Entertainment in this day and age comes with a certain amount of expectations from the consumer. Whether you are going to a movie theatre or purchasing a DVD to watch at home we all expect to get a fair return on the price we pay for that entertainment. Of course as the prices of entertainment increases ( Have you gone to an IMAX 3-D movie lately?!?!?) so do those expectations and thus that brings us to the most heavily scrutinized for of media today. The Video Game.
Current store pricing on your average game is approx $59.99 and your average gamer may as well be a ” Video Game accountant” because he/she is counting every penny when it comes to making sure his value is accounted for after purchasing it!
Binary Domain is one of those games that put all the marbles it could into one basket and the left over marbles got put into the same basket and rolled off the top; leaving us with….well a full basket of marbles! I am of course referring to the two aspects of the game ; Single player campaign and multi player versus ( there is a co-op mode but hardly worth mentioning since its nothing we havent seen before)
The ability to weave a finely written narrative into a Hi Tech shooter has only been accomplished by a few lucky franchises that I can think of. The HALO franchise stands as a shining example of this feat and few others have mastered the art ( Gears of War deserves a mention as well). Shooters by their very nature aren’t meant to deliver that type of experience but that doesn’t stop developers from pushing the limits and dosing the massive amounts of action and shooting with some emotional moments meant to draw us in further to world they have crafted.
My expectations going in to Binary Domain where minimal. I was fully expecting the short list of offenses ; Bad story, Bad voice acting, stereotypical characters, and predictable plot. To my surprise I only got one of those right and I’m not going to tell you which one it is so you’ll have to play it to find out which one.
The setting of the game is 20 years into the future and mankind is now co existing with robots that have taken up a multitude roles in our day-to-day routine. Imagine the movie ” I Robot” and you have a good starting point for the game.
The robot designs are very similar in fact and the world we live in has survived tragedy in the form of massive flooding and destruction of major cities. Mankind has rebuilt with the help of our robot “Brethren” and life moved on.Robots are a integral part of all life on Earth
You play the role of Dan Marshall; an Ex Military Bad Ass who has acquired the nickname ” The survivor” due to his ability ( or luck) to get out of some pretty nasty situations. His nickname is well deserved as you find out through the course of the game.
Dan and his partner ” Bo” are inserted into a Neo Tokyo setting on the hunt for a CEO of a Mega corporation who is suspected of violating the Geneva convention against creating Robots that look and act like humans.These laws were put into place to ensure that technology did not out pace human evolution and it was agreed that as science evolved there needed to be some parameters governing it.
Dan and his friend work for the IRTA ; a task force appointed to eliminate robot threats against the Geneva convention. The game begins with Dan and Bo meeting up with the rest of a UN appointed team and together you all form what is known as a ” Rust Crew”.
The story in Binary Domain is dripping with all sorts of awesomeness! My temptation is to narrate the entire story in this review because it is in fact that good. It will have you shaking your head at the crazy action set pieces and even listening closely to cut scenes so you can hope to uncover some piece of info about whats coming next ( trust me, you don’t want to skip these cut scenes as they are filled with witty dialogue and very well done acting moments). This is one of the few games that you actually smile at some of the situations you end up in and some of the events that transpire. The developers have done an amazing job in making you feel attached to Dan as an extension of you in the game and combined with the games mechanics; you too feel like a bad ass ” survivor”
There are plenty of twists and turns and I was on the edge of my seat right to the very end. The story never drags on too much and your ongoing journey from the lower levels of Tokyo’s post destruction state all the way to the upper shiny levels of the Corporations main offices gives you a sense of real progression. Your not re-treading the same old locations and even though you face endless swarms of robots ; there is enough variance in design and capabilities that you aren’t bored.
The game also tackles some pretty heady material that will give you pause and think about. Racial analogies and questions about evolution and the future of our own society are all thrown on the table for us to experience through the eyes of our virtual character. This is Heavy stuff for a shooter!
