When the original Bionic Commando was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, I would have been too young to do well at it, even though I owned a NES. Now, almost twenty years later…how does the world of Nathan Spencer and his bionic arm hold up?
Capcom did it. In my opinion there is no debating on whether or not the swinging mechanic with the bionic arm works well or not. They nailed it on the head, and it is one of the coolest gameplay mechanics I have experienced in quite a while. Obviously Nathan Spencer isn’t doing anything that any of the games in the Spider-Man series haven’t, but what it does mean is that I think he may have done it just as well, or even better.
As we enter into this chapter of Nathan Spencer’s life, the Bionic Commando has been imprisoned for over five years. The world is now afraid of anyone implanted with bionics, and he is obviously one of them. Things take an interesting turn when the government releases you, and offers you freedom if you will swing into action and help take down the terrorist organization known as BioReign.
Being the dastardly evil that they are, they’ve dropped an atomic bomb, and through that act violently murdered millions of residents. This regime of evil will stop at nothing to locate a secret weapon that is housed inside the city, and could help them potentially rule the world. Sounds like a typical story, and it is, but I really enjoyed how it was executed.
Besides avenging the death of millions, Nathan Spencer is also promised that if he does what is asked of him – retrieve that weapon – then he will receive information about his missing wife. He agrees, and is blasted off into the city via a pod, and then goes in search of his bionic arm which did not quite hit the same target that he did.
The execution of the story is unique, because Nathan Spencer really undertakes just one mission: retrieve the weapon. You travel all over one city to do it, and by my calculations the game only spans the length of two, perhaps three days. Some have complained that the story is lacking, and whilst that may be true it is the way they tell the story, and the time frame that make it work so well. These intense few days of Nathan Spencer’s life are filled with so many victories, defeats, ups, and downs that it really pulls you into his heart and mind and wants to help you succeed.
Because you have been detached from your bionic arm for over five years, you do not come back into the game remembering all of the amazing moves you once had, but you can still do a lot of devastating damage to your enemies. Without a doubt, the bionic arm is one of the most unique weapons I’ve had the opportunity to kick-ass with in a while. Grabbing onto an enemy and swinging through the air to zip down onto him and crush him is a gratifying feeling every single time you do it. It must be a horrifying way to die, and I’m glad I am the killer.
Ascension City may have been bombed, but it is a breathing world full of buildings, obstacles, and BioReign enemies for you to take down. In Bionic Commando you’re going to be doing a lot of swinging, but you’ll want to avoid the areas covered by a blue fog, which represents the radiation. Now it’s obviously an inconsistency that a man can go into an irradiated place in the first place, but, oh well.
They mend that plot hole by killing you rather quickly if you get close to the heavily radiated locations. There are times at later points in the game where you will have no choice but to swing through them as quickly as possible to get to your next way-point. Hopefully you’ll be fully versed in your wire action acrobatics by this time.
Even in its destruction, the game and the characters within look absolutely amazing. The design for the sections of the city is not only perfect for swinging, but easy on the eye too. From lighting to lightning the visual effects are absolutely incredible, and Capcom’s achievements should not be overlooked. The enemies are fairly generic and all look the same, but they do all look “okay”.
At many points throughout the game you’ll be swinging from spot to spot over areas of water, or deep seemingly-endless pits of doom; make sure not to fall into them or you will drown, die and experience a ‘classic’ game over screen. Oh, and speaking of the game over screen, you’ll be seeing that a lot. After fifteen hours of playing on the easiest difficulty, I found myself dieing over and over. I want to complain, but I really shouldn’t.
Do you remember Bionic Commando and its “rearmed” editions? You can not make it past the first few moments without dieing at least once! What truly makes it frustrating is when you die you likely had a check point far too long ago, and will have to swing your way through a large portion of the section just to get back to where you were to try and do it again…and again.
The single player experience alone is worth the purchase price, but there is a multiplayer component that should not be forgotten. Now, do not go in there thinking this is a multiplayer experience that will rival Halo 3. It is not, and didn’t intend to be. It’s simple, and it works. You run around a map picking up weapons and body armor, and shoot the other guy while swinging through the air. It is a lot of fun, and is a great addition to the game.
Bionic Commando is an amazing revitalization of a franchise that was almost forgotten. From the perfect wire action mechanics, to the beautiful world, the interesting way to tell a story and solid voice acting it is an experience that fans of the original should not go without! Great sequences, boss battles I don’t even want to come close to spoiling, and really cool music that makes you feel like an action hero. It’s awesome, bionic hands down.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
The only thing that is going to keep it from perfection is the fact that the loading times are long, and the blue haze representing radiation is just off.
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Smashing enemies with your bionic arm? Check. Swinging through a city recovering from nuclear fallout? Check. Everything works! Where can I sign up for a bionic arm?
The game’s voice acting is cheesy, but the music and sounds make you feel like a real commando!
There are lots of achievements/trophies, and challenges. The multiplayer included with the game passable, and won’t appeal to some.
Bionic Commando is a solid game with a few flaws. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.