Bionic Commando: Rearmed
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Back in the day, you had basically three types of games for your home console: shooters, platformers and sports games. Platformers were your basic Sonic/Mario games where running, jumping and collecting are a focus. Even more gun-play oriented titles like Contra were run, jump and collect with a little destroy thrown in. Then Capcom went and changed the rules… no more jumping. What??!!? No jump? How do I get up to the platforms? How do I avoid getting shot? Easy: grappling arm. Bionic Commando for the NES broke all kinds of new ground forcing the player to use more realistic physics to get around by grappling with a retractable claw in order to reach higher platforms, swinging out to grab ledges and shooting out the claw to deflect projectiles. To this day Bionic Commando holds up pretty well, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Capcom would want to bring the title to the 21st century with high definition graphics, surround sound and 3D environments.
Hold on a sec… this isn’t exactly Half Life with a bionic arm. Actually, that’s on its way, but until then we get Bionic Commando: Rearmed, a remake in the most classic sense that gives a new generation the gameplay and mechanics that 80s gamers loved, this time for Xbox Live, and being that old school player myself, I couldn’t ask for much more.
BC:R almost directly mimics the original NES title. Nathan Spencer is a special ops solider tasked with flying in behind enemy lines to locate and liberate Super Joe from the hands of the evil Nazi…err.. Imperial soldiers led by the nefarious General Killt. Along the way, Spencer will unravel a larger plot that threatens freedom and peace worldwide. Yeah, it’s been done before, but BC:R isn’t trying to be original and that’s precsisely why the title works. The level design, characters, music and gameplay are all reminiscent of the original title, but cleaned and boosted up for 360. A perfect example is the music. Original title players will instantly recognize the tunes, even though they’ve been remixed into a base pumping trance/house/techno soundtrack that’ll give your subwoofer a workout.
Remakes are all well and good, but it wouldn’t be enough to just copy and paste, so Capcom has added a few new elements. An expanded weapon and equipment set, each earned through winning boss battles and landing in FSA (the good guys) controlled map points. The gameplay is non-linear for the most part, allowing players to visit any area of the map they like, but many areas require a particular weapon or tool to make it very far. You can wander into the caves as much as you’d like, but without a flare attached to light your way, it’s only a matter of time before the spike pits claim another bionic lunch.
Plus, what would an Xbox arcade title be without multiplayer? Here’s where one of my only complaint lies. BC:R brings a fanatastic element to the classic gameplay with co-op play. For the first time, two bionic-appendaged fighters can take on the Naz..Imperials together, but only on the same box. The Xbox Live online component is completely missing, save for comparing completion times on individual game levels as well as 50+ challenge levels that test puzzle solving skills with the arm grapple and weapon firing. Back to co-op for a moment, I have one other small complaint in that when one player extends too far off one side of the screen or another, the game automtically creates a split screen, but the transition effect can be disorienting for both players, and in the heat of a fire fight any visual tweak is likely to get you killed. There is a multiplayer competitive component as well, giving up to 4 players a shot at taking each other down in a single paned screen (no scrolling) and throwing random weapons and power ups down for consumption, but again here, there is a startling lack of online playability. Competetive multiplayer gets old pretty quickly and without being able to connect remotely to a friend, I for one will forget about it relatively quickly.
Looking past the gimped online component and some unusually long load times for levels (and even the game itself from the Live Arcade screens), Bionic Commando: Rearmed does a fantastic job and bringing a classic title up to speed and should easily satisfy players old and new. If you’re still looking for the full on 3D title setup up for release later this year, it might behoove you to know that the two games will be linked, unlocking content in both games to extend the experience and tieing the two stories together.