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Reviews

Binary Domain

Gears of Robot Wars, care of the minds behind Yakuza

Binary Domain's big worry is the difference between man and machine. Robots sporting the latest in full-body flesh suits have infiltrated humanity's ranks, and it's down to your lantern-jawed "Rust Crew" to investigate the source in neo-Tokyo.

Many of the barn-stormingly addled plot's best moments come when these posers are unmasked - there's rarely much rhyme or reason involved, so it's all about the gore, and the modellers rip and tear at their handsome creations with satisfying gusto. But the game's real silicon stars aren't the ones you least suspect. Their clattering skinless cousins out-class them every step of the way.

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They look uniform here, but Binary Domain's enemies are a varied bunch.

With human enemies, Binary Domain would have been merely an accomplished rollercoaster built from used parts. "Gears of War!" growls the shooty stuff, slapping its mighty thigh, and "Resident Evil!" chorus the setpieces and QTEs. But the second you turn one of your immaculate grey guns on something, the comparisons flake and shatter like aged plastic. There are many breeds of scraphead in Binary Domain - wailing riot police, Monster Bikes, postering ninjas and Incredible Hulkatrons to name a few - but they're all designed around one principle: you can blow them apart limb by limb.

Blitzing foes elaborately rather than efficiently gets you extra credits to spend at upgrade booths. More importantly, it changes the target's behaviour. Slice a bot's legs away in a shower of ripped chrome, and it'll drag itself to the nearest weapon and resume firing, or grab your ankle and toggle self-destruct. Pop its head off, and it'll spray wildly at comrades. Binary Domain's masterstroke is applying Capcom's infamous reliance on boss weak-points to an entire enemy roster, and that's a trick that keeps paying dividends throughout a delightful range of scenarios - train car shoot-outs, sewer runs, repeat battles with pesky white juggernauts and quasi-minecart episodes in which you blast glowing switches to progress.

Less masterfully but without serious fallout, the game attempts to bring Mass Effect's squadmate loyalty system to the level of firefights. The results are comic, mainly because the people you're schmoozing include an iPod version of Lumiere the Candlestick and a British secret agent who's never seen a James Bond film. They're also broken: all you need do to elevate trust to "sexytimes" level is smash things good and agree with whoever's speaking, using a brainless array of voice commands ("I love you", "damn", "you fool") if you absolutely must.

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Face models and performances are superb.

There's a multiplayer component to push play hours into double digits, but maps and unlocks are thin on the ground and the modes are a familiar bunch - co-op wave defence, various flavours of objective capture and no-frills deathmatch. Modern Warfare addicts will probably bounce off. This is very much a single-player pick, and the game Terminator wishes it could be.

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The verdict

Heady metal

  • Great, crunchy shooting
  • Exciting enemies
  • Assured rollercoaster pacing
  • Silly squad loyalty
  • Bolt-on multiplayer
8
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
SEGA
Publisher
SEGA
Genre
Action, Shoot 'em Up