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Binary Domain

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2012 (US), Feb. 17, 2012 (EU)


PS3/X360 Preview - 'Binary Domain'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 15, 2011 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

Binary Domain is an original squad-based shooter that puts players in the middle of a fast-paced and intense battle for humanity in robot-invaded 2080 Tokyo.

Set in the year 2080, Binary Domain features a world where artificial robotic beings are a common sight and are used for all sorts of tasks. There are certain rules in place, though. One of the most important is that a robot may not be made to look like a human being. It's inevitable that such a rule would be broken, but in Binary Domain, it happens in a dramatic way. A human-disguised robot breaks into the office of the Bergan Corporation, a leading developer of robots, and opens fire. Although it is eventually stopped, the appearance of a human-like robot has sparked international attention. The International Robotics and Technology Agency (IRTA) sends its elite squad of soldiers to Tokyo, Japan, to track down Yoji Amita, the leader of the Amita Corporation and the primary suspect for the attack. The IRTA isn't in Tokyo long before everything goes to hell and they are facing an unstoppable army of killer robots.

Your team is made up of five different agents. The protagonist, Dan Marshall, is an American soldier who's an average, all-around guy and is armed with an assault rifle with a special static burst. The rest of the team consists of NPCs, although each has a specialty. Big Bo is another large, beefy American gunner who's armed with a heavy machine gun, a "decoy device'" and more stamina than any other member of the party. Faye is a Chinese recon soldier who's fast and armed with a sniper rifle and EMP. Charlie is British and a Special Ops member, so he's armed with an SMG and explosives. The final member of the team, Rachel, is also British and is the game's close-quarters combat specialist. She isn't as durable as Big Bo, but her shotgun makes her the ultimate in dealing damage up close. These specialties matter because you can't bring your entire team into battle. Depending on the section of the game you're in, your options are limited. Sometimes you can bring three members, sometimes more or something less. Regardless, you'll want to make sure you're bringing the right soldier for the right job.

In many ways, Binary Domain is your archetypal cover-shooter. Dan is armed at all times with an assault rifle and a pistol. He can pick up new weapons from time to time, like a rocket launcher, but those two guns are his trademark weaponry. The assault rifle is more powerful but has limited ammo, while the pistol is weaker but has infinite ammo. One thing to keep in mind is that the assault rifle has a secondary mode. When defeating robots, you'll occasionally pick up a biocell that fills a special meter. Once this meter is full, you gain a powerful shock burst round for your gun. You'll also be able to upgrade weapons, although the details on this are still under wraps.

The enemies are mostly robots, so you can't fight them in the same way that you'd fight a living being. There's no such thing as bleeding out or shock for a robot, so they can't be killed easily by a headshot. Every enemy in the game has procedural damage, so you can shoot off arms, heads and legs, and the robots will react in different ways. For example, shoot off the legs from a generic soldier enemy, and it'll continue to crawl toward you, shooting its gun all the while. Shoot off its gun arm, and it'll try to reach melee range. The fun part is when you shoot off their heads. This doesn't kill them, but since their visual sensors are stored in the head, they begin to fire indiscriminately on friend and foe alike.

Defeating enemies not only takes them out of the way, but it also earns you money. Depending on how you kill enemies, you may get more or less credits for defeating them. Headshots earn more cash than regular shots, and powerful enemies are worth more than weaker foes. Regardless, credits can be spent at stores located throughout the game to buy upgrades and weapons. You can spend credits to get new types of grenades, such as the "kiss" grenades, which stick to any surface, or useful weapons like the portable rocket launcher, or even upgrades for your character.

One of the most unique aspects of the game is the Trust meter. Your teammates don't start off trusting you with their lives. Your actions influence how they feel about you, and it can make them more or less effective in combat. Working well with your teammates improves their Trust in you, and part of this is done through gameplay. Keeping them alive or assisting them when they're in danger can make them like you more. On the other hand, ditching them when they're in trouble or shooting them will make them trust you less. You can also build or lose trust by talking to the characters. As you progress through the levels, characters chat with you, and you can press L2 to respond. Sometimes you can take their advice, and other times, you can simply have some friendly banter. Regardless, working with your team is important.

While we didn't get a full rundown of what Trust is good for, we have a few ideas. Normally, losing all your hit points puts you into a "downed" status. You can revive yourself by using a health pack, but if you don't have one, you're in trouble. You can call your allies to help you, but if they don't trust you, they're perfectly willing to leave you to bleed out. That's a good example of the importance of keeping your Trust level high. Abandon teammates, and they might abandon you when you need 'em the most. There are even plot events that are supposed to alter depending on Trust level.

You can also upgrade your squad members through special passive upgrades, which take the form of glowing orbs that you slot into a grid. These orbs allow you to do things such as increase health, reduce the time it takes for an ally to revive you, increase the damage they do, or various other buffs. These orbs can be found in a number of ways, and depending on the usefulness of the ability, the orbs may take up more spots on the grid. You'll find the orbs to be quite useful in shoring up the weak points of characters or specializing them. You can increase Big Bo's HP to make him a better tank or find something that reduces the damage he takes. There are multiple configurations available for each character, so you can set up their passive abilities to match the threat you are facing.

Binary Domain is an interesting attempt at a third-person shooter. While the basic mechanics are straightforward, it's rare to see this kind of game coming from Japanese developers. Despite the uncomplicated premise, there are a lot of unusual and unique ideas in this game that you don't see from Western shooter titles. The Trust system brings to mind something akin to Mass Effect, but with the friendships and rivalries built up mostly through strict gameplay. The leveling and upgrade mechanics also have the potential to be interesting. Most of the information about Binary Domain is being kept under wraps —for example, some kind of online multiplayer is planned, but no information is available —  so interested gamers should watch for more details before the game releases in 2012.

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