Three hours with Bionic Commando (PS3)

So I’m going to try something a little different.  Lately, when I’ve been playing (most) games, I find myself taking notes a lot more often than I used to. I write down everything that occurs to me, good and bad, as I’m playing through. I first started doing this for inFamous, but that text file has grown much larger than I’d anticipated.  So we’ll tackle that game once I’ve finished it.  For now, here’s my initial impressions of Bionic Commando for the PlayStation 3, in real time.  My post-”liveblog” comments are below each entry.



10:50:07 PM
Really like the “hold stick to explain controls” thing
During loading screens, the game shows a floating virtual controller and entreats you to hold any button to see what it does. It’s a very useful thing to have, especially in a game like this one where the controls are rather complicated. Unfortunately, so far this loading screen doesn’t contain any reminders for some of the more important combo moves that are introduced early on.
10:52:44 PM
Sounds like Steve Blum.  But they’re talking way too quietly.
I directed Steve Blum when he did the voice for Frank Murphy in Space Siege. He’s one of the more prolific voice actors in the business.
10:54:13 PM
Seems like we’re going to have tone problems — guy gets sucked into jet engine (with Wilhelm scream) in the middle of serious scene.
This turned out to be unfounded, since the game’s tone is pretty ridiculous. It might get more serious later on (I’m sure Spencer’s girlfriend/wife/whatever will make another appearance at some point), but it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously.
10:57:39 PM
“Captain Desmond Troyer”
…is what was painted on the side of a fighter jet, with the callsign “Destroyer” underneath. That should give you an idea of the tone so far.
10:59:37 PM
Certainly looks good.
11:01:28 PM
Nailed you! is a little discordant, but whatever
Whenever you kill the last guy in a group of enemies, Spencer will deliver a little one-liner like “Nailed ya!” or “That had to hurt!” or “I’ll send you the bill later!”
11:02:11 PM
Pixellated collectibles = nice touch
All the collectibles in the game (and there are many) are 3D representations of old 2D art from the original NES game. For big fans like me, it was a nice bit of fan service.
11:03:20 PM
PEPSI may be a little strange, but I don’t mind it.
So yeah, there’s advertising all over the place, at least early on. This note came after I saw two Pepsi machines next to each other. It gets a little worse? weirder? later on.
11:04:21 PM
It’s weird that my standards for the writing in this place are immediately lowered.  “Eerie place” is bad, of course, but I don’t judge it as harshly as I do inFamous.
Probably because inFamous takes itself very, very seriously — which it should! It’s an apocalyptic scenario. That’s why I wince whenever Zeke starts talking. Anyway, the soldier actually says “Eerie place” before talking about why it’s eerie. It’s certainly a fine description of the locale, but people don’t actually say things like “Eerie place!”
11:06:23 PM
I feel very weighty and powerful whenever I jump.  Nice sounds.
11:06:53 PM
Glad they gave Mike Patton an excuse to scream in the first ten minutes of the game.
This came right after you finally get your bionic arm towards the end of the first level. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Patton (former lead singer of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, voice actor in The Darkness, Portal, and I believe Left 4 Dead) does the voice of Nathan Spencer in this game. Patton is pretty well known for his vocal range, which includes a lot of screaming in some of his musical work.
11:08:10 PM
The retro outfit looks surprisingly awesome.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but now I wish I was playing it on the 360.
Or, rather, that I’d had a PS3 when Bionic Commando Rearmed came out last year. I played it all the way through on the 360. If you own Rearmed, then you can use the “retro” costume, which has Spencer in his trademark green suit and flaming red hair.
11:08:41 PM
Good music, as usual from Grin.  Even more impressive when you know that it’s the what, studio head that does the music?  Something like that.
It turns out that Simon Viklund isn’t the studio head, but is actually the music director at GRIN. He was the creative director on Rearmed.
11:10:22 PM
I definitely dig the “rushing air” sound when you’re swinging, but I feel like they should have turned it off in the tutorial area.
Swinging in general is completely awesome, by the way. I might mention this below, but they really nailed the mechanic of swinging from spot to spot in 3D. The sounds really add a lot, too.
