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March 16, 2012
Binary Domain - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
23/2/2012SegaSegaYakuza Studio12-10
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Squadmates offer advice during battles.
Sometimes it feels like every second game released these days is a shooter. That’s not actually the case, but the shooter genre is getting more crowded by the day. The latest game to join the burgeoning genre is Binary Domain, developed by the newly created Yakuza Studio (yes, they make the Yakuza games too). Featuring a diverse and deadly robot army, the ability to command your squad mates with your voice and a consequence system that puts your every word and action under the microscope, Binary Domain brings some interesting gameplay elements to the table. How does it stack up? Read on...

In the year 2040 climate change has resulted in the polar ice caps melting, flooding huge portions of the Earth and killing millions in the process. Rebuilding cities in their current location is impossible, so the idea is to build new cities on top of the old ones. With so many people killed in the floods robot labor is employed in the rebuild, and from this moment on, humans learn to co-exist with robots.

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Binary Domain is a decent looking game.
That is until 2080 when a robot indistinguishable from a human is discovered, in direct conflict with clause twenty-one of the Geneva Convention. The US Government decides to send in Dan Marshall and his squad to investigate, and if possible wipe out all other such robots. Unfortunately for Dan and his squad the robots aren’t about to come quietly, and as the squad finds out more about the new human-perfect robots, they realize it’s not just their own lives that are in danger, but humanity as we know it.

Binary Domain is a cover-based 3rd-person shooter. The general gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a 3rd-person shooter in the past. Levels are relatively linear, and you make your way from cover to cover, shooting anything robotic that moves. You're equipped with a primary and secondary gun, as well as a handgun (for emergenices) and some grenades. You also have some medi-packs on hand for when things get really hairy.

During levels you’ll come across shops that will sell you ammo, grenades, different secondary weapons and upgrades for each squad members primary weapon (other weapons cannot be upgraded). Different squad members each have a different primary weapon, but yours is an assault rifle that has a handy charged attack called a bosonic blast. The bosonic blast stuns or knocks down all robots in a small area and will be vital to your success in crowded areas and against bosses.

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Driving through the sewers on a jet ski.
Shops also sell nanomachines that boost the squad’s base skills, for example giving them a ten percent boost to health or defence, increasing the number of grenades or medi-packs that can be carried, or increasing their reload speed. To purchase any of these items you’ll need credits, which are earned every time you destroy a robot or perform skillful actions like head-shots or killing multiple robots at the same time. Speaking of head-shots, if you’re able to destroy a robots head while they’re still moving they’ll target other robots instead of your squad. Other robots in the vicinity will then target that robot rather than your squad, giving you a short time to lay waste to other threats without fear of reprisal.

Up to two members of your squad will be with you at any given time, and it is with them that Binary Domain's biggest innovations occur. You can interact with your squad via voice control, using any of the seventy-plus words they understand. Words like 'regroup', 'charge', 'fire', their names and a variety of swears all have meaning to your squad mates, and they’ll respond as if you were really there with them.

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Taking cover from enemy fire in Binary Domain.
If you don't have access to a microphone or headset you can deliver comments and commands with the controller, but this is slightly clunkier, requiring you to hold L2 and then select a response from a list. The voice command system works well (most of the time), adding immediacy to proceedings. At times your squad mates won't understand what you're saying, either because you didn’t enunciate properly, or the words were obscured by background noise, both of which have settings you can tweak in the options menu.

The other innovation, referred to as the ‘consequence system’ by Sega, means your actions and interactions with the squad have a tangible effect on how the game plays out. Throughout the game you can both earn and lose your squad mates trust – a high trust level means they’ll follow your directions quickly and offer up more strategic options during skirmishes, while a low trust figure means they might disregard your orders and not put forward their own ideas. High and low trust also has an impact on the cut-scenes you get, and without giving too much away it will have an effect on the final chapter of the game too.

