have some potential. However, to get any potential the vast majority of the game would need to be thrown away and rebuilt from scratch. In the end, I would recommend prototype or Just Cause 2 over Bionic Commando.

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