If you are tired of Gears of War clones and mediocre/bad third person shooter mechanics then Binary Domain may be for you. Binary Domain manages to stand out in a genre saturated with mediocracy, bad controls and underdeveloped stories. It may follow the generic third person shooter core gameplay but it brings a fresh story and setting along with some new mechanics that have rarely been explored in the genre as well as manages to smooth out some of the core gameplay mechanics.
Binary Domain takes place inTokyoin the year 2080. The Amada Corporation which is one of the industry leaders in robotics technology has begun producing humanoid robots that are nearly indistinguishable from humans. These robots who actually believe they are humans are gradually making their way into the human population and even raising to high ranks within society and governments. It’s up to you, Sergeant Dan Marshall, and an interchangeable squad of multinational mercenaries called the “Rust Crew” to infiltrate Amada and put a stop to the android production before the robots penetrate human society any further.
The story is actually rather powerful and well done compared to many other games in the genre. It brings up ethical quandaries about these “Hollow Children” who seem to live like normal human beings, as opposed to the plethora of robots of all sizes that you will be facing along the way to your goal. The game also does a fantastic job of character progression and team morality which come in the form of AI trust and speech-recognition system. These 2 systems are interesting ideas but neither one of them works as well as one would hope. However, it still manages to be a rather exciting part of the game.
Through the trust system, your squadmates’ opinions of you change depending on a variety of factors and actions. The better you perform in combat the more impressed your squadmates will be. Likewise, playing up to their personalities in dialogue-heavy sequences is another way to get on their good sides. But beware if you hit one of them with a stray shot or send them into harm’s way unnecessarily, they may start to distrust you.
Trust determines how useful your squadmates are, the more they trust you the more accurate and useful each one will be in combat. Having this trust high will make many encounters easier but if they do not trust you they will become very insubordinate and whiny.
With the trust system, comes the speech-recognition system which works for the most part. This system can be used at just about anytime to command your squadmates to perform some kind of action but that is not the only use for it. Throughout the game (even during combat) your squad will want to talk with you and get your permission or your thoughts, which will impact their trust. This system adds a whole new experience but only when you get the hang of it. I was excited to play with this system with upwards of 70 phrases to say, but I quickly realized that it rarely accepted what I said or it just did the opposite. In the heat of battle it was hard for me to be calm and say my words clear and slow, but eventually I got used to it and it turned out to be a very fun system that really improved my experience of the game. I had a lot of fun trying out random phrases to see what my squad said and I must say this brought about some pretty funny dialogue.
Binary Domain’s core gameplay mechanics will be instantly familiar for anyone who’s played a cover-based shooter before. The shooting, blind-fireing, cover system, and standard gun arsenal feeling smooth and solid which creates an excellent combat experience. Aside from the combat mechanics they add in a gun upgrade option that allows you to upgrade various aspects of your and your squadmates guns. Another mechanic is the ability to add a nano-enhancement which lets you try to maximize attribute boosts by arranging upgrade pieces of varying sizes on a small grid.
The real fun comes from shooting the waves of robots that come at you. The rank and file humanoid robots that stand between you and your goal can be dismantled in a variety of interesting ways. Take out their legs, and they will come at you by clawing their way toward you in a creepy dragging animation. A few shots to an arm, and you can blast it off, nearly eliminating a bot’s threat but they will pick up their gun and continue to fire. The most satisfying method is to shot off their heads and have them become confused which will cause them to attack other robots. This is all thanks to the precise gunplay, which doesn’t over rely on auto-aim and can be turned off for added difficulty. These encounters with robots really make you feel like you are doing damage because off all the shrapmetal and limbs that will be coming off the robots that you are shooting. You will get to see the damage you inflict on enemies and can even have some fun with it.
Bosses take on familiar animal and act somewhat accordingly when pissed, but their attacks (and the tactics you’ll need to use to take them down) feel fresh and are not overused from boss fight to boss fight. You’ll have to do more than blast at the glowing spots and dodge attacks to take down these foes. These foes take planning to kill as well as the right arsenal. Expect to do some crazy things to take down these foes, but it is all well worth it once they go down and you can finally breathe again.
The game is constant action with dialogue mixed in. You will constantly be in a fire fight, running from giant mechs, riding jet skis, taking control of robots and even have a sexual “encounter” within the story. The devs managed to pack a whole lot of action within this 10 hour game and it is one hell of a ride and one you will not easily forget.
Multiplayer is completely functional but also absolutely forgettable. The cooperative Invasion mode has plenty of robot killing for up to four players, but the repetitive environments and bland soldiers aren’t much encouragement for soldiering on through 50 waves of enemies. And the 10 player multiplayer seems like it was just tacked on and never really thought out.
Binary Domain is for those looking for a shooter campaign with a refreshing vibe and experience. The variety and destructibility of the enemies, the intriguing voice and trust system, the well thought out environments, mixed with the lively and colorful cast all combine to make Binary Domain an enjoyable title for any fan of the genre.
About Luigi Guarnuccio
I am a Multimedia Gamer. I have been gaming all my life and it is my main source of inspiration for my work as a designer/developer.