Inside Pulse 12

10 Thoughts On… Binary Domain Demo (Microsoft Xbox 360)

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about Binary Domain prior to going into the demo. Then again, that’s what demos are for, right? To learn about a game by way of actually playing it? All I knew is that it was developed by the studio who brought us the excellent Yakuza series of games. While it will likely be overshadowed by the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 demo this week, I thought I’d set aside some hard drive space for it and see how it’s coming along. Here are my thoughts:

1. While the main menu indicates the presence of some multiplayer modes, these are locked out for the purposes of the demo. Instead, you can pick between playing a segment of two different stages. Both segments are short, with the portion you play of Stage 2 concluding after what amounts to a boss battle and Stage 3 ending just right before you will seemingly begin one (awww…).

2. The gameplay reminds me a lot of the Gears of War titles with some aspects of Mass Effect thrown in. It’s a cover based shooter where, instead of battling an alien species, you’re fighting a war with an army of robots. The interesting thing about their choice of enemies is that you will see a physical change in them as they take damage, such as their outer layer peeling off. You can even shoot off their legs and they’ll continue to crawl after you and fire shots until you put them down completely. Basically, they’re like zombies, only made of metal.

3. There isn’t much revealed about the story or characters during the segments you are allowed to play during the game, though it’s just as well, as you don’t want things spoiled for you. There is some banter that takes place between the characters, and you can even use the left bumper to issue responses to some of it. For example, a teammate telling you good job can prompt Dan (the main character) to say “Thanks” or “Fuck off.” Your actions towards your teammates will affect how well they listen to your orders and may impact other things in the final game.

4. At the beginning of Stage 2, you are given a choice of two teammates from a selection of five to back you up in combat. Each one specializes in different things, such as being a sniper or a demolitions expert. The game doesn’t really tell you what to expect going forward, so I’m not sure if there’s really a “wrong” choice in this situation. It may just be a matter of preference. I was amused at one of the characters remarking about my choice of both female squad mates and asking if it was for perverted reasons.

5. Binary Domain is well presented, both in terms of the quality of the voice acting and visuals. I was especially impressed with how some of the environments could get destroyed by your gunfire, much like in the Red Faction titles. The demo consisted of mostly urban areas, so I’m uncertain of what kind of variety the final version will bring. But it was more colorful than Gears of War, so there’s that.

6. Aside from building trust, you can use conversation options to get your teammates to behave a certain way in battle or do something that they request permission from you to do. In an early part of Stage 2, the sniper character had asked me if it was okay to pick the enemies off from a distance. When I gave her clearance to do so, she took out a couple before they were able to storm our position and launch a counterattack. It will be interesting to see if your teammates could ever request to do a wrong thing and screw over the entire squad.

7. One thing that I thought especially gave this game potential is how it approached the boss battle at the end of Stage 2. Rather than simply shooting at the thing with the heaviest weapon you could get your hands on (of which there was a little bit of that too), you had to jump on its head and try to balance on it while simultaneously trying to get in as many shots in as you could. There were also other enemy robots that flooded in and tried to shoot me off while I did this, causing me to collapse on the ground and try again. It was hectic, and I’d like to see more of it.

8. You can only hold four weapons at a time, one of them being a pistol with unlimited ammo and the other being a set of frag grenades. You are also equipped with an assault rifle by default (which I’m not sure you can get rid of) and the fourth slot was filled by random weapons that you can pick up. If you take enough damage that you get incapacitated, you can either use one of your limited number of what I think is adrenaline, or you can call for one of your teammates to help you back up. While you wait, you can crawl around and continue to shoot at enemies while in this state, which is more productive than just bleeding out.

9. When you destroy enemies, you collect CP that accumulates on the top left of your screen. I’m not sure what this is for, as I didn’t find a place to make use of it in the demo. There were some detailed status screens on the main menu, so I’m going to assume this is for upgrading purposes for both you and your teammates. It seemed to accumulate while my squad was laying waste to enemies, so if this is the case, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do everything myself to advance in level.

10. One thing I had to be wary of, which I’m not really used to in a game like this, is mistakenly shooting my teammates. In most games, they just yell at you or complain mildly, but it actually lowers their trust for you here. It makes sense, as realistically, I wouldn’t take orders from somebody who blasts me in the back either, but it came as something of a surprise for me.

It was a brief demo, but one I had a lot of fun with, and it’s also one that I think shows a lot of promise. My concern is that it is releasing a week before Mass Effect 3, which might hurt sales, as I can see it attracting the same demographic. Hopefully, that’s not the case, as I enjoy the work of Yakuza Studio, so best of luck to them and their new game. Binary Domain releases on February 28th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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