Nathan "Rad" Spencer is back after a 20 year nap, to take on a new generation of bionic terrorists in this re-invention of the classic franchise. Capcom and developer Grin have largely succeeded in presenting a sequel to a title many of us grew up with and revere as part of our own gaming history. And unlike it's 2-D predecessor you can actually JUMP in this one. WOOT!
First off, this not a game you can shoot your way through. Sure there's shooting, but there's a lot more to it. Of course there's swinging, and the inevitable learning curve with getting your rhythm and cat-like reflexes in shape. But this Bionic Commando plays and feels a lot like Crackdown. You climb, you smash and sail through the air as gracefully as Lara Croft on steroids. While the level design is somewhat linear, it makes up for it's limitations by providing a large open vista where many areas are multi-leveled and there is lots of room for exploring for hidden collectibles and extra ammo. But where the game really excels is in the variety of moves and techniques it offers beyond your typical weapons upgrades. As you progress through the levels different challenges are offered and when they are met, enable you to perform advanced moves i.e grappling onto cars and throwing them at the enemy or leaping high into the air and pounding the piss out of anything in your deathblow radius. Unlocking new abilities is really the engine that drives this title and keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting throughout.
Now the bad news...if you unlock certain features or moves and then die, you forfeit them upon resurrection and you have to start all over. This becomes particularly annoying during some of the longer fire fights you will encounter. Also you can't go back and to find missing collectibles with having to erase all of your previous progress. Translation: You have to play the entire game over again to try and get moves and collectibles.
The voice acting is tolerable, but just barely. There a fine line between cool cheesy and just plain cheap crap. You got your military chatter, generals barking orders and the Euro-Trash Commander talking smack with his Germanic lisp. All of that is pretty standard fare. But unfortunately Nathan sounds a lot like The Dude from Postal. I never really got over this and besides, Nathan deserved better. Despite these missteps, the soundtrack is the real star. A real Halo quality score. It always refreshing to see a publisher not skimp on the quality of a games music. Bravo!
The game is beautiful from the character modeling and the environments to the billboards. Grin has done an excellent job and this effort put them solidly in the ranks of any of your triple A developers. Take the time to read the posters and billboards, some of them are very much a wink to those old enough to remember their references.
You have a fairly standard deathmatch/capture the flag multiplayer that, while fun, gets old pretty quick. Also worth mentioning is that if you own Bionic Commando Rearmed from Xbox Live, you can unlock different areas and features within BC. The only code I had unlocked a skin to play as the original BC outfit. (Green jumpsuit, red hair) For a limited time Gold members can purchase this game for only 400 Microsoft points. If you are a fan of the NES version this is a must have. One of the best 2-D's to date.
This is definitely a game that people will either get and love or just fall victim to the learning curve. I can't stress enough how good the swing mechanics are. If you like to swing with big air this is your game. I am very impressed and excited to see what they have in store for the next game. Rethinking a classic is tricky business, you have to please the kids and the old farts like me. My congratulations to Capcom and Grin for achieving both. A hard row to hoe indeed.