Published by: Sega
Platform: Pc, Xbox 360, PC
Play it if: You hate robots
Skip it if: You get frustrated easily
We’ve become a society where we rely on machines for a good portion of our daily lives. Think about it, they handle our money, our utilities, and sometimes even our medical procedures to name a few. In the long run though, no machine will ever feel as authentic as a human — as something with a heart. Interestingly enough, the same can be said for Sega’s new shooter Binary Domain, which puts you at the front lines of the robot apocalypse often feels robotic in its own right. It goes through the motions of a modern day shooter remarkably well, but fails when trying to step out on its own.
Taking place in Tokyo in the year 2080, Binary Domain tells the story of the Amada Corporation, the world leader in robotics. The Amada corporation has created the world’s most advanced humanoid robots and began assimilating them into everyday life. Of course if you’ve seen pretty much any modern action movie dealing with robots you’ll realize that this is an absolutely terrible idea, and it’s up to you; as Sergeant Dan Marshall and your interchangeable squad to make sure it doesn’t happen.
For the vast majority of the game, the plot is pretty predictable, and often feels like it gets in the way of what the developers wanted to do with the game. Admittedly, there are a few cool ideas introduced in the later chapters of the game, but getting to that point means wading through a ton of uninteresting plot points that you’re unlikely to care about. In the end, Binary Domain tries it’s best to tell us a cautionary tale, but the end result feels like a mixed bag of missed opportunities and what could have been.
Luckily, Binary Domain unquestionably works when taken strictly as a shooter. Binary Domain uses some pretty cool effects and animations that allow your robot attackers to be dismantled in pile of scraps — and it’s incredibly rewarding. There are several times throughout the game where you’re going to be facing down with a literal ton of pissed off robots, and standing among their sparking debris feels remarkably cool. In general, the combat in Binary Domain feels fun, frantic and fast paced. This isn’t one of the AAA shooters we’ve been waiting for — but the gameplay makes it feel like it should have been.
It’s when Binary Domain starts to branch out from these core mechanics, that it starts to fall apart. A good portion of the game features squad based controls, which works when it wants to, but seems tacked on when it doesn’t. Your squadmates have different specialities, and you’ll find plenty of times to use them, but the game also employs a relationship system, which changes how your team will relate to your commands. Lead them helplessly into firefights and they’re going to be less likely to listen to your orders, but be a disciplined and fair leader and you’ll have their unabashed support. The catch though is that your squad is very forgiving and you almost have to try to get them on your bad side.
Binary Domain borrows (read: steals) a lot from Epic Game’s Gears of War series, but at this point, a lot of these mechanics have become genre standards, so they’re not the first to do so. You’ll roadie run, grab cover and blind fire behind it. It mostly works like it should, and there are few surprises here, but a few of the cover items often feel flimsy, and you’ll even take some shots behind it. It’s that unreliability that keeps Binary Domain a good shooter — but not a great one.
Binary Domain also features a unique voice command functionality that allows you to use a headset to issue your commands. Xbox 360 owners note that there’s no Kinect support for some reason, so you’ll be going old school on this one. The voice commands are novel, but they’re not nearly as responsive as the traditional button press system, so you’ll be screaming stuff like “on me” countless times before you get a response.
The Blast Factor: Binary Domain begins to carve out it’s own identity early on in the game, but quickly succumbs to trying too hard to be like all of the popular shooters on the market. It’s fun to mow down robots, but there’s really not much else to it. In the end, Binary Domain is a fun and satisfying shooter, as long as you don’t look too far into it.