Another cool feature that is built into the game is the voice recognition system. Forgoing the current trend to integrate Kinect voice commands into the game the developers chose simply to use existing technology and give us a system that allows us to issue pre scripted voice commands to our squad mates during combat. This is done by holding down LB ( on the 360 controller) and speaking any of the four commands available. This feature actually works well assuming you are in a quiet room and have a decent microphone in use. The fact remains thought that you are by yourself playing a single player game talking to your screen. No amount of polish can make someone not feel a tiny bit foolish and I caught myself looking over my shoulder several times. Good thing the game give you the ability to issue those commands via button press instead. Still it was cool to see them use technology in a manner that drew you into the game more than just clicking buttons.
From a technical point of view the game also shines. While it doesn’t have the graphic fidelity of Gears of War ( a game in the same vein as this game) it does not have poor graphics by any stretch of the matter. Being that your primary opponent in this game will be robots ( or scrap heads as everyone affectionately calls them) there is an amazing opportunity to showcase the level of detail the developers put into the shooting mechanics. Dan and company will cover slide, roll, and vault behind barricades and walls and other forms of cover all the while blasting away at robots.
The robots in question don’t simply scream and flop over like an alien menace in other games…no no; the robots will crumble and fall a part limb by limb as you target various parts of its body. Yes even the heads can be shot off separately without killing the robot and you can watch as its targeting system goes haywire and he proceeds to start shooting at everything around him including fellow robots!I even had a situation where I had destroyed the robot’s entire lower torso and it still didn’t die but rather proceeded to crawl after me just like something out of the movie Terminator. Very cool !
Character animations are top-notch both during cust-scenesand in-game. Of particular note I should mention that the facial details and expressions of the characters during the cut scenes are fabulous. A real sense of emotion has been conveyed through the character models and the way the camera is moved around the “scene” much like a hollywood movie.
If there is one area that this game overthrows any other game in the genre its this one. I felt drawn into the situations these characters where in almost as much as someone watching a movie would. The camera was constantly shifting throughout these scenes and at several points you actually are given the reigns to control Dan when it looked like it was simply a scripted event ( always pay attention as several times I was tasked with a QTE in the middle of a cut scene un expectantly )
To address the multi player component I have posted a separate review that you can find by clicking here as I felt it deserved its own review and not wanting to detract from the praise I was heaping on this game with the campaign review. As a quick summary I can tell you that the Multi player is fun albeit generic looking. Server stability as of this writing is in an awful state with lag issues wrecking Havoc and hit detection reduced to hoping you hit teleporting enemies. The biggest disappointment is that the games population is so miniscule that you can barely get into a match. There are no formal message boards on the games official site either so the community is unable to reach out to one another.
So after purchasing this title and completing the campaign I can safely say that I have gotten my moneys worth from this product. Multi player is simply icing on the cake at this point and wether the issues they are having ever get fixed ; in my books that’s okay. I hope that everyone takes a step back at looks at this product in the way I have.
I know that many of this generations gamers will look past the most fantastic elements of this game and focus on its faults ( ie.Multi player) but ironically this is the one shooter that I would recommend not worrying about the multi player component and simply immerse yourself in the world that is Binary Domain.
ED.Note: Make sure you sit in your seat past the ending credits to get an idea as to where the Developers are going with this new Franchise.
Audio: A pleasant mix of pop and electronica mixed with swelling orchestral music when the moment is right. The game has excellent ambient noises like footsteps and other effects and the splintering of robotic parts never gets old.
Video: While not the best looking game in the past year it has an anime feel without going to over the top. It boasts some of the best facial animations I have seen in a game in a long time and the ability to shred a robot of all its armor before finishing it off showcases its graphical punch.
Final Thoughts: Binary Domain is a great kick off to 2012 as far as shooters goes. All areas have impressed me and I almost want to dive in for a second play through. Very few games in this genre has made me say that and most single player campaigns in this genre are usually an obligation to get out-of-the-way before jumping online. In Binary’s case its the other way around and one of the best stories I have experienced in this genre.
Final Grade: 90%
Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash