It’s been 20 years since his first outing on the NES, and the long dormant Bionic Commando finally awakes. A remake of the 1988 original, Bionic Commando Rearmed, was released for Xbox Live Arcade last August, and it was well received, bringing a classic 2D scroller to a fresh audience. Now, with the help of GRIN studios, Bionic Commando is not only sharpening his looks, but also stepping out into a new dimension with the IP’s first 3D game.
This is a third-person action game where the main selling point is a character that swings through a post-apocalyptic, trashed city. Like an urban Tarzan, this commando uses a grapple hook-firing bionic arm.
The tutorial takes place in a neon, futuristic training facility, purposely built for commandos with grappling hook appendages. An on-screen display tells you when you are in range to use the grapple device, which in turn is activated by holding a trigger button. Dismounting requires some timing, as an early release of the trigger will send you speeding downwards, while releasing too late hurls you straight up without getting anywhere. Before the tutorial is finished, you are faced with challenges that force you to change camera angle mid-swing to reach the next grapple point. Combining subtle movements of both analog sticks and releasing the trigger with correct timing is quite a challenge, but it will no doubt allow some spectacular, city-spanning action sequences once mastered.
After passing the bionic arm proficiency test, you are released into the wild. The first level is a partly destroyed, crumbling city — the target of some kind of hugely destructive weapon (a Weapon of Mass Destruction, perhaps?). Huge radiation-filled crevices have opened across the city and floating mines are scattered throughout the air, making for hazardous passage through the city blocks. If only there was some way of passing between these part-ruined, tall buildings without having to make contact with the ground — oh right, the arm.
Save points occur in the form of strange, futuristic computer terminals, which are activated by firing your bionic arm at them. The same method is used to deactivate the floating mines that blocked the path; hopefully not every puzzle will be solved by simply firing your bionic arm at a "thing."
Environmental hazards are not the only problem to worry about, as plenty of hired goons are out to get you as well. Luckily, you’ll get to use a variety of weapons to take them out. In the early stages, only a rather inaccurate gun was available, plus some grenades, but the bionic arm also comes into play during combat. Enemies can be targeted much like environmental objects and a press of jump followed by attack reels you towards the enemy and delivers a satisfying "zip kick." Other combinations of moves can drag your enemy around, and melee attacks are also available, all of which add some variety to the combat.
An online versus mode will be included in Bionic Commando with up to ten players. The potential is there for some wonderfully chaotic chase sequences and the opportunity to score skillful hit and run attacks on unsuspecting foes. We’ll have to wait for its scheduled January release to find out whether Bionic Commando fulfills that potential.
If GRIN’s level design is on the money, we could see some exhilarating, swinging set pieces. Lets hope that there are some interesting and original challenges that utilize the "advanced wire mechanic" to ensure that Bionic Commando will have a triumphant return to the video-game spotlight.