Bionic Commando - hands-on

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It's impossible to watch the robot-armed Nathan Spencer swing from crippled building to dangling highway overpass without immediately comparing his journey to Spider-Man's acrobatic stylings. Problem is, that's not a fair comparison; Spidey's all grace, agile and swift as he cartwheels between buildings without a care, whereas Nathan's bionic appendage weighs him down considerably, making each moment you spend at the apex of a swing both liberating and frightening. Will you make this jump? Will the fanged wire reach its destination and latch on to something? Or will you totally miss and plummet down in one of the many bottomless pits or raging rivers that dot the landscape?

Heavy considerations - perhaps too heavy for a game revolving around a man with a 900-pound arm/grappling hook. There are a lot of eyes on this NES classic brought back to life (more even than on the deliciously nostalgicRearmed (opens in new tab)), so we went into this hands-on hoping for, at the very least, a swinging mechanic that didn't totally blow. Imagine our glee when it not only let us jump (something not in the original), but also conveyed a great sense of speed, heft and power with each swing.

The first area was a shattered city, complete with collapsing skyscraper that kicked up a wall of dust that billowed down the street. Looking around, you'll always have an icon that tells you where the arm will fire; if the destination is radioactive, the arm won't grab and you'll fall. It's usually a short trip though, at least with this first area, as our first few attempts to swing from girder to girder resulted in ungraceful freefalls. After a few more attempts we learned the nuances between a speedy swing that moves you forward and a lurching swing that hurls you higher instead of farther.

Moving through the broken city revealed something else - there's usually going to be at least two ways to get around the level. If you know your swinging, you can zip through, take out the baddies and be on your way. If you suck, or just want to meet all the enemies head on, you can do that too. Dispatching gun-toting fools might be fun enough you'll actually want to face them rather than avoid - we're already fans of the zip-kick, a move where you latch on to them from the air and reel in feet-first for a chest-crushing kick. Later on you can swing them around like dolls and even toss cars at their unsuspecting backs. Guns range from pistols to multi-targeting rocket launchers that drop from the sky. Honestly we're not sold on the gunplay just yet. It doesn't seem as unique and polished as the swinging, which is why we're all here in the first place.

Before we left the first area there was a quick bit inside a teetering building tha caught our eyes. First you yank a vehicle that's mashed into the side of the building(remembering to let it go or it'll pull you down), then swing inside and fight through a 45-degree angle set of rooms and hallways. We were hoping the whole thing would come crashing down, forcing some kind of zipline quick escape, but it never came. Damn.

Up next was a flooded area that played up the combat. First we had to swing across a waterlogged area that, if fallen into, didn't result in instant death but would drown Nathan if you can't zip out fast enough. A few zip kicks and pistol-whips later we were confronted by a hovering robot that could seemingly only be taken down by using a rocket launcher to weaken it, then zip kick it into a wall. Swan diving off buildings, evading missiles and swinging low over the water, brushing the top with your feet all had us itching for more, but our time was cut short after the next area, a lush forest that almost seemed designed just to prove next-gen games don't have to be all about brown, brown, brown.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.