First Looks// Binary Domain

Posted 20 Jun 2011 15:21 by
Games: Binary Domain
We all fear the day when technology gains sentience and tries to take over the world. I personally make a point of keeping a close eye on my microwave every so often just to make sure it doesn’t suddenly run amok. It’s those beeps, man - it’s like it knows something.

SEGA is tackling that very concept in Binary Domain, a new third-person squad-based shooter drawn from the mind of Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi. It’s the sort-of near future (well, 2080) and science has advanced a bit further than the humble microwave.

Japan and the US are the leaders in a brave new world of robotech where full-blown walking, talking androids happily co-exist with humans in a manner similar to i-Robot. Until an incident occurs in the US, that has world leaders believing that someone out there is manufacturing robots that look like humans. Which is a big no-no in Binary Domain land.

A crack team of international soldiers are sent to Japan to investigate a suspicious technology company that could be the key to this madness. Coincidentally, no sooner does the squad - lead by no-nonsense American Dan Marshall - set foot in Tokyo than a horde of green Terminators start marching towards you baying for blood. Guess that’s just given away the source of the international breach, then!

I was shown a segment of the second chapter (of which six are planned) of the game, where Marshall and friends were pinned down in a dusty, ruined apartment block. War-torn Tokyo in 2080 is very grey - more so than the concrete jungle currently is today - with the skies matching the grim colour of constant combat. Gameplay seems to take cues from various third-person shooters, including Gears of War, with concrete blocks providing cover and over-the-shoulder viewpoints for zoom targeting.

Where Binary Domain differs however is in its rather interesting voice recognition system. I almost thought the game industry had given up on the technology, after Ubisoft’s EndWar pretty much proved that a game couldn’t be trusted with your vocal chords. Holding one of the triggers down initiates the voice command function, giving you a chance to say a squadmate’s name and an order for them to carry out. You can also respond to requests from others.

You have four squad members available to assist you - Big Bo from the USA, Faye from China and Charlie and Rachel from the UK - but you can only choose two in any given mission. Each has their own unique abilities, preferred weapons and combat style, and at the start of each level you can check a vast array of stats to see if they have the clout you need to overcome a particular challenge.

Most important of these is a Trust gauge, which changes depending on how well you work with them on the field. Their attitudes, certain cutscenes and their willingness to help you in a tight spot are tied directly to this system.

The commands that you can trust to your fellow soldiers include hiding under cover, regrouping or charging at an enemy. Regardless of their trust level, however, some teammates are unlikely to follow certain orders if you’re just going to lead them to the slaughter - asking Rachel to advance while she’s under cover from a hail of bullets will lead her to outright call you “mental” in a pleasingly plummy British accent.

Taking out these humanoid gun-wielding robots looks like a lot of fun, and as the crap is being shot at them during the demo I noticed that these enemies seem to have procedural damage too. Cap them in the leg, and they can come crawling towards you, still firing whatever ammo they have left. Get the arms, and a robot will just charge at you. Pop off the head, and it’ll just wander aimlessly trying to find you - it can actually turn fellow robots against one another if it ends up shooting it to pieces by accident.

In much the same way Yakuza didn’t exactly break any boundaries when it was first released, Binary Domain doesn’t seem to stand out from the crowd of third-person shooters out there. But its emphasis on voice recognition and interesting science fiction setting may make it worth your time.

Admittedly, I wasn’t particularly interested in this title before I saw it running at E3. Now, I may just try it out for its therapeutic robot-smashing antics.
Games: Binary Domain

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