Binary Domain Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Twenty minutes in to 3rd person shooter ‘Binary Domain’ and I was starting to get worried. Two generic looking soldiers, a lack of story information and an extremely patronising tutorial had left me convinced that the following ten hours were going to be a trudge. Luckily I was totally wrong.

You see, once you pass the initial stage, the story kicks in properly and it’s something far more thought provoking than the normal “kill those darn aliens” shooter. Set in 2080, technology has advanced to the point where robots are part of everyday life. However, research and development of robots made to look like humans has been banned. It had been assumed this law had been adhered to, until one day an irate and confused man staggers into America’s biggest robotics manufacturer and guns down a group of people.

[drop]When surrounded by armed guards the man rips off part of his face to reveal robotic parts underneath the skin. Shockingly, someone has been making robots that look like humans and, perhaps more disturbing, these “hollow children” have no idea they are robots. All signs point to the Amada Corporation in Japan, so a “Rust Crew” is sent to covertly remove Amada and bring him back to face trial.

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It’s an interesting story, part Blade Runner and part iRobot, with some genuine moments of emotion as you see people struggle to come to terms with the fact they aren’t actually human.

Initially the game consists of you, Dan Marshall, and your partner, nicknamed ‘Big Bo’. It’s here where you learn about one of the additions Binary Domain is keen you use; the voice commands. If you play with a mic plugged in you can press the left shoulder button to interact with your squad, albeit by choosing from a fairly small list of words.

In combat you can shout commands such as “fire!” and “charge!”, whilst in a normal environment you can complement them, and answer any questions they might have (again, from a very short list of words). This is all done to build a rapport with your team. If they like you they’ll pass on tips in battle, but if they have taken offensive to something said previously they may disobey orders and follow their own path.

In theory it sounds great, but the voice recognition just isn’t of a good enough standard. Frequently words won’t be picked up, or misunderstood by squad-mates. Rather more amusing is when a squad member has a go at you for being rude, despite the fact you haven’t said anything. After an hour of this I unplugged the mic and stuck to issuing commands via the controller face buttons.

Eventually you’ll have access to several squad members, of which you can choose two to team up with at any one time. They each have different skills, although I very rarely noticed much of a difference when in a combat situation.

Speaking of combat, those familiar with games such of Gears of War will find themselves at home. Snapping to cover is easy, popping out quickly to take a few shots. The option to blind-fire is also there, and the only thing that lets it down is a weak melee system.

Throughout the game, robots will be your enemy, and are possibly the most satisfying cannon fodder in any game I’ve ever played. Shoot a robot in its leg and it’ll fall over, before righting itself and hopping towards you. Shoot its other leg and it’ll collapse to the ground and start to crawl over to you. It’s fantastic, as the little blighters can be torn into so many pieces yet still come after you. Even headshots, which are normally instant kills, provide entertainment as it causes the robot to shoot its comrades.

All of this dissection adds to your in-game points tally, said points being used to purchase upgrades. Oddly enough, whilst you can pick up multiple weapons throughout the game, you’re only allowed to upgrade your primary weapon. You can also buy suit enhancements which give you more health, or better defence, although these can only be equipped in limited numbers.

[drop2]As well as the basic grunts being entertaining, the game serves up some delightful boss battles. Normally these take the form of a particularly huge robot based on an animal/insect. Whilst challenging, they very rarely outstay their welcome.

Overall the weapons on offer are fairly uninspiring, however they sound absolutely devastating. The “thud thud thud” of rounds being fired, combined with the sounds of robot shrieking as their limbs are torn off makes for an aural treat.

This quality of sound extends to the voiceovers too. As each squad member represents a different country, there are plenty of dialects on offer, and they are all voiced well although the French one sometimes leans dangerously close to ‘Allo ‘Allo. The banter between the squad also never fails to raise a smile, and feels like genuine camaraderie. Unfortunately this good work is sometimes let down by some sub-par dialogue.

Big Bo is normally the main culprit when it comes to this. A hulking black man, the writers have deemed it necessary for him to end every sentence with “bro” or “aight”. In one particularly cringe worthy exchange Bo even mentions something “on the flip-side”.

Graphically, however, there is definitely no issue with Binary Domain. From the opening level set right next to the sea, to the slums, to the bright and clinical style of the upper levels, the game looks fantastic. This extends to the character models too, with some of the bosses looking absolutely terrifying due to both the sheer size and number of limbs.

Once the single player campaign is over, there is a multiplayer mode to get stuck into. Unfortunately, despite having a number of modes, it’s all a bit “multiplayer by numbers”. You can play “versus” where it’s a free-for-all, or as part of a team, and there’s an invasion mode, where you and a team take on waves of enemies.

I had a number of connection problems connecting online with Binary Domain, along with some lag, and don’t even get me started on the mostly empty servers. When I did find a team-based match, none of my squad would leave the spawn area. Eventually I got fed up and ventured out, only to find myself tackling the opposing team on my own. I got killed, then found out there were no respawns.

I spent the next seven minutes watching, via the team-cam, as my squad jumped, rolled and walked about the spawn point area without ever taking a step out into the level. One even blew himself up with his own grenade. I disconnected in the end, purely because I thought I had lost my mind and was imagining the entire thing.

Pros

  • Interesting story.
  • Some strong characters.
  • Good voice work and sound effects.
  • Looks brilliant.

Cons

  • The voice commands are much more miss than hit.
  • Some cringe worthy dialogue.
  • Multiplayer doesn’t really need to be there.

I was extremely surprised by Binary Domain. Whilst it doesn’t start particularly well, it soon picks up and provides an interesting story and a group of likeable characters that aren’t your typical marines/soldiers. Yes, the multiplayer isn’t inspiring in the slightest, but the single player campaign more than makes up for this, and no doubt by now the game can be picked up for pennies anyway.

If you like shooters, you should definitely give this a look.

Score: 8/10

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17 Comments

  1. Played It, Loved it, Selling it now to get Syndicate.

  2. It’s incredible really. Shows your generic cheesy Japanese game can be good after all!

  3. My money is there being a twist where you are a robot who doesn’t know it

  4. I enjoyed the demo, felt different and while the story wasn’t there in the demo, it had enough other elements to tie to it now I know there is one. I’ll be looking to get this at some point in the future.

  5. I really enjoyed the demo, it was the first time in a while that I can remember enjoying a game. I shall pick this up when my bursary comes in l:3

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