We are going to ask what is really the difference between a human and a machine because, with the surge of cyber punk themed games, the next game to carry the torch is Sega’s Binary Domain, which hit the shelves the same week as EA’s Syndicate, also a cyber punk game. So is Binary Domain the top model, or is it just heading to the scrapyard in the sky?
You fill the boots of Dan Marshall, whose nickname is “Survivor”. He is an ex US special forces solider who is now a member of an elite squad called the Rust Crew who are sent on black ops by the governments of the world to take care of their problems. The year is 2080 AD and most of Japan has been flooded due to rising water levels. Society has rebuilt on the remains of the ruined cities and because of this the city has been segregated into upper and lower levels. Technology though, has continued to advance in this dystopian future and eventually leads to a robot infestation. The Amada Corporation break Geneva Code, Clause 21 by creating humanoid robots that believe themselves to actually be human. These are called Hollow Children and have infiltrated the human population, blurring the lines between man and machine, and it’s the Rust Crew’s job to get into new Tokyo, find Amada and get to the bottom of it.
The campaign is very enjoyable and very story heavy as the game was developed by the team behind the Yakuza series, so has the prestige of that. It shows it was also their aim to have the story play a large part in the game and for it not to be seen as just another run of the mill third person shooter, which is evident from the very first cut scene. The game begins with an underwater infiltration of the city and from there you have to work your way through the layers of the metropolis, and sees you going from café front, streets to slums, to the super clean corporate headquarters. Every level in the game has a strong art direction and no two areas look alike.
Dan is not alone on this mission however as he is joined by a squad of characters who all have their own back story. You start off the game with your buddy Big Bo, who is your stereotyped beefy buddy like Cole Train from Gears of War, but you soon meet others like Chinese agent Faye as well as two British members and others who will play a key part in the story. But you also get to pick the two characters who play through the levels with you at the start and with each character having their own style set from heavy weapons to sniper and everything in between, you’ll have fun finding the right pairs to take into battle.
From the very start, the game looks great and each level has its own look and feel from a rain drained dock, to a super high tech lab, to a fire fight on a high speed train. There is always something different going on in the background. On top of this the enemies in the game are also a standout feature, not only on the gameplay side where you’ll have to work out how to kill them by shooting off legs and arms to slow them down or blowing their head off which will make them attack any nearby enemies, which adds an extra layer of tactics to the gameplay, but also the way they look with each robot having its own distinct visual style from the standard grunts to the end of level boss, who themselves are some of the best designed bosses I’ve been faced with in a long time.
Binary Domain is a third person squad based shooter which has the standard cover to cover Gears of War style, though it is a lot looser than that seen in other games. This is a small issue with the game as sometimes when you’re in cover, enemies can shoot you and other times you can’t shoot them even though you have a clean line of sight.
As for weapons, again they are very standard fare. There are SMGs, assault rifles, snipers and shotguns. The twist is that although there are only two or three models of gun, you can upgrade them so they pack a more powerful punch.
The squad mechanic of the game is quite different to the standard fare of barking orders at team mates in that you have to be nice to the members of your squad. If you do anything that they don’t like they will lose respect for you and this affects the how they fight alongside you, so keeping them happy is key to having a squad that will fight as hard as they can.
Another feature the game has is a voice command system which lets you talk to your team and give them orders, but you can also just chat with them when you are travelling from area to area. On paper this is a great feature, but in the real world it just doesn’t work that well, especially when you have a Scottish accent.
The game also feature two online modes. The first is your standard team deathmatch and capture the flag style matches where you rank up to unlock different perks and weapons. This side of online all depends on the online community and if there will still be people playing it two or three months down the line. That being said these modes are fun but it is very run of the mill action and with the likes of CoD and Gears I don’t see this side of the game really having a long shelflife. The other online mode is yet again another horde, where four players have to fight off wave after wave of robots. It’s fun with friends and the maps are interesting, but at its core it’s just horde in a different skin.
Binary Domain is a good story driven game, which grabs you and will run with you till the end. It has more features than your normal third person shooter and tries to use them in very different ways, and Sega should be credited for this as it’s a brave move which raises the game to above the overcrowded market and makes the game very enjoyable as well as very surprising. Well worth a look.
More than meets the eye !