Every once in a while, a game comes out of nowhere, away from the glare of the spotlight and freshens up the world of gaming with something invigorating. One such game is Binary Domain, a squad-based tactical third person shooter that surprises and awes with its over-the-top flair and addictive gameplay.
The story of Binary Domain is set in 2080, in a world where global warming has taken its toll on humanity and left millions buried under water. Human labor has become a liability and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened to an extreme. New cities have been built on the foundations of the ones rotting half submerged underwater. Simple minded robots, the manual labor responsible for the construction of the new futuristic dwellings, have become the mules of society. The world has recovered or so it seems that way.
In the midst of this new found peace that our species has achieved, emerges a robot more human than ever seen before. Untamed advancement of robotics technology- the very thing everyone feared has become a reality.
That was what the game showed me in the first few minutes of its introductory cinematic and quite frankly, it left me unimpressed. This self-awareness of the artificial consciousness and its consequences has been explored many a time over the century but the more I played, the more I discovered that the game’s take on the matter is surprisingly unique.
You play as Dan Marshall, a cocky but skilled soldier who has been sent into the heart of Japan along with a war-hungry partner, Big Bo, to apprehend a certain someone related to the said incident. With robots being mass produced to replace even whole security forces, they’re the only type of enemy you face throughout the span of the game.
The robots, which come in various kinds, are quite smart. They flank you whenever they get an opening; they throw grenades to force you out of cover and charge at you when you look away. Most of all, they’re absolutely relentless in their pursuit to stop you from progressing. A shotgun blast might destroy a robot’s legs but it might still crawl towards you and melee you to death if you’re not watchful. However, a well-placed shot to the head might make the robot turn on his kind. Battles get ever more hairy when three or four types of robots, ranging from the sniper type to the demolition type, join the fray.
Every fight in Binary Domain is a spectacle to behold: armor plates explode in a shower of sparks, speed-bots rush at you at breakneck speeds, giant rocket-wielding behemoths pin you down with homing missiles and much more.
Compared to what you face for foes, your arsenal isn’t that impressive or even that futuristic. Rather you have to rely on skill and your squad mates. The game gives you the option to order your team mates to charge and take cover among other simple commands. This can be done through the keyboard or by plugging in a microphone and shouting the commands yourself (the voice recognition system is faulty, especially in places where ambient noise is aplenty).
Here is where the game puts a slight twist to the mechanic. Shoot your mates by mistake and they might refuse to listen to your instructions. Save them from a tight spot or show skill in the battlefield, and they’ll praise you and trust you more. This may be something of a spoiler, but how you treat your teammates decides who lives and dies at the end of the game.
The characters of Binary Domain aren’t uninteresting though. They are admittedly a bit stereotypical, but that doesn’t stop them from being fun and you’ll always want to hear what they say next. In other words, the game gives you a reason to why you should cooperate with them. They are also pretty good fighters themselves. You rarely need to ask them to take cover or stay out of the line of fire. The friendly A.I is good enough for you to focus on mowing down your enemies.
In between missions, you are given the choice to select two squad mates to accompany you in your quest. Their efficacy in battle isn’t what that matters here as all of them pretty much perform the same. The balance is slightly shifted if you decide to purchase upgrades for them using a gun store of sorts. Each kill earns you credits and with them you can get new weapons, “Nano-tech” upgrades for yourself and your mates, and other stuff.
Graphically, Binary Domain is not special but it definitely has an almost anime like quality to it, which blends well with its storyline and environments. Most impressive are the game’s character and facial animations which really bring the characters, with their fun dialogue, to life. It’s during the boss fights that the game really shows its colors. Robots the size of buildings stalk you continually and the spectacles they create, seamlessly blending cut-scene and gameplay, are highly enjoyable to watch.
While Binary Domain excels at the single player campaign (one of the best that I’ve played in years), it disappoints on the multiplayer side. The cooperative Invasion mode feels bland and uninspired due to repetitive levels and simplistic design. It may be fun for a while to dominate enemies but at the 40th wave, you’re more like to leave the game than bother continuing doing the same thing over and over again. The competitive multiplayer has a basic suite of modes for up to 10 players, but the same issues remain. Furthermore, occasional lag and lack of matches make it a hard choice for those who are more into multiplayer gaming and less concerned about experiencing a story.
Playing Binary Domain with a mouse and a keyboard is not at all recommended without applying the released patch. The PC port is deliberately mediocre (no mouse support on menus!) but luckily it runs well enough on most systems.
The story mode of Binary Domain is good enough to make you ignore its flaws. The bombastic journey, lively characters and the awesome ending will leave you wanting for a sequel. And hopefully, there will be one in the coming years.