2009 Reviews

Bionic Commando

  • Review Date: 2013-10
  • Release Date: 2009-05
  • Developer: GRIN
  • Rating: 8.5

What a shame. The developer of Bionic Commando, "Grin", finally got a game right, but it was too late for them.

Some people did like the Advanced Warfighter games. I gave them half an hour and deleted them. Tactical multiplayer shooter just isn't my thing. Terminator Salvation and Wanted: Weapons of Fate was their chance at big movie tie-ins, but although they both looked good, you can't make a great game that's over in 3-5 hours. It's bound to get bad reviews especially charging full price.

Then released the same year as both Wanted and Terminator (actually all within 3 months) comes Bionic Commando. But I guess they had already damaged their reputation for 2009 and nobody cared about their 1980s reboot of Nathan Spencer, the Bionic Commando. It ended up a commercial flop and Grin went bankrupt. Ouch. If there's any game I've played that I'd love to see a continued franchise for that never got one, it's this! Instead we go year after year getting Assassin's fucking Creed sequels and Call of Duty clones.

Bionic isn't without it's flaws, but sequels are good at ironing out issues. The games' biggest selling point is grappling. Fanboys all got massive erections over Assassin's Creeds ability to fluidly climb buildings. In Bionic it's one step further, or should I say grapple leap further. Most things can be grappled allowing you to swing huge distances, and once you get speed up it's great fun. You can also press jump while grappled to fling yourself upwards to quickly grapple-climb large distances.

Oh but that's not all, your grapple is blended well into gameplay. You can grapple objects or enemies and fling them into each other, you can grapple an opponent and perform a combo of jumping kicks on their chest. If you get the angles right you can do several of these without hitting the ground on multiple enemies. Fantastic. There's a few other types of attacks but I won't go into everything.

Of course you get weapons, but unfortunately only carry two at once which was a bit of a let-down. But if you really wanted to, you could play the entire game without firing a weapon and simply using your grapple attacks.

If I had to critique, it would be on enemies. In particular one kind of robotic foe where you can only do damage by hitting them in the back. I found it time consuming and tedious at times, especially when you're pitted against 2 or 3. It resorts to a game of patience, unless you try to grapple kick them. Which brings me to another problem, the grapple needed some kind of lock on feature for this. It does with the human enemies, but didn't seem to for the bigger enemies so constantly I'd charge in with my kick only to miss by a pixel.

So overall some different enemies would have gone down nicely.

The game does take some practise. I didn't really feel like I was mastering the game and all it's attack types until I'd nearly finished. In fact it wasn't even until 75% through the game that I even realised you could throw living opponents in to each other. So a second playthrough I would enjoy even more.

This brings us to the design of the game. While it is linear, Grin do a good job of limiting you to areas without it feeling enclosed, by using blue radiation in areas where you can't go. Which makes sense for the game because you play within a bombed, destroyed city. The Diesel engine isn't as polished and powerful as the Unreal engine, but it's not far off. The game does have some fantastic visuals and awe-inspiring moments, especially in the first half (the dark factory levels in the second half weren't so pretty). This most definitely feels like a massive destroyed city, and finally a game that allows you to properly move instead of restricting you to the speed of a snail so they can be lazy designers and not have to create as much.

I guess you either love or hate this game. Some people don't like the grappling. I loved it. It's unique and done well enough without too many control issues. Sometimes you may swear at having missed what you were trying to target, but most of the time it's the players own fault not the game. Certainly underated and the biggest disappointment with Bionic Commando is simply that it's over in eight hours with no sequels on the horizon.