Binary Domain, a master class in its own or just a cheap imitation?
Binary Domain (will be referred to as BD from now on) is a gem that came out of SEGA as an AAA in-house project but didnt really get any fame. However, for those few that have picked this game up, they will be rewarded with an amazing experience, epic boss battles and an even better story.
When I started playing this game I knew nothing about it other than a friend letting me give it a try and it seemed OK. My first impression was, "well ok another cover-shooter aka Gears" but that soon changed. The gameplay started immersing, you started to get a feel for the characters and the inclusion of multi-national team mates, just made it feel even more as a worldwide crisis, teaming up to take down the villain. The best way I can describe the story is a cross-over between iRobot and Terminator. And surprisingly the story is absolutely amazing.
Graphics, not much to be said here. The game looks great; the attention to detail is amazing. I have played the PC version and the X360 version and the difference in quality is minor at the least. The PC version is the better of the 2 however with slightly sharper visuals. I only noticed a few segments with bland textures, but these were generally areas that you did not even need to venture to (I just like covering everywhere). Characters were well designed, once again one or 2 of the voices were some what questionable but more on that later.
The sound in BD is great. The sense of war, the music, the boss battle music, and for the most part the voice overs were all done extremely well. My only gripe with the sound was with 1-2 of the voice actors who simply wouldnt stop talking. They would repeat the same thing over and over again, to the point where you would start yelling at your TV hoping the AI could hear you and stay quiet for a change.
BD as with many games has Kinect support, and though its not your conventional, movement sensing controls, it makes use of Voice commands, that akin of Mass Effect 3. However, where in Mass Effect 3 the voice commands worked fairly well, in BD they just fell apart. Even when my room was in total silence, it was registering the sound from my sound system as voice input and this made the droning voice over continue ever more. Its a great idea and SEGA did put in complacency levels, however regardless of what level I set this to, I simply could not find a point at which it registered what I was saying. I had to say it 3-4 times before it picked it up and even then I had to be toneless like a speech replicating program which simply ruined the experience of using the feature and I was forced back to the manual button pressing commands, which was a shame.
Gameplay: For the most part your gameplay evolves around covering and shooting, every once in a while though, the game does throw something into the mix to vary the gameplay, which was well thought out by the developer team. From cover firing, youre tossed into an area where you have to infiltrate by swimming avoiding drones detecting you, escaping huge enemies by way of water slides, water jetting through the sewers, hiding behind riot shields and to piloting mechs. Everything about what I said should not work but it works so well its perfect, and this is credit to the development team.
As in most modern shooters these days, youre given 4 weapons. Handgun (infinite ammo), a weapon of choice you can pick up, grenades/emp grenades and your prised possession, your main assault rifle which can be upgraded along the way. Every character you encounter has a main weapon, and using shops laid out at certain points in the game, you can upgrade their weapons. Your main character has the most upgradable options. But for the general support class, you can upgrade their weaponry by improving shot power, accuracy; reload time, fire rate, ammo clip size and more. Upgrading these for your team helps as they become more effective in supporting you when youre really pushed back.
You also have the option to buy nano machines from the shop (some are found through out the levels also) which improve, defence, attack, health etc and they make a difference as well. Your main character also has plasma shot which is also upgradable in power and clip shot. However this particular ammunition requires special spots to recharge and can also be got from enemies when killed. Youre never in short supply, but should you fall short, you can always buy supply from the shops within the game. Some what of a neat novelty feature I like was after you finished shopping. A roulette type wheel would spin on 3 options, WIN, LOSE, JACKPOT. If you landed on WIN or JACKPOT, you were awarded with a random free gift from the shop.
BD also offers a system, where as you communicate with your team-members, their relationship with you in fondness increases. The more this increases, the more the AI is likely to support you and be more effective. This is raised by the responses you give throughout the game when talking to your staff or by including them in your squad. A nice feature, and you see a big difference from someone who doesnt like you to someone who cherishes you. When you get hit and go down, you enter a GEARS-like animation where your crawling, the moment you hit the floor, your team-mates offer you support if you're out of med-kits to get yourself back up, so even then your still in the game. The reverse can be the case also, if a team mate goes down your AI team mates ask you if you can raise them, if you reply affirmative, then they thank you and start distracting the boss. Its nice to see this and it keeps you immersed in the experience. You feel like your playing with people rather than AI, which is what was strived for and executed perfectly.
Multiplayer and co-op: I wasnt able to try the multiplayer, but from what Im told the multiplayer experience was not very good. The co-op provided play for up to 2 players. If this had been 4 players, it would have been epic, and amazingly fun, but dont let that put you off, the co-op is still fun and definitely worth playing through.
Re-playability: So after you finish the game, then what? The game has collectible items throughout which you pick up as you play the game and find them. Some are hidden very well as you would expect. Once you finish the game, you unlock a Time Trial mode which shows you how many collectibles you found in each stage as well as the time it has taken you to complete the levels in. You can now go back to set levels and find the collectibles and improve on your time score. Its a feature I believe more games should employ, as playing through the whole game again just to find 1 secret you missed could be daunting for some, and for those that do find it daunting, this game is here to change all of that for the better!
Final verdict: So what to make of BD? If you have the money to spare, I recommend this game as the next game you buy. Its truly an amazing experience from start to finish, and will not leave the player least bit disappointed. From the varied gameplay, to the great music, and extremely polished graphics, customizing of weapons, character development, upgrading and great AI and character interaction to the epic boss battles and by epic, Im talking screen-filling size big, this game simply delivers on all fronts.
My overall score for this game would be higher but the Kinect feature simply disappointed me along with the sub-par voice acting which simply just didnt know when to stop talking. Barring the 2 points I pointed out if they had worked along with 4 player co-op, I would give the game a solid 9/10, however because of the few problems I found which did bug me, it drops to an 8 and still, despite its drop in score, receives my seal of approval as a game to definitely pick up and enjoy. A master class game in its own right.
(Do bare in mind that due to not being able to test the multiplayer function out myself, this review score is based on the game without the multiplayer functionality being applicable).