Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Review
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is the sequel to GRIN’s 2009 XBLA title of the same name and the prequel to Capcom’s console-bound Bionic Commando from the same year. It stars returning protaganist Nathan Spencer, who has been reduced from the bionic badass he once was to something more akin to a wacky high school gym coach.
The story revolves around a dictator from the fictional Papagayan Islands who is threatening to attack the FSA, for whom Spencer works. A colonel is sent to take on the dictator but goes MIA shortly thereafter, and Spencer and his team of bionics are sent it rescue Colonel Bluebaker and bring down the threat. Unfortunately, the story is not very well implemented (or written) and if you’re anything like me you won’t be able to hit the skip button fast enough during “cutscenes.”
Bionic Commando has always been about the swinging mechanic, which allows the hero to hook on to ledges, poles, and other obstacles with his bionic arm. He can then ascend or swing to get around, replacing the standard platforming that plagued the 8-bit (and 16-bit) scene. Rearmed 2 takes one step backward by adding the ability to jump, but this can be disabled in the options for purists. In fact, there’s even an achievement for completing the entire game without jumping for those looking for a challenge--and you will need a challenge, as the campaign levels are not particularly difficult. Enemy encounters are easily overcome or altogether avoidable, and the uninspired bosses simply require you to latch on with your arm to reveal their weak point, then unleash holy hell until their health bar is kaput.
Although there is a good supply of levels to complete, the non-linearity of the first game is gone. FatShark, the studio who took over development duties after GRIN’s closure, also removed the top-down shooter levels that, although far from perfect, added a much-needed level of variety that this sequel now sorely lacks. The levels themselves are not particularly interesting, and the game has a “been here, done this” feel to it from the onset. To compound the repetitive nature of the game, you will be required to replay many levels once you’ve obtained certain upgrades in order to find all of the collectibles. This emphasis on back-tracking works in open-world titles like Shadow Complex and Symphony of the Night, but is just a lazy way to shoe-horn artificial “replay value” into a half-baked game.
Speaking of lazy, the game once again features cooperative multiplyer for two players, but is only available locally. A producer for the game stated that online multiplayer--one of the original’s most requested additions--was out because “we wanted to concentrate on the actual game itself rather than adding new features to it.” It’s 2011 Capcom (and all downloadable game creators); having local-only co-op is a thing of the past, and once again the limitation here hurts the overall package.
Despite the claim of focusing on the game rather than adding new features, there are actually are a number of new additions, not the least of which is the aforementioned ability to jump. The Bio Mode allows Spencer to scan the screen for informational terminals and tips on puzzles/enemies. It’s kind of an optional tutorial mode for newbs, and doesn’t really add much to the game. The more substantial addition is the ability to upgrade and customize Spencer’s bionic arm and weapons. You can unlock the usual array of weaponry (grenade launchers, rifles, bazookas, etc.), as well as passive and active upgrades such as a healing factor. The VR challenges also make their return, and incorporate the different weapons into the tricky platforming.
Although Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 plays it safe with vanilla additions and the ability to jump for casual gamers, the one thing it has going for it is an excellent presentation. The menus, level select, and soundtrack are absolutely superb, and sadly outshine every other element of this product. There’s a fine line between paying homage to a retro classic while bringing the franchise into the modern era, and FatShark slipped up one too many times with this average attempt.