PS3 Review: Bionic Commando

Is this the king of the swingers?

The first true sequel to the classic 1988 Nintendo Entertainment System original, Bionic Commando on PS3 sees the return of the bionically-enhanced Nathan “R.A.D.” Spencer. Time has not been kind to Spencer: Bionic Commando on PS3 is set five years after his heroic defeat of the Imperials, he has been betrayed by the government he swore to serve, imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, and sentenced to death.

On the very day of Spencer’s execution, terrorists detonate a massive experimental weapon in Ascension City, unleashing an intense earthquake that has turned the city into rubble and wiped out its population. With the terrain in ruins and the city’s air defense grid now in the control of a massive terrorist force whose goal remains unclear, the FSA have only one option left – a behind-the-lines assault.
Last year was the first time I played the original Bionic Commando in its lovely remake, Rearmed. I enjoyed it, despite finding it one of the tougher games on XBLA. The swinging mechanic of the original makes a return to its sequel and despite some missed opportunities; it remains a memorable game to the end.

During the first level, you won’t have your bionic arm till the end. So it gives you a good idea of how to fight, shoot and so on. When you do get the arm, you feel like an idiot. The controls are simple, but they take some getting used to. It took me a while to get to grips with it, but once I did I was swinging away with ease. The great thing about the game is that one missed jump doesn’t always result in a nasty death as there are multiple paths to most objectives. There are a few points where problems like coming across a deadly invisible wall. It can be frustrating to swing to a number of objects, only to get the timing wrong on one and fall to your death.
Bionic Commando isn’t just about swinging and shooting though. The arm has some great features like being able to throw objects at enemies, pick enemies up and throw them at their squad. I only wish you could do more with the arm, it’s not a huge complaint…it just feels like they could have done so much more with it. Weapons are weak, but they will save your behind as it is quite easy to die in the game. It’s tough and it may drive you mad, but that’s part of the game’s appeal.

The story of Bionic Commando isn’t the greatest, it’s a bunch of clichés rolled into one. But it does help refresh us to Spencer and it has the nostalgia of a game from the 80’s, which I imagine was what Capcom hoped would happen. All the game mechanics of the original seem to be in place and while it doesn’t appear to have evolved much apart from turning 3D, it’s still good fun. The campaign will take you a while to do and the achievements are pretty tough. There are collectables all over the levels, as well as side-missions to do during main missions like killing a number of enemies in a certain way. It adds a bit of replay value, but it all depends on how much patience you have.

There is multiplayer which is more focused on weapons than swinging, although the CTF mode is superb as the speed of swinging can make the flag carrier seem to vanish in seconds if they get it just right. It takes some getting used to, but overall it’s a pretty good attempt.
Bionic Commando may not look like the greatest game, but it does run at a steady framerate and is never inconsistent, which is no small feat these days…especially when there can be a lot of mayhem going on at once, it’s impressive in that regard and deserves the credit for it. There are a few oddities with enemy character models, although Spencer looks fairly good. It won’t amaze you, but it does a good job nonetheless.

Voice-acting is also a mixed bag, it has some good moments but dialogue is ultimately cheesy at times, it’s got that typical 80s feel to it, it’s not a bad thing considering it’s meant to be set 5 years after the original, so I can understand it to a degree. The game’s music is pretty good though and fits the feel of it very well.

The Verdict

Bionic Commando is a solid sequel, despite being 21 years late. I had some great moments with the bionic arm, swinging is fun and rewarding while the rest of the game holds up quite well. It does have a few issues that hold it back, but only for nitpickers like me. Ultimately, you won’t find a better game which allows you to swing like this for quite some time…