Binary Domain Xbox 360 Review

Article first published as Xbox 360 Review: Binary Domain on Blogcritics.

Sega decided to try to squeeze in Binary Domain a week before the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3.  Unfortunately, the newly formed Yakuza Studio’s third-person shooter is more likely to be missed and forgotten, and possibly end up on one of those “best games no one played,” like Beyond Good and Evil.  Sega should have given a bigger cushion to its Gears of War, Dead Space, Mass Effect mash-up that borrows plenty from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, set in a dystopian Los Angeles.

At first glance Binary Domain feels like a generic Gears of War clone with none of the personality that Gears is so well known for.  It starts off in the year 2080 where someone has illegally started creating robots that are indistinguishable from humans so much so, that they don’t know themselves that they are robots.  The Amada Corporation in Tokyo, Japan is fingered and that’s where you come in, Dan Marshall an Army Sergeant nicknamed “The Survivor.”

The game drops you and your fellow American representative, in the international “Rust Crew,” outside the fortified Japanese seawall.  With a setting of darkness, concrete and the ocean, as good as the textures are, the location isn’t likely to pull anyone in.  Your stereotypical buddy, Bo gives you a bit of tutorial and introduces you to the limited dialogue tree and command system.  These can be executed with the controller or a headset.

The beginning is definitely the weakest offering in the game, with uneven voice acting and unremarkable location many will give up on this game ten minutes in.  For some reason, many Japanese games have the same problem reaching western gamers with lengthy intros and the initial pacing.  At least Binary Domain lets you shoot stuff and blow things up and you can turn off the voice commands that barely work.

If you’ve played Gears of War, you know pretty much how this works; A to dash and cover, left trigger aims, right trigger shoots, X is a melee and the D-pad changes weapons.  The only thing that is a little different is that Dan’s primary rifle has a shock burst that requires a special fuel and charging with the right bumper.  The left bumper is used by those not using the voice commands and will pop-up tactical orders unless specific dialogue is going on, where it will give you your response choices.

As you would imagine, Binary Domain’s Japan is a technologically advanced and well-defended place.  The most advanced technology company, Amada is well entrenched in the government and has supplied the police force with a more than capable robot army.  These robots have varying amounts of armor that must be stripped away before being able to dismember them.  A shot to the head can confuse them and make them attack allies and body and limb damage can make them Terminator-esque crawlers but no less lethal.

Breaching the sea wall is only the first step though.  Once you’ve broken into the island country, Dan and Bo meet up with a few more of the Rust crew and give you a chance to start building your team in earnest.  Each character’s main weapon can be upgraded at kiosks, there are also implants than can add to each of their abilities although, none of this ever really feels like it changes much.  Your crew’s trust level doesn’t change much either, they repeat their lines regardless.  The whole mechanic has a very limited role in the story, which does fine on its own and unless you’re just a contrarian, the dialogue choices are useless except to highlight some uneven delivery.

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