Binary Domain is a third-person shooter set in 2080 in Tokyo. Due to worldwide flooding, the majority of the world’s cities are uninhabitable and so new mega-cities have been built on top of the old. The intense rapid development required a robot workforce, which creates the game’s main conceit around which the story and politics revolve. The game was created by Toshihiro Nagoshi who also created the Yakuza games.
With the development of new mega-cities, the race for dominance in the production of robot technology is the main story arc in Binary Domain. Two main companies stand out; the American-Based Bergen Company and Japanese-Based Amada Corporation. Bergen became the main supplier and therefore the main superpower, with Amada Corp closely following. In a case somewhat resembling Apple’s recent IP litigation with its various competitors, Amada tries to sue Bergen, accusing them of stealing their technology. Unfortunately due to Bergen’s superiority and wealth Amada’s case fails.
Clause 21 is created in the New Geneva convention, banning research into the creation of robots resembling humans. 40 years later a ‘Hollow Child’, a robot resembling a human with no idea it is a robot, attacks Bergen’s headquarters in direct breach of clause 21. An international team of special force agents called ‘RUST’ are sent to Tokyo to investigate the prime suspect, Amada Corporation.
The story makes a brave attempt to maintain interest, but starts to unravel towards the end, especially as the number of set pieces and boss battles mount up. It starts well in the opening scenes, prompting the player to second guess what could be going on. Unfortunately as is always the case with first and third person shooters, it falls foul to predictability and, although a few minor, clever twists are revealed towards the end, it does tend to fit the template of a standard sci-fi story. Many times I was reminded of films like Blade-runner and I-Robot, with some scenes very reminiscent of the car chase sequences in Will Smith’s film. Another fault of the story is that, to supply certain, admittedly fun, aspects of the gameplay, realism is forfeited and there are aspects of the ridiculous which become more glaring as your relationship with the characters grows. Sadly the main protagonist, Dan Marshall, is the most generic joke-quipping Space Marine you would ever find, who vaguely resembles the chisel-jawed Matthew Fox of ‘Lost’ fame. He is an instantly hateful, misogynistic character, who buddied up with the stereotypical beefcake heavy gunner black buddy, makes for an unlikeable pair. Bundle that with a british Sean Bean type, sexy Chinese lady, butch lesbo marine and robot sidekick with a laughable French accent, they tick all the genero-FPS boxes. It makes you wonder what the Eastern perception of the West really is. Overall the story is a fair, popcorn movie affair that accommodates the game-style.
“Don’t Fancy Yours, Mate”
The graphics are a strong point and well designed. The environments are lovingly created and there are some beautiful scenes in the upper mega-cities. Textures are sharp and believable and with very few clipping artifacts. There is a good contrast between the lower city slums and the shiny, clean upper megalopolis and it has almost certainly been inspired by the design of Deus Ex Human revolution, without the muddy yellow tint. Much like Vanquish, there is a bright, clean airy nature to the environments which is a welcome change to the muddy brown of a lot of shooters. Towards the end of the game, there is a sameness to some of the interiors, but there is still plenty of variety to maintain interest. The Tokyo cityscape lends itself well to being a sci-fi based location and is well used in the cut-scenes.
“I asked how was your trip’…oh shit”
The menus of the game match the style of the subject matter, being futuristic and minimalist. Main menus resemble the lab-clean whiteness you can see in the more recent Wipeout games, without too much clutter. In-game menus are a bit more complicated, and navigating to certain features for upgrading your weapons can sometimes be guesswork, however they are quick to learn, and easy to pick up as you play.
This review may come across being negative, but as we all know gameplay is king in video games and this is where it shines. You play as Dan Marshall and must lead your various team members around the game by giving them commands. One USP of the game the designers were pushing is the ‘Consequence System’. You must command your team mates, either by using your controller, or by barking commands into an attached microphone. Depending on your commands and your responses during conversations with your team, your team mates’ behaviour will change. The only real bug-bear was your team mate’s AI. Telling them to charge or fire will make them run directly into your own weapon’s range of view and cause them to be shot. Not only this, but they will castigate you for shooting them. The number of times I swore loudly to my team mates as I shot them again, “Stop ******* running in front of me then, ****wit!”
In terms of combat, this is great fun. Weapons are satisfyingly powerful and responsive and as all the enemies are robotic, make very satisfying targets as they explode in a shower of sparks. Shouting ‘Cover me!’ or ‘Charge!’ to your team mates in the heat of battle is a useful mechanic and also frees your hands up to make more accurate shots (as long as they don’t get in the way). Tactically the game is satisfying too. Shooting a robot in the legs makes it immobile, but it will still drag itself across the floor to shoot or grab your ankles. Headshots make the blind robot turn on its fellow machines and shoot them. Deciding when and where to do this, especially during boss battles where there are a variety of types and strengths of machines, is really engaging.
Throughout the game are various vending machines where you can buy ammo, upgrade your weapons and your teams attributes, which is useful, as they are conveniently placed. These can be used in the heat of the battle, which sometimes feels faintly ridiculous, “Hang on large Spider-like Robot gargantuan, I’m just going to go shopping so I can kill you more effectively. Thanks, good show old chap.” There is plenty of variety of set pieces, turret shooting, car chases, bottleneck fights, time restricted objectives, that although probably inspired by COD, work well with this game, and you do have more freedom of movement through your environments so you’re not tied to one rail.
“Crap! A large Spider-like Robot gargantuan. Least it’s not a crab”
I used a bluetooth headset when playing and this generally worked fine, however I did find that if my television’s volume was set too high, players would start responding to their own audio from the television and create some rather comical squabbles. It also affected my general approval rating from the team, so I would advise using a proper headset with speakers.
The controller was fine, with all the keys and buttons being easily re-mapped to your own layout. I play quite a few FPSs and so mapped mine to the standard left trigger to L2 to aim, RI to shoot that I’m most comfortable with.
The game’s techno-orchestral soundtrack was fine, but instantly forgettable. Audio during gameplay was excellent, especially the sounds of rubble falling during battles where the environment would crumble. The game presents you with a range of robotic noises, and are as sci-fi as expected. Voice acting is touch and go, mostly fairly believable, especially the chinese and japanese NPCs. Credit goes to the actor voicing the Japanese policeman that features in the game, who acted well in native Japanese and English.
Overall Binary Domain is a fairly generic shooter with mostly forgettable characters. It looks and sounds great and its main saving grace is its fun gameplay. Running in at about 12 hours of gaming it’s not majorly long, so may be a rental rather than a buy, especially if you are a fan of FPS games. Copy of Binary Domain was bought by me.
Jon ‘Darth Nutclench’ Evans
All pictures courtesy of Google Images