Damn you, robots!
You promised if we made you sentient that you wouldn’t go all ‘Skynet’ on us and abandon your roles as car builders and coffee machines to attempt an apocalyptic robot uprising.
Now you’ve gone and made yourselves indistinguishable from real people so you can enslave humanity and bring about the end of the world.
Well, unfortunately for you, robo-villains, the humans have decided to foil your dastardly machinations with the innovative concept of a ragtag band of wise-cracking mercenaries adept in the art of playing hide-and-seek with live ammunition; or, as we gamers like to call it, a cover-based shooter.
Set in 2080 in a robotic Tokyo that looks like it must run on one heck of a lot of batteries, developer Yakuza Studio took traditional squad-based gameplay mechanics and… well, just didn’t do much new with them, to be honest.
There’s little here you haven’t seen before if you’ve played Gears of War or any number of similar games, and although there’s nothing revolutionary to make this an absolute must-buy, blasting your way through hordes of android bullet sponges still turns out to be a fair amount of fun.
Even though it’s not exactly forging new ground, Binary Domain distances itself from genre clones with varied and robust gameplay throughout its short but relentless campaign. Plenty of battles with enormous robotic behemoths break up any possible monotony one might expect from the clinical surroundings of future Tokyo, and the basic combat with normal foes is well-tweaked and extremely satisfying thanks to the sheer carnage you’re creating with every machine-gun barrage.
In fact, it’s the simple destruction of even the lowliest robot minions that provides the most enjoyment: watching a droid smash into thousands of pieces never gets old, and having their legless bodies continue to crawl toward you after a good dismembering makes them feel like a terrifyingly relentless force. The game does a great job of making you feel like you’re really making a dent in the enemy’s ranks as you obliterate scores of them at every turn, but you always feel a sense of challenge: as The Prodigy said, “always out-numbered, never out-gunned”.
Binary Domain does dip its toes in the Swimming Pool of Innovation here and there, but sadly none of these attempts really do much to change the core of the game. There’s a relationship system between you and your squad mates which determines how willing they are to obey your orders based on how you respond to their questions or battle decisions (or how often you accidentally shoot them in the face); however, despite ignoring them half the time or chirping them when I felt like it, I never really saw much change in their behaviour towards me and thus it felt like my actions had no consequence to the way I chose to play the game.
Similarly, there’s the option to plug in a mic to issue simple voice orders to your squad. While rather good at distinguishing between “cover me” and “die, die you evil robot scum!”, the game is actually perfectly happy with you issuing all of your commands via your controller. This makes the entire system feel gimmicky instead of an immersive and necessary addition, and I’m sure most players will skip the often-accurate headset in favour of the always-accurate controller.
The game impresses technically with a slick, robotic-like interface and equally polished and expansive environments, with battles taking place everywhere from factories to neon-lit city streets, from highways framed by impossibly tall skyscrapers to the dingiest of cover-friendly underground corridors. There are plenty of similarities to the fantastic Vanquish here, but with far more restraint than that ‘overly Japanese’ style of art direction and clutter.
The tech package is rounded off with a satisfying array of exploding machinery sound effects, but they’re sadly let down by a good dose of horrendous voice acting and terribly clichéd one-liners.
Despite its shimmering surface appearance there’s just not enough depth or freshness to make Binary Domain really stand out as an instant purchase. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any aspect of it, but there’s nothing that completely blows me away or makes me itch to come back to it either.
Demolishing robots is enjoyable, even if it is for a brief sub-10 hour campaign, but even reducing waves of metallic minions to scrap or following what turns out to be a rather decent storyline isn’t enough to warrant a replay or even a definite recommendation.
My verdict? Binary Domain reminds me a lot of this fancy toaster I recently bought, an almost ‘robotic’ device with essential extras like a defrost function and more temperature settings than any slice of wholewheat could ever need. While it has a few cool features that may make it seem like it’s doing something new, the fact is that it’s just making toast. And, while the toast it makes is actually quite good, I still feel it’s still a far cry from being the best thing since sliced bread.Forum discussion