|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: GRIN||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 14, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 12; 2-4 online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Bionic Commando for the NES was a title that caused many gamers to pull at their hair, slam their controllers to the ground, and generally get rather violent over the platformer. Nevertheless, the game was incredibly addictive due to the heros mechanical arm feature and the interesting level design.
These elements combined to make the game feel both unique and rewarding. Fast forward twenty years and all the platforming challenge of the original is intact, with a revamped, HD presentation and more balanced gameplay. Additionally, improved bosses, a new, massive level, and offline co-op campaign and multiplayer battles make Bionic Commando Rearmed a very complete package.
The basic premise of the game is simple: Go through level after level as covert Bionic Commando, Nathan Radd Spencer, in search of a lost asset (Super Joe) on your way to destroying a maniacal power and his thugs bent on world domination. Along the way, you will be set upon by various soldier types with unique abilities, hulking mechanical weapons that bumbling technicians didnt put together quite right, peculiar bosses that express their contempt for Spencer in humorous ways, and insane complexes that only a Bionic Commando could navigate successfully.
Newcomers to the game should know that Rearmed is a pure, 80s-style, side-scrolling platformer that throws in minion and boss combat just to mix things up a bit. As such, the vast majority of the game will be spent using your mechanical arm to swing from one platform to the next with inch-perfect timing. At first, players will feel confined by the lack of a jump button; it just doesnt feel right. Additionally, Radd falls straight down; there is no momentum and no mid-air adjustments to be made. However, using the mechanical arm eventually becomes second nature, and it is far more engaging than a jump button could ever be. In fact, players will soon be swinging around levels like a hopped up monkey with an attitude. The resulting feel is as smooth and engaging as many of the pristine moments in Ubisofts Prince of Persia series.
Mercifully, the initial levels serve as a fun warm up for the outstanding yet insanely difficult levels that are to follow. Dont be too worried though; you wont be bothered by running out of continues and having to start the game from scratch. Thats because the developers, GRIN, have revamped the health and limited continue system the old game had in order to keep modern gamers engaged and protect their $60 controllers. Furthermore, after the first several levels of toiling with the unfamiliar controls, youll be armed with a bunch of fun, unlockable weapons and the technical skill to best the varied challenges that come up.
Weapons such as grenades, machineguns, rocket launchers, and the ricocheting vector cannon are loads of fun, and they are used to greater or lesser effect depending on the baddie or obstacle you face. That means, unlike the original, players will be forced to use the entirety of their arsenal to advance. All the weapons are easily controlled, and the explosive effects are fun to look at. Nonetheless, as previously mentioned, combat takes a backseat to platforming. Thats why the mechanical arm will be your greatest weapon. It will serve both as a shield and an implement of death-dealing; deflecting bullets and picking up barrels and foes with the extendable, vice-like grip simply never gets old. Moreover, players will often find the best tactic is to use the arm in new and interesting ways in order to harness the power of the environment. In fact, it is the only way to get past the cagey boss battles.
Speaking of boss battles - Bionic Commando is full of them. The over world map is laid out into zones of control. Players can hop between various areas, clear out the lackeys, take on the Big Bad Guy (or Machine), and acquire new goodies to help them on their way. Bosses are characterized by powerful weaponry or secondary forces that can only be surmounted by exploiting their weak spot. These weaknesses are pretty easy to find, but if you are having trouble, you can always hack into the enemys computer system in order to obtain key bits of useful information that humorously enrich the story and give you crucial insight into enemy fortifications and machinations.
While bouncing from zone to zone in your helo, sometimes youll run into mobile SAM batteries that roam the map. This will launch you into top-down shooter levels similar to those of Commando 3: Wolf of the Battlefield. These levels are very short, mirror the original, and serve to break up the side-scrolling gameplay. Unfortunately, they feel a bit tacked on and arent nearly as engaging as the rest of the game. Unlike the main levels of the title, this top-down shooter mechanic is extremely easy, devoid of platforming, and painfully repetitive. Thankfully, these encounters are fairly easy to avoid and are very brief in duration.