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I think it’s safe to say Gears of War popularized the cover mechanics we’re all familiar with today. Now I know games like WinBack, Kill Switch, and Manhunt released years prior and they, too, had their own cover systems but I don’t think the cover mechanic really took off until Gears of War. After Gears, many action games incorporated cover mechanics including the Grand Theft Auto series, the Rainbow Six: Vegas games, Vanquish, and Binary Domain, among others. Developed and published by Sega, Binary Domain was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in February, 2012. Apparently, the company Devil’s Details handled the PC port which released in April of that same year and that’s the version I played for this review. I guess you could say Binary Domain is a squad-based shooter where you get to take down robots and one of the highlights of the game is that you have the option to issue voice commands to your AI teammates through a microphone.
The game is set in Japan, in a world where global warming had caused worldwide flooding and new cities have been built above the waterline. Much of the world’s population has died and robots have been used as the main labor force. However, laws were passed that banned research into robots that could pass as humans. Of course, that happens anyway and these robots are known as “Hollow Children”, unaware that they are actually robots. The story plays out in chapters and you take on the role of Dan Marshall whose part of a Rust Crew, a global task force created by the International Robotics Technology Association, abbreviated IRTA. Dan and his crew are tasked with locating the founder of the Amada corporation who is believed to be responsible for the creation of the Hollow Children. I thought the story was actually pretty good and the writing does have its moments. Some of the humor is a bit corny but the plot manages to remain interesting all the way through. The voice acting isn’t bad and the performances are mostly believable. I do enjoy the banter between the characters, although some of the dialogue heard during gameplay becomes repetitive. You’ll frequently hear the same lines over and over again.
Binary Domain is a third-person shooter complete with the over-the-shoulder view and a cover system. You can walk, run, sprint, snap to cover, jump over obstacles, perform a melee attack, and perform an evade move where you can basically jump and roll and in any direction. As you progress through the story, you’ll acquire new teammates and you can command any teammates following you by issuing voice commands or via buttons. Buttons are more reliable and no matter how I tweaked the voice settings, the game would frequently fail to register what I said. You can bring up a list of applicable words but if you issue the wrong command or the game doesn’t properly register what you said, it just becomes annoying. It is cool when it works but after a short while I switched to the button commands since it’s a lot easier. In between battles, the game likes to force you to engage in conversations with your teammates and you usually have to answer questions. Certain answers result in raising or lowering their trust in you. Trust is important because the higher their trust, the more likely they are to actually follow your orders. The lower their trust, the less likely they are and they may outright refuse your orders. It’s not hard to figure out which answers to pick to raise their trust. But trust isn’t just affected by conversing, it’s also affected by certain elements of combat. For example, shooting them, even if accidentally, will lower their trust. Unfortunately, they will often get in your way which becomes annoying but, overall, they do prove useful in combat.
Dan is always equipped with his own assault rifle and he has a sidearm with infinite ammo but you can also equip a secondary weapon and grenades. You can swap out your secondary weapon and sidearm with weapons found in the environments, dropped by destroyed enemies, or with weapons bought from shopping terminals. Every character has their own unique weapon and Dan’s assault rifle can not only fire bullets but also unleash a powerful Shock Burst attack which does drain energy. Energy can be acquired from Bosnoic Cells dropped by destroyed enemies, bought from Shopping Terminals, or from Bosnoic Chargers found throughout the environments. Dan and his teammates’ weapons can be upgraded through Shopping Terminals scattered around and to purchase anything, you must have credits which are acquired by killing enemies. You can upgrade how much ammo each character’s weapon can hold, their range, accuracy, rate of fire, and firepower which I believe is the damage output. Dan’s rifle’s Shock Burst attack can also be upgraded and changed into an attack that results in a shockwave on impact or homing attack that also results in a shockwave on impact. Other weapons you acquire cannot be upgraded but there is a decent roster including a gatling gun, assault rifles, sniper rifles, light machine guns, pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers, and more. There’s also a decent variety of grenades. You’ve got frag, EMP, and sticky grenades. The more interesting grenade types include the Chaff Grenades which will cause enemies to become confused and attack each other and the Hologram Decoy which will distract enemies.
Nanomachines can be found in the environments or purchased from Shopping Terminals and these act like skills. Some Nanomachines only apply to certain characters and as you progress through the game, better Nanomachines will become available. These can assist you significantly in combat and each character can be equipped with only a certain amount. Some Nanomachines can boost health, others boost defense, and there’s even some that increase how many first-aid kits and grenades you can hold. The game employs a regenerating health system and there’s Nanomachines that increase the rate at which your health regenerates. There’s a good amount of Nanomachines to play around with and you can swap them out with others at any time during gameplay. Sometimes you may want to swap them out with others that are a better fit for a specific situation. When Dan goes down, you can use one of your first-aid kits to revive yourself or command one of your teammates to help you. Shopping Terminals are a great source for anything you need. They offer everything ranging from first-aid kits and weapons to Nanomachines and weapon upgrades, and luckily, they are around what feels like every corner. The Nanomachines and weapon upgrades made me feel like my team was always growing and becoming more efficient and you will notice a difference during gameplay. It should be noted that you can only purchase and equip weapon upgrades and Nanomachines for members on your current team so it’s good to bring different teammates with you when given the opportunity. This way you can keep them all up to date with weapon upgrades and skills.
