|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: February 1, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Steve Haske
Bionic Commando has always been an interesting series. Though traditionally an action-platformer, a lack of jump button more or less completely changed the dynamic of what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill design. Though Grin's swan song, the three-dimensional BC, gave series protagonist Nathan Spencer the ability to jump, it was still all about swinging. And while the game wasn't perfect, because the developers stuck to their guns and designed heavily around the use of Spencer's arm, BC remains a great and underrated title. Before that, however, Grin brought the series back to life with the original Rearmed, a game that was designed for the hardcore Bionic Commando player. With its 2D design and no jump button, getting used to using your arm for everything took some practice, and gameplay required a great deal of finesse, particularly in some of the later levels. It was everything that the new BC would prove not to be, and while both titles are great in their own right, the more traditional Rearmed is generally viewed as the much better game.
Rearmed 2 is something a mix between old and new, taking a few cues from its predecessor as well as from Spencer's three-dimensional outing. The first and most obvious change between Rearmed and its sequel is that now you can jump. I wasn't too thrilled when I first heard about this, since the lack of jumping ability is in large part what made the original Rearmed so tough. It turns out there's nothing to worry about here though, because Fatshark makes up for your newfound jumping ability by adjusting spaces between jumps and navigation points as well as some somewhat devious level design. Swinging across gaps and the like is still the name of the game here, and at times, you'll be very happy Spencer can jump. It doesn't disrupt the gameplay or make the game too easy, and if you're really a hardcore purist, you won't have to rely on jumping much at all. I'm still glad it didn't drastically change the gameplay, however.
Spencer has a few other new tricks up his sleeve, too, such as a power uppercut, and special augmentations such as health regeneration and a midair ground strike taken from his 3D adventure. Again, these don't drastically change how you'll play Rearmed 2, but they help break up the act of simply shooting baddies when you're not swinging (particularly noteworthy are the inclusion of some short sniping segments as well as arcade shooting chopper levels). Puzzles also play a bigger role this time around, at least if you can call switch-based directives puzzles. Expect to hit a lot of buttons and release a significant amount of levers as you make your way through this one.
There's no doubt that Rearmed 2 feels like Bionic Commando, but whether or not it's as good as the original is somewhat up for debate. In many ways, Fatshark's sequel is far improved from the original: the level types are more varied, Spencer has (mostly) better weapons, and the graphical facelift is significantly better than the first Rearmed's comparatively basic graphics, with huge improvements in lighting and particle effects, especially. Jumping doesn't make the game much easier, but it does cut down on the huge annoyance of requiring absolute precision to make a tough jump or series of jumps. I think the chiptune soundtrack may actually be better this time, as well, though that's a matter of preference.