|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: February 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
The trailer for Binary Domain makes the game look a little like Blade Runner with guns. I got my hands on a playable demo at E3, and as it turns out, Binary Domain's plot isn't so much Blade Runner as it is "ZOMG Robots!" Still, it's a pretty interesting third-person cover-based shooter with a few cool innovations up its sleeve.
So the robot apocalypse has come and Skynet is laughing itself silly. Essentially, mankind has built robots that have become more and more advanced until they're eventually indistinguishable from human beings. After they develop emotions, feelings, hopes, dreams, and the other key aspects of sentience, they do what any sensible intelligent race would do: attempt to exterminate humanity. It's up to the last few remaining humans on Earth to handle this in the most diplomatic way they can. Of course, this is an action game, so "diplomatic" means "kill them before they kill us."
When you first start up the Binary Domain demo, it's easy to mistake it for any other cover-based shooter. You'll use the environment extensively throughout gameplay, ducking behind buildings, dumpsters, and sandbags in an attempt to stop the oncoming androids. However, it's when your squad mates don't exactly fight with your best interests in mind that you'll start to notice the first of Binary Domains unique systems.
According to a SEGA booth rep, Binary Domain will use a "trust system" that will gauge how much your various allies trust your leadership skills. The main data this system will use will be your gameplay track record. Letting a teammate get shot will cause him to trust you less. If you protect him, he will trust you more. However, the game will also force you to make story decisions that threaten to tear your party apart. You will have no choice but to favor certain party members over others at different points in the game, making your party's trust levels quite varied. If a comrade has high trust in you, he will listen to your commands more accurately. If he has low trust, he is more likely to go off on his own and screw up your plans. An ally with low trust might even go off and sabotage your entire survival mission. You know, just like your friends would in a real robot apocalypse.
You can command your allies via the controller, or by plain spoken voice commands into a mic. Of course, none of this matters a whole lot if your allies won't even listen to you. Even worse, this is another one of those games where allies have to help each other up when they fall in battle. If no one helps you out because you've been a jackass, you'll die pretty quickly.
The next innovative system comes into play when you crouch behind a piece of cover and it suddenly crumbles around you. The game uses a "procedural damage" system both for its environments and its enemies. Nearly every piece of cover in the game, no matter how solid, is destroyable in some manner. A piece of wood will only take a few bullets before shots start getting through, for example, but a row of sandbags will take a rocket or grenade before it gets demolished. I was told that "no area in the game is truly safe" and that player will have to "constantly find new sources of cover to survive."
Your enemies are robots, so positional damage is going to matter quite a bit. Every robot model will have a different area where its power source is located. Unfortunately, shooting any other area doesn't really stop a robot; it just weakens it. For example, some robots could have their head blown off and they would just keep on going. Sure, they can't see you now because you took out their optical sensors, but they will fire randomly trying to hit anyone in the vicinity, and this might be even more dangerous. Blowing off an enemy's leg will just make it crawl toward you with its hands, and even robots that are near fully dismembered will still attempt to get in your way in order to self-destruct.
Binary Domain is entertaining, but it's going to have quite the battle ahead of itself since it feels a lot like the other third-person cover-based shooters out there. It's somewhere between Vanquish and Gears of War in terms of feel, and while the real life locations (like the streets of futuristic Shibuya) work to set it apart from the pack, SEGA will really have to push the trust and procedural damage systems in order to make it look like anything other than just another third-person shooter. In short, it's a game that could be great if done right but horrible if done wrong. We won't know which is which until the game finally comes out.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer