Bionic Commando Review (PS3)
A reboot of a classic franchise that went wrong
The main draw of Bionic Commando was the “Spider-man like” gameplay. But do not be fooled. The game is actually extremely linear – and half of the game is spent inside caves, tunnels, and buildings so you cannot even practice any breathtaking swings. Most of these indoor levels allow for very limited swings and are mostly packed with enemies just waiting for you to show up and kill them. Once you finally get to some open areas, you will find that they are very restrictive as well. The level is surrounded on all sides by radioactive materials, so any deviation from your path results in an instant death and restart at checkpoint. At times, the blue radioactive waste is hard to notice against a dark background (especially at night), so it’s frustrating to die of radiation for trying to flank a group of enemies and just going too far. A lot of the city is also under water, for whatever reason. Presumably, when the bomb exploded, the waters from the surrounding sea/lake flooded the streets. It’s never explained, for example, why the downtown area is dry while some later levels have such deep water that you are forced to travel by rooftops. There are hidden items on each level, but they are so easily visible, they should rather be called “hard to reach” items because as I said, not much exploration can be done in the game, so most items are simply placed very far above or below. Most enemies you can simply by-pass if you want to, except for the mini-boss fights which always mean you must defeat a robot (or two, or three) that are guarding a doorway.
The main draw of the series is the bionic arm. It acts as your grappling hook, so you can imagine the basic functions. It’s used to swing yourself from any object to the next one, and can be attached to almost any surface and pull you up. It is also used to interact with everything in the game such as grabbing ammo, guns, and objects. Nathan only uses his real hand to fire weapons, and not much else. The arm can also be used to grab enemies and zip-kick them, but it takes two kicks even on the most basic enemies to bring them down, so it is actually much quicker just to shoot them. You know you are in trouble when your game’s main attraction, the arm, is only being used to travel from one building to the next. Sure, it’s also a very good idea to pick up objects such as cars and rocks to toss at enemies (especially robot mini-bosses), but the game provides so many rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers that you seldom have to use your arm as a weapon. In physical terms, Nathan can perform light and heavy punches, and a couple of combos. You also have an aerial attack, which makes you slam the ground and knock down any enemies in the area. It’s not that useful against humans for some reason, so it’s only used during robot battles to knock them down. Your health regenerates, but for a bionic character Nathan can’t take very much damage. Sure only his arm is bionic so it’s understandable, but you’d think it would prevent him from going down from a couple of pistol shots. The arm is also used to interact with the information pods in the game, which basically serve as checkpoints. They all look the same, and you cannot use them until the nearby area is clear of enemies. Once you are attached to the pod, you can read one or two enemy emails which fill in some story bits, but more importantly just by accessing the pods you deactivate a nearby floating mine field, which is usually the only way forward. You travel across quite a few of these mine fields in the game, and even these are linear in nature.
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