So, last time I wrote about Bionic Commando, I wasn’t all that kind. Here’s a quick recap:
-”Radiation” is a cheap, frustrating mechanic. Oddly, I’ve been seeing some attempts at defending this mechanic around the internets. Anyone have a cogent defense of this shit they’d like to proffer?
-”Water” is cheap. Anyone defending this dog in the corner?
-The early parts of the game are quiet, like a library or cathedral, and boring.
-Parts of the game are good fun. Like launching enemies from ledges using “death from above.”
-Swinging is fun and liberating, after you get the hang of it.
All together, the first half of the game is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have a nice looking third-person action game, with huge levels, and a compelling swinging mechanic that lets you launch yourself large distances. On the other hand, the slow pacing makes the game staggeringly boring. This is further aggravated by the fact that you’ll die a gazillion times, and then stare at a slow loading screen.
The good news for anyone underwhelmed by the first half? The second half of the game is definitely better. Eventually, Spencer suddenly “remembers” how to kick some serious ass. New abilities–like the ability to pick up cars and enemies with the bionic arm, and throw them extremely far–emerge right as the game is about to blow. Combat sequences, which were never that hard anyway, become violent play time sessions. Rocks, cars, enemies, all of it can be hurled any which way. Why these abilities were not “remembered” sooner is a bit of a mystery, though.
(Coolest part of the game right here. Too bad there weren’t more moments like this.)
Additionally, the game gets nicer to look at. When you finally wrest yourself from the first batch of Ascension City Downtown and Trent Industrial District levels, the environments become more varied, and prettier. There’s some caves, a forest, a huge indoor garden, and other cool environs. It was always a nice looking game, and the varied level design helps bring this out.
Later, there’s one hell of a cool boss fight, where Spencer goes up against a huge mechanical worm. It’s an awesome set piece, and the most memorable moment of the game by far. As cool as it is, though, it ends up highlighting one of the big absences in the game: there’s a very obvious lack of boss fights here. Three in total, which feels like almost none at all. With its slow pacing, infrequent check points and unmemorable combat, Bionic Commando is just the type of game that would have benefited from multiple epic boss fights. They would have given the game more shape, more milestones to push the whole experience along. It’s a shame, and a short lived joyous moment.
Did I mention you die a lot in this game? You do. There’s a whole metric ton of death awaiting even the most hard core gamers in Bionic Commando. A lot of the death you’ll experience is instantaneous, the result of falling into a huge chasm, or into water, or straying too far into radiation (which has been mentioned already). Other times, you will die when you face a hand full of enemies that are way over Spencer’s pay grade. Some are called Biomechs, which look like smaller modified versions of MechWarriors. They fly, are very fast and have devastating ranged attacks. If you don’t have a powerful gun, you’ll have to awkwardly throw things in their direction, when they’re not shooting at you. It’s awkward. All together, you simply die too often in Bionic Commando, in ways that don’t really inspire practice or patience.
When I’d finally beaten Bionic Commando, it felt short, and yet the experience lasted longer than I wanted. It’s one of those games that’s a real shame: it really should have worked, and yet it couldn’t break out of its own mediocrity.