UK Dtoiders get hands-on with Bionic Commando at Capcom

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[Editor’s note: Capcom UK held another Gamer’s Day last week and four UK Dtoiders attended the little event. Check out what they think of the game. — CTZ]

Capcom have had a good year so far with the recent releases of Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5. And they have plenty of up and coming games such as Lost Planet 2, Dead Rising 2, Dark Void, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and more.

Their next big title, though, is a re-vamp of an old classic. Bionic Commando will be released on the 22nd of May and last week, myself, Pheonix Blood, Justice and McSnow had a play around with the game at Capcom’s office in London but should you really care? Hit the jump to see what McSnow and I thought of the game.

The day pretty much played out like the previous Gamers Day so I won’t go into the details of that, but I will say that everyone at Capcom are awesome people! These Gamers Days have single handily made Capcom my favorite developer because it’s obvious to anyone who goes to these events that Capcom really takes care of and respects their fans. They are really friendly, listen to what you want to say and if they can, they answer any questions you may have.

Anyway let’s get onto the game. We started by playing through the tutorial level in the single-player to get a grip with the mechanics and controls. If you have Bionic Commando ReArmed, you can play through the game in Nathan “R.A.D.” Spencer’s original costume or at least go through the tutorial in it. We then went through a couple of games of multiplayer and then after a pizza brake we tried out the single-player game.

I should add that I have not played the original Bionic Commando and I have only played the demo of ReArmed so I’m not completely sure how faithful the new game is to the original. Oh and as Pheonix Blood rightfully pointed out, the cursor used in the menus which is supposed to be a fiber optic cable thing looks like a tentacle from a hentai.

As with previous Bionic Commando games, the swinging mechanic and ways to use the bionic arm are the crux of the game. It’s what makes the game different but it also takes some getting used to. You have to aim your cursor at whatever you want to attach to, hold the left trigger when you are in range, swing forward with the left stick and release the trigger to let go and launch yourself forward. Simple right? Not quite. The timing is pretty strict when releasing your grip which leads to a lot of swings where you fly up vertically into the air or fly across too low and into the ground. It’s also quite difficult to judge how close you need to be before you can attach onto a surface. The cursor changes colour when you can grab it but if you’re swinging in the air, the change in colour comes a little too late if you’re not sure you’re going to make it. So sometimes, especially if you don’t know where you’re going you find yourself swinging around and missing grapple points because you’re not sure what you should be aiming at.

With time and practice, swinging will become like second nature but it’s a little frustrating at first. Then again, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the same thing with the original but once you’ve got it nailed swinging around in the air feels really satisfying. Kind of like when you’re running at full speed and jumping over stuff in Mirror’s Edge.

Combat mixes up your standard gun play with the abilities of the bionic arm. You can grab people, reel in and flying kick them in the face. When multiple enemies are around, you can grab and reel the rest of them one after the other in a big combo. If you become too reliant on the bionic arm, the enemies can and will use their cattle prods to electrocute you through your arm when you grab them, which will damage and stun you. So you can’t keep spamming the same moves and will have to fall back on your basic melee attacks and guns from time to time, or you could swing a crate around into the back of someone’s head.

The fights can be a lot of fun and stringing together combos feels rewarding. Ammo is quite limited so you’re encouraged to try out different attacks and be a bit more creative with your kills and while you have quite a few moves at your disposal, you’ll end up just fly kicking and shooting everyone because the loose camera makes it rather awkward to land the bigger moves, which is a shame.

Graphically the game wasn’t that great. Certain textures on the environment looked pretty blurry, explosions lacked any feel of impact and the fires that blocked your path almost looked 2D. Don’t get me wrong though, the game is not ugly, the character models looked great and the animations were fluid. It’s just not that pretty especially when compared to games like Resident Evil 5.

The single-player has promise. It could fall into the trap of being too repetitive, but as long as the environments are varied and there is enough variety in the enemies (they did say you encounter a potential boss character who has bionic legs) then it should be at least enjoyable.

There are three game types: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag and modes have a maximum of eight players in total. If my memory serves me right, there are 12 maps for Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch and six maps for Capture the Flag. More will probably be released as DLC but we’ll have to wait and see about that.

This was probably the highlight of the day. Matches were fun, frantic, over the top and intense. The swinging mechanics worked surprisingly well in a multiplayer environment and the grab kick became an essential technique to learn. I myself was involved in an aerial gun fight, swinging around a bridge which ended with me grabbing my opponent in the air, reeling in, kicking him in the back and killing him. I then fell into the water and died. But it was SO AWESOME!

Combat is definitely not a twitchy shooter experience. You really have to take you time, line up your attacks and get the jump on people. Stand-offs can be fun but you won’t get very far as you are awarded points for how you kill your enemy. More “stylish” kills such as flying kicks in the back, shooting in the air and melee combos will earn you more points than shooting someone in the chest. The person with the most points wins the round which may not be the same person with the most kills.

There are only five different weapons. The Pistol, Shotgun, Machine Gun, Grenade Launcher and Sniper Rifle. Each weapon is balanced really well, especially because the bionic arm means you can get out of hot spots pretty quickly and this leads to some very close matches.

Locking onto enemies proved to be a bit of an issue due to the already mentioned loose camera. I found it really hard to connect my melee attacks and although Pheonix Blood may not have screamed out any racial comments at this event [Thank God — CTZ], she did scream out in anger at many a missed grapple shot with her bionic arm. I think sitting next to her made me louder as well so if Dtoiders aren’t being racist, we’re being very loud!

