Getting over the learning curve is hard, but accomplishable, and that's when the perfect experience erupts.
But Capcom remembered. After understanding the re-incarnating potential of the franchise, they charged a famous studio known as Grin to develop a full-scale sequel complete with all the advantages of next-generation games, like a more serious setting, top-notch presentation and a gameplay ready to innovate once again. But before the construction of such a colossus would be completed, a 3D side-scroller remake by the name of Bionic Commando: Rearmed was released as a smooth welcome to the epic revival. The sequel itself was revealed at times of early production, but already looked promising and managed to collect a formidable fanbase prior to it's release. Which was retained mostly after it, too.
Nathan Spencer is back, this time living a life free of heroics but filled with plenty of treachery and despair. After the Bionics were officially declared an unlucky experiment and thrown to jail, backroom politics started counting the last days of every single Commando. More and more of them were executed until the genocide of the Bionics became common, something of a trend. After going through a much unpleasant phase in his life, involving a divorce with his wife and confiscation of his bionic arm, Spencer is imprisoned and awaits the inevitable. When the day of execution comes, however, he is pulled out by his former ally and friend, Super Joe. Fans might remember him as the person Spencer saved at the end of the original.
The reason was as follows: a massive nuclear attack has been commenced upon Ascension City, and the likely suspects are a terrorist organization named Bioreign, a community of Bionics who refused to give up their mechanical limbs and go to prison. As a counter attack to their rebellious act, the government returns the arm to Spencer, with the condition that he'll help them stop the mayhem. No other profitable choice turns up, so Nathan is forced to go against his former teammates.
While retaining some amount of the original's atmosphere, the storyline is definitely modernized and darkened. Nothing is black and white anymore, and there are some notable difficulties with characters as some reunions occur and discoveries are made. Spencer became a ruthless, hot-headed anti-hero, dispatching enemies without a thought and crowning his brutal kills with high-pitched yells like "Nailed Ya!". Some former characters will be re-introduced, and the story will leave the impression of a definitely darker tone at the end. Nonetheless, the adventures of a double-crossed daredevil with a mechanical arm may still seem as a stupid explanation of the gameplay to most, while nostalgic fans will be pleased with a modern continuing of the classic story.
Speaking of which, the gameplay has been obviously re-worked from scratch. Bionic Commando was no easier to move to 3D than, for example, Mario, and considering the bionic arm mechanics may have been even harder. There was tons of re-thinking to be made, and while story-wise everything turned out more or less true to the original, everything else became a traditional next-gen re-incarnation of the old mechanics. Not exactly as great as it sounds, but the eerie uniqueness of the process is retained.
As any other third-person shooter, the core mechanics are basic: you move around, jump, hit, shoot, and do so with 2 different types weapons you carry(A pistol and a heavy weapon of your choice), or a few handy grenades. Primary goals are almost always the elimination of some poor living being or another, hacking information relays(Which, by the way, can be hacked ONLY by killing everyone in the immediate vicinity) and defeating climatic bosses. The straightforward gameplay makes the tasks easy enough to understand and accomplish. However, after rummaging through Ascension City's destroyed skyscrapers and finally finding his arm, Spencer makes a face with an unmistakable nonverbal message written across it: Now the fun begins.
Because the word "fun" includes the literal fun part only after you've at least half-nailed the bionic arm mechanic, which is a feat almost impossible to accomplish. See, it's wrong to associate the gameplay to any of the Spiderman games: There's no "auto-aiming" to the hook, you'll have to precisely catch the moment when your arm's crosshair(Did I mention you have separate crosshairs for the weapon and the arm? With the latter constantly jumping aside from the center to show you possible interactive objects?) crosses the pole, tree or a crumbled highway segment you need to attach to. And even if you manage to grab on and swing, you'll need to release the swing trigger in perfect timing to retain the momentum and reach the next grappling solution. It's a deep mechanic built on an unavoidable series of events known as trial and error.
