E3 2011: Binary Domain Preview

The creators of the Yakuza series take us to a Japan of the future and a war with the robots.


The setting is heavily militarized Japan in the year 2080. Society has come to depend on robots, but countries capable of constructing them signed a treaty: No one would build a robot that looked exactly like a human. Well, as these things go, there's an incident, and it's discovered that a humanlike robot was involved. All hell breaks loose, and the world's superpowers suspect Japan is the culprit. A special international squad of soldiers goes in to infiltrate Japan and dismantle its vast robotic arsenal. This is the backdrop for Sega's new third-person, squad-based shooter Binary Domain, and it's an interesting one that we hope gets explored in more detail when the final game arrives.

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But what makes Binary Domain stand out from the vast number of other shooters at this year's E3, at least from a gameplay standpoint, is the system of trust incorporated into the gameplay. The squad leader (which you play as) is able to gain and lose trust with the other soldiers in his squad. You can lose trust by not following commands from squadmates, inadvertently shooting them, or by asking them to perform actions that put them in harm's way (voice-enabled commands can be issued via a headset, and Sega said it's planning to support the mic in the Kinect sensor). Conversely, you can earn trust by following commands and just being a good soldier that does his job and keeps his buddies out of trouble. If you maintain a high level of trust, then your squadmates will obey orders and generally help you get out of a jam, like if you're gunned down and ask for a soldier to come heal you. If you don't have much trust, there's a good chance your squad will ignore your cries for help.

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In addition to the trust system, Binary Domain features an upgrade system where the individual members of your squad can earn what are essentially perks. You can adjust and select these perks based on how you want your squad to perform, and while we didn't get any sort of full rundown of perks available, we were told to expect at least the usual health upgrades and things of that nature. It's also worth mentioning that when you defeat enemy robots in Binary Domain, you then earn credits that can be spent on new weapons and upgrades. Fortunately, stores are scattered throughout each level, so it seems that there will be ample opportunity to bulk up.

But Japan's army of robots isn't easily defeated. Along with the usual giant mech spiders (one of which functions as a level boss), the ground soldiers are capable of taking some pretty heavy-duty damage. If you shoot off their gun-holding arm, they'll simply pick the weapon back up with their other hand. If you shoot out their legs, the robots will crawl on the ground. Even if you get a clean headshot, an enemy robot can still function and will proceed to either fire at you or his fellow robots. You can also issue commands to your squadmates and have them attack specific targets while you take cover behind some scenery and give your health a chance to regenerate.

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Binary Domain is currently scheduled for release in February 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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