PS3 Review: Binary Domain



An action-driven mash-up of Gears of War, Blade Runner and Mass Effect, SEGA’s latest third-person shooter from Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi is much less than the some of its parts. Thankfully, though, it’s a game that proves to be tremendously worthwhile nontheless, owing to a fun, well-crafted story, likeable characters and a whole host of engaging, rapid-fire combat.

In post-apocalyptic 2080, the majority of the world has been flooded by rising sea levels. The surviving downtrodden masses live in the waterlogged ruins, scavenging scrap and eking out meager lives while the upper classes live in elevated cities without a care in the world. Robot technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, but the emergence of “Hollow Children” – robots that look like us, act like us and believe they’re human thanks to implanted memories – leads rough-’n'-ready soldier Dan and a robot-blasting squad of marines on a mission into robot-filled hostile territory to capture the reclusive scientist they believe to be behind the creation of Hollow Children.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
The game’s story manages to be surprisingly well put together, and while it shoots for Blade Runner and lands closer to a kooky Japanese pseudo-Transformers, the brash, American action movie vibe gives Binary Domain a sizeable amount of goofy charm. Dan and his burly black guy stereotype pal Bo engage in a tonne of fun, silly buddy movie banter when not screaming laughable quips at each other and every cut scene ends with a hilariously over-the-top ‘Shit’s about to go down’ zoom-in on Dan assuming an action pose. It’s all pretty tongue-in-cheek, but even though it’s never far removed from a Michael Bay movie filtered through a Japanese game developer’s eyes, the plot puts together a well-told story, too, and its likeable characters make it all the more engaging.

If you’ve played Gears of War or any other cover-based third-person shooter, you’ll know pretty much what to expect from Binary Domain’s combat. You play as a burly marine type lugging heavy, futuristic weaponry around, you’ll latch yourself to cover, popping up to take shots at momentarily exposed enemies before moving on to blast more foes. It’s not revolutionary, but the action in Binary Domain is incredibly fun thanks to simple, but amazingly satisfying combat mechanics, well designed robots and entertaining set-pieces.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
A versatile limb removal system means you can shoot various parts of robot bodies to different effect. Pop off an arm and the pesky mech will lose the gun it was holding and scramble to pick it up off the floor with its remaining arm. Shoot off legs and they’ll crawl towards you on the floor, allowing you to focus on bigger foes or target them easier. Take their heads off and they’ll lose all ability to see and distinguish friend from foe, targeting other robots and evening your odds. It’s a great deal of fun in practice and helps keep the usual hum-drum third-person shooter combat surprisingly rewarding. The same holds true for the boss battles, where inventively-designed giant robot enemies keep things intense and exciting. You can pick your three-person squad from a wider group before each mission, with dialogue and an extensive selection of weapon and skill upgrades for each one to help mix things up a little, too, though it’s a shame the larger game never caters for any real Mass Effect-style character interaction or branching story.

A partner loyalty gauge constantly keeps track of how trusting your teammates are towards you in battle. Make the right calls, take down enemies with impressive speed and watch your friends’ backs and they’ll trust you more and be more inclined to want to provide better support for you as a result. Screw around and let them get shot, accidentally shoot them yourself or spend more time on the ground than killing robots and they’ll soon stop giving a damn if you survive, be less inclined to respond to orders and choose to watch out for themselves instead. It’s an interesting mechanic let down by how stupendously dumb the AI teammates can be. Though they’re great at reviving you if you’re down, partners have an annoying tendency to walk into the path of friendly fire over and over.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Another less effective gimmick is that of microphone support, the idea being that you can hook up a mic and issue commands or provide comments to your computer-controlled crew using your own voice. There’s a pretty comprehensive list of approved voice-recognition phrases programmed in for you to use, but the game barely acknowledges you’ve actually said any of them, no matter how clearly you annunciate. Thankfully a far easier and more responsive alternative allows you to pick commands and responses from a pop-up selection, allowing you to order your team around or respond to their random between-mission banter to earn a little more loyalty.

A tacked-on multiplayer mode does little to impress, the added gimmicks don’t work especially well and AI can occasionally be troublesome, but Binary Domain is still a surprise gem thanks to a wealth of tough, addictive combat and a surprisingly well-written plot populated with fun, likeable characters. It’s often more Michael Bay than Blade Runner, but the goofy, brash charm is just another selling point for a refreshingly rewarding sci-fi shooter.

Rating:





Binary Domain is available to buy now on PS3 and Xbox 360.
Click here to buy it from Amazon.co.uk.