It's as hard as it sounds, but after somehow getting used to the unusual transportation method the gameplay becomes fluid and easy. There's no place or even enemy you can't reach with your marvelous arm, and after doing so dispatch of him. Incorporating a Gears of War-styIed health bar and basic AI, even the mighty biomechs and polycraft aren't much of a problem if you happen to have a couple of grenades, or what's even better, a rocket launcher by your side. The boss battles are few but none of them have a similar structure, and there are some gameplay moments which leave you open-mouthed in amazement, like the pursuit of several Buraq helicopters, including Spencer hacking and controlling one of them, reaching the second, grappling to it, getting aboard and shooting off pursuing polycraft and the same time.
As a result, we get a crazy mix of straightforward platforming with quality TPS and impressive boss battles, all of them taking advantage of the bionic arm mechanic. These game ideas get full incarnation in the multiplayer as well, where multiple Commandos go head-to-head in classic modes, utilizing extreme platforming and using the arm however they can, even at picking up bonuses and "capturing" flags. At least a few uniquely fun matches are a guaranteed hit from Bionic Commando, but the stressing gameplay will eventually overshadow the element of fun needed from multiplayer. All in all, it can be said that a successful gameplay re-hash had been done, but the steep learning curve completely contradicts with the intuitive feel of the original. What can we do, sacrifices for the third dimension.
Fortunately the problems with difficulty can be forgotten for some minutes when you just stand and gaze at the detailed environments blooming with a rich art design and impressive visuals. After delivering somewhat decent graphics with Terminator: Salvation and Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Grin's Diesel Engine(NOT the MT Framework 2.0 from Capcom, which many people mistakenly associate game to) shines with pride as you literally stare at one of the most beautiful third-person games to date. The engine's trademark strengths, like amazing post-processing, depth of field and astounding HDR are multiplied in Bionic Commando, reinforced with a true tribute to Capcom's state-of-the art animations, both in cutscenes and during gameplay. The art direction is dripping with atmosphere of a true post-apocalypse: The destroyed city filled with ruined skyscrapers, bent tracks and crumbled highways simply calls for exploration(But restricts it as well, using radioactive fields and untraversable waters), while the Ascension City Park offers incredible forest environments, complete with some wide magnificent views of waterfalls and clearings.
However, the engine's weaknesses are noticeable, as well. Weak shadow maps, for instance, tend to look pixelated even on maximum settings. The porting quality, while featuring enhanced graphics, completely lacks any sort of motivation towards the mouse and keyboard layout, retaining the visual tips from an Xbox 360 version. But the LB/M support is present, and if anything makes playing a bit easier. Continuing the list is a somewhat weird issue: I'll start with a question. Do gunshot sounds differ from engine to engine? The answer is obvious, it depends on developers, what do engines have to do with that? But after remembering the two prior games released by the same developer on the same engine, they had an unnaturally dull sound from every weapon which ruined the atmosphere with monotone clattering. Unfortunately Bionic Commando inherited this strange flaw, and even a shotgun shoots will a boring thump that spoils the otherwise great TPS experience. So either the engine has some issues with audio importing, or the developers use the same library for gunshot sounds in their every game. Either way, it's a general minus.
Speaking of sounds, gunshots aside, the audio design is as great as the visual presentation. The music is a magnificent remix of the original score, and will really strike the right mood for nostalgic players. Actors sound and act believable, with Spencer worth a separate description: someone who sounds and feels as an absolutely negative person nobody would tend to like. Fortunately, that's exactly the type of characters gamers are attracted to. The secondary noises and the mainly unneeded personal chatter of the terrorists are a nice touch, and really underline the effort put in the game. The background sounds, especially in the forest levels, are masterfully recorded.
While describing the game is hard, it's even harder to state a final verdict. It is a worthy revival and a sequel 100 percent, but the drastic gameplay changes may push away old fans of the game. It will be equally as hard to play it for newcomers to the series as well, as the learning curve alone is enough to bore out even the most hardcore players. Suffice to say, the game is specifically crafted for old-school players who have successfully moved to the next-gen era, and are secretly wishing for their childhood games to get a worthy representation in the modern industry. Does this description sound familiar to yours? Then this is your game. And if it doesn't, don't waste your nerves.