When I saw the ads and commercials for the remake of Bionic Commando a few years back, I was genuinely excited to see Capcom’s classic NES game returning on a next generation console. Although I didn’t get a chance to immediately play, all I was hearing from the majority of gaming sites was that it was a joke, or had this kind of sub-par presentation with a train wreck storyline and impossible controls and wah, wah, wah. It was kind of a turn off, so I hesitated on picking it up until recently, and I have to say, that for the most part, I disagree with the industry titans, and message board geeks of the gaming world.
As far as story telling is concerned, it’s presented in more of a classic comic-book fashion. This isn’t the game that is going to keep you in suspense, or suck you in with so much brilliant writing that you are just as invested and dedicated to finding out what will ultimately be your character’s fate, as you are to simply kick brutal ass and conquer. Don’t get me wrong, it has the basics; you are a high profile prisoner who once donned a huge bionic arm, which you are separated from while incarcerated. (This sucks, because basically, that stupid bionic arm was a huge part of your identity and mental stability.) Eventually you are released under the condition that you have to do some bullshit you don’t want to do for the people who supplied you with your arm to begin with, but they got you by the balls, because you are looking for your missing wife, and only they have the information you need. A high price will have to be paid for this information, and so begins your adventure as a pawn and weapon. (Commando, anyone?)
Now that the admitted cheesy, action storyline is out of the way, let’s crack this baby open and get to the good stuff. Even though you don't initially have access to all of your biotic arm’s powers, you do have a standard-issue gun (other weapons are available as you progress), and you are still starting off with the ability to swing from basically anything you want, as long as you are within range. Buildings, lampposts, highway and exit signs, cranes, hooks, steel beams, cliff sides, ledges, floating mines that look like balloons, airborne enemies, and probably a few more things that I forgot to mention. Enemies can be shot while swinging from street lights or diving from rooftops or cliff sides, and it is a real satisfying way to make some kills. Besides swinging around like a bionic Spiderman, you can eventually learn how to pick up and throw cars, boulders, barrels, soldiers, crates, and pieces of fallen armor from larger enemies. This is a key skill that should be mastered as soon as possible. Often you will find yourself low on ammo, and being able to quickly grab a car, or a soldier by his face and throw him into a sniper a block away is a nice way to wreck shop and keep your finger off the trigger and your ammunition conserved.
The environments are spacious enough to supply you with enough room to swing around like a hell-bent lunatic, and at the same time provide enough cover to hide or scope out your enemies from a vantage point. This game is designed as a modern 3D platformer (in my opinion) in the sense that all the boards are linear and there is a basic goal or checkpoint to reach before you can move on to the next area. You will encounter city streets, gigantic underground caves and excavation sites, factories, building interiors, tunnels, broken down bridges, flooded neighborhoods, and a larger than life park full of trees, creeks, and cascading waterfalls. There are even areas where there is nowhere to go but the sky.
While the graphics are colorful and the levels are well designed, this game does have one major setback, the controls could have definitely used some work. When I first started to play, it took me longer than I expected to get used to the mechanics of swinging and controlling the bionic arm in general. This really made me understand how a lot of people were disappointed in this game, but trust me, taking a little while to break in your arm and get yourself used to things is well worth the patience. Another downfall is that like most platformers the game is short, and can be beaten in about ten hours (once you know what you’re doing that is.)
The bottom-line is that I do feel what many gamers are saying, that the storyline isn’t what it could be and neither are the controls, but ultimately does that even matter? Did it matter when half of the games on the NES were the most asinine or difficult games to play? We still played them, and we still had a lot of fun trying to overcome these obstacles, no matter how many hours it took or how many ungodly curse words were shouted in frustration, it was all in good fun, and that is what this game is, classic video game fun.