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Bionic Commando Rearmed - hands-on

For every new game concept that arrives (Gears, Lost Planet, etc.), there's usually at least one classic franchise reboot the same year. Updating lost loves like Metal Gear, Ninja Gaiden and Rygar has been extremely profitable for all involved, so it's no surprise that finally, with hardly any NES properties left to mine, Bionic Commando gets a chance to be reborn. But before we take control of a grappling-hook-armed soldier in 3D, we'll all have a chance to relive the absolute perfection that was NES Bionic Commando - and in glorious HD.

Rearmed is a total remake of the NES version. The lifeless sprites and garish color palette have been replaced with smoothly animated models and a whole grip of visual effects. Guns flash, bullets spray to the ground, you can even see bumps on the painted walls. It's everything a classic gamer would want to see done to such a revered game. With so much attention paid to the visuals, however, is it possible that the original's sturdy gameplay has been compromised? Not a chance.

The soldier hero still can't jump due to the bionic arm's immense weight. Even though that sounds restrictive, it completely changes the simple act of moving from place to place. The arm is your only means of vertical transport, letting you ascend to higher platforms, swing across gaps and (best of all) save you from falling into a bottomless pit at the last second. There's a grand sense of momentum as you swing from point to point, forcing you to consider every five seconds "can I make that grab?" Shooting enemies is one thing, but most of the enjoyment comes from successfully navigating the area. Oh, it's hard, but it's damn rewarding. There's an overpowering sense of accomplishment when you finish a level without the ability to jump.

To further this self-empowering sensation, Rearmed comes bundled with a series of challenge mission that involve nothing but precise swinging. These trials take place in a virtual training ground with a wireframe soldier attempting to make it to the end as quickly as possible. Your time will be ranked worldwide, so fervent replaying of trials over and over in search of shortcuts will be a must.

The core game is about the same as the NES classic, though it does have a few new gameplay features. Two-player co-op is a brilliant addition, which smartly splits the screen if you stray too far from each other. A new co-op move has one player sliding the other past enemies so he can ambush 'em from behind. Helping each other like that is the key to beating the new bosses, as they'll have weak points that can only be damaged on one side at a time. Level one boss details on the next page.

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