E3 2008: Bionic Commando Hands-On Preview

While Eddie was in heaven playing Resident Evil 5 and Street Fighter, I was busy swinging my way across the destroyed landscape of Ascension City in Bionic Commando. (And wearing the replica Bionic Arm.) Based on the original Bionic Commando games and set ten years in the future, this re-imagining takes the once iconic video game franchise and places it in an updated current-gen engine. The result? Plenty of swinging goodness.

The developers from GRIN were telling everyone that understanding the ropes of swinging in Bionic Commando would take quite a while. Quite to the contrary, I and the person playing after me got used to it after a very brief period of trial and error. In other words, it’s difficult enough that you have to practice, but simple enough that you can get it down (at basic levels, at least) fairly easily.

Swinging is performed by looking at an object within a certain range and pulling the left trigger. That fires off your bionic arm’s hand which grapples the surface. When you want to swing, you release L2 at the right time and catapult forward. Despite to what you’d do in the real world, the key is to release just after the lowest point in the swing, not as Nathan Spencer begins to ascend upward.

You can do more than swing, of course. You can scale surfaces by grappling onto them and then retracting your hand by holding A. This quickly zips you up the line, and when you’re back to having a complete bionic arm pushing A again will cause you to jump extremely high from where you were, giving you plenty of hangtime to find your next grapple spot.

Outside of grappling pillars, buildings, and broken support beams, the demo featured several bad guys. Combat is pretty straightforward; right trigger shoots, and you can grab enemies with your bionic hand to damage them. The game’s hype is all around the swinging mechanic, and the E3 demo seemed to play towards that more than the combat.

While it was an early demo, there were still several instances of using the bionic arm to complete puzzles by pulling, pushing, or throwing objects in your way. Once you’re locked on to a target by grappling it, pressing B performs an action dependent on the situation and target you’ve grabbed. For example, grabbing a computer terminal and pressing B resulted in Nathan hacking the terminal which allowed access to the next checkpoint.

Unfortunately the demo didn’t showcase many elements of sandboxing. Granted that could just be due to the fact the demo was meant to teach how to play and not let people go full steam, but it would have been nice to see how much freedom Nathan is granted to complete missions.

Then again, when you have some of the best swinging mechanics I’ve seen yet in a video game in a project this early in the development process, I’ll gladly let the linear nature of the demo slide.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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