bennyishere's Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

No Country for Bionic Men

Bionic Commando Rearmed was one of my favorite games on Xbox Live Arcade at the time. I had no nostalgia for the original Bionic Commando, and I was mostly apathetic towards sidescrolling games. Still, the mechanics, music and challenge of the game drew me in and I enjoyed it immensely. Most of this is retained in the sequel, but it struggles from being far less memorable.

The game takes place a couple of years after the first Rearmed (and apparently before the current-gen Bionic Commando which I have not played). The game begins with Nathan "Rad" Spencer (pictured) and four other bionic commandos investigating the Papagayan Islands in search of a missing colonel and a dictator that threatens the FSA, the organization what enlisted Spencer. Twists happens, people get betrayed, yadda yadda. The story is nothing special and you probably won't care about any of the characters, so it's all rather moot. It doesn't help, then, that it is presented in the same way that it was in the first game, through text boxes and paintings of a few facial expressions. This would have been acceptable had the story been more interesting, but you are less inclined to follow the text on the screen and suddenly feel the need to look at your cat instead. It doesn't have enough humor or excitement to make you pay attention and in the end you just want to forget about it. This is definitely a game you play for the gameplay and not the narrative.

A lot of people found the first Rearmed too difficult. This has been remedied in the sequel. New mechanics are in place to make the game a lot more accessible so that it can become a fun experience for everybody. This is where the game manages to screw things up for itself. Most people will play this game on Normal difficulty, which provides little challenge. Soldiers are no match for your pistol. They don't shoot diagonally and they don't throw grenades on this difficulty. Turrets, flying robots and the like are there to make the opposition a bit more varied, but overall the game does not provide much challenge. The new perks system (they don't really call it that, but let's call it that) lets you use a nice arsenal of upgrades ranging from Electric Claw to Grenade Launcher to Health Regeneration, the latter being the one you will use the most. Lives work like this: You start with the maximum amount of lives at the beginning of each level, and as you collect lives this extends your maximum limit. At the end of the game I had over 20 lives! With all these things in place to make the game easier, it becomes up to the player to actually make this a challenge. Luckily the game has some mechanics in place for just that.

I have long since forgotten how the swing mechanic worked in the first game, but it feels completely natural in the sequel. You press B to throw your arm diagonally and it clings to a surface or releases. You can reel yourself in or out easily, and there is no need to swing back and forth to create momentum - simply going in one direction is enough. You can throw it diagonally, vertically or horizontally and will need to use each move at the right time to reach everywhere on the level. Moving around a level was a lot more difficult in the first game, mostly due to the lack of a jump button. With the jump button, you can climb a wall as high as you by simply jumping up and grabbing the ledge. This makes finishing levels easier, but the game also becomes a much less rewarding experience. It is good then that the game features a "retro" difficulty, which simply disables the jump button. You could just not press the jump button... but that's easier said than done. I found it necessary to set it to retro difficulty to keep myself from using the jump feature. Playing the game again on Retro has made me enjoy the game a lot more. Although having to backtrack and find a lower ceiling can be considered tedious, it is also far more rewarding when you do overcome it. It also made me realize that the level design is a bit weak. Swinging from platform to platform gets old fast and the game isn’t as good with mixing things up as the first game. The game does not take for granted that you can jump, which makes it seem like the jump feature is tacked on, since you don't really need to use it. It is a fairly long game with many levels, but many of them feel bland and forgettable. Besides having to flip some switches, destroy some blocks and activate some elevators, it is not as puzzly as the first game, which makes it a bit boring.

That doesn’t mean the game is void of new ideas. As you gather weapon upgrades and abilities, new routes in the level opens up. Replayability is made easy by the game’s level select screen, which lets you play any level with different settings. There is no need to start a fresh save to get the other achievements or play on a higher difficulty. That random electrical box you ignored the first time becomes a switch you can shoot with your electric weapon and a new weapon can be acquired. Every level besides the boss levels have several collectibles that you’ll probably have to play more than once to get all of. The scan function serves as a nice tutorial and lets you get some info on bosses and objects that you can interact with. The top down sections of the first Rearmed have been replaced with helicopter and sniping sections that are fun and serve to switch things up, but not to a big enough degree. Bosses return, but they can be a bit boring at times. Many of the bosses make you wait until you can attack them because they need to do something specific, which makes it a bit dull. The bosses are however pretty damn big and can get intense. Still, most of them are not very challenging, and I feel that there is less creativity behind them than in the first game.

 That's cheating!
The game has nice 3D graphics (locked to 2D of course), and they do some nice things with the backgrounds. You’re moving around the level and suddenly you see lights flashing in the forest and hear people screaming. There are even some foreground objects here and there. It deals with 2.5D pretty well. Simon Viklund returns as the composer of the game’s soundtrack, but as a big fan of the first game’s soundtrack, I am a little bit disappointed. There are really only one or two songs in the game that top that of Bionic Commando Rearmed 1, while the rest are either orchestral stuff or remixes of BCR1 songs. It’s definitely decent, but it doesn’t top that of the first Rearmed. Some of the scenery looks amazing and the landscapes vary from snow to deserts to urban areas. The framerate mostly keeps up as long as you are not unlocking an achievement, which makes the game freeze for a second before continuing like nothing happened. A boss fight that spams rockets at you causes the framerate to drop considerably, but I can tolerate that. There's some weird screen tearing going on in some places, but it is not a big problem. I also ran into some audio looping issues a couple of times:
The game features local co-op, which works fine. You share a screen, which naturally means that it becomes unplayable for one of the players if you manage to lose each other, but it serves to intensify the teamwork, so it’s actually not so bad. The co-op is basically just the singleplayer with a second duder, so there is no need to play it unless you want the achievement or if you want a friend to join. Ultimately, the lack of a co-op specialized campaign makes the co-op feel unnecessary.

Challenge Rooms return and is the most challenging part of the game. There are 24 rooms with some crazy level designs, which is refreshing considering the campaign's mostly dull platforming. Some of the rooms actually demand jumping, which is refreshing. If you liked them in the first game, you’ll love them here as well. They seem a bit more forgiving (unlike the first game I finished all of them), but still very rewarding.

The game has enough value to warrant its price. It’s got a decent campaign with 20+ levels that suffers due to a dull narrative and repetitive platforming, but the game makes up for it in replayability. On the right settings the game becomes rewarding and collecting everything can be fun. Overall it is a decent game that any BCR fan will like, but I consider this a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

1 Comments
Posted by JackSukeru

I didn't have much of a problem teaching myself not to use the jump button, using it only when it was necessary to get a colllectible, but there was one boss that had an attack that was unavoidable if you didn't jump. It worked out as long as you had health regeneration though. 
 
Good review. Fair. 
 
The thing that bothered me the most about the story was actually 

That's just not classy.
Online

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    Bionic Commando ReArmed 1&2 are THE best modern-day side-scrollers. If you like Contra, or Gunstar Heroes, or Metal Slug-- basically if you like hitting a giant robot in it's weak-point for massive damage: You should buy these games.  ReArmed 1 had a great enthusiastic 80s buddy cop-movie vibe to it. It was really silly, the swinging was really fluid n fun to get around with, and there were a few good reasons to go back n play it again and again.   ReArmed 2 still has a great dumbass sense o...

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