Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:31
Games - Games
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It’s one of those games again. Similar to Toshihiro Nagoshi’s other game I’ve played recently, Yakuza 4, Binary Domain opens with a lengthy install sequence. Unlike Yakuza 4, this install sequence however is embedded within the game’s narrative. Protagonist Dan Marshall is just sitting around, idly clicking away on his datapad while being on route to Japan. Admittedly, the player doesn’t know the character’s name yet. Not from the game itself anyway. But through the datapad we get a glimpse of what awaits us. Japan. Tokyo. A vertical city, slums on the downside, richer districts on the upside.
It takes the game quite a while to explain its backstory and lay out the worldbuilding. First the player gets introduced to Dan Marshall and Roy ‘Big Bo’ Boateng, two agents of the UN’s anti-robot task force. They’re both the standard shooting game characters, buff, gruff and very stereotypical. Due to Binary Domain’s ‘consequence system’, Bo will shoot one liners at Dan quite often, to which the player must then react with either approval or disapproval, earning ‘trust’ of the other character. It’s an interesting system that will eventually influence how willing your subordinates are to follow your ordering them into the line of fire.
The first hour of the game is basically one big tutorial and warm-up for the main course. The player gets to learn the ropes. Shooting, taking cover, using special attacks. What makes this interesting is that thematically the whole prelude / tutorial is embedded in Dan and Bo’s infiltration of Tokyo through the ‘Sea Wall’ a humongous typhoon shelter with integrated harbor and cargo hold facilities. It is also crawling with robots of all shapes and forms.
Those robots react quite unfriendly towards our two American heroes. Therefore they have to be shot. Which—luckily—is quite a fun thing to do in this game. While at first glance, Binary Domain appears like just another cover shooter in the Gears of War mold, it’s actually adding enough unique ingredients to the formula in order to not getting too close to Epic’s genre defining title. There’s the consequence system. There’s the money the player earns from shooting robots, even MORE money for shooting them in style. This money doubles as experience points, and can be used at upgrade booths around Tokyo to either buy ammo, weapons or upgrades for characters and guns.
Also, after the tutorial, the array of characters to take with you grows by another two, and that’s when the game starts clicking. Mixing and matching the party members becomes an issue from here on out.
After the first few bossfights—which are impressive and fun so far, and not something I say a lot about bossfights—things get thematically thrilling, as ‘the gang’ enters the seedy underground mall of Shibuya, the player is treated with another lengthy cutscene. The dichotomy between the player characters and the random Japanese people is striking. The culture clash represented by Binary Domain on so many levels sure is worthy of closer observation. The westerners look not only different by looking like Europeans or Americans (or African-Americans at that). They seem to spring from a distinctly western approach to game character design, whereas the normal people found on the streets of Binary Domain are rendered relatively realistically, adding another layer of otherness to the huge, gruff player characters.
Also, the underground mall introduces more of the main plot’s devices. The ‘Hollow Children’—Binary Domain’s own Replicants that don’t know what they are. This might be an old trope, but that hardly matters, since this particular trope hasn’t seen usage in games for quite awhile now. Also Binary Domain handles it very well.
So far, the game appears to be really good. The minute-to-minute gameplay is fun. Shooting robots is actually refreshing and I’m glad that I’m not gunning down humans for once. The robo-gore is something to behold, outer shells being stripped away by bullets, revealing the glowing inner workings. Robots can be decapitated and dismembered, taken apart piece by piece, thereby scattering a wild array of shredded metal and plastic into the surroundings. The characters might be a bit stereotypical, but overall they are well rounded. Binary Domain is a game that’s self aware enough of being mostly a big action game. For that, the characters work tremendously well. The interaction system is a bit clumsy, though the idea is interesting.
My biggest gripe so far is the companion AI constantly crossing my line of fire, followed by complaints that they get shot by me.
All things considered though, Binary Domain is the most enjoyable game I’ve played from this year.
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It’s one of those games again. Similar to Toshihiro Nagoshi’s other game I’ve played recently, Yakuza 4, Binary Domain opens with a lengthy install sequence. Unlike Yakuza 4,...
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