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Binary Domain: Surprise!

 

What a weird game, this Binary Domain. I knew very little about it when Sega sent a copy my way last week. I knew it had robots. And guns. And the Yakuza guy had a hand in it. That was about it. I was still crusading across medieval Europe when it showed up so I really wasn’t in the mood for a sci-fi squad based third-person corridor cover shooter, which Binary Domain most certainly qualifies.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Indifference Land. Binary Domain ended up being pretty darn good. Better than average, at the very least. This is a game that has sailed totally under the radar for most, as people gear up for Mass Effect 3 Day. It’s also a game, unlike Mass Effect 3, that reviews sort of matter. Really, how many reviews will you read of ME3? Are you going to base your decision to buy it on a review? You’ve likely pre-ordered it and will be there day one to get that game. Reviews for such games are somewhat pointless – unless the game tanks or is a weird departure (Dragon Age 2…) But Binary Domain? Here’s a game that could really benefit from some press.

The game takes place in 2080; you are part of an elite international “Rust Crew” (special ops type guys) and you fight a shitload of robots. There’s your premise.

With you are a few other comrades: The Chinese sniper chick, the two Brits: an explosive expert guy and a woman who loves to use a shotgun. You have your buddy Big Bo, a heavy weapons expert and along the way you pick up an allied robot that is fairly bad ass. Each of these characters, yourself included have base stats for range, ammo, reload speed, damage, etc. They can also be upgraded via these Nano things that you find or buy at in game stores which upgrade various stats, add health, defense, etc.

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You earn cash by killing robots – and you earn more by targeting body parts. Not sure why— just go with it.

During the game when your team splits up (which they do a lot) you pick two of your crew to go with you and you can issue orders to them via the pad or…if you have Kinect…you can talk to them.

This confirms just how much I despise the Kinect for anything that doesn’t involve my 11 year old daughter showing her dance moves or playing with her fake pet tiger. The voice recognition is hilariously awful. You’ll issue orders like, “Hold!” or “Regroup!” or “Charge!” The problem is that the noise reduction is awful so even when you’re walking around without any bad guys near you may issue an order. You may inadvertently issue the wrong order. It’s a mess. There’s also this weird dialogue system in the game. Yes, Binary Domain wants to be more than it is – these dialogue options are also comically bad. And depending on how you answer these crazy questions your relationship with team members improves or they start to hate you.

Example: British Shotgun Chick: “I think the slums are bad for people. What do you think?”

You can answer: (and I’m not kidding) “Sure” “OK” or “Damn!”

That’s gold. Makes NO sense at all but really who cares?

The problem is during a fight when Kinect doesn’t hear you correctly and you tell your teammates to hold when you want them to charge. Whoops. I just ended up unplugging that damn thing. Stupid Kinect. Not only does it not work but I feel so damn silly yelling “Fire!” and “Regroup!” sitting on my couch My dog looks up from his nap…wishing we hadn’t saved him from the shelter.

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There are two things that you know about Binary Domain. All of that stuff doesn’t matter. Here’s what you need to know:

1: The cut scene dialogue is actually quite good – borderline damn good. It’s light hearted but it fits. I enjoyed watching the cut scenes play out which I rarely care about in most games. Witty banter goes a long way. Not the in-game dialogue – but the cut scenes are well written and acted.

2: Most important: The shooting is excellent. From the targeting of robot body parts and shooting their heads off (which make them attack each other) to the inaccuracy that comes with being shot while aiming with your sniper rifle. The guns are satisfying, and the set pierces are extremely well done and it makes me forget the dumb ass Kinect support and the silly conversations I have with my team members.

When you get right down to it: the pew-pew in Binary Domain makes it worth the price of admission. This is a competent action game. That may not sound like a huge recommendation but sometimes competent shooting can go a long, long way.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

22 thoughts to “Binary Domain: Surprise!”

  1. I still need more convincing before I’ll be bothered to try Binary Domain. It may be competent, but there are so many shooters out there that have excellent gameplay AND story, and don’t infuriate me with squad mechanics.

  2. Yeah, I saw you playing this on there earlier today…I want to check it out, but I’m not prepared to drop $60 on it. Particularly not when it will likely be $20 in two months. It looks pretty good, and it’s Sega. And the last robot shooting game with cover mechanics was Vanquish…which was amazing on every level.

    I don’t have Kinect though, I’m not talking to the game. Now way.

  3. Is it just me, or do Japanese developers think that every black man is a 7-foot tall, bald bodybuilder?

    1. Wait wait wait. Are you saying the Japanese are known to stereotype? Color me shocked. Shocked, I say!

  4. “….pretty darn good. Better than average, at the very least.”

    So they’ll be using this in the ads, then?

  5. Not exactly a ringing endorsement Bill. It sounds like it’s not worth the trouble. I want you to imagine that you paid $60 for this game. Would that change your opinion? Would you run away screaming after playing this game?

    1. Not at all. The really bad stuff (Kinect…) is optional. I play these types of games for good shooting mechanics and good set pieces and BD has both.

      Binary Domain is worth playing. Worth $60? I really have no idea.

      1. “Binary Domain is worth playing. Worth $60? I really have no idea.”

        Here, let me run this through the Bill Filter:

        “Wait for the price drop.”

        1. Ha. Truly — that’s not what I mean. I have no idea what $60 means to you. I know what it means to me but that is totally irrelevant to the discussion.

          I like playing Binary Domain. That’s as far as I can take it. Is it better at $40 than $60? Sure. But I simply cannot put a value on stuff like this.

          Shit man, I paid $43 to fill my gas tank up yesterday. Binary Domain is a helluva lot more fun than THAT.

          1. Well, I’m a relatively cheap bastard with games. I save $60 for the cream of the crop if possible, because I’ll only buy maybe four games at full price in a year. So I generally think ‘worth playing’ means ‘worth waiting for a good sale or get from Gamefly at some point’. Especially since, as Barnes often points out, unless it’s a top-tier game it’ll cost 50% less in two months anyway.

            Clearly driving the Abner Pimpmobile ain’t for the faint of heart or wallet. (I kid, unfortunately $43 probably barely filled a 12gal tank.)

          2. The real question is if it came down to a choice between paying $43 to fill up your tank or $43 to buy Binary Domain, would you be getting the Schwinn 10 speed cruiser out of the garage?

  6. I thought the demo was great. Great shooting, awesome enemy designs and robots that will crawl up and grab your leg. What more could any man want? You don’t need Kinect for the voice commands, either. You can use a regular headset on both the 360 & PS3.

        1. I believe the back window is a full-size decal of Hello Kitty peeing on Calvin peeing on the University of Michigan logo. Or something like that.

  7. Need to add an addendum here.

    Binary Domain is the first game I have ever played when one of your team members leaves right before a firefight — to go to the restroom. And he literally walks into the stall and yells “Occupied!” if you follow him.

    Surreal doesn’t begin to describe that sequence.

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