On the larger maps it was also quite difficult to see where other players were especially because they are multi tiered. You can see combatants names above their heads but there is no map/radar and you have to keep an eye out. On the plus side, you never feel like you’re going through a “die, respawn, kill, die in 30 seconds cycle” and fights tend to be more one-on-one. It is a bit of a pain in the arse though in team deathmatch when you can’t tell where your teammates are. That being said, when you spot someone and you chase after them without them knowing you kind feel like a big game hunter when you’re swinging like a pro and catching up to them. It’s also fucking cool to grab someone, kick them away and for your teammate to come along grab them in the air and kick them back to you.

Serious gaming faces. You know this shit is for realz!

Bionic Commando is a good game. There are a few annoying design issues but most of them just takes a little time to get used to. The single-player is enjoyable but there isn’t much there to make you think “wow this is fucking ace” and I can see it getting a little bit tedious/repetitive at times. Bear in mind though this is not taking into account any of the story which could be really interesting and could potentially keep you hooked on the single-player. The multiplayer is great. I really enjoyed it but the lack of game play types is a little disappointing, but that can always be expanded later I suppose.

Is this a must have game? Probably not, unless you’re a big fan of Bionic Commando and/or ReArmed.
Is it one to keep an eye out for? Yes, most likely.

I forgot to mention that when the game is loading the controller is displayed on the screen and when you press a button it tells you what that button does in the game, which I though was really cool! McSnow and I also won a pair of GRIN socks for coming 1st in the multiplayer deathmatch games.

A big thank you to the ever sexy CTZ for hooking us up and everyone at Capcom who were just really awesome!

McSnow‘s take:

Once again, Capcom have been foolish enough to intentionally invite the chaos that is the Destructoid UK crew into their pretty Hammersmith offices and lets us wreck havoc with one of their major upcoming releases. This time, we were lucky enough to be able to grab Bionic Commando with our fleshy non-bio-mechanical limbs and get hands on with both the single-player and multiplayer aspects.

For those of you who may be unaware of Bionic Commando’s heritage let me quickly fill you in; it all begun in 1987 as an arcade title which would be ported to the NES later the next year. It also received a Game Boy port in 1992 and there was even a poorly received GBC sequel in 1999. Capcom then released their remake of the 1987 original as a 3D side scrolling XBL Arcade title with the tag line ‘ReArmed‘ clearly wanting to whet our appetite for more bionic Freudian action.

Pheonix, Anus McPhanus, Poetic Justice, myself and four other gentlemen all arrived at the Capcom offices at 11AM last week ready to munch down on that action. After the usual amount of obscenities and racial slurs had been screamed out of Pheonix’s mouth, we started adjusting to Bionic Commando quite complex control system through a trial and error tutorial.

Holding the left trigger fires your bionic arm to grab onto anything it aims at, as long as what it is aiming at is meant to be grabbed and also that you’re in range. Pushing the left analogue stick forwards and backwards will gather momentum and when you have built up enough releasing the left trigger will release your hold and depending on when you let go will either send you soaring off in the right direction or hurtling straight down to your imminent doom.

Single-player combat has the potential to allow you to be very creative. For instance, you could grab someone, reel yourself in and kick them in the chest. Or you could pick up a crate, swing it above your head and release it in your foes direction. You could even run up to one of the identi-kit baddies, punch him up into the air, jump up next to him and while you’re both in mid air hit him again to send him flying miles off screen.

Sadly though, due to sloppy controls and a very loose camera, it becomes difficult and even tiresome to even attempt to do something so spectacular. I can see it becoming little more than a run and gun with swinging sections, though they do try to severely limit your ammo to encourage inventive ways of defeating your enemies.

Multiplayer then may be the shining light for Bionic Commando. During our play test, we played all-out deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag (which I was shocked that half the Dtoiders present didn’t know how CTF worked!) and I found it the most enjoyable all out-action multiplayer in some time. Maybe its my distaste for how all multiplayer games seem to be turning into something so serious now but BC’s multiplayer was just hectic, over the top fun.

It’s up to eight players and with only a few different weapons per map and each with limited use it lead into some very close and honestly exciting matches. Victories were clawed back from defeat, deaths were avenged and swear words were yelled but in the end only one side remained standing and that of course could only be team Destructoid.

Not pictured: Anus consuming free pizza

In conclusion, I don’t see Bionic Commando getting many favourable reviews. Such a large chunk of the game is so distinctly average it’s hard to recommend as a purchase. It does have its moments, when you get into the rhythm of swinging from pylon to lamp-post to rooftop and you’re gunning down the enemy as you go. It’s a great feeling and the control system will seem fluid and finely tuned. It’s a shame then that these moment come and go and that more often than not you’ll miss your target, not being within grabbing distance and you’ll lose momentum, resulting in a limp Bionic Commando hanging from the rooftop.

I hate to slate Capcom’s game after they were so gracious to ask us back again but I’m nothing if not honest and no amount of free pizza and sugary drinks will change that. The highlight anyway was to be able to meet up with other Dtoiders Pheonix, Anus and Justice (and our resident stalker Jack) again and go for Sushi and discuss civilized matters in a civilized way. Totally without embarrassing or drawing attention to ourselves.



For more on the Bionic Commando Gamer’s Day, check out Justice’s blog where talks more about the multiplayer and all the swag they won. Be sure to keep a look out on Xbox Live as a multiplayer demo for Bionic Commando is dropping soon!

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