First, a brief history of the game in question:
Bionic Commando was originally released for the NES system around 1988. For those of us old enough to remember old school 8-bit gaming, this is kind of a misty eyed time for us. Games were simple, required a bit more creativity and purpose in design than just move mouse pointer towards the person you want to kill, click the mouse and yell BOOOOOM HEADSHOT YEAAAHHHH
. This also meant that the really good ones were difficult. And I don't mean difficult as in 'Oh jeez I died again, time to just try again a few more times until I get it. No no. I mean difficult as in 'Sweet Christ no. No no no no not again. I KNOW I CAN DO THIS!!! PLEASE GOD PLEASE JUST GIVE ME THE SKILLS!!!"
Apart from Battletoads and the Ninja Gaiden series, Bionic Commando stands as one of the most difficult original 8 bit classics, not because of the code or game play was just so horrible (because it really, really wasnt...) it was because the game was just that damn good.
I guess it stands to reason that since lately everything good from the past has been getting a remake, it was only a matter of time before old school 8 Bit fans had a bone thrown to them with a recent console true sequel to the original. SO CRASH.. WHATS THIS ALL ABOUT ANYWAYS??
Nathan Spencer is the original Commando from the 8 Bit Classic, a war veteran who lost his left arm as the result of injuries sustained in Battle. He is then offered an opportunity to volunteer for a seekret government project to take soldiers apparently too gibbled from being able to serve in active duty and to make them.. BIONIC... which he of course accepts. Because seriously, who wants to be disabled anyways??
(Just to be clear, that was sarcasm. I could go into details about themes of disability and how we treat/percive/portray them in this game but thats a really long and involved discussion which I really couldn't even begin to do intellegently. My good friend Trouble In China
on the other hand might have a few interesting things to say on the subject, but I am not certain if she has ever played this, or could be convinced to sound off on some of the themes the game brings up. For now I just wanna talk about the game itself.)
Okay you know what? Hell with the story. I could complain about how weak it really is even if it does weave some of the original plotline from an 8 Bit Classic, its a minor complaint for me that I won't bother to address any further than in Caveman. BIG MAN WIT BIG CYBORG ARM SWINGIN FROM PLACE TO PLACE SHOOTING PEEPZ WITH GUNZ ARR ARR AARR AARRGHH ARRRRARRARAARGGHHH HOOT HOOT HOOT HOOT
That basically sums it up. Oh and there are semi-nazi's like in the original. And a missing wife that he's trying to find. Oh and some ex-squadmate of his with cyborged up superhot chicky legs has the hots for him regardless. OH and his best buddy in the world from all the way back in the day is a dick now.
LOOK I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE PLOT. ITS A FUCKING TRAINWRECK OKAY??? There I said it. Fuck off already. UM. OKAYYYY SO YOU DON'T WANNA TALK ABOUT THE PLOT AT ALL. WELL UH.. HOW DOES IT PLAY?
How does it play? Pretty damn sweet is how it plays. While the playstyle doesn't lend well to a lot of 3rd person run and gun'er's out there hopped up on Gears of War or GTA, this was never supposed to feel like that in the first place. This game requires you to keep moving. Stationary + Your Ass = Death. And when you do move, its pretty damn sweet. Swinging from ledge to ledge, pillar to pillar, wall to wall, building to building; its like someone bitchslapped all the emo out of Spiderman, gave him a fuck-load of guns and told him FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL KIIIIIIIILLLL..
The swinging is smooth, the interactivity between your environment and your gigantic ass robotic arm is sweet, allowing both some very nifty looking evasive acrobatics as well as agonizingly frustrating moments of getting from point a to point b because you miss that one swing by just.. that.. much.
The combat is pretty simple, giving you a handful of pretty standard weapons and combat manuvers that make use of the arm in either pretty per-par action moves that you would expect from a game like this. The enemies may not be too bright, but they do work well together. Wise is the man who plays this game and has effective hit and run techniques. You might feel like odd Hybrid between Tarzan and Rambo, but you still don't feel immortal.
Overall, its only really got one serious weakness in terms of gameplay; Its terribly Linear. Like I said before, its from point a to point b. There might be a million ways from sunday you can make the journey but its still basically one level to the next, which is somewhat a shame considering the very large and awe-inspiring scope of each level. Technically speaking, even the original 8-Bit game was somewhat more open ended and open world, as you still had the option of exactly what level you went to. It feels like the design team couldn't be bothered to figure out exactly how every neat concept they had for levels and environments could all be tied together, or just didn't have an engine that could process a world with the amount of detail and flexibility of movement that would be open ended. It could be interpretted as a shame, because the game could use a lot of that sense of open-world flexiblity that we see in a lot of games like inFamous or GTA or the like. On the otherhand, it could be intended to feel more like an 8-bitter going from level to level. Simple, point by point, and requiring that the player overcome challeges without skipping out on the hard ones to move forward. NEAT! HOW DOES IT LOOK? HOW DOES IT SOUND???? HOLY CRAP WHAT IS THAT HORRIBLE GROWTH ON YOUR NECK???
Thats my head. Douchebag. And it looks pretty good! The game, that is. Not my head. But my head looks good too. STOP CONFUSING ME.
The graphics are pretty good; on my new 1080p beauty of a TV the framerate is nice and smooth, the transitions are pretty natural looking, and the art style is pretty standard of what you'd expect from a J-style action/shooter. The lighting and shading can sometimes fall a bit flat, however and the facial details are pretty .. well.. um.. cro-magnon at times.
The game really shines in its sound, however. From its sweeping epic re-mastering of the original theme to the nice little kerchunk sounds the arm makes as you swing from place to place. Its very well done.
In relation to the sound, however there was one interesting point of contention I had with the game; I want to mention that the game does have a bit of a sly sense of humor from time to time. In fact, sometime its not so sly.. for example, some actual in game dialog;
Big Boss: HA HA!! Jah, mista Spencah suun you vill be destroyed by zah mighty..
You: Shut up!!! Shut up shut up JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP DAMMIT I AM TRYING TO KILL YOU!!!
You: Whoa.. now THATS a boss fight.. Heh.. HEY BUDDY, IS THAT YOUR LIFE BAR OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME???
The writers for the game must have realized halfway through the production that their working plot was just ludacris, so if this is the case why bother to take the actual scripted dialog too seriously? And why not? Even the original game had its momemts of corny humor with the dialog between bad guys. All this aside, some of it really could have been toned down a bit.
While the violence in the game can get kinda painful looking sometimes, it doesn't really even go balls to the wall with blood or gore. Nevertheless for bad language alone the game earned itself a M for mature rating for the amount of F-Bombs Spencer drops while whooping ass. Far fuckin be it from me to complain about bad language, but with the rest of the content of the game, if they had just washed the big-dreadlocked jackasses mouth out with some soap before they had started scripting him in-game, they probably could have kept the game T for Teen and opened it up to a bit wider of an audience. On the other hand, its not likely most kids between the ages of 12-17 would be able to appreciate the nostalgia factor of the game. So fuck em, keep the foul language. I can play it, why the fuck would I care if your 13 year old brother has to ask mommy if he can or can't? He can kiss my gigantic bionically enhanced ass. SO CRASH, ARE YOU SAYING THE GAME IS WORTH IT???
As a matter of fact I am. Its not a bad little game. It may get repetative for some, but for those of us old enough to remember the original it will make you feel all warm and gooey inside while you grab bad guys by the face and throw them about a mile and a half away from you. It has its flaws all the same, so unless you are a hardcore fan I won't call foul on you if you pull this out of a pre-played bin anytime soon.
I can't wait for the sequel. :)