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Bionic Commando

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: GRIN

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'Bionic Commando' (PS/X360/PC) - Developer Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 26, 2008 @ 4:52 a.m. PST

Taking its inspiration from its 8-bit namesake released on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1988, Bionic Commando features Nathan Spencer (voiced by former lead singer of Faith No More, Mike Patton), a government operative who represents the ultimate fusion of man and machine. After distinguishing himself in a fierce conflict against the Imperials, Spencer is betrayed and falsely imprisoned by the very people he unquestioningly served.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!

I'm Frank Filice, and I'm the product marketing manager for Bionic Commando.

WP: At what stage did you get involved with Bionic Commando? Have you been with it since the start? Did you work on Bionic Commando Rearmed? How did you get involved?

FF: I've been involved with the project for at least the last three years, so since the very beginning. We did work on Bionic Commando Rearmed as well, so it's been a long time in the making, but we're really excited about where we're going.

WP: Looking at taking an 8-bit property straight up into the next-gen world, what kind of concerns were there? How do you take something that was originally conceived as a 2-D platformer and move it into a fully 3-D world?

FF: Well, Ben Judd the producer and GRIN really had a big challenge on their hands because it's not only how do you take it from a 2-D game experience and to a 3-D game experience, but how do you also keep it true to the original for those core fans? So they did a really good job of keeping it true to the original but adding little nuances and also updating it for experiences that next-gen gamers are really experiencing. For example, in the original Bionic Commando, you weren't able to jump. Twenty years later, gamers are going to be able to expect to jump, so they're implementing different little nuances through the gameplay. Obviously the bionic arm is great for traversing through a 3-D world. It just gives the players a lot of mobility and good freedom of movement to just really explore and get this really visceral feeling as you're swinging through the environments.

WP: Now, grappling hooks have always been popular with gamers. Probably the biggest one that did it right in 3-D was the old Quake 3 Wave, the capture the flag mod with the grappling hook and then later in Quake III. How influential was that on the design of Bionic Commando?

FF: I know that the team at GRIN is working closely with Capcom Japan's research and development. The grapple hook has obviously been around for a very long time, I mean it came out in 1988 on the original Bionic Commando, so there's a lot that they use for inspiration throughout the design process, but it was really looking at, how do we make this control unique to Bionic Commando, and I think they've done a really good job of differentiating themselves from the competition.

WP: Along the way, tell us about some of the things that went wrong. We're guessing you didn't just pop into the office and say, "We're going to make a grappling hook, and it's going to work perfectly," and everything was great on the first try. What were some of the missteps? What did you have to retry along the way?

FF: There was definitely a lot of retooling in regards to the swing mechanic. It's really a difficult thing from a design development perspective to master, but GRIN has just done an amazing job of really focus-testing of what works well with the swing. So one little nuance that they use is they now have a little indicator on the screen. There's this little blue U-shape that tells you the optimal swinging, so they really use physics a lot in the swing mechanic as well, so if you hold onto the swing too long, you'll continue and then you'll fall straight down. If you let off too early, that'll also affect you, so they've done a really good job of using physics as well as the game world to kind of give you a really real feeling of how it would feel to have a bionic arm.

WP: Now you've been heavy on multiplayer. Capcom has shown off multiplayer a lot. Tell us a little bit about the single-player. What's up with the single-player? Is it a direct follow-up to the original? Is it a completely new story? Is it the same character or a new character?

FF: Sure. This takes place 10 years after the 1988 game, the original, ended. Nathan "Radd" Spencer has been in prison for the last 10 years, and he's really pissed off. He's actually sent to death. On the day of his execution, a massive bomb goes off in Ascension City. The government decides to reinstate Nathan Spencer. Who else can traverse through this devastated land than someone with a bionic arm? They reinstate him, and then he's there to find out who was behind these massive attacks.

WP: How long is the single-player campaign?

FF: We don't have an exact time yet that we've announced, but there is a lot of content there. Players are going to get a really long experience that is challenging but a lot of fun.

WP: Talk a little bit about the multiplayer modes. How many different modes are there? Obviously we saw the individual deathmatch, but what else have you got?

FF: Right now, we've got three multiplayer modes going. We have deathmatch, we have team deathmatch, and we have capture the flag. All of them support eight-player multiplayer, so it's a lot of fun.

WP: As a multiplatform game — PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC — obviously the PlayStation and Xbox versions use a controller. What kind of control scheme do you have on the PC? Is it a keyboard and mouse? Are you going to require some sort of gamepad?

FF: Right now, it's up and running completely with a gamepad, and they're really looking into the controls with the keyboard. Nothing's been finalized yet, but it's definitely a challenge when you're looking at swinging, aiming a gun, and moving all the same time. There's a lot going on, and it's something that they're definitely looking at right now.

WP: Talking about the different versions, are there going to be any exclusive features or any graphical differences? What can we expect to see on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC?

FF: There is no difference between the platforms. They're all the same. We're really looking to have all of the experiences be identical.

WP: How about the potential for downloadable content? Is Bionic Commando just going to be a one-off? Will there be DLCs? Have you thought about it? Have you played with it?

FF: We're definitely kicking around the idea. Nothing's been finalized yet, but it's definitely something that we'd consider.

WP: Totally off-the-wall question, but it's something that we've heard a few people say while we were playing the game upstairs, what exactly is that thing on the menu that looks like a giant sperm as you're choosing between options?

FF: That is the wire from your bionic arm. (laughs) We've also heard of it being called a turd, but it's definitely a replica of the actual wire from the bionic arm. Nice.

WP: Having played through the game, what is your favorite aspect of it? As a gamer, what makes you excited to come to work and work on this game everyday?

FF: For me, what's unique is really the balance that they've tweaked between the bionic arm and guns. So it's really that swinging feeling and then also the combination of huge weapons. You have rocket launchers, you've got what we call the Tarantula rocket launcher, which actually fires six rockets at one time, so it's that combination of swinging and guns that combine for a really fun time.

WP: Let's talk about cultural differences. The original 8-bit game was designed by a Japanese developer, so there are some very Japanese influences in there, and now you've got Swedish developers in Stockholm putting their take on it. Has Capcom US had to smooth out any cultural differences between what Japan wants and what the Swedes want?

FF: Bionic Commando, overall, is really a global effort. The producer for the game is an American who moved to Japan, Ben Judd. We have Capcom Japan as the overseers of the project, and then you have Sweden involved as well. So really, the whole world is involved in this project, and they're always lending their insight from their respective territories, and I think it's going to reflect in a really great product in the end.

WP: Marketing versus PR question: Who's better at Bionic Commando, you or Tim [Ng, Capcom associate PR manager]?

FF: That's a tough call. I think we should play right now. (laughs)

WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

FF: No, I think you got it all. Thank you so much.

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