|System: X360, PS3, 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: May 18, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
As fun as the gameplay and collecting elements are, the game can be quite difficult. While I'm always up for a stiff challenge, sometimes it can get annoying. This is exacerbated by the fact the game will start players back at a distant auto-save checkpoint. This can get especially frustrating considering you'll have to suffer through load screens every time and all of the collectibles and challenges you've unlocked (more on those next) are reset. This leads to a lot of unnecessary re-trekking. While this does inextricably link the game to its ire-inducing predecessors, it's a game mechanic that feels dated and gratuitous.
As previously hinted at, much like the collectibles, challenges of ever-increasing difficulty will also pop up throughout the game. These include pulling off a certain amount of kills with a specific weapon, killing a set number of enemy types, pulling off a maneuver in a special way, etc. Furthermore, upon completion, these challenges are often accompanied by rewards. These rewards act as perks, improving Nathan Spencer's armor, accuracy, reload time, and more. I found the challenges, enhanced by the rewards, to be a great meta-game that kept me plugging along in spite of the lackluster story.
Naturally, accruing all the 8-bit collectibles and clearing all the challenges the first time through is, dare I say, an impossibility. This doesn't seem like much of a problem on the surface, but it becomes a true point of consternation. While the game will allow you to go back and explore specific levels, you're not able to do so in order to amass the last bits of your collection. Astonishingly, you'll have to start from the beginning to accomplish these feats. That makes acquiring all the Trophies or Achievements for console players truly a trying accomplishment. In the end, this also had the effect of discouraging me from even looking for many of the hidden goodies, and got me really frustrated when I wasn't able to clear several of the active challenges.
Outside of the single-player story, players can also head online and try out their swinging skills in multiplayer. I really enjoyed the unconventional maps that forced players to use their bionic arms for locomotion. That being said, taking players out with your special bionic abilities is not feasible. That's because multiplayer battles in Bionic Commando are ruled by gunfights, making the competitive online features less unique than they otherwise might be. Along those same lines, no innovative modes of play are on offer, as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag are your only choices. As such, multiplayer action feels like a tacked-on afterthought rather than a bankable feature. Consequently, players will grow tired of the novelty of online play in just a matter of hours if not minutes.
Graphics in Bionic Commando are nicely rendered. The environments are well thought out and highly detailed. Character movement and cutscenes are very smooth. All in all, the visuals are very sharp. However, incessant screen-tearing is a real nuisance. Finally, Nathan "RAD" Spencer's character design is minion-cheesy. He has absolutely no resemblance to his former self, and that's a shame. Graciously, players can eventually unlock a revamped model of the 8-bit RAD. Still, I can't believe this design wasn't used in the first place. Aurally, Bionic Commando uses appropriate musical themes to depict the action. Though competently composed, the tracks never inspire the player to glory. Similar to the patchwork story, though the kitsch voice acting fits nicely with the series in general, it doesn't quite work in this contemporary interpretation.
In the end, Bionic Commando is an interesting single-player experience many gamers are likely to enjoy. Disappointingly, the multiplayer experience is entirely forgettable, and not all of the wonderfully tacky elements of the series were well translated this time around. That being said, the uniqueness of the bionic arm and the depth of gameplay tend to make up for most of the title's flaws, though arguably so.
CCC Editor / News Director