I must confess that the seemingly never-ending barrage of shooters the games industry has produced recently has led me to get a bit tired of the genre altogether. And yet, after firing a healthy amount of bullets at an unsuspecting robot as I began Binary Domain and watching the helpless battle-droid shatter into pieces across the floor, I was hooked all over again. Binary Domain may seem like your standard-fair gimmick based sci-fi shooter at first glance, but make no mistake, this is a full-blown narrative experience that has just a few flaws that prevent it from achieving greatness.
Set in a futuristic Tokyo, Binary Domain is a squad based shooter at heart, in which you’ll be able to select squad-mates at various points in the game as it attempts to add a relationship system between you and your companions. Be reasonable with them, and they’ll follow orders immediately; constantly fire bullets into their unsuspecting face, and they, unsurprisingly, won’t be as take too kindly to it. The main drawback here is that your squad will never really come to dislike you unless you go out of your way to, no exaggeration, shoot volley upon volley of bullets at them, rendering the whole system a little less influential as it may have been.
This brings us on the admittedly gimmicky sounding feature of Binary Domain, the voice controlled squad. The feature is far from a necessity, in fact you can give the same commands just by pressing a button. That being said, using a headset and giving orders like “help” or “fire” is actually quite enjoyable to use and worked, from my experience, a good 95% of the time. It’s certainly not for everyone, and the game shouldn’t be bought just to use this one feature, but if you like the idea of voice control then plug-in a headset and give it a try – you may be surprised at just how well it works.
Of course, any game trying to pick a fight with the likes of Gears of War and Vanquish is going to be judged on its core mechanics. Binary Domain, in that sense is unfortunately somewhat passable. The cover system mimics some of the great third-person shooters of this generation but lacks the high-budget polish that impressed with the likes of Uncharted and Gears. There’s nothing wrong with the mechanics as a whole, and you’ll never be cursing the cover system in a tricky firefight, but you can’t go expecting the best. I don’t want it to sound like I’m slating the cover mechanics in particular, as they work well, but in an age where developers have seemingly perfected the shooter formula Binary Domain comes across as rather average.
When you’re picking off robots one by one with the game’s reasonably generic arsenal of weapons, however, Binary Domain really shines. Watching chunks of a robots armour fly off as you fire bullets at it is incredibly satisfying, and separates this particular shooter from the rest. Each bullet you fire provides an impressive feedback as you feel the impact, which is something you can credit very few shooters with.
The plot, on the other hand, is remarkably basic. You and you’re team of mercenaries are attempting to put a stop to mass android production before the human race is replaced by robots entirely. It’s a pretty standard premise, and unfortunately, any chance of a decent story for Binary Domain is ruined by the generic military stereotypes that make up your squadmates. The voice acting is pretty strong, but the actual dialogue is so cringe-worthy that you’ll be tempted to mute the game and blast some of your own music out as you play; the ill-fitting electronic-techno soundtrack doesn’t help either.
Whilst the gameplay at its core revolves around picking waves of enemies, the game changes gameplay just enough to justify the ten-hour length of the campaign. These new elements include vehicle segments, and cut-scenes that help tell the ‘I, Robot’ inspired plot. The game is noticeably longer than most of its genre, and whilst this does mean you’re getting good bang for your buck, the experience gets a tad repetitive a couple of hours before the credits roll, despite attempts to keep things interesting.
The action doesn’t stop at the main campaign however, as the game also features an online multiplayer mode, as well as pretty generic co-operative survival mode that tries to give a Gears of War horde mode like experience. The multiplayer is, in essence, fun enough, but anyone that’s played a few shooters in the last few years will have done it all before, and for that reason I highly doubt Binary Domain will develop a particularly strong online community behind it. If you’re up for some generic deathmatch based modes and tend to enjoy 3rd person online shooters, then multiplayer offers a couple more hours of game time. Just don’t go expecting anything even remotely unique.
In essence then, Binary Domain is a good shooter that with a bit more creativity and development of unique ideas could have been great. If action’s your main draw for video games then SEGA’s latest shooting endeavour will be enjoyable until the end, and offers enough to justify its purchase. It lacks the polish and smoothness of the bigger blockbuster titles and won’t be up for any game of the year awards as a result, but is a decent purchase for anyone who finds their trigger-finger itching as we approach the time of the year where the games industry goes pretty quiet.