Giant Bomb Review

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Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Review

3
  • XBGS
  • PS3N

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 has the right idea when it comes to revamping its controls, but the level and boss design brings things crashing to a halt.


When you fly over a level, you get control of a mounted gun that lays waste to anything that gets close. 
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is the sequel to a game that was designed as a remake of an 8-bit classic. It probably would have been easy to just design more levels to fit those mechanics and pump it out on the heels of Rearmed, which seemed to be a pretty popular release. Instead, Capcom and Fatshark went the other way with it and modernized a lot of the mechanics, making for more nuanced control of your grappling arm and easier access to multiple weapons and abilities. One of those adjustments? You can jump now. Considering that "no jumping" was sort of a key feature of the previous game, you might think that hopping around ruins the feel and flavor of the whole thing. But that's not the problem with BCR2. It controls really well and swinging and jumping around the levels is great. It's the levels themselves, which feel really disjointed from each other, making it easy to forget why you're swinging around in the first place.

Going from Bionic Commando Rearmed to BCR2 takes some time, because the controls have been largely redesigned to allow you to jump. Also, you can start swinging from a standstill, retract or extend your arm at will, and the button that extends the arm also now releases it, preventing you from mashing the button as you fall in hopes of saving yourself from certain doom. While you'll probably hate it for the first 30 minutes or so, the control you have over your arm and how it's used is better here than it was in the past, and once you get the particulars of it down, you'll be swinging around as before, only touching the ground when you really feel like it.

You'll also have new abilities at your disposal in the form of active upgrades. These let you add electricity to your arm to shock enemies, or utilize a grenade launcher. There's a powerful uppercut that you can use to bowl barrels into the opposition. The catch is that all of these abilities are governed by a single, slow-to-fill meter, and though you can use any of the abilities anytime you like, you have to go into a sub-screen to equip a single ability. There are also passive upgrades, such as regenerating ammo or faster movement. Similar to the active upgrades, you have to select which passive upgrade you want to use at any given time, though you can swap them out at will on the sub-screen. The end result of all this sub-screen swapping is that I didn't really spend much time using the different abilities. Why bother pausing to select your hacking tool to freeze all of the robotic enemies for a few seconds when you can just swing past it all and keep moving?

You can opt to finish the game without jumping, if you like. 
Like the previous game, BCR2 is broken up into areas, but it's a mostly linear progression that doesn't give you much reason to revisit earlier levels unless you're hell-bent on finding every single upgrade. Most of the levels are very straightforward in a "just get to the end" sort of way, though some are given a bit of variety with helicopter sequences that fly you over most of the level while you keep the chopper safe from a turret position. Your progression is broken up by a handful of boss fights, which are pattern-based and monotonous. The problem isn't that they rely on patterns, it's more that most of them play out slowly and Nathan "Rad" Spencer isn't terribly resilient. So you need to memorize the attack patterns and not screw them up and take damage as you wait for your opportunity to dish out some damage of your own. It doesn't help that some of these already-tired boss fights show up multiple times over the course of the game. Fighting a giant, metal gorilla sounds like a pretty awesome deal, but fighting the same one twice while making sure you're timing your jumps just so as to avoid its hands from hitting you is just straight-up boring.

It's a shame that the boss fights are weak, because most of the other action in BCR2 is at least as good as its predecessor. The weapons are decent, though I found myself sticking to the default weapon most of the time rather than worrying about the limited ammo on the rest of the guns. The levels get tough, but the game rarely feels unfair or too crazy. If you're looking for something extra, the game has a set of VR-style challenge rooms that are a lot rougher than anything you'll face in the main game, and these focus on the sort of precise swinging that you'll only be good at after sinking some hours into the game. Also, like the previous Rearmed, BCR2 has a local co-op mode. Players are forced to stick to the same screen, which puts a premium on actual cooperation, but feels too restricting to be much fun.

BCR2 looks nice and makes good use of its polygonal nature with some big, physics-y explosions that look really nice, and there's a good amount of variety to the looks of the different levels, taking you through prisons, sand temples, jungle settings, and so on. The soundtrack once again plants its flag firmly in the retro category, with new remixes of tracks from the original game. They're pretty good, but if I had to choose, I prefer the previous game's soundtrack.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 controls well, but the game wrapped around those controls is only great in fits and starts. The additional abilities aren't as useful as they could have been and the game's boss fights are extreme momentum killers. When you're swinging and jumping around, it's grand. But BCR2 grinds to a halt too frequently, making parts of it more frustrating and disappointing than they needed to be. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
35 Comments
Posted by MiniPato

But the mustache!

Posted by RoyCampbell

Whoa!

Posted by wrecks

That's a bummer man. 

Online
Posted by rjayb89

Three puppies are better than two puppies.

Edited by captainanderson

I predicted this score when Jeff played the game on the Happy Hour a couple weeks ago, turns out I was right.

Posted by ThePickle

Bummer. It was the fucking moustache wasn't it Jeff? 

Posted by Milkman

To be honest, after watching the Quick Look and the Happy Hour footage I had a feeling this was going to be a disappointment. The first game came completely out of nowhere and blew everyone away. There was no way that Capcom could duplicate that again. 

Online
Posted by Chris2KLee

It's a shame, but other reviews seem to say the same thing. I'll still probably pick it up later when I have less to play.

