Bionic Commando - Xbox 360 review

Fans of old school gaming will no doubt remember both the original Bionic Commando, as well as the impressive remake released as a digital download last year. Starring a hero packing a huge grappling hook that allowed him to hook onto platforms and head to the heavens, Bionic Commando was a fantastic old school 2D platformer.

This brand new attempt to bring the series into the modern gaming world unsurprisingly takes things into full scale 3D. Now instead of craftily structured 2D levels, we now have huge cityscapes to peruse and swing around in a Spiderman-esque manner.

The switch to full scale 3D brings its obvious potential flaws, with aiming your hook being much more awkward with so much potential area to attach to in error. And to the developer's credit, they’ve done an admirable job at almost obliterating these worries. A context sensitive icon appears as an area you can attach to comes into view, and just a hold of the left trigger will see your arm fly out and attach to your aimed surface.

It’s a method that works, and does erase a large portion of the potential problems that the switch to 3D could have initiated. But it’s not flawless. At times you will, instead of attaching to the end of a platform, grapple onto the underside of a hulking piece of city and hence have nowhere to go other than drop. Thankfully your included boots stop you from perishing during these regular plummets, but it does bring frequent and abrupt halts to the swinging action.

Your arm isn’t restricted to merely initiating you flying around the 6 hours of play time the main game has to offer. It can be utilised to solve puzzles, hack consoles, and even fling items at enemies when you see fit. Again, it all works, but doesn’t have the kind of immediacy and success rate that any game with such an unusual feature requires.

Nathan Spencer, your protagonist, also packs a wealth of weaponry too. To start with you merely wield a horribly underpowered sounding pistol, which does indeed feel as commanding as flinging a wet fish at your enemies. As you progress, things get spiced up a touch with much more interesting and complicated weaponry which helps invigorate the latter stages.

Fans of the series will no doubt be pleased to hear that the traditionally high difficulty settings remain fully intact. Though enemies are easy to pick off one by one, find yourself with three or more on screen and chances are you’ll suffer yet another swift death and nudge back to your last checkpoint. Thankfully these save points are frequent enough to avoid much in the way of frustration, but the high difficulty setting will artificially extend the life of the single player campaign.

Like the rest of the game, visually things vary between quite attractive and downright ugly. The opening sections, which see you stuck inside a hulking office block, are a major low point and do appear horrifically dated. Yet once you’re outside and progress, the huge expansive outdoors are populated with some tremendous visual effects.

Verdict

Bionic Commando is a real mixed bag. Every single facet swings between impressive and sub-par. While the early levels are a horrible introduction, after that first half hour there’s some impressive gaming to contend with. Similarly the visuals vary between quite attractive later on yet start off with a lack of detail and clarity.

Fans will no doubt adore it, but those who are a little more reluctant to see past the various flaws and drawbacks may be better to try before they buy.