Monday, June 1, 2009

Bionic Commando

In the 1988 classic, Radd, our hero was a a few square pixels wide. Now he’s back – in a sparkling 3D version of the swing-and-shoot action game.

Developer: Grin
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Price: Rs 3,499 for the Xbox and PS3 version
Rating: * * * * *

Nathan Radd Spencer, is pissed off. Why shouldn’t he be, our appendaged hero in the 1988 classic stopped the resurrection of the nefarious Master-D, a clone of Hitler, saving Ascension city. In return he got his bionic arm confiscated, and his bionic butt thrown into a cell because the public got scared of the whole bionic thing.

Fresh and rebooted from the 80’s into sparkling 3D in Bionic Commando, Nathan, sporting dreads and a bad ‘tude gets sprung out 10 years later by the enigmatic commando Super Joe. He’s been reincarnated in the wake of the Bionic Purge, when an electromagnetic device is detonated, leaving Ascension city in ruins. Capcom’s signature campy dialogue is not gripping, but charming and funny nonetheless.

The bulk of the game is built around Radd’s Bionic arm, equipped with a grappling hook, which he uses to swing around like Spiderman.

Being brutally honest here, you need time to get used to the game – it’s not easy by any yardstick. Even after playing the tutorial, the first 10 minutes will make you just give up or smash your controller. Once you get used to the swinging, the gameplay shines forth. As you play the game you ‘remember’ powers, which unlock different abilities, like ripping wreckage from the walls, or punching debris into enemies.

The gunplay is weak; while you do get an occasional big gun, most of the time you have nothing but your standard pistol. You must rely on grapple attacks, where you latch on to an enemy, reel him in, and dismantle with a satisfying kick.

Another frustrating annoyance is the sheer number of ways you can die. Even though it seems like an open ended world, any exploration beyond the usual boundaries results in death by radiation. Sometimes you wonder why you died. You die with a few bullets, you drown with the weight of the arm in flooded areas, you die when you touch fire, you die when you fall. Not only that, you probably have to restart at one of the very ill positioned checkpoints, which if you’re lucky, won’t have you re-watching the cut-scenes.

While all of this may seem monotonous, one must credit the developers for having lovingly crafted a brilliant looking post-apocalyptic wasteland. Bionic Commando gets better as you play on. Especially towards the end levels, is where everything ramps up to an epic ending. The boss battles are satisfying, one of the hallmarks of the game. They are refreshingly challenging, it takes lots of skill and strategy to bring them down.

Bottom line is, you either will love or hate this game. If you do decide to go in for this, you are in for a frustrating time at first with the controls.

Persevere, and you will be rewarded with a very satisfying experience.

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