Bionic Commando

Review

posted 5/20/2009 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Multiple
About halfway through the game you earn an alternative to wasting all your bullets. The game actually teaches you (for the second time, assuming you did the forced tutorial at the beginning) how to pick up large objects with your arm and whip them at your opponents. Not only is this incredibly effective, but it's about the most fun you can have in the game. There's something satisfying about picking up a car and throwing it into a large gathering of baddies. Most of the time a direct hit means instant death, and if you can time it right you can knock out multiple enemies with only one object.

But that move, along with several others earned in the game, come only after you've mastered swinging and beaten up hundreds of bad guys. The rest of the game plays out with you frantically trying to dodge bullets, climb ledges and not get yourself killed. You do not want to get yourself killed. If you do manage to die, you will be forced to start back at the checkpoint, which could be quite a ways back. Even worse, all of the items you picked up along the way are reset back into the level. The same cannot be said for all of those hard to reach hidden items. If you die, you will likely have to go out of your way to collect all of those hidden items all over again which contributes to a good chunk of my frustration with the game.


But as frustrating as I am making it out to be, it has nothing on the 2D original. In that game you could get hit once and die. This new Bionic Commando sequel takes into account the last twenty years of gaming making, which means that it's not nearly as difficult as its 8-bit predecessor. You don't have to worry too much about getting hit with a bullet or two, you just need to hide for a few seconds and regenerate your health. Without a life bar (or instant deaths) the game feels considerably easier, and with the exception of only one or two spots, I always felt like I was in complete control. Thankfully there are a couple of harder difficulty settings, but no matter how hard you make it, the game will never be as frustrating as that first game.

The levels are all interesting, though none of them break any new ground. For the most part the game is linear, but the levels are wide enough to give you multiple ways to attack them. You can take the high route, which involves you climbing buildings and avoiding the riffraff on the streets, or you can take the low path and shoot your way through. Not every area has these kinds of choices, but enough of them do to keep you looking around for multiple ways to complete a mission.

The game's story isn't open enough to have you covering a lot of diverse locations, so you'll find yourself mostly fighting your way through different parts of the now-crumbling Ascension City. You start in the destroyed downtown area, but quickly you'll be swinging your way through tunnels, a giant park and even an oil rig. Those that played through the original game will feel right at home with most of these locations, though a little more diversity wouldn't have hurt. Don't go in expecting a lot of wild and crazy locales, you aren't going to go from the freezing cold to a flaming mountaintop. Instead you're going to go from the city park to that big building that is right next to the city park.


And while it's not a huge deal, I did notice that there was an awful lot of advertising lining Ascension City. Everywhere you go you'll see commercials for cell phones, other Capcom games and Pepsi. Way, way too many Pepsi ads. Then again, since this game takes place in 199X, these Pepsi ads feel right at home. Still, the advertising can really pull you out of this fictional backdrop.

Despite all of the drastic changes, the game still feels like a Bionic Commando game. Using your arm is just as much fun as I remembered it back in the 1980s; only now with considerably better graphics. In fact, the only thing that hasn't improved is poor old Nathan "Rad" Spencer. This post-Prison Spencer has changed, and not for the better. He went in a skinny red-head and came out a muscular brunette with dreadlocks. If he's Conan O'Brien in the first game, then he's a buffed up Jake Gyllenhaal with Bob Marley's hair. Thankfully Bionic Commando Rearmed owners can type in a code to unlock the classic look. Either way, Nathan has come a long way since the NES cover art.
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