Binary Domain Review (Xbox360)

You should be forgiven for letting Binary Domain slip under the radar. Any kind of promotion has been non-existent from Sega. As the debut title from Toshihiro Nagoshi's Yakuza Studio, the new IP deserves a little more respect. For anyone who's played the Yakuza titles, you'll know that Nagoshi is more than capable of producing a thoroughly engaging and memorable adventure. Binary Domain is no different, pulling together a host of interesting ideas alongside some extremely tight gunplay.

Fed up of shooting zombies? Set in Tokyo of 2080, you don't have to fear the stumbling groaners. Instead, Binary Domain takes influence from the likes of Blade Runner and I, Robot. Your enemies are mechanical beings who have been programmed to infiltrate society by a mysterious force. Naturally, the Russian-spy antics leave civilisation unaware over who's human and who's a robot. As things turn nasty, a Rust Crew of international talents is thrown together to begin the elimination of any metal threat. Taking on the role of American hero Dan, the game quickly introduces squad-based tactics that see you through the entirety.

It's Bear Grylls! Or is that Adam Sandler?

Partnered by the continuously over-excited Big-Bo, the first chapter does a decent job of underlining each of the basic gameplay mechanics. As a third-person-shooter, gunplay mimics Gears of War, a comparison that shouldn't be downtrodden. The action is fast and response, rewarding those who eliminate foes with precision. Your team depend on your performance, both on and off the battlefield, so getting to grips with the handling of each weapon is a must if you're to build a healthy rapore with your allies.

While squad-based control has been implemented, the premise is better than the execution. You can use your headset to issue commands to those around you, but this is often problematic. Depending on your accent, certain words are misconstrued. Most commands are variations of attack, hold, regroup and cover, so a break down of communication can result in a tactical mess.

After the opening chapter, most of the game is spent commanding two buddies. Many times, I told them to charge the enemy, only for Big-Bo to reply, “Hold, okay.” Worst still, certain phrases allow you to comment on your team's effectiveness in combat. I intended to compliment them by shouting “Good Job”, only to see the command show up as “YOU IDIOT!” Needless to say, you'll quickly work out if you're going to use spoken control.

Commands can be utilised through the controller, but this feels like a let-down, and isn't as free-flowing as oral play promised to be. When you consider each decision helps build your relationship with each character, accidentally insulting them isn't the way to go. If you make your team detest you, they won't bother to carry out your instructions.

Enemies are excellently designed. Oh, boy, that's a big spider

This is a real shame, as for the most part, Binary Domain offers an entertaining romp through futuristic Japan. Sci-fi fans will lap up locations and each exciting encounter. The robots are superbly designed opposition who react to every shot. Take out their knees, and expect them to crawl towards your position. Smash their craniums into dust, and they'll wander round aimlessly, trying to work out where you are. Shards of metal explode with each successful shot, ensuring battles are awash with energetic carnage and destruction.

Bosses are also well-designed, as this game ushers in a number of set-pieces. You'll be chased by transforming spider bots, jet-ski away from a heavily guarded base, and even leap onto the back of a giant opponent. Animation is remarkably slick, especially when you witness a robot transforming itself into something more menacing. Yakuza Studios want you to enjoy the thrill of fighting against continually evolving opponents, and it works brilliantly. When you manage to quickly clear an area, sitting back and listening to the compliments of your team is a welcome reward.

It helps that such a diverse cast has been included. Two high-fiving, “COME AT ME BRO” Americans are supported by characters who never escape humorous stereotypes. While the Brit duo consistently moan, a Chinese sniper quietly goes about her business. Ironically, the best character is a French robot who's grasp of English makes him a worthy inclusion in your squad. The only annoying thing about your team is that they have a tendency to waltz in front of your shots, before blaming you for the friendly fire. Sometimes, you'll feel a quick bullet to the back is all they deserve.

Settings are interesting and full of character

Although multiplayer is included, it never takes advantage of the squad-based combat, much like the rest of the game. Co-op support for the main campaign is sadly missing. This really could have been a significant inclusion, too. Like many other titles, a Horde-style mode is available to play with friends, but this only adds to the feeling that a co-op campaign could have pushed this game towards excellence. Deathmatch and Capture the Flag multiplayer variants are included, but they fail to outshine plenty of other products that do it better.

If you're willing to give Binary Domain a chance, an engaging journey awaits. To the credit of the developer, gunplay is a blast throughout. Robots prove to be the perfect fodder for an onslaught of bullets, and also form the foundation for an intriguing narrative. The poor execution of squad-based commands is a disappointment, but it never becomes too much of a problem. This title is screaming out for a co-op campaign, an inclusion that really would have forced people to take it seriously. Right now, Binary Domain is an accomplished and enjoyable shooter that proves excellent combat can make up for shortcomings in other areas.

Top Gaming Moment: A mixture of sharp gunplay and enemies who react to each shot make this consistently thrilling.

Platform Played: Xbox 360