BIONIC COMMANDO (2009) / Capcom / PC

Developer Grin and Capcom decided to confuse everyone by releasing this self-titled game a year after reviving the series with Bionic Commando: Re-Armed. So, here's the breakdown: Re-Armed is the 2D side-scrolling remake, which was followed by a similar 2D sequel. This game, titled just plain "Bionic Commando", is a development fork that attempts to take the franchise into 3D with an FPS-like format.

Also, while the Re-Armed games attempted to intentionally reproduce some of the unintentional cheese and campiness that made the original NES game so beloved, this entry has a much more grimdark and serious tone. It time-jumps forward five years after the Re-Armed games, during which time our hero Rad "Ladd" "Nate" Spencer has apparently been in prison growing dirty backpacker dreadlocks. He's sprung by Super Joe in a Rambo II-like situation where they need his unique set of skills for a special high-risk mission behind enemy lines. The enemy being some dickholes called the BioReign, one of those implausibly large and well-funded groups of terrorists that have managed to nuke a major North American city and set up shop in the irradiated ruins for some unknown reason. The action takes place as we go deeper and deeper into the nuked city, that and the switch to a FPS style making it feel oddly like Spec Ops: The Line.

Anyway, this is one of those games where the mandatory training near the beginning is actually the most frustrating part of the game. It had me cussing out the grappling mechanics right from the jump, but as you'll find out later the training area is way fussier than the actual game environments.

Once out in the game world the grappling is actually handled pretty well on the whole. The game does pull a mean trick on you at the beginning, having you free-dive into what initially looks like an open-world city where you'll surely be using cool stealth techniques and elaborate swing attacks a la Batman: Arkham City or a Tenchu game. Nope, that's not what it is. It's a linear corridor FPS basically, with the corridors walled off by "radioactive areas" that kill you nearly instantly if you blunder into them.

And while the grappling and swinging is handled pretty well, a lot of the rest of it isn't. First of all, you're not sneaking up on anyone. The guards all have amazing vision and aim, sniping you with even the crappiest weapons continually so long as they can see you. You do get Soliton Radar to keep track of them, but it doesn't show changes in elevation in any way so it's more like a vague idea of where they are.

You also are not allowed to save anywhere. It uses an old-school checkpoint system, and those checkpoints are often way too far apart considering segments require you to swing over a ton of instant death falls (and often with snipers and other range enemies relentlessly pecking at you the whole time to boot). And I don't even want to hear "BUT IT'S LIKE THE NES GAME WHEN GAMES WERE HARD!" The NES game was made in the 80s when no one had any real idea what the hell they were doing. It's just outmoded, needlessly frustrating design and it's doubly bad in a 3D environment where you have to deal with load times and physics jank with every new attempt. Oh, and if you die you lose all the collectible items and weapons you picked up since the start of the last checkpoint. Getting to some of the optional collectibles is a real B, so this game will probably drive obsessive-compulsives completely insane.

Boss battles are also a real mixed bag. The first one, against a pair of "Shield Biomechs", illustrates the bad half. You're thrown against these heavily armored things with nasty weapons. They have a fairly obvious glowing red vent on their back that you have to hit, but only your most powerful gun does actual damage and you probably will enter the battle with like two or three shots and no way to get more. So the only option is to do the unintuitive and kinda janky "zip kick" attack, which I don't even remember the game explaining at any time and makes no sense to attempt on some giant armored shell. But repetitively pounding the ground to stun them then chipping away with one zip kick during a small vulnerability window (like the dumbest Zelda boss battle ever) turns out to be the way you have to do it. There are some good boss battles here and there, like when you have to swing through a gutted building grabbing rocket launcher rounds to fend off a circling attack helicopter. But the "arena" boss battles where you're just dumped into some room with limited swinging possibilities are almost uniformly tedious and awful.

This is so close to being really good, but some bonehead design decisions (some of which may have simply been due to budget pressures) relegate it to the realm of just the okay rather than the great. Word is that multiplayer (for up to five people) is actually much better, but you'll probably need to coordinate with some friends as this was a 2009 release and it could be a challenge finding online randos at this point.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video