So long for now, Bionic Commando

I want to give GRIN money just for their ridiculously good cutscenes.

I want to give GRIN money just for their ridiculously good cutscenes.

Well, here it is. The end of my run through Bionic Commando for the PlayStation 3. I wanted to finish it, but it just got to be too frustrating. If I didn’t have several non-frustrating games available to play, I probably would have stuck it out. But for now, it’s back in the mail.

In general, the game is a blast to play whenever you’re able to use the bionic arm freely.  Whether that’s swinging through deserted (yet gorgeous) areas, or flinging cars, rocks, and enemies hundreds of feet through the air, it’s always a good time.  Similarly, the cutscenes are over-the-top in a way that a lot of games are afraid to try.

Unfortunately, the game also features a few too many setpieces with dozens of enemies and not much room to use the arm against them.  It was one of these scenarios that led to me giving up and going back to Persona 4.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I present my final few hours with Bionic Commando.  We start on Friday night.



8:51:40 PM
The interface for changing weapons is kind of cumbersome.  For me, anyway.  I find myself scrambling to switch to the right weapon a lot.
Part of the problem is that the system doesn’t seem to support rapid presses — so if I wanted to rapidly switch from my default “pea shooter” to my auxiliary weapon, I’d have to wait for the animation to finish. Bad developers!
9:00:08 PM
Say what you want about this game, but it’s got some pretty damn stylish cutscenes.  With lots of yelling.
I’m specifically referring to the first time we meet “Mag” (at the 2:40 mark of this video). Great camera work and blocking in the cutscene, but the writing doesn’t feel right here. A little too shouty and screamy with no time to breathe. Lines overlapping each other, etc.

This is a common issue in some later scenes (see the “people” line below). One particular line in this cutscene exemplifies the problem. Spencer gruffly yells, “Instead you work for terrorists? And I work for myself.” There are two separate things they’re trying to convey: First, Mag works for terrorists. Second, Spencer is only out for himself. Combining these into what amounts to one sentence helps to make this scene feel very rushed and nonsensical. But still stylish — like, feature film-level stylish. And they should be commended for that.

11:38:27 PM
Swinging through the fissure is a lot of fun.  Nice, open space for me to really enjoy the swinging mechanic.  And… no combat.  Probably not a coincidence.
This is a hard problem to solve, of course. You have to have SOME tension in the game. You can’t just have the player always swinging around with hardly any combat. Or, you could, I guess, but then it would have to be made by ThatGameCompany or Q-Games. Which… would be pretty neat.
11:40:27 PM
“Old habits die hard.” right after throwing a rock to destroy a cave wall.  Must have been a pretty weird life.
12:36:32 AM
That helicopter boss fight was pretty intense.  Felt great to swing around the environment to dodge, but it still felt… wrong somehow, like I wasn’t doing it “correctly”.
Obviously a pretty big break in between comments here. The boss fight (starts at 5:02 of this video) lasted about 15 minutes or so, I think. There was a lot of swinging from platform to platform and grabbing more ammo for weapons. Locking on with rocket launchers is always fun.
12:51:34 AM
So now we know to not trust Super Joe when he says “Just get out of there!”  What he really means is “hurry up and throw a bunch of things at this miniboss!”
This was a weird moment. Super Joe specifically says that the enemy’s too tough, and that I should run… but there’s nowhere to run in this area. After dying twice, I eventually just stuck it out and started chucking objects at the miniboss, which eventually killed him. It was a good lesson to learn, though — you end up fighting a lot of these guys later.
12:53:38 AM
I’m not sure if they intended it or not, but having a bunch of enemies filled with bluster right as I get to use my instant kill AoE attack for the first time was a good move.  “I’m sharp as a fuckin’ razor!”  Oh, are you?  Well, how about NOW!  YEAH!
12:56:03 AM
I really like the antagonist shouting “MEESTA SPENCAH!” in a German accent.  Good times.
Part of the reason I’m kind of sad to have sent Bionic Commando back to GameFly is never getting to fight this mysterious German guy. He shows up every once in a while in his giant walking crab and shrieks for a while before moving on.

