E3 2011: Binary Domain (Hands On)

by: Sean -
Binary Domain pits man against machine.
  • Game: Binary Domain
  • Developer: Sega Japan
  • Release Window/Date: February 2012
  • What's polished: Robots looked crisp, action was hot and heavy.
  • What needs polish: The dialogue is anime-quality, and that's not exactly a compliment.

Binary Domain puts you in the combat boots of a Rust Team sergeant, an elite international team tasked with clearing Upper Tokyo of construction robots set loose by their possibly-mad creator. The "Man vs. Machine" dynamic is in full effect, and the demo culminated in a boss battle with a two-story tall robot. The robots are highly detailed: think the T-800 with armor and a couple spare hoses. The robots feature a procedural damage system that effects the way the robots behave as they lose an appendage or two: take out their legs and they'll crawl, take out their head and they'll wander around firing blindly. The best moment of the demo for me was when a beheaded 'bot started a brawl with his three teammates, allowing my squad to move in close for the ... kill? Deactivation?

Whatever you call it, it takes a team that can trust each other to pull it off. BD features a "trust" mechanic that affects the way your team behaves. Regular conversational prompts that the player responds to provide a brief peace-time window for rapport-building, while combat behavior such as commanding your squad to charge into enemy fire unprotected reduce their opinion of your command abilities. Either way, your teammates not trusting you will cause them to hang back in firefights and not give you as much support as they might if you're honest and careful with them.

Playing BD felt like almost any other cover-based 3rd person shooter I've played, but the trust mechanic was interesting. The dialogue options pop up so fast that I didn't even really get a chance to think about them, and the demo was too short to give this aspect of the gameplay a proper evaluation, but if Sega can make that into a game-defining feature, Binary Domain is going to be one to watch in February.
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