At certain points during the game, you’ll have the opportunity to choose what teammates will accompany you. Many times your team splits up so you have to choose who comes with you. You can command your teammates to cover you, fire at enemies, retreat, regroup, and other basic stuff you’ve seen in other squad-based shooters. Your commands do affect their trust and behavior but they do act somewhat intelligently on their own. They will shoot at and kill enemies and it wasn’t often I noticed them go down and require assistance but even if they do, they can revive themselves or maybe help each other. Every time I got to one, they were usually back in action. Staying in cover is very important because the enemies can bring you down quickly. Enemies will sometimes arrive in transport vehicles or aircraft, Whirlers will carry them, and you know how a lot of shooters include little enemy types that usually arrive in swarms and are more or less a nuisance to deal with? Yeah, Binary Domain has those types, too. All of the enemies you engage are robots. Assault Shooters, Rapid Shooters, Deadeye snipers, Creepers which are small spider-like enemies that explode when they get near you, Jarhead security robots, and the Hercules defense robots which are usually heavily armored and wield gatling guns. These are just some of what you’ll come up against and the roster is varied, making you think about how you approach battles. The enemy AI is decent and some battles can prove to be rather challenging. The robots will advance on your position, they’ll take cover, throw grenades, bigger ones like Mobile Guns can fire rockets you’ll have to avoid, and most of the time, staying in one spot is never a good idea. You’re always outnumbered. Most will shoot at you, some carry shields, and others are extremely agile and utilize melee attacks. One of the coolest aspects of the combat is how the robots can be destroyed. You can blow off their limbs like their legs and watch them crawl towards you. I like blowing their heads off because then they become confused and attack each other. Credits are earned by destroying enemies and how you destroy them affects how much credits you can earn. For example, you’ll earn more credits for multi-kills, head shots, and melee smashes.
The environments are linear and it would be hard to get lost. You’ll traverse through a subway, sewage facility, and battle enemies on a train and on highways, among other locations. There is a good amount of set pieces that are pretty fun like fending off pursuing enemies at high speeds, riding jet skis through the sewers, and one sequence has you controlling a Mobile Gun to engage enemies. Some sequences do include what I’ll call quick-time events, or whatever you want to call them, but they never feel cheap and there’s not many of them and every now and then you’ll be required to complete an objective within a time limit. Hidden throughout the environments are SECUR-COMs which are basically collectibles that unlock IRTA Reports which give you some backstory and lore. All weapons you use and enemies you engage are added to your weapon and enemy data menus where you can find out their names and read a brief description about them which I really appreciate. Some areas are filled with explosive canisters which can be blown up to destroy the enemies near them and first-aid kits and ammo boxes are found all over the place. Now Binary Domain does include several boss battles which usually involve these large and powerful robots. You’ll have to destroy their numerous weak points to bring them down and you’ll have to learn their attack patterns to survive. Knowing when to evade and shoot is key and I like the boss battles because they actually require a little bit of skill to take down. They’re not extremely hard nor are they cakewalk.
I think Binary Domain looked pretty good for it’s time. The visuals contain a decent amount of color and the environments from area to area to differ enough to keep the visual presentation interesting. It’s got this whole futuristic look to it and I love the little details during combat like how robots are slowly destroyed as your bullets rip them to shreds. You’ll see metal fly off and their inner-workings exposed and it all just makes the gunplay feel extremely satisfying. It’s cool to blow off a robot’s limbs and watch it fall or struggle to stay in the fight. You can blow a robot’s leg off and watch it hop around while still trying to kill you. It can be humorous. A robot may charge straight for you and with a few well placed shots, it’s body may end up sliding into your feet before exploding because robots will always explode after they’re defeated and the explosions are booming in this game. Unfortunately, many of the weapons don’t sound as powerful as they could but some do have a nice punch to them. Most of the sound work in Binary Domain is great. Everything ranging from footsteps to reloading sounds loud, crisp, and clear. You can hear robots malfunctioning as they’re destroyed and the larger ones will loudly stomp around the environments. Now the music is pretty good and compliments the action well from what I heard but it’s easily drowned out by a lot of the sounds heard during the action. Binary Domain did run well in my experience. I didn’t notice any frame-rate dips or major bugs but did notice some choppy animations here and there. If you check the game’s PCGamingWiki page, it indicates a fix is required if you want to use an Xbox One controller. After reading that, I used a wired 360 controller and didn’t have any issues.
I had a blast with Binary Domain and I have beaten this before. Playing Binary Domain is like a nice break from shooting standard human enemies and watching blood splatter all over the place. As satisfying as that is, it’s also satisfying watching metal fly in every direction and robots explode all around you. But Binary Domain also makes me kind of sad because it reminds me of the Terminator film series and the fact we haven’t gotten a truly incredible Terminator game in quite some time. The Terminator for the Sega CD, the Terminator FPS on Moddb, and RoboCop versus The Terminator for Sega Genesis I think are still the best games to date. The Bethesda Terminator games are alright from what I’ve played but we need something like Binary Domain. If you swap out the Amada corporation with SkyNet and replace the robots with the Terminator models and make a few adjustment, set in a post-apocalyptic world that resembles what we saw in The Terminator and Terminator 2, it may be the ultimate Terminator game. Regardless, Binary Domain is a lot of fun. It’s got a pretty good story, fun gameplay, interesting characters, and it’s only a shame we haven’t gotten a sequel.
Ultimately, Binary Domain is an excellent third-person shooter and I would recommend this to any fans of the action genre. If you have a microphone, the voice command stuff is cool but I found the button commands to be much more effective. Luckily, the voice command gimmick isn’t forced and despite some of the game’s flaws, Binary Domain is a fantastic shooter with fun gameplay and satisfying combat. After beating the game, you can replay through any of the stages and set record times which gives the game some replay value, as does the multiple difficulty modes. The game does have a multiplayer mode but I did not get a chance to try it. I feel like Binary Domain is either very underrated or a hidden gem because it just seems to have came and went and that’s it. Maybe it was overshadowed by other games but this is easily one of my favorite third-person shooters from the seventh generation era of consoles. I would definitely recommend you check it out.