Yakuza Studios latest game, Binary Domain, feels like it has been a long time coming. With promises of a unique consequence system, that’ll see team mates loving you or ignoring you. It’s always sounded promising, but how does it play out in reality?
Binary Domain is set in the near future the world is ravaged by rising tidal lines, wiping out many countries and those that are left are unrecognisable. With the poor all but left to die, the rich are left without a workforce to create new utopias. To remedy this, the robotics industry booms and by 2040 robots are our main workforce, using the water logged cities as foundations for the safe haven above. With such a huge automated community, the world’s leaders agree to draw up a New Geneva Convention which contains a specific Clause 21, stating that robotics and bioengineering should not be combined and is thereafter banned.
All seems well, with Bergan Corporation from the US creating the majority of robotic helpers until 40 years later an attack on their offices is carried out by a robot that has clearly breached Clause 21, it looked human, acted human, it even thought it was human, but something made it go mad? From here it becomes apparent that the human race had been infiltrated by “Hollow Children”, robots designed to look and feel and interact like humans, but to what point? With this new threat apparent the surviving nations pull together to create a Rust Crew, consisting of the very best soldier each country has to offer and infiltrate where they suspect the Hollow Children came from, Japan; which has all but cut itself off from the rest of the world. It’s here where the action picks up, with you controlling Dan, a US Soldier who teams up with Big Bo, making up the US contingency as they head into Japan to meet the rest of the team. Before you know it you are knee deep in “scrap heads”, fighting your way to Japans surface city to locate the source of the Hollow Children.
Though Binary Domain is clearly Eastern in design, it really feels like a lot of effort has been made into making it appeal to the more Western market, with it being full of action packed scenes, lots of character progression via the story and of course, lots of guns to upgrade. Those into the third person shooters like Gears of War will be very familiar with what is going on, with the game mainly being a cover based shooter, running from bulkheads and corners, trying to get a decent shot and clearing the room of enemies before moving to the next area. For most stages of the game you will find yourself able to select two other teammates to join you from an ever growing roster, allowing you to select whoever you fancy, from your buddy and heavy weapons specialist Big Bo, Chinese sniper sharp shooter Faye, ex MI5 operative and leader of your group Charlie and even a robotic French soldier nicknamed Cain.
Thankfully unlike many GOW copies, Binary Domain pulls off this well-trod genre really well, with a tight control system made even better with the voice control. The ability to command your team really changes the gameplay. Either via Kinect or your headset you can bark orders at your selected team members. Simple commands like “cover me”, “charge” or “fire” are all required in the heated battlefield; with even more commands available during cut scenes and even general chat during the game, with a press of the LB bringing up relevant chat options like, “piece of cake”, “copy that” and “I love you”? How your team responds is all down to their trust in you. Each character has a trust bar that builds as you play through the game, hit them too often with friendly fire or don’t assist them when they ask for it and they may well be too busy to help you when in dire need. For most of the time the voice commands work well, though it can at times pick up the game sounds and get caught in a conversation with itself. To counter this there are a few options that allow you to tinker with the voice recognition system, practising words and changing how the game picks up your voice, a little time spent here will improve the game experience tenfold.
On your mission to infiltrate and kidnap the suspected scientist who created the Hollow Children you will come across plenty of security and battle robots, or “Scrap Heads” to fight against. These Terminator like robotic nightmares are worthy foes and are extremely satisfying to battle against, with armour plating and limbs getting blow off from your constant bullet barrage. Early on in the game you are advised to take out the legs first, leaving them to menacingly pull themselves along the floor towards you, leaving you to either pull off a safe head shot or get in close to smash them with the butt of your assault rifle. Not all of the enemies are that easy to dispose of, with most using cover just as much as you, plus they are ambidextrous, shoot off their rifle arm and the will pick up their dropped gun with the other hand and continue fighting. With such a wide variety of robots creeping towards you teamwork is essential.
With every robot you take out you earn cash, the more original or difficult the kill, the more cash you pocket, with headshots earning more than a normal kill and mêlée attacks offering you “smash” bonuses. With all the cash earned you can shop at the many Ammunition Transit Japan kiosks spread through the game. These kiosks offer classic arcade progression with general shopping and upgrades available to the well off. Through the shop you can purchase the usual ammo, health packs and grenade supplies as well as the many Nano machines that can be fitted for each specific character. Though you are only able to carry a set amount, these Nano machines boost certain characteristics of each character, from simple health and defence properties to more powerful melee attacks and quicker reflexes. Each character has their own specific role on the battlefield and their main weapon reflects this and through the upgrade area you can improve each of these, granting better accuracy, larger ammo belt and even more firepower.
With a well written story the single player mode is gripping from the start, with great pacing, fearsome action and great set scenes all bundled with well voice acted cut scenes, making you want to play through the story to its final conclusion.
Binary Domain also hosts a huge amount of online modes to rank up your character; with levels based on the single player experience you have a solid selection of play types, though nothing really new on offer here with Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Data Capture (capture the flag), Team Survival where there is no re-spawn over three rounds and Operation in where you have three rounds of protecting and attacking a supply base.
What also seems to be the norm in most online games is a horde mode and Binary Domain even covers this. Called Invasion, you are placed in a group of three other players, each battling for survival against an ever increasing amount of enemies. This is a fun mode but when compared to the recent Gears of War Horde mode it can’t really compete.
Though released in a very busy period with plenty of incredible new releases, Binary Domain is a solid shooter that will entertain till the very end.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
You can order your copy of Binary Domain here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).