Bionic Commando multiplayer - creative vs crappy

Hands-on with the 10-player fragfest left us with two opposing points of view

But what of the multiplayer? Haven't heard much about it at all, have we? Well, we spent a couple of hours down at Capcom the other day and left with two extremely opposed impressions; one side felt it tedious and uninspired, the other a breath of fresh air third-person shooters desperately need.

Running. Jumping. Shooting. Looking for opponents. Find. Shoot. They shoot back. You shoot more. One of you dies. Respawn.

Granted that could describe every shooter from Doom to Halo 3, but that string of phrases kept running through our heads as one firefight after another devolved into running in circles, trading potshots with the other players. The weapons weren't interesting, save the grenade launcher, which was so overpowered you could rack up multiple kills in seconds. The map we played also had some issues with its respawning, usually plopping us right in the middle of an explosion already in progress. It led to many, many immediate deaths.

Weapon selection is a bit weird too, using a combination of button presses and stick flicks that to our knowledge hasn't been employed before. You're still moving while selecting your weapon from the Gears-like pop-up screen and that's plain annoying.

Finally, near as we could tell, there was no 180 degree quick-turn button; this is especially bizarre because the X button wasn't used at all. Why leave a button unassigned when there's a standard move your game doesn't have? Again, we must clarify that this is all based on an unfinished version of the game, with only one playable map and a handful of the final weapon lists. We're just calling it like we see it at the moment.

While most of the people in the session were trying to play the game on a 2D plane, others were getting it right and swinging from lamp post to rooftop to branch to grenade launcher, covering a massive amount of space in a fraction of the time it took the people who "weren't playing it right." It's true that if you just point and shoot the game isn't all that interesting. But it's not the game's fault people are locked into a certain train of thought after years of same-y multiplayer.

You need to think up, down and all around, something most shooters don't require. This is a vertical, always-in-motion deathmatch that's never been tried before. Lost Planet dabbled with the zip line, but in BC we were chasing people around skyscrapers, yanking weapons from a safe distance, even grabbing enemies and retracting the arm so you rocket into their chest.

When you're playing it right, it's a wholly new feeling, like a mix of heavy gunplay with Spider-Man sensibilities. True, the shooting wasn't remarkable, but when you engage in your first harrowing swing chase from one side of the map to the other, desperately lining up shots just to get this guy off your ass while making last-second lunges with your grappling arm, you'll know what we mean.

And like we said earlier, it's still early, so all those grievances from above could be ironed out. If so, the biggest hurdle is getting everyone to stay off the ground and use the arm to its fullest extent. Expect more thoughts as we get more hands-on time.

Aug 21, 2008

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