Game play - 9.5
Presentation - 9
Story / Creativity - 9
Lifespan - 9.5
This is a game I recommend all shooter fans play. The game stands on its own two feet as a potential solo experience that could even topple the critically acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy in one fell swoop. Even though it has been brushed under the shadow of other more mainstream games, it deserves to shine in the spotlight not only as an outstanding gaming experience but also because it shows that SEGA has what it takes to recover that lost potential it once had.
It is no secret that SEGA isn’t the great company it used to be heralded as like back in the days when Sonic the Hedgehog’s name actually meant something. Time after time SEGA have shown that not only have they lost touch with their fan base but also that when it comes to games, they seem to not know what they want from their franchises anymore. Does Binary Domain break this trend?
While western gamers spent a large chunk of their year relishing in the world of Bioware’s Mass Effect as it rose to video game godhood, SEGA sat in the corner with its notepad and concocted a plan. The plan was not only to develop a game in the same light as the popular Bioware shooter, but also to prove that you can make a god bleed.
Binary Domain is a game you probably haven’t heard about until now and for a game that is about shooting mindless robots, you probably wouldn’t be expecting much from it. How wrong we were.
Step into the boots of Dan Marshall, a wise cracking sergeant (with biceps that would put Chris Redfield to shame) that is tasked in hunting down illegally developed cyborgs known only as “Hollow Children”. What follows is an action packed story of friendship, love and betray that’s final moments will have you questioning your own beliefs on the concepts presented in its incredibly well written narrative.
The game ultimately presents a near perfect sense of pacing in its story telling and by the end of the game you will be ultimately shocked by the transpiring events that are presented before your very eyes. Unlike games that forced you to pick a linear good or bad choice throughout its story, Binary Domain throws that stale concept out of the window and presents its moral choice system in a constant branching path of grey. You will instead be given a large number of opportunities to communicate with your team between the hectic battles against your automaton opponents. These conversations will then build the foundation of how your individual squad mates treat you throughout the course of the game. Get on their good side and they will follow your orders, become your close friends and potentially see it to the end of the mission. Get on their bad side, and suffer the consequences.
This friendship system wants you take it seriously and it is in no mood to hold your hand. Depending on how well certain team mates see you, the game may toss you into a situation where those uneasy team mates get removed from the narrative all together. This leads to a tense 10 -12 hour story that will have you either freeze jumping in triumph like Sam Jones as your team walk off into the sun set, or dropping to your knees in disbelief as that beloved squaddie’s life is snatch away from you.
Not only is the story a true gem but the gameplay is also a frenetic treat to experience. Taking cues from Visceral’s Dead Space, the player will be forced to use their gaming reflexes as they pump lead into waves upon waves of robots that will require you to rather detach their limbs rather than go for the chest. This brings in a wave of variety in how you play through each encounter as taking off different body parts can lead to different behaviours from the opposing AI. An example is if you blow off an enemy head, instead of simply falling to the floor, the robot will first turn to its once metallic partner and decide to treat it as an enemy. This means that you can actually use your foes to your advantage when the odds are stacked against you and seeing your enemies fight amongst themselves is actually pretty entertaining. Your AI partners are also really smart and useful unlike most dim-witted NPCs in the past. You will find that each character has their own way of fighting and will even sometimes offer to use special techniques during the heat of battle. This means that mixing up the people you bring along with you on your objectives can be beneficial in learning their strengths and weaknesses and also allows you to see the perspectives of each team mate during the story.
The game also gives you a large selection of customizable abilities for you and your team mates to use. During the course of the game you will come along kiosk shops that will allow you to purchase weapons, ammo and special nano-machine abilities specifically tailored to each squad member. These nano-machines come in a ton of varieties such as increasing aggression, healing, reload speed and even giving you bonuses to friendship gains when you decide to try and earn their trust. These character add-ons are all done within a 6 square grid, so you will also only be able to pick a few abilities; this means strategic application of the purchased nano-machines is a must.
This all comes together while being supported by an extremely talented voice cast not only by Dan and his fellow team mates but also for the many supporting cast members that are briefly bumped into along the way. The level of quality pumped into the cast of characters and the clashing of bullets on steel from the many varieties of guns is staggering and I personally tip my hat to the sound design team for putting in as much love for the ambience of the world you are experiencing.
Not only does the game have a brilliant story mode to feast on but people looking to play with friends will also find a massive selection of multiplayer modes straight out of the box. One of the modes I personally had a blast playing was the cooperative survival mode. With a selection of maps straight out of the campaign and an always increasing 50 waves of enemies, you will find that the later sections of the coop gets incredibly challenging and team work is an always must.
The multiplayer package also comes with a whopping seven adversarial modes like the classic Free For All and team based varieties like Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Team Survival.
If you have ever played one of SEGA’s previous Yakuza titles then you will probably recognise the visual style used here. This isn’t a negative thing though as the game is truly gorgeous and runs surprisingly well even when enemy numbers are high. Dan and the team all look unique and stand out amongst the grey environments of the Tokyo city scape but it is also nice to see the game give the player a nice taste in variety when it comes to the in-game locales along with a variety of unique and deadly boss encounters that even puts a “shadow” on Shadow of the Colossus.
Binary Domain is availaible now for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.