11:11:28 PM
Really cool how the drums come back in after Super Joe (?) finishes his little tutorial lines.
The soundtrack gets kind of muted and percussionless while Super Joe is explaining how to use the bionic arm, then kicks back in at full volume once the VO is done. It’s a really nice touch — one that I wish more companies would try.
11:18:10 PM
I like that there are even collectibles in the tutorial area.
11:18:30 PM
I feel like “Release now!” can be a little deceptive.  This is going to be complicated.
The swinging mechanic, while awesome, does take some getting used to. In order to get maximum speed upon releasing, you have to let go of the L2 button earlier than you might think.
11:23:20 PM
Paper floating around the building is a cool touch, but it’s really obviously a sprite.  Better than nothing, I guess.
11:23:33 PM
First cutscene introducing the bionic arm (vs. Grunt) is pretty sweet.
The cutscenes in general are pretty well done. This sits in sharp contrast to inFamous — which has very stylish comic-style cutscenes, but really quite bad in-engine ones that are more common.
11:25:01 PM
Trophies are… kind of easy to earn.  At least the first ones.  “Swing for the first time!”  “Mantle onto a ledge!”  Thanks, I guess?
11:27:18 PM
Nice intro to being able to swing around the city.  Makes me want to go explore for an hour.
11:28:26 PM
Fire instantly kills me.  Fantastic.  Haven’t we advanced past that at this point?
This is a big pet peeve I have with games these days. If something is slow-paced, and focused heavily on the environment, then sure, I can live with fire damaging me. But it’s 2009. Do we really have to (almost) instantly kill the player when he gets near a flame? I’m a BIONIC COMMANDO. I should not be getting killed by a little flame.
11:28:37 PM
Probably my least favorite thing about the game so far. If you “beat” a challenge but then die before you reach the next checkpoint, then you don’t get credit for the challenge in-game. I have no idea why they would do this, since you DO get credit for the achievement even if you die. Oh well.
11:30:44 PM
I’m going to try NOT doing all the side missions and getting burned out on the game, like I did with Mass Effect and almost did (or am in the process of doing) with inFamous.
As I say below, I gave up on getting all the collectibles almost immediately. While it was fun to explore, I didn’t really learn that I could climb to the top of buildings at will until too late to find all the ones in the first few levels. So I just gave up. And yes, in Mass Effect, as soon as they unlocked the entire galaxy, I went and completed pretty much every possible side mission. I explored every planet I could land on. This was a terrible idea – I got burned out on the game and didn’t touch it for six months. I’m very glad I went back, though – definitely one of the better RPG’s in recent memory.
11:32:16 PM
I really like Spencer’s design.  Even the hair, which I really didn’t like in the first shots I saw.  Good stuff.
11:33:39 PM
Building falling over = fucking awesome.  Nice job.
As soon as you enter the city proper, there’s a tightly scripted event where a building in the distance falls over in a mess of debris, smoke, and shockwave. There hasn’t been anything nearly as impressive in the hours since, but it was still a high point.
11:34:49 PM
Heh.  I punch a car to test out my light punch and its alarm goes off.  Nice!
11:38:09 PM
Accidentally swung past a guy into the next area.  Loading screen.  Playing inFamous has spoiled me on level loads.  Of course, inFamous also has massive pop-in and LOD issues.
I’m really not sure which I’d rather have, honestly. It can take so long to get from place to place in inFamous that I’d almost rather have loading times if it would shorten that process. But Bionic Commando‘s loads can be so common that it can be hard to get a groove going.
11:38:19 PM
And I can’t go back to that first area to get the collectibles?  BOOOOoooooo
Again, spoiled by all the open-world games I’ve played recently. Once you exit a sub-level in this game, there’s no going back. Kind of jarring.
11:42:43 PM
No lip-syncing?  Awww.
I meant from Spencer, although I don’t necessarily miss it.
11:42:56 PM
Patton’s voice is very Patton-y.  From what I’ve heard, that never really stops.
I’ve read reviews of the game that say that Mike Patton gives a pretty consistent performance from start to finish: over the top. I guess that’s not such a bad thing in this game, but I’d be interested to see him play it straight in the future.
