Bionic Commando Rearmed Review for PlayStation 3

Bionic Commando Rearmed Review for PlayStation 3

Rearmed and Ready to Rock

Bionic Commando for the NES was a title that caused many gamers to pull at their hair, slam their controllers to the ground, and generally get rather violent over the platformer. Nevertheless, the game was incredibly addictive due to the hero’s mechanical arm feature and the interesting level design.

Bionic Commando Rearmed screenshot

These elements combined to make the game feel both unique and rewarding. Fast forward twenty years and all the platforming challenge of the original is intact, with a revamped, HD presentation and more balanced gameplay. Additionally, improved bosses, a new, massive level, and offline co-op campaign and multiplayer battles make Bionic Commando Rearmed a very complete package.

The basic premise of the game is simple: Go through level after level as covert Bionic Commando, Nathan “Radd” Spencer, in search of a lost asset (Super Joe) on your way to destroying a maniacal power and his thugs bent on world domination. Along the way, you will be set upon by various soldier types with unique abilities, hulking mechanical weapons that bumbling technicians didn’t put together quite right, peculiar bosses that express their contempt for Spencer in humorous ways, and insane complexes that only a Bionic Commando could navigate successfully.

Newcomers to the game should know that Rearmed is a pure, 80s-style, side-scrolling platformer that throws in minion and boss combat just to mix things up a bit. As such, the vast majority of the game will be spent using your mechanical arm to swing from one platform to the next with inch-perfect timing. At first, players will feel confined by the lack of a jump button; it just doesn’t feel right. Additionally, Radd falls straight down; there is no momentum and no mid-air adjustments to be made. However, using the mechanical arm eventually becomes second nature, and it is far more engaging than a jump button could ever be. In fact, players will soon be swinging around levels like a hopped up monkey with an attitude. The resulting feel is as smooth and engaging as many of the pristine moments in Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia series.

Bionic Commando Rearmed screenshot

Mercifully, the initial levels serve as a fun warm up for the outstanding yet insanely difficult levels that are to follow. Don’t be too worried though; you won’t be bothered by running out of continues and having to start the game from scratch. That’s because the developers, GRIN, have revamped the health and limited “continue” system the old game had in order to keep modern gamers engaged and protect their $60 controllers. Furthermore, after the first several levels of toiling with the unfamiliar controls, you’ll be armed with a bunch of fun, unlockable weapons and the technical skill to best the varied challenges that come up.

Weapons such as grenades, machineguns, rocket launchers, and the ricocheting vector cannon are loads of fun, and they are used to greater or lesser effect depending on the baddie or obstacle you face. That means, unlike the original, players will be forced to use the entirety of their arsenal to advance. All the weapons are easily controlled, and the explosive effects are fun to look at. Nonetheless, as previously mentioned, combat takes a backseat to platforming. That’s why the mechanical arm will be your greatest weapon. It will serve both as a shield and an implement of death-dealing; deflecting bullets and picking up barrels and foes with the extendable, vice-like grip simply never gets old. Moreover, players will often find the best tactic is to use the arm in new and interesting ways in order to harness the power of the environment. In fact, it is the only way to get past the cagey boss battles.

Bionic Commando Rearmed screenshot

Speaking of boss battles – Bionic Commando is full of them. The over world map is laid out into zones of control. Players can hop between various areas, clear out the lackeys, take on the Big Bad Guy (or Machine), and acquire new goodies to help them on their way. Bosses are characterized by powerful weaponry or secondary forces that can only be surmounted by exploiting their weak spot. These weaknesses are pretty easy to find, but if you are having trouble, you can always hack into the enemy’s computer system in order to obtain key bits of useful information that humorously enrich the story and give you crucial insight into enemy fortifications and machinations.

While bouncing from zone to zone in your helo, sometimes you’ll run into mobile SAM batteries that roam the map. This will launch you into top-down shooter levels similar to those of Commando 3: Wolf of the Battlefield. These levels are very short, mirror the original, and serve to break up the side-scrolling gameplay. Unfortunately, they feel a bit tacked on and aren’t nearly as engaging as the rest of the game. Unlike the main levels of the title, this top-down shooter mechanic is extremely easy, devoid of platforming, and painfully repetitive. Thankfully, these encounters are fairly easy to avoid and are very brief in duration.

The first thing players will notice upon firing up Rearmed is the game looks and sounds excellent. The title still has the charm of the original, but the explosions, level of detail, death animations, ambient sounds, and reworked score are second to none on the XBLA or PSN. In fact, I was so impressed with the presentation, I found it hard to believe the game only costs $10 and that the developers were dealing with limited polygons.

Bionic Commando Rearmed screenshot

Another important upgrade to Rearmed is offline co-op play and multiplayer battles. Players can have a buddy over to help them get through the platformer. The A.I. will be increased in both number and tactics, and players will even have to face bosses that have been modified to emphasize greater teamwork. That means, though the story and levels remain the same, taking advantage of local co-op will give players a substantial reason to play through the game again.

Also, three party-like, multiplayer battle modes will have you and up to three other friends fragging each other offline in Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, and Don’t Touch the Floor. The first two are self-explanatory, but Don’t Touch the Floor is both unique and the most enjoyable mode of play. It makes your weapons cause zero damage, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffectual. On the contrary, by shooting your opponents you will force them backward off platforms. It is then incumbent upon them to grab the platforms with their mechanical arm before falling to their doom. Needless to say this will cause a lot of hooting, hollering, and shoulder punching.

Both co-op and multiplayer battles are offline only, which may be some cause for concern. However, it’s kind of nice that gamers are forced to play with real friends and not just virtual ones. Many shooters nowadays have abandoned local play, as if we don’t want to play with our buddies in the living room, and this has been disconcerting to players from the old guard. Besides, this title is going to be wildly successful; I wouldn’t doubt that an online multiplayer support update will be offered in the near future.

Finally, players will also be treated to Challenge Rooms that will test their ability to swing their commando. These rooms are simple gauntlets that challenge players’ timing and precision. The maze-like mini-levels are timed once the player breaks the initial tape, and the clock stops once the player reaches the goal. Scores and times are recorded for each room, and players will find hours of enjoyment outside of the main game simply trying to best their times and get better rankings.

Bionic Commando Rearmed is one of the best downloadable titles to date. The production value, quirky humor, outstanding platforming challenge, and low cost make this a game everyone should pick up. Look for Bionic Commando Rearmed to set the bar for future AAA downloadable content when it releases on August 13th for XBLA and August 14th on PSN.

The high definition visuals and slick animations are outstanding! 4.2 Control
Though initially tricky, players will quickly adapt and thoroughly enjoy the experience. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects and reworked original score are every bit as good as the classy graphics. 4.3 Play Value
This is a platformer junkie’s dream. Plus, the additional content and multiplayer options will keep you coming back for more. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Classic Bionic Commando gameplay focused around the use of the bionic grappling arm, 2-player co-op mode, and four-player combat mode.
  • Total modern visual revamp, including dynamic shadows, particle effects, and environmental damage.
  • Cross-game interoperability: Complete specific parts of Bionic Commando Rearmed to unlock new content and hints for the Bionic Commando sequel.
  • In-game art designed by one of Capcom’s most talented artists, Toshiaki Mori.
  • Reworking of musical score into a hip-notic masterpiece.

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