With Mass Effect 3 just around the corner, Sega have snuck Binary Domain out the door and into stores to try and cash in on the third person shooter hype. In a densely populated market, Binary Domain has some ambitious inclusions that work for the most part, giving it a genuine point of difference from other titles. The ability to talk to the AI using a headset is an excellent example, even if it is somewhat anti-social to talk to a video game character.
What Binary Domain Got Right
Interesting Storyline - Fans of I, Robot will thoroughly enjoy the story, which sees a company out of Japan developing robots that appear human to the naked eye - something which goes against the “New Geneva convention” signed by the major global robot-producing powers. As part of the International Robotics Technology Association, it is your job to find the innovative genius at the helm of this company, and bring him back to find out exactly what is going on. With lots of twists and turns, the story is one of the more interesting of recent shooters.
Integration of microphone - While it does feel more than a little stupid talking to your TV, Sega deserve compliments on trying something new. The voice controls work well, provided you stick to the commands that are listed in-game. With support for six different languages, it certainly isn’t a tacked-on feature, and has the potential to be explored in greater depth further down the line.
Decent online mode - Binary Domain includes both a 4 player co-op survival type mode, as well as a fully fledged competitive online mode, with standard game types including team deathmatch, free for all, and capture the flag. This competitive mode is complete with unlockable upgrades and ranks, and although it seems a little odd shooting humans instead of robots, the online mode is an enjoyable experience. While Sega haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel, it gives players a reason to keep their disc in long after the campaign is finished.
Varied weapon roster - Not only do the weapons handle quite well, but they are upgradeable across a number of categories, including accuracy, damage, and rate of fire. Teammates’ weapons can also be upgraded, and players can choose to purchase “nanomachines”, modifiers to improve base statistics such as health and defense, for all team members. Again, while it is not an entirely new or fully-explored addition, it adds to the overall experience the game provides.
What Binary Domain Got Wrong
Poor Control Scheme - While no game intends to feel just like other titles in the genre, Binary Domain controls differently to what a regular gamer would expect it to, aside from the camera controls being mapped to the right stick, and weapon cycling on the directional pad. More criminally, though, half of these controls simply do not execute when the player requests it. Overall, this contributes to a constricted experience, one where, as a player, you feel as though you can only do what the game wants you to.
Inferior Teammate AI - Something that rears its ugly head again and again in any shooter is poor AI. Binary Domain is no exception. At times, my commands went completely ignored by my squadmates, despite a clear aural acknowledgement. Given a big part of the teamwork is based on trust, having your teammate run in front of your line of fire, only to be shot in the back of the head, ruins the integration of said trust pretty quickly. While on the topic of the trust system, it doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference as to how chummy you and your colleagues are - while they may be slightly less helpful dealing with enemies or in giving out advice, they will still fight with you through to the end. On a positive note, the AI of opponent robots is difficult, without being too brutal; just as you would expect from a robot, really.
The Final Verdict
On the whole, Binary Domain gets a lot more right than it does wrong. A couple of issues with the control scheme and friendly AI aside, it provides a platform for a potentially fantastic sequel. In particular, the rogue robot production story arc is captivating. If the weapons, voice controls and online modes are a explored a little deeper in games to come, and cutscenes and set pieces set a little more dramatically, Sega may just be on to a winner.
By Tom Hughes