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Bionic Commando review

A third-person brawler with a bonkers plot device

Pros

  • Swing mechanics are fluid and easy to control
  • Some great set-pieces
  • Offers a hefty challenge

Cons

  • Not enough exploration allowed
  • Annoying radiation deaths
  • Too much time on loading screens

It was around the time we stopped swinging through the jungle to punch a robot in the face, rip open its hatch and then punch the pilot in the face that we decided: “this game is awesome!” Of course, when we say ‘awesome’ we mean it in the ‘big dumb action movie’ sense. The sense where there’s an explosion around every corner, immediately followed by someone dropping swears like they’re going out of style.

Swinging: it’s something you do a lot of in Bionic Commando. Movement and combat revolve around the rope that shoots out of your arm to grapple onto scenery and enemies. The swing mechanics are fluid and easy to control – simply press a button to latch onto something, swing, then release that button to let go. There’s even an indicator to show when you should let go to achieve the farthest swing. The only tricky part was figuring how far away we could be and still latch onto something, a distinction we grasped within a few minutes.

While the swinging was a blast, we wish we’d been given more freedom to enjoy it. But throughout the ruins of Ascension City (devastated by the cataclysmic blast that sends hero Nathan Spencer off on his journey) gleams the soft, blue glow of radiation. This serves as a visible barrier to keep you on the straight and narrow: one false swing during a frantic firefight and you have about .002 seconds to swing back before you’re (irradiated) toast. Having the opportunity to cut loose and discover your own path would have been nice.

In lieu of collecting power-ups to advance your character, you ‘level up’ by completing in-game challenges tied to specific moves or weapons. This rewards you for utilising the weapons you enjoy and enables your character to advance more organically than the typical point-buy system. The sheer number of challenges, however, quickly became overwhelming and, with no way of displaying progress on the HUD, we ended up ignoring them and earning random unlocks instead.

Lost in the middle is the plot, a desperately cobbled together tale of one man’s struggle against terrorism, government conspiracies and his own past, which completely forgoes the humour of the series’ previous incarnations. To be fair, it’s still pretty humorous in its own way once you develop a morbid curiosity as to how they’re going to jump the shark next. Think of it as a bad episode of 24 – give Jack Bauer greasy dreadlocks and you’re there.

Bionic Commando is the reason why the PC needs a rental service: it’s a fun title that won’t take more than 12 hours to complete and offers no real incentive for a replay. It could be worth a try when it goes on sale.

Jul 28, 2009

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionA third-person action game built around the idea that you have a super-strong zipline for an arm. When it works, you’re Spider-man and the Hulk all mixed together. When it doesn’t, you’re a drugged gorilla on a chain.
PlatformXbox 360, PS3, PC
US censor ratingMature
UK censor rating18+
Release date19 May 2009 (US), 22 May 2009 (UK)