(At this point, I stopped playing for the evening. We join our liveblog in progress on Monday evening.)

10:26:05 PM
I didn’t mention it before, but the piano remix of the original Bionic Commando theme is a really nice fan service touch.
10:26:49 PM
Selecting “Continue” informs me that I’m 52% of the way through the game.  That’s… surprising.
Which probably meant that I only had about 3 or 4 hours left to go in the game, but once I got to the part where I was inexplicably dying to random implosions later, I just lost interest. If I was ten years younger and had nothing but time, I’d probably have finished the game already. But now, I’ve got too many things competing for my time.
10:28:10 PM
Why am I hearing Blink 182-esque power pop somewhere nearby?  Is it on the radio?
10:28:38 PM
Sure enough, here’s a radio.  Huh.
It kind of reminded me of the horrible concert stage in Free Realms where they have a live band singing about the game in slightly obfuscated terms. It was just as jarring in this game.
10:30:52 PM
Okay, throwing a guy 500 feet through the air to hit another guy is pretty satisfying.  Now I’m starting to see why the reviews were so down on all the available weapons.
Near the end of my play session, I pretty much gave up on shooting guys and just started throwing guys into other guys, throwing rocks at guys, etc. I guess that’s what the game wanted me to do?
10:37:11 PM
Seems like they weren’t able to completely solve their ragdoll issues with corpses and floors.  I just slammed this guy to the ground and now he’s doing the Jacob’s Ladder shuffle for eternity.
10:48:51 PM
Time to give up on collectibles for the eighth time.
10:54:08 PM
“Wow.  That’s the second biggest crab I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Did someone say PREQUEL?!
11:07:26 PM
Hmph.  Door on the highway doesn’t open until I kill all the bad guys in the area — that only spawn after I defeat other bad guys.  By going to a very specific cliff.  Not particularly compelling.
11:11:10 PM
Another really awesome cutscene, where Spencer clotheslines his rival while she’s speeding around the arena.  Well done, GRIN guys!
11:11:30 PM
…except then he says, “By the way, that’s people you’re breathing.”  And then she just leaves.  Uh… what?
You can see the cutscene at about the 0:52 mark of this video.
11:12:13 PM
I’m very sad that they didn’t give me an achievement for standing on the head of my own statue.
One of my all-time favorite achievement moments is when I killed Sander Cohen in BioShock, and immediately took a photo of his corpse like he had made me do. The resulting “Achievement Unlocked: Irony” was classic. Well played, 2K Boston.
11:14:20 PM
Oops!  I just swung into the next area while the guy was still monologuing. I bet I missed an angry one-liner!
This is a really big no-no, I think. It felt like “Secretary Armstrong” was monologuing to great effect — he was building to something kind of important, but I never got to hear it because I got too good at navigating through levels.

At the very least, this game really could have used an effect that shows up when you near the exit to a level, like Final Fantasy XII‘s “row of dots” or Metal Gear Solid 4‘s letterboxing. That way, you can let people like me hear all of the dialogue if they want to, while still satisfying the people who just want to skip it. Although, honestly, I feel like you should force those people to listen to it, as I talk about here.

11:15:27 PM
I feel like the game should let me swing around with my arm in order to dodge enemy fire, but it always just seems to get me killed.
11:58:41 PM
Books falling off the shelves when tremors happen = really nice touch.
12:08:15 AM
Okay, maybe I missed a briefing, but I don’t particularly like just dying in a random explosion after I’ve worked really hard to kill 15 guys in one room.  Three times.  That’ll be all for tonight, Bionic Commando.  And maybe for good.

And since the game went back to GameFly the next morning, this is probably all she wrote for me and Bionic Commando. I’ll probably buy it for the 360 in a few weeks once I’m done with Uncharted (only a few hours in), Persona 4 (probably about 90% done), Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (haven’t bought yet), and a few others.

For reference, the part where I gave up is at the beginning of this video.

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