I aint goin out there! Send in the AI Grunts
Binary Domain is a pretty solid game with a couple of interesting concepts. Firstly, you control an AI squad from a 3rd person perspective (classic cover based action) via your own headset and microphone, think Tom Clancys End War. Secondly, there is a “consequence” system, which has your squad members holding an opinion on you that changes based on your actions throughout the game. Me? I'm more about the action than the deep emotional motivating factors of my AI grunts and just point them towards the firefight and let them get on with it.
The basic storyline being the world flooded during the 21st century and humans had to employ robots to help rebuild society. Everything was fine and dandy until robots, believing themselves to be human, showed up. That's probably as far as I can go without ruining the storyline for you.
There are RPG elements tucked throughout. Each character from the squad can acquire specific nanoimplants, which can be slotted on to a chip to upgrade abilities and weapon improvements can be purchased through kiosks found around the levels.
The boss fights in this game are quite nice and gave a nice sense of achievement. A helpful touch came from the squad members as they drew my attention to ammo for my heavy weapons during these fights and will point out their various locations.
Satisfaction can be found in the players ability to tear through enemy with a various arsenal of weaponry. The foe will also suffer brilliant locational damage leaving the player with a sense of accomplishment.
It does however have a few limitations. First and foremost is team mate AI, the player mostly ends up doing the heavy lifting and very occasionally suffers from team mates running into player fire. Then there is the actual communication. Prior to playing the game I had heard that voice detection is rather poor and background game noise can easily ruin it. With just a basic Xbox Live Headset I did not suffer from either of these problems, but instead found it annoying when I had to slowly and carefully speak each part of a required command. Examples: “Reee ... group”, “No .... problem”. This certainly isnt a game breaker however as it is possible to turn off the voice recognition and only communicate using stock responses during important cut scenes. Note, however, doing this will limit the player's ability to control the squad during a fire fight.
The flow of battle is also interesting. I would not recommend this game if a person wants to sit down and just play without many interruptions as the game basically boils down to shoot through an environment, cut scene or QTE and talk a bit, more shooting and then upgrade kiosk. Rinse and repeat many times for each chapter. Sticking with it however does reward the player as the environments range from sewers, trains, lorries, yeast farms to skyscapers. They also mix up gameplay with a variety of alternative gameplay, like jet skiing and chase scenes, although these are sometimes a little ropey. You can expect to get through the game in about 10 hours. There is no campaign co-op and the multiplayer side of things is pretty much non existent and there is no Kinect options, if you are interested in that.
Right let me throw down some extra pointers to help you quickly judge the highs and lows
1) A somewhat predictable yet entertaining storyline.
2) Strongly stereotyped characters, whilst possibly offensive to some people, do eventually develop and end up in the odd funny situation.
3) Voice communication can be performed over any standard microphone which can be plugged into the Xbox. The reviewer tested with a Turtle Beach X12 and a regular run of the mill box Live headset.
4) There are a range of enemy robots from human sized variants to skyscraper.
5) Great watching enemies various limbs being blown off or metal coverings shattering during a firefight. Additionally downed but not destroyed robots will crawl along the floor towards the player.
6) Enemy robots will pick up better weapons from downed enemies to combat the player.
6) Boss fights are satisfying. An additional nice touch is team members pointing out locations of heavy ammo during these fights.
7) A diverse and almost refreshing range of environments to shoot in.
1) Somewhat weak team AI means player has to do most of the heavy lifting. In heavy firefights the player will need to watch behind them as an enemy robot could slip past.
2) Voice communication with the team requires player to speak commands clearly.
3) If voice communication is disabled there is no easy way to command squad members. Whilst they still may run around it can limit their performance without your guidance.
4) Quick time events. Really, who are they fooling? Its not gameplay.
5) Fighting is somewhat broken up by cutscenes or team interaction. This can sometimes be grating when the same team member keeps asking if you can still perform to such a level just after a firefight.
6) Whilst in 'safe areas' the run ability is disabled. Not a big problem, just annoying when the safe area involves a long corridor.
7) The consequence system is somewhat redundant unless you are a real asshole to your squadmates
So to sum up, I approached the game with little expectations and have been pleasantly surprised by it. It is your basic 3rd person, cover-system shooter with a couple of gimicks thrown in. A fairly refreshing environment and satisfyingly destructible enemy.
Its out now for XBox 360 and PS3 and is available for PC download next week.
Not the best part of the game