Binary Domain is a third-person action game by Sega, released in 2012, for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows - and it happens to be one of my favorite games of that year. One of the games' two lead designers is a certain Toshihiro Nagoshi, of Yakuza fame. While these games aren't similar, there are sequences of Binary Domain that do play homage to the Yakuza series.
The game is a cyberpunk affair that wears its inspiration on its sleeve. The story revolves around a group of specialist soldiers called a “Rust crew”(specializing in the destruction and removal of dangerous robots) who must infiltrate a closed-off Japan in order to figure out whats up with these new robots that have been sighted called “Hollow children”. This new breed of robot talks, acts and even believes that they are human.
By just skimming over my simplified synopsis of the story, one can find traces of Blade Runner and small parts of Ghost in the shell. In fact, the game loves cyberpunk so much that it is hard to call this thematic borrowing lazy story-writing and instead extreme admiration.
But enough introductions, let's break it down, shall we?
The game is a third-person shooter very similar to Gears of war. You take cover, shoot from cover, there is even a roadie-run. It's basic movement and controls are functional, but not very exciting. What does make the game exciting is the enemy design. You fight against different types of robots, and they're all destructible. Shoot of a leg and the robot falls over and starts crawling toward you, shoot off an arm and the robot drops its gun, shoot of the head and the robots targeting-system goes haywire. This dynamic deformation of the robots makes every fight interesting, and you're given a lot of options on how to deal with any given situation.
The boss-fights are well done and over-the-top. You fight giant war-machines that come in different varieties such as “Huge ass robot”, “Huge ass flying robot” and “Scary gorilla-looking robot”. While the boss-fights are less interesting than the fights against regular mooks, they make it up by being appropriately spectacular.
There is a voice-command system in the game where, in theory, you should be able to issue orders to your team-mates via mic. I've never been able to get it to work properly, both the voice-recognition software and the mics I've been using have been pretty garbage. But the game let's you issue basic commands via a menu that works. This system links in with the “loyalty-system” in the game. See, the more time you spend with your team-mates, the more you agree with them on specific topics and the more orders you issue, the more their loyalty towards you grows. This, again, is a pretty weak feature since it's SUPPOSED to give your squad certain benefits. However, in my repeated playthroughs I haven't noticed a big difference between high and low loyalty. They seem to take orders pretty randomly as is. It does however change the story somewhat.
The game let's you carry three weapons and a set of grenades, and there is an upgrade-system in the game that let's you improve your weapons and the stats of both you and your team-mates. The weapon improvement is kind of bewildering, since it's half broken. See, you have ONE main gun you carry throughout the game, the second slot is for backup weapons and the third is for side-arms. The problem here is that the second and third slot reset between levels and the stores where your change weapons have chapter-specific inventory. That means that if you spend a lot of time upgrading the shotgun on chapter one, you might not see that weapon again until chapter 4. I say half-broken, since if you spend all your currency upgrading your main weapon, you will have a problem solving beast in your hand by the mid to late game. The reason your main weapon is special is because it has an under-slung energy-launcher attached to it, and it alone. This is your panic-button, it's the “oh shit!”-device. Whenever you need an extra kick in a fight, you can fire it off and clear a room with ease.
The stat-improvement on the characters are very basic and gives you “X% damage” or “X% extra health”. There is truly only ONE really important stat-improvement that you need to pay attention to, and that is the one giving you and your team-mates more room for med-packs.
Well, I think this does it for part one. Why don't you join me for part two where I will be talking about the surprisingly solid story and the wonderfully weird characters. I will warn you now though, part two will contain MASSIVE, CATASTROPHIC, PLOT-RUINING SPOILERS!
You have been notified!