Binary Domain

7.0 Overall Score

Binary Domain is a fun, very competent cover-based shooter.

No campaign co-op! Story is full of goofy anime tropes.

Written by on May 8, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

So let’s talk about Binary Domain. In short, Binary Domain’s a goofy, mostly self-serious cover-based third-person shooter. Another way of saying all that might be saying that it’s Gears of War with robots, and that’s accurate enough. It’s those small differences that will either sell you on Binary Domain or not, but regardless the efforts made here are interesting.

Binary Domain’s story has many trappings of a heist film; a team of specialists from all over the world are sent in for a job against overwhelming odds. Although one might use the term specialist loosely, inside your first hour of gameplay your covert ops team has been spotted and you’re making with the robot murder.

That gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect from a third-person shooter. You run up to a lot of chest-high walls, crouch behind them, and pop out to shoot at dudes as they come close. The game does make some attempts to mix this up. As you’re blowing apart robots, not people shots to the legs and arms can have a far more pronounced effect. Blowing off an arm will force a robot to step out of cover to retrieve its weapon, a leg will force it to crawl at you, and the a headshot will make an enemy attack friend or foe alike, letting you force bad guys out of cover or distract a crowd with a few decent shots.

Where the combat falls short is where Gears met with so much success, the same way it did with so many terribly amazing action movies in the eighties. Binary Domain simply isn’t visceral enough. Your melee kills are just punches, and nothing comes close to the pure gorefilled glee of similar titles. As a result most of the game feels almost sterile, particularly when you get into the broad, open landscapes it likes to throw at you. While there’s nothing mechanically wrong with the gameplay there isn’t a lot to break it up, either. Occasionally you’ll have a swimming/sliding sequence, and there are two or three vehicle segments that have you shooting dudes without moving up to chest high walls, but beyond that the gameplay you get in the first hour is the same you’ll find in the tenth.

The game’s story is dumb and full of goofy anime tropes, but there are enough interesting characters to keep things moving. In particular the smartass french robot remains memorable. Boss fights are suitably epic as well, as your small team takes on enormous anthropomorphic murderbots, like a titanic snake-headed motorcycle armed with a metric ton of missiles. But even those seem to go on about five or ten minutes too long each time. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of these sequences, or the combat, but there’s just not a whole lot there to drive it along, either.

This in particular becomes Binary Domain’s shortcoming. It’s a quite competent shooter, and the upgradable weapons and voice commands are interesting, but it all falls kind of flat. By the time you reach the late-game upgrades your primary machine gun is an absurdly powerful death hose, and most of the combats wind up with you swapping between that and the incredibly broken (though not always available) shotgun. There are a variety of bad guys, but simply not enough to cover ten hours of gameplay with variety. It’s just difficult to have six significantly different enemies that shoot at you while you hide behind cover.

At the arbitrary sequel-hinting conclusion to the game there just simply isn’t that much to look back at and be happy about. Sure, we had those epic boss fights, but most of them were spent running in circles looking for rocket launcher ammo and avoiding explosions. Very few of the set pieces really stood out, save for the two that wound up bugged and forced me to restart from a checkpoint to keep going.

Lastly, while the multiplayer is present and fine, the lack of a co-op…option for the campaign seems really weird, especially when one considers the Gearsish…borrowings of Binary Domain. To put it another way, when I have a revival mechanic, one to three party members at all times, and the system is already designed for voice commands and chatter, why can’t I have a buddy drop into the campaign with me? I don’t have anything against the round-based survival mode offered, it’s just the omission of the co-op campaign seems odd.

At the end of it all, Binary Domain is a pretty fun, very competent cover-based shooter with a horde mode, deathmatch, and robust single player campaign. There’s even a (small) variety in the available endings depending on how party members are treated. The combat has a terminator vibe to it that’s fun enough, and the game looks pretty good. I guess the important question is whether or not you’d like more cover-based shooting with some robots that blow up pretty good. If you do, Binary Domain won’t lead you wrong.

A copy of Binary Domain was provided to The Married Gamers for review.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards.

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