TOKYO--Let's face it: You don't become Nathan Spencer overnight. Even the bona fide bionic-armed badass who serves as the central character of Capcom's upcoming Bionic Commando had to start somewhere, and so will you in the game. One of our first stops this morning on the show floor of the 2008 Tokyo Game Show was the Capcom booth, where we got a brief chance to check out the new Bionic Commando build, specifically the new tutorial that will help you get the most out of Nathan's awesome appendage.
The tutorial starts off with the most basic action you'll need to master in BC: the arm swing. When Nathan approaches a ledge, you extend his bionic arm by pressing the left trigger (or the L2 button on the PlayStation 3). Once his arm latches on, you can keep hold of the ledge by holding down the trigger; by letting go at the right moment, you can swing through to the next ledge. The timing on this is tricky at first, and you'll be thankful for the tutorial's quick reset, but soon enough you'll have figured out the timing for the basic arm swing.
After you master the basics, you'll have to clear a few progressively more difficult training rooms (one where you need to swing across multiple overhangs) and a final challenge that will require you to make your way up and across a series of ledges and overhangs, with the ultimate goal being a ledge high above you near the ceiling of the room. While it's likely possible to make it from point A to point B in one elegant, never-ending series of leaps and swings, we couldn't manage it. Instead, we had to start over several times after plunging to our virtual deaths. The tutorial has a smart little feature in this regard; if you make it to one of the multiple levels in the room, you will restart at that ledge if you fall.
Once we managed to get to the next room, the rest of the tutorial had us focusing on shooting, as well as some cool tricks you can do with Nathan's bionic arm, such as grabbing an enemy and then viciously drop-kicking him.
Of course, a tutorial will take you only so far in Bionic Commando. Sooner or later, you're going to have to head out into the big bad world of BC and put those skills to use. Though our demo time on the TGS show floor was limited, we did get a chance to try out a nontutorial level. Here, Nathan started out on a ledge overlooking a cityscape that looked to be booby-trapped with what appeared to be huge floating bombs. We didn't have enough time to investigate much of the city before one of the eminently polite Capcom floor assistants declared that our demo time was over and ushered us out the door. We plan on continuing the adventure tomorrow and will report back with a more extensive report on the level.
[UPDATE] Yesterday, we had a chance to get an extended look at the full level available to us in the Bionic Command do demo and we wanted to update you on what we saw. The bottom line: the moves you learn in the aforementioned tutorial will serve you well once you swing into the big bad world of Bionic Commando.
As we mentioned previously, the city section that comprises this level has been booby-trapped with tons of mines that are floating in mid-air. As we found out during our time with the game, trying to swing on a floating mine will set it to explode, which isn't good for Nathan's health. Your only chance, then, is to find a number of beacons strewn throughout the level that once hacked, will deactivate the mines in the immediate vicinity.
Small on-screen icons show you the general direction in which you need to head and our first objective was a beacon located below Nathan, who started off the level on a ledge overlooking an expanse of ruined cityscape. Right away, we could interact with some of the objects around us--including a car that Nathan could grab with his bionic arm and toss into the air (later, a developer from the GRIN team showed us how, with a quick press of the Y, X, and A buttons we could grab a car, toss it into the air, and then bash it like a volleyball, effectively using it as a huge projectile weapon).
While it seems like Nathan will be able to move from point A to point B on the ground in the game, the better way--and the way that's far more fun--was to swing from whatever perch we could grab to the next. Having completed the tutorial, it was easier to get into the… pardon us… swing of things, moving from one ledge or overhang to the next. Paying attention to your aim icon is everything--the game will let you know when you can reach another object with your bionic arm, and will even give you a brief on-screen clue when you should let go in order to get the most distance out of your swing.
After a brief trek, we found the enemies that surrounded the first beacon, dispatched them quickly with a mixture of automatic weapon fire, a grenade or two, and a special bionic arm/drop kick attack, which you pull off first by grabbing your enemy and then pressing the A button twice in quick succession. With the enemies dispatched, it was time to hack the beacon by grabbing with the arm and pressing the B button.
With the first beacon deactivated, it was time to make our way across the city to the next objective--yet another beacon. We suppose mines suspended in mid-air is a good enough excuse to get players to use the swinging mechanics early and often in BC and, we have to admit, that once you get the timing down, successfully nailing an uninterrupted string of elegant swings is immensely satisfying. It helps to that the game--and more specifically, the level design--provides you with at least the illusion that you're choosing your own direction when you make your way across the city. Of course, those super-sharp visuals of a ruined urban landscape doesn't hurt either.
So the news on this latest preview level of BC is mostly good. If there's a flipside to this, it's that we spent more time trying to figure out the path from one point to the next than we did actually kicking enemy butt. In fact, the number of enemies seemed a bit on the paltry side, which might be a function of the preview build, or might actually be what the final game will play like; we'll have to wait and see. Nonetheless, we're still very excited about what we've seen of the game here at TGS and look forward to bringing you more on the game in the coming months.