Genre: 3D Action
Release Date: Q1 2009
It's been a good month for Bionic Commando fans. Last week saw the release of Bionic Commando Rearmed across three platforms, which reintroduced the classic (if somewhat frustrating) gameplay of the NES original to a new generation of gamers. This week, Capcom jetted across the globe to Leipzig, Germany for the annual Games Convention in order to debut the first multiplayer version of the new Bionic Commando. Being longtime BC fans, Worthplaying managed to edge a few hours of hands-on time, and we came away quite impressed.
The demo itself was rather limited in terms of scope — we only had access to a single map, with only four players per match — but it was a great way to show off the potential of the game. Capcom wouldn't confirm the total number of players, nor the total number of multiplayer maps planned for the final game, though we were assured that it would be "more than four." We were also limited to a single game mode, free-for-all deathmatch.
Our chosen battlefield was located high in the sky, amongst the rooftops of a cluster of city skyscrapers. The map was a little spacious for only four players, though the extra room gave everyone a chance to learn the mechanics of the grapple without worrying about instant death every second.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience was watching how everyone's play styles evolved over the course of two hours. When we first started playing, everyone in our group attacked the game as if it were another Halo or Quake deathmatch. Everyone ran around, grabbed weapons and started shooting each other. Sure, the grapple was there, but in the beginning it was pretty much used exclusively as a jump analog. After the first 15 minutes or so, however, people started experimenting, and that's when death match started to get interesting.
The best way to describe combat with the grapple in Bionic Commando is by comparison to the original Quake. It's just like the old Threewave CTF grapple mod — on crack. In Bionic Commando, the grapple can pretty much go anywhere and grab almost anything. You are limited only by the maximum length of the cable. As soon as this realization hits, the uneven surface of the rooftop map instantly changed from a hindrance to an advantage.
Rather than slowly climb up and over a building, players would simply rappel around the side, using momentum to swing across the deep chasms between buildings like a modern-day Tarzan living in an urban jungle. The random piping, which originally looked like nothing more than design accents, suddenly became quick escape routes when you fell victim to an ambush. And grabbing the highly exposed grenade launcher became a whole lot less risky as soon as we realized that the grapple could also be used to collect weapons. After all, why expose yourself to a camping sniper when you can grab a killer weapon from the cover of a nearby tree?
Ping-ponging around the map at lighting speed and collecting weapon power-ups was fun, but then we all started using the grapple for combat. The grapple has no problem locking on to your opponents, which opens up a number of different strategies. At the most basic level, you can use the grapple to grab an opponent and then quickly close the distance, delivering a powerful kick and knocking him off the side of a building to his death. Or, use the grapple while tracking someone from behind to lock on and get a perfect shot as you unleash your arsenal of doom.
One of the most impressive grapple uses, though, is attaching to another player while he is in mid-swing. You can use this to effectively extend the total length of the grapple, resulting in some massive swings. On a smaller map, it's the fastest way from one side of the map to the other. While we were limited to playing free-for-all, it's easy to see how this could be an extremely powerful maneuver during a team match. Need to get the flag back to base during a CTF run? Have a teammate on standby to launch a grapple and then use him to launch yourself across the map and safely away from danger.
Aside from the grapple, weapon selection was fairly standard with a grenade launcher, shotgun, chain gun, sniper rifle and a default pistol. Health power-ups were abundant, and a shield essentially doubled your life bar if you managed to grab it. Although the grenade launcher was easily the most desired item during our matches, none of the weapons felt overpowered. More often than not, making a kill was more dependent on placement than on which weapon you had in your hand at the moment.
In an interesting twist, Capcom seems to be trying to encourage rapid, and creative, kill counts by way of an XP system. During the demo, every kill started a countdown timer. Making another kill before the timer hit zero increased your multiplier as well as resetting the timer. Kill multipliers could also be increased by eliminating an opponent in mid-swing. Unfortunately, we were not able to use our XP for anything in the multiplayer demo, and Capcom remained mum on how it would fit into the final game.
It may have been an extremely limited taste, but what we saw has certainly increased our anticipation for the new Bionic Commando. Whereas Rearmed was more of a trip down memory lane, the new Bionic Commando is a complete re-imagining of the original. After spending time with it, you start to get the feeling that this is the game that the team wanted to make 20 years ago — they just didn't have the technology back then.
To paraphrase an old TV show, the new Bionic Commando is simply better, faster, stronger. It's been rebuilt, and if our sneak peek is any indication, it's on the way to greatness.
More articles about Bionic Commando