11:52:51 PM
You can hear Patton not taking the lines seriously.  “Hmm!  Mines!”
11:53:35 PM
Tried to latch onto a mine, didn’t work, fell down, game over.  That was fast.  Should have put one of those in the tutorial.
11:54:48 PM
“Dark Void” poster on the window.  That I can get behind.  But “BIONICCOMMANDO.COM” on the window beneath it?  Hmm, I’m not so sure about that one.
I’m not really sure what the URL is supposed to accomplish. I’m already playing your game. Are there things on the web site that I should be seeing instead? Do you want me to stop playing and go there now?
11:57:27 PM
Oh, so mines zap me, too?  Interesting.  GAME OVER.  Challenge progress lost.  Urk.
Sure, the mines were electrified, but the bottoms weren’t – I thought I could safely attach to them.
11:59:11 PM
I didn’t notice until now, but nice grunting/heavy breathing post-hit from the main character.
11:59:23 PM
I keep accidentally firing my gun while leaning over to type.
Since the PS3′s controllers are so sensitive, and R2 is the default button for “fire weapon”.
12:01:25 AM
Dark Void billboard… okay, guys, take it easy… and there’s a Servbot E3-sized banner on a wall.  I mean, sure, but having a URL at the bottom is a bit much.
12:01:40 AM
I do like “STARS” Make-Up and Accessories.  That’s nice and subtle.
12:09:04 AM
Just when I’m starting to feel good about swinging around, I swing without a target, land in radiation, and that’s that.  GAME OVER, baby!
12:17:25 AM
It’s hard for me to tell for sure, but it seems VERY linear so far.  As in, there’s a collectible over there, but you’ve already passed through this area, so tough luck.
12:18:34 AM
Heh.  “We loaded the first pod with a HIKER.  It’s in the air now.”  *WHOOOM*  “Nnnnotanymore.”  Very nice delivery.
Although you guy making this video doesn’t actually show the pod landing on the roof of the building, you can hear the line I’m referencing here
12:21:32 AM
Hard to tell when the radiation’s going to start, sometimes.  I’ll just be walking along, when all of a sudden, whoa, biohazard!  Gotcha!  I’ll just go back over here, then!
12:24:43 AM
Holy shit!  I was just taking cover behind a bus, or so I thought before it appeared to explode, throwing me halfway across the map in less than a second.  Bug or feature?
12:43:52 AM
Okay, enough trying to get that one collectible hidden among a bunch of mines.
This is where I gave up on finding the collectibles. If I try to get all of them, I’ll never finish this game.
12:48:13 AM
Fighting “Shield Biomechs” = fun!  It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing it properly, but I like maneuvering to their backside to hit their weak point.  Good times.
12:49:49 AM
Hey, it’s the return of “Stow it.”  Haven’t heard that one since, well, Unreal II.
I don’t want to get too Inside Baseball here, but the first conversation you ever hear in Unreal II was kind of notorious around Legend. A sample: JOHN: “I’m getting mighty tired of babysitting the ass end of nowhere!” HAWKINS: “Stow it, Dalton.” This was particularly rich since one of our level designers shared a last name with the main character.
12:53:52 AM
Wow, when they give you a HUGE open space to navigate, this game is a fucking blast!  Swinging around on stuff, successfully finding the next grapple point, etc. is just tons of fun.
12:55:20 AM
Falling in water, however, is less fun.  Although that was my fault, really.
1:09:30 AM
Always fun to run into ragdoll bugs like this one. I was actually kind of startled by hearing his legs making a bunch of noise behind me.
1:21:29 AM
The interior warehouse with falling water is a pleasant surprise.
1:24:57 AM
Here’s a tip – don’t ever get accidentally caught in the middle of four guys.  It doesn’t work very well.
In general, getting into fights with a group of enemies is never much fun. Which is what most reviews of the game have said. Of course, it would get pretty boring to just swing from environment to environment and only fight one guy at a time… or would it?
1:27:13 AM
Okay, that’s enough for the night.  While the warehouse environment was a nice change of pace, I’ve also died five times just from being careless and trying to swing too much.  We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

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