Bionic Commando Updated Hands-On

Capcom's next action game is nearly ready to swing into action, and we've got a quick look at the latest build.


Bionic Commando

It has been approximately a year and a half since Capcom announced the rebirth of the Bionic Commando franchise, and we've seen the game many times during that time. Today, with merely a month left before Nathan Spencer takes to the skies of the ruined Ascension City with his trusty bionic arm, Capcom reps gave us a final look at the game. Better yet, they dropped off builds of the game, which means we've been spending most of the day trying to see as much as we can of this highly anticipated game. Between the Capcom demo and our own time with the game, we've seen a good deal of new content and have learned more about the narrative that drives the action.

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In terms of story, you'll play as Nathan Spencer, a former bionic commando who has been relieved of his duty as well as his awesome bionic left arm. In the opening scenes, you learn that a terrorist group has detonated a nuclear bomb in Ascension City, killing thousands, if not millions, in the process. Spencer is recruited by Super Joe to take down the terrorists. In return, Joe promises to reveal the fate of Spencer's special lady friend. The idea of reconciling with his lady--and his bionic arm--is too much for Spencer to resist, and it isn't long before you're plunged headlong into the action.

Your first mission in the game will be to locate your bionic arm after you are deployed in the field. Essentially, this first mission is a essentially teaches you the basics of firing your weapon. You start off with a measly pistol, but as the game progresses, you'll get access to better weapons. You fire weapons with the right trigger and can precisely aim by pressing the R3 button. As you make your way through the office building you start out in, you'll find collectible items strewn throughout the building, as well as an occasional challenge that pops up onscreen. Challenges can be simple, such as swinging with your bionic arm after acquiring it, or more challenging, such as killing a certain number of enemies or using a specific type of attack to kill bad guys, and some of the challenges are tied to Xbox 360 achievements and PS3 trophies.

After you find your arm, you're taken to the revamped tutorial in the game. Unlike the tutorial on hand at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show or CES earlier this year, the updated tutorial is a bit more context sensitive. It still shows you the basics of using your bionic appendage, such as using the left trigger to extend your arm and/or release from objects, but the tutorial also challenges you to figure out solutions to easy puzzles early on, putting the techniques you learn to practical use. For instance, in one area, you're required to take down three dummies with the jump attack (by attaching your arm and then jumping at foes). After completing this, you can hack into a relay object nearby and learn some more advanced techniques you'll use later in the game, such as "death from above," which has you rapidly pressing the Y button when falling from great heights to create a devastating shock wave when you land. Curiously, practicing these techniques in the tutorial won't give you immediate access to them in the game; you'll have to wait for specific moments in the narrative for Nathan to "remember" special techniques.

We've seen much of the first act of Bionic Commando in our previous looks at the game, including a stretch where Nathan is required to hack into relays to deactivate deadly mines hanging in midair so he can proceed to new objectives. Beyond that, however, we were able to check out some biomech enemies. These minibosses come in several varieties--the ones we fought in the first act had huge shields that made them impervious to frontal assaults. Taking them down, then, was a matter of flanking them to the left or right, getting behind them, and then attacking the weak spot on their back. As producers pointed out, you'll encounter other types of biomechs throughout the game. There will also be human enemies to tussle with, including copious numbers of snipers strewn throughout some levels. With all of those laser sites pointed at your head, it's one more reason to keep Nathan Spencer swinging through the levels as quickly as possible.

Like any action game worth its salt, Bionic Commando will also have proper boss battles. We saw one fight with a huge metallic snakelike creature known as the Mohole. This elongated monstrosity burrowed underneath the ground before emerging and towering over Spencer. To take him down, Spencer had to use whatever weapons were around him--mostly abandoned cars in this case--and pick them up and hurl them at the Mohole's "mouth." In addition, there are periodic weapon drops would appear which Nathan could use to blast away at the boss. We didn't get to see the boss battle in its entirety, but its scope and ferocity made an impression.

Snipers look to make Nathan Spencer's day a short one.
Snipers look to make Nathan Spencer's day a short one.

In addition to tweaking the tutorial, the developers at Grin have been spending some time tweaking the controls, which, ever since the game's debut, have been a source of contention for most. Based on our time with the game, compared to our past experience, the basics of swinging and jumping seem to be improved and the actions are easier to pull off. Wrong moves can still result in disaster for Spencer, but the controls are slightly more forgiving with the release point during your swing, and the game subtly automates how Spencer scales certain bits of scaffolding and buildings, so it feels like the game wants you to succeed, which is something we couldn't always say about previous iterations. In a game that relies so heavily on astonishing midair acrobatics, making those stunts attractive and relatively easy to pull off is a good thing. In addition, Capcom has made additional nods to the hardcore crowd by giving them an upgraded "commando" difficulty level and adding in the ability to replay completed levels so you can go back and work on your style. Look for more on Bionic Commando, including a look at the game's multiplayer modes, in the coming weeks.

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