Edited by Grissefar

Good review which hits the important stuff, Jeff. The only thing you forgot was how the enemy types and placement were superb and tricky in the original. There were some well placed bazooka-men and robots to stand in your way, but in this it's just the same cannon fodder all the way through, which can be swung by or hit by drones easily.

Posted by SquirrelGOD
@HandsomeDevil:  The mustache probably gave it the push it needed to be 3-stars instead of two!
Posted by MooseyMcMan

Hm. I was going to say rad, but I shan't. I'll probably get this eventually, but my interest is lessened, for the time being. 

Moderator
Posted by gunstar

I can't agree with this review more. TOO many levels.

Posted by TooWalrus

I knew this game wasn't going to be as good, once I saw the mustache and slicked back hair. Lame.

Posted by Jolt92

Great review. I'll be skipping this one for sure.

Edited by lordofultima

I respect the review, though I personally think the game is pretty great. I totally agree about too many levels though, I got burnt out 16 levels in or so, especially considering the multiple level playthroughs to get the collectibles and achievements and stuff.

Posted by Brackynews
@MiniPato said:
" But the mustache! "
You mean the jumpstache.
Posted by Winsord

I had a feeling the boss fights were going to be momentum killers, but I was hoping it wouldn't degrade the rest of the game too drastically. A very fair review, but I think I'll be staying away from this one; I might pick up the first one at some point though.

Posted by niamahai

somebody check the credits. maybe it wasn't great because Ben Judd wasn't involved. 

Posted by dancingpolkabear

The craziest part is that I believe the Fatshark guys said only one of the Grine guys worked on this sequel.  Meaning that the talent that remade the first one is still out there (and probably part of the new Might and Delight developer)

Posted by moelarrycurly

The first one was pretty good, but I think I'll pass on this for now.

Posted by ptys

Happy Hour stuff didn't look visually polished enough for my 2D standards, seemed a bit misguided. Gameplay looked fine though!

Posted by m0rdr3d

Sad to say I agree with Jeff for the most part including the 3/5. However, I'd still rather play a 3-star Bionic Commando game than most other 4 and 5-star games. Hope they keep the franchise alive.

Posted by DukeTogo

Maybe it should have been a remake of the NES Strider.

Posted by carlthenimrod

This game could have really used a map and compass. I constantly found myself taking leaps of faith because I didn't know what was below me and whether or not I was suppose to actually go that direction.

Posted by Malakhii
@HandsomeDevil said:
" Bummer. It was the fucking moustache wasn't it Jeff?  "
If anything that only added three stars to the score. 
Posted by Shuborno

I'll have to try the demo, but I'm not sure about there being new controls. Rearmed 1 felt spot on and that was the reason it was fun. 
 
I wouldn't mind just replaying the first instead of getting the new one if this new one has some issues.

Posted by Sunjammer

Saw this coming from day 1. The first game was made by, probably, the only team that could pull it off, in terms of enthusiasm and genuine love for the subject matter. Ben Judd worked his *ass* off to make BCR awesome. There was nothing easy about making that game, and this sequel feels.. Dead... By comparison. The now-formulaic soundtrack speaks volumes.

Posted by doctorkaneder

I'm nearly finished with this game, just a level or two to get through, and I completely agree with this review. The first game had so much going for it, and it's such a damn shame that, like Jeff says, this one just grinds to a halt too frequently!

Posted by Hot_Karl

I'm gonna pass on this for now. I loved (LOVED) the first game & if Braid wasn't so mind-changingly amazing I'd probably call BCR the best game of 2008. That game still holds up. From what I've played of the game so far (demo, etc), the controls are fine but I think IGN's review is kinda spot on here- it hits the same beats but doesn't know the melody, it's the "straight-to-dvd" sequel to your favorite awesome action movie, a lesser version of something that was excellent but is now merely just pretty good. 
 
Also the soundtrack is definitely not as amazing as the first game's soundtrack, which is a shame. BCR2 seems like the inverse of Pac-Man DX.

Posted by MormonWarrior

I'm surprised by all the lukewarm reviews for this game, but after trying it out I totally get it. I actually found the first game largely disappointing, and I love the NES original a ton. Eh. Oh well.

Posted by Eyz

Tried the demo, loved every second of it! It really looks and sounds like the perfect sequel to the Nes original classic! :D
 
But this is supposed to be a prequel to the next gen Bionic Commando on PS3/Xbox360? Nathan Spencer sure went through a lot of physical changes between each games! XD

Posted by Jedted

That's a shame considering how great BC: Rearmed was. 
Posted by McGhee

If I wanna swing from stuff I'll stick to Hook Champ on the iPhone.

Posted by Zero_

I absolutely love this review. Not because of content, or the way it's written - but just the fact that it's got a 3/5. I wouldn't say it's a _bad_ score, but it's an average score at best, but to me it really shows the integrity of Jeff and GiantBomb. Even after showing the game on the Quick Look with some mentioning on the Podcast, I could definitely see Jeff not particularly enjoying it but having some kind words to it to save face. I really didn't think he would come out and not only review it for the sake of conflict of interests, but give it the truest score it deserves despite it's appearances on the site. Good stuff boys.

Posted by MrHammeh

I bought Rearmed on xbox live but this just didnt look very good to me aside from the graphics.  Thanks for the good review Jeff.