A sci-fi shooter unlike any other…
Voice commands; they’re one hell of a drug. When they work you feel as though AI and humanity is coming together to perform a great symphony of interaction, but when they don’t you feel compelled to damn computer science in all its helpful forms – why can’t computers just be more human?
Coincidentally enough, that’s actually the driving plot of Binary Domain, a tactical squad shooter which enables players to order around their fellow combatants by only using the biggest hole in their face, but rather than building an entire game around this dynamic, SEGA just make it a sideshow to what is in actual fact a really endearing and imaginative blockbuster experience.
As future settings go it’s the kind of high concept sci-fi a large majority of gamers will relish. This future of humanity sees the world irrevocably changed by the relentless march of technology with a mysterious company pumping out androids dressed in human skin, dubbed ‘Hollow Children’ and sending them into the world, without them knowing they are in fact machine not man.
It’s a great premise and one that’s dealt with in a surprising amount of supporting detail about corporate politics, social inequality, environmentalism, and isolationism. Yet despite these issues being spoken about at length in the plot, Binary Domain is never so serious that it takes away the fun from proceedings and that’s largely thanks to the multi-national cast of characters which vary from a French accented robot, an absurdly uptight Brit and two Americans which play up to the worst kind of stereotypes. Yet despite this odd mix, the plot is actually the best part of the game with really solid squad shooter gameplay to back it up. Supported by upgradeable weaponry, a great cover system and robotic enemies which accurately degrade under fire; losing limbs, head and arms etc.
Best of all the host of automatron enemies adjust themselves when you shoot off their limbs, picking up another weapon with their remaining faculties; it’s a similar revelation to when GoldenEye was first released and you saw enemies grasp at their entry wounds for the first time – Binary Domain’s combat feels just as impactful and enjoyable.
To compliment the regular gunplay there’s also imaginatively pitched boss battles involving a giant robotic spider, monstrous red cyber-chimp, as well as set pieces which make the most out of the silly cast risking their lives as chaos reigns around them.
Unfortunately the voice command system isn’t quite so well-rounded. Telling squadmates to “Move Forward” or “Fall Back” rarely works at the best of the times, and that not being an issue is a testament to how thrilling and enjoyable the core of Binary Domain really is. And there’s still a regular order system in-game so you can use a key when your regional accent fails once again to produce the desired affect. SEGA has chucked in some ingenuity to encourage you to make the verbal effort though, as occasionally dialogue opportunities will arise with your team-mates, in the guise of conversational questions which adds another layer of immersion and attachment to your squad. It’s the sort of ambitious move others shooters would never attempt to try, but Binary Domain has plenty of those moments that you have to respect the developer for trying.
Interestingly the also game recognises when you tell squadmates, “I love you” or chastise them for poor performance in no uncertain terms. We’re not sure what’s better the inclusion of those commands or the inevitable confusion that arises when you tell AI buddies that you love them, when really you’ve just told them to fall back, but it’s a still a cool feature that we’re glad is in here. There’s also morale system, with teammates refusing to obey your orders if you lead them down the garden path too many times, but thankfully the consequences of this aren’t too severe.
There’s also a multi-faceted multiplayer component , including deathmatch and squad on squad battles, but this is a token inclusion at best with very few matches currently being played online.
SEGA’s latest release is full of great ideas and while some of them aren’t very well executed, there’s still more than enough innovation and ambition here to warrant acclaim. Binary Domain isn’t without its faults, there’s no denying that, but if you let yourself succumb to its silliness and hook up a microphone when playing, you’ll have a fantastic and very memorable experience.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot give Binary Domain a try.
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