Capcom has been on something of a hot streak of late. Kicking off the year with Street Fighter IV was a great start, but one short month later, the Japanese publisher added to that success with Resident Evil 5. Its third major release of the year is Bionic Commando, a reimagining of its classic 2D arcade game into a 3D world. With the game entering its final stages of development, we got to play through a good chunk of the nearly finished code to see how it's shaping up.
The new Bionic Commando comes from Swedish development house GRIN, who just released Wanted: Weapons of Fate. The developers have essentially taken the grapple-hook mechanic of the original game and transferred it to 3D, allowing you to swing like Spider-Man from nearly any object in the game. Not only that, but you can use it to pull enemies towards you for executions, as well as to pick up huge objects, such as cars.
The game is set in an unspecified future, where the government has started to enhance human soldiers with bionic upgrades. The results are amazing, and the cybernetic soldiers help win wars and put an end to human battle. With the conflict over, the people soon turn against their saviours, and you join the story as Spencer, a Bionic Commando who has been locked up for five long years. There has been a terrorist attack on Ascension City, and the world once again needs to call on its cybernetic hero to save the world.
As you should be able to tell, Bionic Commando doesn't place much of an emphasis on story. The story just serves to place you in the middle of a postapocalyptic open-world setting, and it does this in admirable style, with an intro that sees you placed inside a missile and fired into the city from a jet fighter. Missing your cybernetic arm, you spend the first level running around with only one hand, before you soon manage to find your claw.
From here, it's a simple task of familiarising yourself with the claw functions in the training levels. It's actually quite difficult to get used to swinging at first, mostly because you need to time it precisely to maintain momentum, all while aiming at your next grapple point. If you time these aspects correctly, you can traverse huge distances with grace, while the main character's iron boots let you absorb the impact of falls.
Whereas the swinging mechanics work really well, the combat elements are less successful. The standard pistol can kill most foot soldiers with a few shots, and you don't need to be accurate to register a hit. You can also use the grapple hook as a weapon, dragging enemies to you or pressing the A button to jump on them. This is particularly useful with the larger mechlike enemies, who have a big yellow button that you can jump on to kill them, and if you're good enough, you can use your momentum to link jumping combos like some acrobatic killing machine.
We were also slightly disappointed by the restrictions of this open world. You're nearly always boxed in by radiation and water, both of which are deadly despite your mechanical upgrades. Huge blue walls indicate the radiated areas you can't enter, but water is even more deadly, requiring you to haul yourself out of it lest you electrocute yourself. As you progress, the flooded areas become even more expansive, and it's easy to die if you miss a jump.
One of the best weapons we got to play with was the rocket launcher, which allows you to target and then destroy multiple targets. This is pretty much essential for destroying airborne targets, and because there's no cover system, you need to keep moving or putting cover between you and your enemies. We also liked the nods to the original game, such as the sprite-based collectibles and the GRIN logo featured on the planes.
The finished game will be out on May 29 in Europe, and you can be sure we'll be putting the game through its full paces just ahead of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.