Binary Domain Review
Binary Domain is one of those games that put all the marbles it could into one basket; the left over marbles got put into the same basket and rolled off the top leaving us with….well a full basket of marbles! I am of course referring to the two aspects of the game; the single player campaign and the multiplayer versus mode (there is a co-op mode but hardly worth mentioning since its nothing we havent seen before).
I can only think of a few lucky franchises that have accomplished weaving well-written narratives with high-tech shooter gameplay. The HALO franchise stands as a shining example of this feat; with Gears of War deserving a special mention as well. Shooters by their very nature aren’t meant to deliver that type of experience; but that doesn’t stop developers from pushing the limits by dosing massive amounts of action and intense shooting with some emotional moments meant to draw us in further into their crafted worlds.
I had low expectations going into Binary Domain. I was fully expecting a short list of offenses; bad story, bad voice acting, stereotypical characters, and a predictable plot.To my surprise though, I only got one of those right and I’m not going to tell you which one so you’ll have to play to find out.
The game is set 20 years into the future where mankind is co-existing with robots that have taken up a multitude roles in day-to-day routines. Imagine the movie “I Robot” and you have a good starting point for the game. The robot designs are very similar to the film in fact. In Binary Domain, the world had survived tragedy in the form of massive flooding and destruction of major cities. Mankind has since rebuilt with the help of their robot “Brethren” and moved on with their lives; with tragedies almost forgotten. Since then, robots have become an integral part of life on Earth.
Players are cast as Dan Marshall; an ex-military badass who acquired the nickname “The survivor” due to his ability (or pure luck) to get out of some pretty nasty situations. Dan and his partner “Bo” infiltrate a Neo-Tokyo setting with a mission of hinting down the CEO of a mega-corporation suspected of violating Geneva conventions by creating robots that look and act like humans.These laws were put into place to ensure that technology did not outpace human evolution; nations of the world agreed that as science evolved there needed to be some parameters governing it.
My temptation is to narrate the entire story of Binary Domain in this review because it is in fact that good. It will have players shaking their heads at the crazy action set-pieces and even listening closely to cut scenes so they can hope to uncover some piece of information about what’s to come next (trust me, you don’t want to skip these cut scenes as they are filled with witty dialogue and well-acted moments).The developers have done an amazing job in making players feel attached to Dan; and combined with the games mechanics, by game’s end players will definitely feel like a bad ass “survivor.
Binary Domain’s plot contains plenty of twists and turns and I was on the edge of my seat right to the very end. The story never drags on too much; and players’ ongoing journey from the lower levels of Tokyo’s post-destruction state all the way to the shiny upper levels of the Corporations main offices gives a sense of real progression. Gamers will almost never find themselves re-treading old locations and even though they face endless swarms of robots; there is enough variety in design and capabilities that the game never becomes boring.
Another one of the game’s cooler features is the voice-recognition system. Forgoing the current trend of integrating Kinect voice commands into the game, the developers chose simply to use existing technology and gave players a system that allows them to issue pre-scripted voice commands to their squad-mates during combat. This is done by holding down Left Bumper (on the 360 controller) and speaking any of the four commands available. This feature actually works well assuming players are in a quiet room and have a decent microphone in use.
The fact remains though that players are by themselves playing a singleplayer game talking to their screens. No amount of polish can make someone not feel a tiny bit foolish and I caught myself looking over my shoulder several times. Good thing the game give gamers the ability to issue those commands via button presses instead. Still it was cool to see them use technology in a manner that drew players into the game more than just clicking buttons.
From a technical standpoint, the game also shines. While it doesn’t have the graphical fidelity of Gears of War it does not have poor graphics by any stretch. Being that primary opponents in this game are robots (or scrap heads as everyone affectionately calls them) there is an amazing opportunity to showcase the level of detail the developers put into the shooting mechanics. Dan and company will cover-slide, roll, and vault behind barricades, walls, and other forms of cover all the while blasting away at anything that stood in their way.
The robots in question don’t simply scream and flop over like alien menaces in other games…no no; robots will crumble and fall apart limb by limb as players target various parts of its body. Yes even the heads can be shot off separately without killing the robot while others watch as its targeting system goes haywire and it proceeds to start shooting at everything around him including fellow robots! I even had a situation where I had destroyed the robot’s entire lower torso and yet it still proceeded to crawl after me just like something out of the movie Terminator. Very cool!
Character animations are top-notch both during cust-scenesand in-game. Of particular note I should mention that the facial details and expressions of the characters during the cut scenes are fabulous. A real sense of emotion has been conveyed through the character models and the way the camera is moved around the “scene” much like a hollywood movie.
Not just a pretty face…he can act as well!
If there is one area that this game overthrows any other game in the genre, its the presentation. I felt drawn into the situations these characters where in almost as much as someone watching a movie would. The camera was constantly shifting throughout these scenes and at several points I was actually given control of Dan when it looked like it was simply a scripted event (always pay attention as several times I was unexpectedly tasked with a quick-time event in the middle of a cut scene.)
To address the multi-player component I have posted a separate video review that you can find by clicking here. I felt Binary Domain’s multiplayer suite deserved its own review. As a quick summary I can tell you that the multiplayer is fun albeit generic-looking. Server stability as of this writing is in an awful state with constant lag issues with hit detection reduced to hoping you hit teleporting enemies.The biggest disappointment is that the game’s online population is so miniscule that you can barely get into any matches. There are no formal message boards on the game’s official site either so the community is unable to reach out to one another.
After purchasing this title and completing the campaign, I can safely say that I have gotten my money’s worth from this product. Multiplayer is simply icing on the cake at this point regardless of whether the issues they are having ever get fixed. In my books that’s okay. I hope that everyone takes a step back at looks at this product in the way I have.
I know that many of this generation’s gamers will look past the most fantastic elements of this game and focus on its faults (ie. multiplayer) but ironically this is the one shooter in which I would recommend not worrying about the multiplayer component and simply immerse yourself in the world of Binary Domain.
ED.Note: Make sure you sit in your seat past the ending credits to get an idea as to where the Developers are going with this new franchise.
Binary Domain’s soundtrack contains a pleasant mix of pop and electronica mixed with swelling orchestral music depending on the situation. The game has excellent sound design with immersing ambient sounds like footsteps and other effects. Also the sound of splintering robotic parts never gets old.
While not the best looking game this year, it has a unique anime feel without going to over-the-top. It boasts some of the best facial animations I have seen in a game in a long time and the ability to shred a robot of all its armor before finishing it off showcases its graphical punch.
Binary Domain is a great kick off to 2012 as far as shooters goes. Most areas have impressed me and I almost want to dive in for a second play-through. Very few games in this genre has made me say that.It sucks that most single player campaigns are usually an obligation to get out-of-the-way before jumping online, but with Binary Domain its the other way around. It’s got one of the best stories I have experienced in a third-person shooter..
Final Grade: 90%
Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash