Game Reviews: Binary Domain

    Binary Domain is a third-person, squad-based shooter by Yakuza Studios, published by SEGA. It was released at the end of February on XBox 360 and Playstation 3, and mid-April on PC. Yes, it’s a console port on PC. Before I start, I have to say that the game is pretty generic at the start but gets much, much better. As usual I talk about gameplay and how fun the game is in general; I don’t really talk about graphic quality, or things like that.

The story is very cheesy, action B-movie-esque. In basics, it’s 2080, and a robotic work force is part of every day life. Several years ago, many nations signed the New Geneva Convention putting restrictions and guidelines on the construction of robots; most importantly it restricts the creation of sentient AIs, and robots that can pass for humans (known as “Hollow Children”). Well, a Hollow Child turned up, and a “Rust Crew” (international spec-ops squads sent to deal with New Geneva Convention breaches) is sent to Japan, a very isolationist state, to track down the most likely culprit. The dialogue and voice acting especially are pretty badly done, additionally. The characters are alright, but there will likely be one or two you want to have killed, but more on that later.

In gameplay, there’s only one major issue I have; it’s too geared towards consoles (keep in mind that I play exclusively on a PC). There’s a generic action button that makes you sprint, duck-and-roll, get behind cover, leap over cover, etc., and too often it does one when I want to do the other. It takes a hell of a lot of getting used to, to get the precision to jump into battle exactly the way you expect to be able to. There’s also this really horrible mouse acceleration (TotalBiscuit explained clearly in his “WTF Is Binary Domain” video) that they said was fixed in patch notes, but is still around and I can’t find an option to disable it. It also seems to get worse when the frame rate dips, making it impossible to play when you dip to 20 FPS or lower.

But that’s enough for problems, the gunplay itself is very satisfying. Every enemy is a robot, and every enemy can be blasted literally to pieces. You can blast off armor on almost everything to be able to do more damage to that section; you can shoot an arm off to get them to drop their guns; you can shoot off a leg so they have to crawl at you. Most of the weapons aren’t very useful, unfortunately. Your normal, undroppable assault rifle is a better weapon than most other things (especially when you upgrade it), though occasionally you find a light machinegun or submachinegun that does more damage in a shorter time. There’s also a sniper rifle that I really enjoyed using as well. It also has an system where you can buy upgrades for yourself and squadmates. Throughout the game are consoles where you can buy ammo and weapons with credits you earn through destroying enemies. You can also purchase nanomachines to upgrade certain aspects of certain characters (more defense, more health, more melee damage, etc.), and upgrades for weapons, like better accuracy, bigger clip size and more damage. I generally like this because you can improve the fighting abilities of certain favourite squadmates; or smooth out their crippling downsides.

The lineup of enemies is well-designed, as well, and I would consider it an excellent example of good progression of monsters over the course of a game. As you progress, you run into new models of robots, each with different dangers and most requiring different strategies. My only complaint about this is that some of them weren’t as common as I felt they should’ve been. The Creeper, Needle Bug and Tube Gunner, for example, could’ve been used more often, to keep battles more interesting. Generally, you fight the standard Assault Shooter model (and its three variants) too often, and using those aforementioned three more often could’ve made several sections more interesting. It also has robots that only work in certain sections of the game, such as the Roadie, Simian and Condor, which balance it out. Some models, such as the Shinobi, were excellently designed as well.

Probably the best feature of this game is the lineup of bosses. I hope you like boss fights, because this game has a HUGE amount of them. There’s one part that features almost three bosses in a row (You finish off the Gorilla, cutscene, then fight the Crab, rail-shooting segment, then fight the Tsar Runner). Each boss is of the “shoot the flashing weak point when it’s visible” style, but each boss attacks so differently that it keeps each one different. The designs, like the Tsar Runner and Medusa, are brilliant, as well. Probably the only two bosses that I don’t really like are the Spider (it just looks silly as you get later in the fight), and the Gorilla (just drags on and on until you finally kill it). I would say that these bosses feel like bosses from Sonic the Hedgehog, if Sonic didn’t move quickly and had an assault rifle. Being a game published by SEGA, that doesn’t feel particularly surprising, but it is surprisingly fun.

The game also has some quicktime events, but they’re pretty rare. Occasionally, it has the “use movement keys to keep your balance” variety, sometimes it’s the “press button at the right time to not die,” but they never feel like huge problems. You can also order your squadmates around through microphone, apparently (I never tried it, I just used the key commands), but past a certain point of the game you probably don’t even need to. There’s a trust system implemented into the game as well where saying the right things to your squad mates make them trust you more. Short-term, that affects whether or not they refuse your orders but over the course of the game, the story branches slightly depending on how much certain squadmates trust you, and some squadmates might actually get killed off. All I will say further about this is that to get the best ending requires you to max out your trust meters on every squad mate.

This game is a very underrated gem. If you can get past the cheesy story, dialogue, voice acting and the first section of the game, it becomes an excellent third-person shooter that many say is better than Gears of War. Not having playing that, I can’t comment, but I thoroughly enjoyed this game.

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