ozzyj88's Binary Domain (Xbox 360) review

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You'll BSoD to see it end

Binary Domain doesn’t wear its influences on its sleeve – they’re welded there. The lack of an active reload is frankly astonishing, all things considered. However, forgiving the abundance of chest high architecture, burly black sidekick or rudimentary squad mechanics the game stands apart from Gears of War due to sheer . . .Japanesey-ness.

There’s the robots, to start. Standing in for Gears of War’s Locusts (Loci?) comes an assortment of autonomous bullet sponges both refreshing to observe and satisfying to dismantle. And dismantle you will, gunning through approximately 8 hours of the fiends, which makes it just as well that the combat is so satisfying. Volleys of hot lead strip the metal plating from your opponents, fragmenting them into iron filings and so much circuitry. Taking aim at an appendage and watching it burst into a thousand pieces never gets old. It’s not just pretty spectacle either, as enemies will falter and their legs buckle under sustained fire, leaving them to crawl menacingly towards you until you stomp them into blue-screen hell. Likewise, blow their weapon out of their hands and render them ineffective unless in close proximity – or remove the head and watch them turn on their fellow cyborgs in their confusion.

Yes, Yakuza Studio have got the combat down pat, and created a slick theatre in which to enact it. In classic anime tradition the game takes place in the close future where robots are commonplace and subservient to their human masters. You play as Dan, member of a ‘Rust Crew’ tasked with uncovering a potential robot incursion. It takes a couple of hours for the story to pick up, after which you’ll uncover some surprisingly involved subject matter questioning the nature of being human, etc. In numerous sequences the game takes a bit of a Cronenbergian path.

Binary Domain has some challenging subject matter, and some stark imagery to accompany it.
Binary Domain has some challenging subject matter, and some stark imagery to accompany it.

Although you’ll chop and change between approximately 6 teammates throughout the course of the game, you’re firmly in Dan’s shoes for the most part, identifying the source of his robot prejudice and unearthing the exoskeletons in his closet as you traverse futuristic Tokyo.

Most locations you visit have that familiar sheen particular to Japanese shooters – wide, glossy corridors, automated everything (Buying items from a vending machine initiates a roulette wheel which will potentially yield extra ammo or health) and corrupt governments. Occasionally a sewer or warehouse will sully the otherwise stimulating adventure, but no sequences feel like they’re dragging, and there’s always the chance of spectacle around the next corner. Some of those robots are big.

The game’s USP is its microphone integration. At various points throughout the game your teammates will pose questions to you, to which you can respond via headset or Kinect. I found the voice recognition understandably lacking using Kinect in a room of people, but even with a headset and after the calibration process I still found Dan lashing out at teammates after I’d offered a calm, measured response. Luckily no game changing decisions can be made via voice command, but teammates’ cooperation is related to their impression of you and few respond well to antagonistic remarks, intentional or otherwise. Responding via controller is 100% accurate, but offers a more limited range of responses.

The game feels very polished – its visually interesting and both the gameplay and in-engine cut scenes run at a solid frame rate throughout. A nod should go to the intricacy of the guns and facial expressions in particular, both of which you’ll be staring at a lot.

The game also includes a multiplayer component which offers an array of competitive and cooperative game modes which I admittedly haven’t played – but for those not keen on human interaction or lacking an internet connection will be happy to hear that, for the price, the game more than stands up as a purely single player endeavour.

Third person shooter fans will find more of the same here, but the idiosyncratic changes to the blueprint (French robots!) and gripping story will be enough to see most through to the end. For fans of Vanquish or Gears, this game is most definitely your domain.

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