With a slew of other third-person shooters littering the video game market can Binary Domain possibly stand apart from the competition?
Binary Domain is a squad-based third-person shooter video game developed by the recently formed Yakuza Studio and published by SEGA. Set in Tokyo and in the year 2080, Binary Domain centers on Dan Marshall and the Rust Crew as they try to uphold the Geneva Code and Clause 21, which outlaws research for robots that could pass as humans; also known as “hollow children”. The plot is simple enough, and doesn’t fall into the same pacing pitfalls as most of the other titles in the third-person shooter genre. One of the biggest features is the Consequence system, and the ability to give voice commands to your squad mates.
On paper this sounds great, however with the exception of a few titles this generation the idea almost always falls flat on its ass, and Binary Domain is no different. The voice commands (at least on my headset) always had a difficult time registering the correct commands. There were also several instances where totally different phrases or commands would register. I’m all for voice commands, however they certainly don’t work as intended, and if anything, detract from the overall experience. When combined with the Consequence system, which essentially allows you to gain a certain level of trust with your squad-mates, then the results can be disastrous. Since a big part of the Consequence system centers around the idea of talking or responding to your squad-mates and gaining their trust, you can begin to see where this becomes a problem. If the voice chat doesn’t work, and it didn’t, even after trying to calibrate it, then there are specific instances where you may lose trust with a particular party member because the game couldn’t register a command.
Unfortunately the issues don’t end there. The entire cast of characters was so stereotypical and unlikeable I didn’t really care whether or not they trusted me. For a game that also centers around squad based commands, and tactics, the friendly A.I is woefully inadequate. For example, players will often be tasked with taking down large bosses, and your party can’t even lift a finger to help you. It doesn’t help that the bosses have an automatic vendetta against you, and each boss seems to fire an unlimited supply of rockets; it’s not fun. When you combine the awful companion A.I with the cheap tactics in the boss battles, it feels like a massive opportunity squandered. However, the issues don’t end there, and even worse is the severe dip in the frame-rate that seems to plague each significant encounter. It’s a shame because with a few adjustments and fixes these could have been positive additions to the gameplay; sadly this isn’t case. Standard skirmishes are much more enjoyable, though the same dips in frame-rate also plague more dense battles. One of the most positive features of the gameplay is the procedural destructive of enemies. This means that enemies will loose their arms, head, legs, and also have random pieces of metal fall to the ground as you pump bullets into them. This is easily the most satisfying part of the combat system since enemies don’t just output an animation and knell over. The mechanics themselves are solid, and feel weighty enough to stand against other titles in the genre, and it’s a real shame that otherwise solid mechanics are hurt by poor decisions and a lack of polish.
Graphically Binary Domain runs from stellar to completely mediocre. Inconsistent is the best word to describe the environments, textures, and all around graphical work. There are brief flashes of brilliance when bullets and sparks shower the screen against beautiful back-drops and interesting set pieces, but these are few and far between. The sound design also doesn’t do much to improve the overall experience. Sound effects and the voice work is decent, however given the cliché character design, the voice work comes off as stale; it also doesn’t help that several of the lines are repeated during battle.
Binary Domain does feature both a cooperative and competitive multiplayer mode, but both fail to really set themselves apart from the competition. The cooperative mode boils down to a slightly less difficult version of horde mode (Gears of War 3) and the competitive multiplayer doesn’t offer anything other than the standard multiplayer options gamers have grown to know.
Binary Domain is a decent yet extremely flawed adaptation of the future. Major fans of the genre would be better off looking at purchasing either Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception or Gears of War 3; however for someone that is looking for something different, Binary Domain could provide a few hours of meaningless fun; even if it’s robotic, cliché, and boring.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this title the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.