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Bionic Commando review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • The swinging, once you're used to it
  • Throwing cars at enemies
  • Zip-kicking guys in the crotch
  • The swinging, if you're not used to it
  • Guns are unsatisfying
  • Story is meh

Confession time: We had long expected Capcom and Swedish developer GRIN’s pact to resurrect the 22-year old Bionic Commando series to be a bad idea. Surely it would only serve to infect rose-tinted memories of yesteryear with some seriously bad juju. For one thing its overly macho style and dank color palette is more Gears of Yawn than retro chic. For another, the opening stage misfires massively by using an environment unsuited to its hero’s bionic arm-enabled swinging skills. And the mechanics of swooping around with said arm are unforgiving. Your character feels like a wrecking ball instead of a mechanically-enabled Spider-Man until you grow accustomed to it. So to say we were surprised by the finished game’s high level of quality is a big understatement. The good news is, we’re not simply surprised; we’re also thrilled.

The first hour introduces Nathan Spencer, the man with the bionic arm, and gifts him with a handful of neat moves but fudges things by hemming him in with BC’s answer to invisible walls – radioactive areas. So this vast, open area is actually more like a hamster habitat made up of clear plastic boxes connected by transparent tunnels. But the second hour introduces more open areas including an industrial wasteland, a park and a series of rocky fissures. All of a sudden, the previously staccato nature of Spencer’s swing mechanic becomes an elegantly flowing thrill ride. Dull linear missions give way to startling set-pieces that turn your stomach as Spencer swan dives into the atmosphere.

That is, assuming you’ve come to terms with the controls by then. Using the right stick to locate points that your zippy cable-arm can grasp while simultaneously guiding your body with the left stick, hoping to keep your all-important momentum maximized and aimed in the right direction. If you can’t get the hang of it, Bionic Commando will make you hate it. If you can, you’ll feel the wind in your hair as you soar through one devastated landscape after another.

But what Spencer giveth with his left (bionic) hand, he taketh away with his right. The shooting is the game’s weak link, with sissy guns and little “pop”. Not to worry though, because Spencer’s bionic implant is good for more than swinging. Who needs guns when you can zip-launch yourself like a feet-first missile right at your enemy’s face? Or snag a flaming car and hurl it at a speedily approaching mech? Not us. The sheer variety of attacks at your disposal combined with incredible freedom of movement make for a game that’s rarely less than thrilling.

When you do encounter those less than thrilling moments, it will probably relate to the convoluted story or the fact that there’s no hacking mini-game like there was in the old days. When something needs hacked, you just stand there while your arm-puter does the work. Functional, but not exactly ambitious design.

True, it lacks the polish and sophistication of much of Capcom’s output. There are far too many load screens, too few checkpoints and some of the level design is questionable. But when a game is built around a single mechanic that is employed so well, so often and so entertainingly it’s hard not to overlook its flaws and just enjoy yourself. Or go with the swing of things, so to speak.

May 19, 2009

More Info

Release date: May 19 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3
Jul 28 2009 - PC (US)
May 22 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3
Jul 28 2009 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Grin
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
18+: Violence, Bad Language

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12 comments

  • MomoLad - October 14, 2009 8:07 p.m.

    Played the Gmae. Is absoulutly amazing.
  • chester_spartan - May 25, 2009 1:56 a.m.

    this game is so horrible, mechanices, fights, sub boss encounters, its just horrible, the spiderman 2 and 3 games had better swinging mechanics then this, not to mention the 1 million load screens in this game AND they take forever, capcom is horrible, they are another treyarch, just trash
  • adrianjb1 - May 23, 2009 3:20 p.m.

    how do u kill the shield biomechs in bionic commando
  • Harmon20 - May 20, 2009 1:58 a.m.

    swinging around in the demo was fun, But I could tell the focus was on swinging and not on shooting from the moment I started those online matches...
  • cubsfan101 - June 14, 2009 3:32 a.m.

    played the game. seems pretty weak to me
  • sadisticgrizzz - June 9, 2009 10:16 p.m.

    i played the real game i think the fun comes from swinging around but even that can get clumbsy. its a solid 7in my book . interesting story line2. but what the hell is with all this radiation crap? u think u got free roaming until u swing in an area with radiation an just die wtf?
  • hospenj - June 5, 2009 12:28 a.m.

    did anyone here acutaly play the real game not the demo the game you do relize that some demos are not just like the game right i played it nd it may not be the greatest game ever but it gets better the more you play so in other words stfu unless you acutaly played the real game
  • IslanderSwagg - May 27, 2009 1:56 p.m.

    he doesnt look white ...or black, maybe brazilian. this game is complete garbage, played the demo
  • Seabread - May 26, 2009 3:58 p.m.

    forget this reinvention - looks more like regurgitation. wasn't impressed by multiplayer only demo, just wanted to try swinging about and couldn't due to opponents so couldn't get to grips. better off sticking with "rearmed". only 400pts on XBLA - bargain. not so bothered about "white" guy with dreads, it's not unheard of. more annoyed about once-ginger-with-crew-cut nathan spencer becoming cool-dude-who-dyes-his-hair-cos-he's-ashamed-to-be-ginger-and-probably-listens-to-too-much-hip-hop-and-reggae-hence-the-dreads. old skool skin for all.
  • boxcar44 - May 24, 2009 4:39 a.m.

    a white guy cant have dreads?
  • vitoruss - May 20, 2009 12:26 p.m.

    A white dude with dreads? Oh the humanity...
  • Lavos - May 20, 2009 1:04 a.m.

    First, yeah i though about buying this game ,but after seeing this..... eh no.

Showing 1-12 of 12 comments

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