More Than Just Ones and Zeroes?
I’m tired of shooting terrorists. It seems that as gaming technology becomes more complex, the ideas behind the games become less original. This is evident in a franchise like Call of Duty. As the games become more refined, the stories and concepts are left feeling stagnant. Binary Domain feels fresh. There are no terrorists, no aliens, and no supernatural creatures. There are simply robots. Lots of robots.
Binary Domain is a third person action game blending together some great ideas and style from a couple other games. The actual cover-based shooting mechanics feel very much like Gears of War, whereas the cut-scenes evoke a very Metal Gear Solid flair. The experience reminded me of when I was much younger, playing games like Super Mario Bros. or Castlevania for their fun factor, rather than graphical prowess or a fascinating story.
Thankfully, Binary Domain has a great story to back up its “fun factor”. The game takes place in Tokyo in the year 2080, where several seemingly-normal people have been revealed to be “hollow children”, robots that look and act like humans, and more frighteningly, are not even aware they aren’t human. The player takes on the role of Dan Marshal, a member of an elite international team of robot hunters called a “rust crew”. The team has been called in to find and detain the president of the Japanese Amada Corporation, as it appears that the “hollow children” have been created there.
The story had some great twists and turns that I genuinely did not see coming which is great for an action game. The characters all felt like real people, with their own quirks and stories, and the interplay between them was excellent, which leads to a discussion of the trust system. The trust system is based on how you treat your teammates, whether it be in what you say or whether you shoot them accidentally (or on purpose). As the trust level of one of your allies rises, that character will be more likely to follow your commands in battle. The game features a unique take on strategy as the player can actually use their microphone to tell their squad-mates what to do in-game. Speaking to the characters is also useful in building trust, as occasionally the player is asked a question by one of his or her allies. If the player does not want to talk awkwardly to their television, they are free to input generic commands using the L2 button.
The speech recognition is an innovative idea, but ultimately felt somewhat underwhelming. I mostly stuck to using the in-game commands, and unfortunately your responses are not voiced over. This led to a bit of a strange disconnect from the game, which was too bad because I really liked all of the characters and their voice actors.
It is important to note that Binary Domain mixes seriousness with a B-movie feel. The characters make little jokes and say some cheesy lines throughout the story. I welcomed the quips but I could see some players being turned off by them.
The game looks great. The characters are all nice to look at, and the lip synching seemed well done for the most part. I was really surprised by the diversity of enemy types, from small spider-bots to gigantic bosses. As you shoot at the robots, bits of armor blow off and scatter around the environment and it really helps turn up the chaos. I never thought shooting robots would be so exciting, but as you blast off limbs, the enemies react accordingly, sometimes crawling at you to grab at your legs, and the game rewards you for headshots – the robots turn on each other, allowing for some strategy in which robots you attack first.
Unfortunately there are a couple areas in the game that could have used some refinement. The AI of the player’s team for the most part is great, but occasionally my squad-mates would walk directly into my line of fire, and then have the tenacity to complain to me about it. This happened only occasionally as I tried to avoid friendly fire so as not to drop my teammates’ trust levels. Another sore moment for me was a section of the game in which the player uses jet-skis. The control for these devices was really odd, using R2 to accelerate and R1 to reverse. The actual jet-ski had awful maneuvering abilities and I ended up playing through that part a couple times due to dying. With some little tweaks to these sections of the game, it could have easily been close to a perfect experience
On the whole, the game was a great time – I could not put the controller down. The most disappointing part of the entire game for me was that it had to end. It took roughly 9 or 10 hours on normal difficulty, and with tons of collectibles and upgradeable weapons, it is worth another go. I can’t recommend Binary Domain enough to any sci-fi or action game fan. I sincerely hope we see a Binary Domain 2 at some point in the future, because this is a franchise worth coming back to. If you have any interest in the game, I would say go out and grab it, it’s a fantastic ride.