the rantings and ravings of a not quite sane cow

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Demo Impressions: Bionic Commando

Allow me to pose you, the reader unfortunate enough to be here, a question: what do you get when you start with a regular third person shooter, and turn it on its head by having rocket boots, and MASSIVE arenas to fly around in? Think about that before you start reading the next paragraph.

Thought about it? That would be awesome. Unfortunately that's not Bionic Commando. In Bionic Commando you have a stretch arm with a claw on the end. That makes you either a watered down Doctor Octopus or a one-armed Bender without any of the awesomeness. It's fun swinging around though. The thing about BC is that you tend to be moving around a lot more than another TPS (unless you're using the sniper rifle, in that case you're only moving after I smack you with a zip kick). Most of the weapons aren't particularly accurate, but they don't really need to be, as whatever weapons aren't one hit kills only take a few shots. This really forces you to stay on your feet (proverbially anyway, a lot of the time you're off them), as you never know who's going to wipe you out next. Most of the time I find myself swinging around, looking for the next weapon pickup (or grabbing a grenade launcher, gripping the nearest horizontal beam then blowing anyone who gets close straight to hell.

The graphics... well, they're not great. They're pretty good, and they're more than good enough to get by, but I've seen a lot better. It doesn't really help that there's not much variety in the demo... one map, at night, so dim you can't see a lot of stuff. I get the feeling it would look a lot better during the day. The player models almost look like they're ripped straight out of Tron, and since it's multiplayer only, you don't even get to see Rad.

Sound... is sound. Fast paced music designed to create an arcade sort of atmosphere (which it does, and works great with the arcade-y VO). Fairly generic weapon sounds, but enough to know how much arse you're kicking.

Control is probably the most important part with a fast paced game like BC. For the most part, it works, although the are some things I really don't agree with. Swinging is handled with the left trigger, after it targets something. The arm targeting follows the crosshair, but isn't directly linked to it (it's sticky). The problem with that is that while it makes it easier to target some things with your arm (particuarly fast moving players), but you can't always target what you want. Thankfully, the gun follows the crosshair (no lock on aiming), so you can blast away freely. Evading is mapped to left bumper and the left analog stick, but I barely ever use it (most of the time it's easier to just swing out of the way). Quick turning is mapped to the directions on the d-pad, and I'd much rather have that on the left bumper (since it's dangerous to stop to turn).

You want to know the real problem with the Bionic Commando demo? The demo! There's nothing to it, and I''m not trying to say it's easy. You have one game mode (deathmatch), one way to play it (online), one map (Vertigo), you can't set the time limit (5 minutes, whether you like it or not), and after every match you just get forced back into finding another game. No way to keep a group together. No way to make a private game. No way to invite someone else into a public game. And then there's the bugs. Random disconnections? Consider yourself lucky. Everyone disconnects? Minor annoyance. Game freezes and you have to go back to the dashboard? It happens. Entirely freezes your 360 every 4-5 games? ANNOYING AS HELL! Then there's the minor bugs, like how should someone die while holding a sniper rifle, the aiming beam remains in the level. Somehow I don't think they did that much QA on the demo (and I thought Microsoft had a strict control process before you could get anything listen on Live). Then there's the lag. Either nobody else in Australia is playing this or they're actively avoiding me (not sure how they'd do that, since I can't even find someone half the time, let alone avoid them). It just tends to be annoying, shooting where people apparently were 5 seconds ago. It doesn't affect your movement, which I guess is something.

Overall? It's fun. Lots of fun. Swinging around, blowing people to hell, leaving craters where someone was, and delivering kicks that would make Chuck Norris proud. Not necessarily the most technically advanced game, but that never stops things being fun. In short: come out sooner, you damn full game!

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