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Now that's one massive weapon in Binary Domain.
You earn trust via conversations with the squad, as well as impressive combat performance. In between skirmishes your squad will engage you in conversation and your comments affect how they view you. It’s usually obvious what answers your squad mates want you to give, making conversations a good way earn trust. Combat performance is the other way to earn trust and by wiping out enemies quickly, performing multi-kills and reviving fallen friends you’ll get a trust boost. On the other hand your squad will lose trust in you if you give bad answers, perform poorly on the battlefield or send your friends into danger.

The single-player campaign runs for a little fewer than ten hours, but modern day shooters have a reputation for deep and enjoyable multiplayer modes too. Binary Domain has an impressive-sounding seven versus modes and a co-op mode called Invasion, but to be honest the multiplayer aspect of the game isn’t particularly impressive. The seven versus modes are relatively standard and include a free-for-all, team deathmatch and some capture the flag derivatives. Invasion pits you and some friends up against fifty waves of robots in a battle for survival, but the problem with this, and versus modes are numerous. Firstly there is noticeable lag, secondly the maps aren’t well-designed or imaginative, and lastly there isn’t a lot of customization available for you as you level up. There is some fun to be had in multiplayer, but we’re talking hours instead of days or weeks like some other top-end shooters.

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Taking cover from enemy fire in Binary Domain.
Outside of the uninspired multiplayer game, I didn’t have many issues with Binary Domain. The loading times are short, the story is interesting and well paced and above all it’s fun to play. Two small gripes I had are that the controls can be frustrating at times because the x button is responsible for multiple actions. X is responsible for getting into cover, rolling and also climbing ladders and invariably your character will do the wrong action, often at the exact wrong moment. The second small issue is that your squad mates have a nasty habit of walking right into your line of fire and any time they take damage from you their trust in you drops. Both of these issues are small and won’t cause more than momentary frustration, but they will happen more often than you’d like.

Visually Binary Domain is impressive, and while obviously not up there with triple-A titles, it’s not too far behind. Much of this is to do with the excellent and varied robots you’ll come up against, who all destruct in satisfying ways. Blowing off their shooting arm will force them to bend down and pick the weapon up in their other hand, giving you some time to blast them to smithereens. Blowing off a leg or two will slow them down, but even then they’ll crawl toward you and try to self-destruct close enough to cause you pain.

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Now that's one massive weapon in Binary Domain.
There are lots of bosses throughout the game, and they all look great. Like a lot of other shooters bosses have glowing weak spots, and while in other games this seems highly dubious, here it makes some sense in that you’re shooting at exposed drive cores. Fighting mechanical crabs, gorillas and other mammoth metal constructions is a whole lot of fun, and while the battles are taxing they don’t overstay their welcome or become repetitive.

So far as sound goes just about everything sounds great. The voice-acting is well done for the most part, especially after the opening levels where characters take on an instructional tone that doesn’t fit their character. The banter between the squad doesn’t sound totally natural, but it still works well. The sound effects are great, with the crunch of metal and robotic screams of anguish and or pain suiting the action perfectly. Being able to command the squad with your voice is fun too, even if it’s not one-hundred percent accurate.

Binary Domain is a story-driven shooter that is a whole lot of fun to play. The robotic army you’re up against is varied and well-designed, and they destruct in an always satisfying manner. Commanding the squad with your voice is empowering, and the consequence system is interesting and adds replayability. Despite the disappointing multiplayer aspect, Binary Domain is a game well worth checking out. If you enjoy shooters and like a bit of a story, Binary Domain may well surprise you.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSNot up to triple-A standards, but not miles behind either. The robots look great and the way they fall to pieces when you blast them is very satisfying.
SOUNDThe voice-acting and sound effects are both well done.
GAMEPLAYThe campaign is great fun, but multiplayer suffers from lag, so-so map design and an overall lack of innovation.
VALUEThe campaign lasts just under ten hours, and multiplayer might add a few more. There are plenty of reasons to replay the campaign though.
OVERALLBinary Domain is an accomplished release that is let down only by sub-par multiplayer. If you’re not fussed by multiplayer then this is well worth your time and money.

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