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Binary Domain review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Picking apart robot enemies
  • Attractive futuristic look
  • OTT characters are entertaining
  • Stupid squad AI
  • Flaky voice command system
  • Not as slick as Vanquish

What do you get if you cross Vanquish with The Terminator? No, not some van-driving pest control bloke who calls himself 'The Verminator'. You get this - Binary Domain. A third-person shooter that wants to be the next Vanquish so badly, but can't help thinking about James Cameron films.

It's all here – the glowing red eyes, the same 'endoskeleton holding a big gun' stance… even the flying vehicles have an HK look to them. Not that we mind – there's a genuine sense of menace, especially when you look round to see the robot soldier you thought you'd just killed suddenly reanimated and crawling towards you like your name's Sarah Connor and you're standing near a hydraulic press.

Above: Is this man: A: A robot? B: Having a really bad day? C: All of the above

The futuristic Tokyo of 2080 is overrun with 'hollow children' - robots which have have begun infiltrating the population. They're covered in human flesh who (what a twist) think they're human! Blade Runner, eat yer heart out. So it's your job to take the fight to the headquarters of Amada, the corporation responsible, and stop them.

That said, it's plain old metallic robots for the most part. Like all the best shoot-em-ups, these plentiful robot enemies have proper hit zones, with multiple stages of destruction allowing you to pick them apart with careful gunfire. You get more in-game credits for shooting off as much armour as you can before finishing off with a kill, so there's even an incentive to do so.

Above: Mmmm... satisfying. Main man Dan takes down another robot fiend

Then there are the clever little touches, like the way headshots aren't actually kills – they just remove the brain from the body, causing the remaining legs, arms and torso to go haywire, attacking anything in the vicinity – including their fellow robots. We approve.

Gunfights play out in small areas dressed up to look like massive areas, giving you plenty of eye candy and sense of scale without spreading the action too thinly. There's a cover system similar to Gears of War, which is decent, but somehow often lets you get shot anyway, meaning the small wait for health regeneration is frequently pushed back by a lucky stray bullet.

Above: The scenery has some destructive elements - some of which you might not expect

But you're not alone in your battle. This is a squad-based shooter with optional microphone support, meaning you can (supposedly) command your fellow squad-mates with your own voice. In a quiet room, it recognises words very well, especially once you've fiddled with the background noise threshold.

"What you sayin', bro?"

However, when we played it in our office (which isn't that noisy in honesty), it struggled to understand what we said. We pushed up the noise gate a little, but then we had to shout, which isn't always practical. Fortunately, you can hold the left shoulder button to bring up a list of four commands at any one time, but it doesn't always suggest the one you need.

All of that is made redundant, however, by the dopey squad AI. Your teammates frequently jump into your line of fire, even when you've already been unloading for a good few seconds… and then they not only complain about it, but they like you less. The less they like you, the less willing they are to co-operate. Unprofessional much?

Above: What a motley crew. Will they like you or hate you?

It's a neat idea for a squad system (in theory) and it does feel good to answer a question with the 'right' answer and see their little blue arrow blink away showing that you've gone up in their estimation. But when you shout 'cover me' and they say 'I'm on it' before doing nothing of the sort, it kinda makes the whole thing redundant.

When you're not knee-deep in robots, there are some fun diversions. One section sees you piloting a jetski while another sees you shooting from a speeding car, turret-style. There's also a decent monorail shootout, but again, it's so much like Vanquish yet never quite hits that game's level of quality.

Above: Some bosses are vulnerable to regular shooting, but most need set-pieces to finish them off

At least the script is a good laugh. The game is cleverly written to allow you to choose your own teammates from the pool of five(ish), effortlessly swapping in one stereotype for another without so much as a seam to show for it. Companions question your team selection at times, even suggesting that you chose Faye because you wanted to perve at her. Well, did you?

Above: "Where did you say you got your new black rubber elbow pads from again, Dan?"

It's all good-natured enough, but certainly the cheesiness of the dialogue and the so-awful-it's-brilliant racial stereotyping does make it feel a little old-fashioned. The American has no concept of the word 'covert', the British guy is called Charlie and the French robot called Cain rescues your Chinese accomplice instead of you because 'she's prettier, monsieur'. This game would have loved the 1990s.

Above: That's not an enemy - it's Cain, the superhero-esque French robot

Sadly, despite obvious care and attention that's gone into the story and the cut-scenes, the game does have a slight 'low-rent' feeling. Perhaps Vanquish, Gears of War and Mass Effect have spoiled us, but the repetitive dialogue, occasional bout of severe slowdown (especially in the Spider boss fight) and clumsy CQC pull you out of the action whenever you start to get sucked in.

