by Videep Vijay Kumar
Bionic Commando is a remake of the 8-bit title of the same name which appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1988. In fact, it's a sequel, with the events taking place ten years after the events of the first game. You still play as the protagonist from the first game, Nathan 'Rad' Spencer, who is voiced by former Faith No More frontman, Mike Patton. Following his defeat of the Imperials (or Hitler and his Nazis in the Japanese version), Rad has been betrayed by his government, which sentences him to death. On the day of his execution, an experimental nuclear weapon is detonated by a terrorist group called BioReign in Ascension city, causing an earthquake which destroys the city, kills its populace and fills the air (some select places, at least) with radiation. The government is left with no choice now but to put Spencer on the job to rid Ascension city of the terrorist menace. The story is a perfect set-up for the game's swing-and-shoot style of gameplay, with the environment playing a crucial role.
Level design is one aspect in which the game excels. Well, at least in terms of aesthetic appeal and its conduciveness to the game's platforming. The 3D environments look nothing short of spectacular, with the ability to latch on and swing between virtually anything and everything in a level is an awesome feeling. You'll find yourself swinging in the ruins of Ascension City, an underground complex, docs and an oil rig. However, access isn't totally unlimited thanks to the presence of irradiated areas which will result in a quick death for Spencer. This isn't a good thing because the illusion of freedom to swing around in a level is exactly that: an illusion of freedom. It's particularly frustrating when you want to get the drop on a sniper in a particular level by scaling a really high building and the game tells you that you will die if you try to get an advantage. There are a bunch of other annoying swinging sections in the game: one in particular involved swinging over a 'flood' in Ascension City early on in the game. You see, Spencer can't swim. I mean, that's understandable considering the massive weight he carries in the form of his bionic arm. But it's upsetting to see how easy it is to drown in the game. On one particular occasion I drowned in water that was roughly one foot deep, with Spencer's head actually above the water! Even when he falls in deep water, there's no drowning animation of any sort – he just gets 'stuck' at a certain depth till his breath meter depletes, and then, well, death.
Locked and Loaded
The weapons in Bionic Commando are very generic. You've got your pistol-type one-shot weapon, a sniper rifle, a shotgun, a grenade launcher a few types of grenades. They're all okay, but aren't fun to use at all. The rocket launcher, on the other hand, is pretty cool. Called the 'Tarantula', you'll need to use it to take out aerial threats in the game by 'painting' them with the 'launcher. You can simultaneously take out multiple targets once you've painted them. Unfortunately, since the focus is more on the bionic arm than anything, ammo is very limited and you can carry just a couple of guns at one point of time. On the other hand, some of the arm powers are cool, with the ability to damage in multiple ways, including causing 'splash' damage from heights, throwing objects at enemies, 'latch' attacks and more. Again, there really isn't a variety in terms of enemy-types, other than a couple of boss monsters.
Bionic Commando can be entertaining at times, but a steep learning curve and the not-so-brilliant swing-and-shoot mechanics are sure to put a lot of people off. This game is hard to recommend at 3,499/-, particularly when there are much better games around at this point.