Fortunately, the game's ambition (we'll stop short of 'delusions of grandeur' because it does carry itself rather well) means it's at least entertaining, if only to see what ludicrous scenario the characters will find themselves in next. You know the saying 'if you aim for the moon and miss, you'll still end up in the stars'? Well, this aimed for Vanquish and missed – but in doing so it at least made a decent Terminator game that's better than any actual licensed Terminator game.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Sega
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

Topics

Binary Domain

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18 comments

  • milsvaard - February 27, 2012 2:16 p.m.

    This game has multiplayer, did you guys get around to trying it out?
  • dima-sokol - February 25, 2012 11:36 a.m.

    This game deserves an 8. Its really pretty, has a nice deep storyline and great gameplay. My only complaint is that it has no replay value since I can't even roll my characters again and keep upgrading the equipment the second playthrough...
  • GR_JustinTowell - February 27, 2012 1:59 a.m.

    Going by our score system, 8 means 'great' and 7 means 'good'. I don't think it's a great game, but it is a good game. Hope that helps :)
  • runner - February 24, 2012 1:53 p.m.

    While I think all the flaws you pointed out seem valid, I still think, for a game that scored 7 (which I believe quite decent), you didn't mention stuffs that this game done right enough. And.. I don't know, that might discourage some people to give this game a shot.
  • penguinchilli - February 24, 2012 1:42 p.m.

    I really enjoyed the demo for this. I thought it was a pretty solid shooter and for some reason, i found it rather refreshing. I especially love how the british guy sounded like a complete twat. It has some really nice concepts but alas it will be drowned in a large sea of Mass Effect players though :(
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - February 24, 2012 10:29 a.m.

    With so many nearly perfected shooters these days, I can usually only drum up interest in a new one if they have a great story or or do something really unique with the gameplay. The trailers had me hoping for the former for this game, but it sounds like it's not really the case. Too bad.
  • StrayGator - February 24, 2012 10:01 a.m.

    Whenever a reviewer mentions something like "occasional bout(s) of severe slowdown", he should also specify on which platform(s) he experienced it.
  • GR_JustinTowell - February 27, 2012 2 a.m.

    I reviewed it on Xbox 360.
  • taokaka - February 24, 2012 9:40 a.m.

    I'll be sure to pick this up in a couple of months time when there's nothing out.
  • Errrrbo - February 24, 2012 9:37 a.m.

    I didn't see much issue with the AI in the demo, but of course that doesn't represent the game as a whole. Looking forward to this game, nice review, J.
  • Moondoggie1157 - February 24, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    Good to see Sega hasn't let us down. It's a shame Platinum is gone though, they always make these good games into great ones. Time to fire up Bayonetta again haha Definitely interested in Binary Domain, still got a backlogged list of games to play though...
  • boondocks50 - February 24, 2012 2:40 p.m.

    platinum games still exists, theyre making the new metal gear rising game, and to clarify this game has a good story right?
  • GhostNappa2k10 - February 24, 2012 9:33 a.m.

    Sounds pretty good. I was interested in it after the first trailer, but I won't get it right now, as I'm playing through Dark Souls. Goddam Capra Demon >.<
  • yasmarc - February 24, 2012 10:24 a.m.

    Soon as you go through the fog gate run past him (dodge if he swings) and up the stairs to the left. Kill the two dogs when they chase you up and then you can actually get on top of the arch to the right of the stairs. Demon falls down, plunging attack and gtfo before he retaliates. Repeat or just kill him down below with regular attacks. The hardest part is not getting your stamina drained in the beginning from the dogs + demon. After the dogs are gone it should be a lot easier!
  • GhostNappa2k10 - February 25, 2012 3:54 p.m.

    I beat him now :) but thanks for the help! :)
  • DukeNukeThem - February 24, 2012 9:27 a.m.

    Good read. I will pick this up after i finish Vanquish (which i just bought for £10). Is the AI just plain bad or really buggy? I don't mind AI partners who can't hit shit, i hated the AI partners in Gears 3 because they were too good.
  • BladedFalcon - February 24, 2012 9:24 a.m.

    Nice! I really wanted this game to be good, decent at least. And glad to see I wasn't disspointed. I honestly never expected it to be as good as Vanquish, (Without Platinum, it just couldn't be.) but good to know it still stands on it's own.
  • inkyspot - February 24, 2012 11:14 a.m.

    I will be picking this up, I liked the demo. I am in agreement with BladedFalcon

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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