No, it’s not where all the 0’s and 1’s hang out.
Let’s face it: Japanese-made games that attempt to emulate “Western style” action games don’t have a very good track record. Titles like Dark Void, Quantum Theory, and Lost Planet have tried to do the Third-Person Shooter with results ranging from decent to... abysmal.
But here comes Toshihiro Nagoshi, who took his Yakuza team (the game, not the scary-ass gangsters) off of their usual projects to say, “Fuck those other guys, we can do a Japanese Third-Person Shooter right.” And from the 2+ hours of gameplay we’ve seen of Binary Domain from E3 up through the recent showing in downtown San Francisco, he just might be telling the truth.
The plot sends you as part of an international peacekeeping force into Tokyo in the 2080s, on a mission to hunt down and apprehend the CEO of a rogue robot-manufacturing corporation that has allegedly been producing life-like robots who think they’re human, something that the rest of the world views as a very illegal perversion that they’ve distastefully dubbed “hollow children”. The short version? It’s you, your two AI partners, and a healthy load of firepower against lots and lots of robots.
The gameplay, for the most part, isn’t anything revolutionary; it’s solid, frenetic, cover-based shooting action that moves along at a good clip. Binary Domain does depart from most of the genre with a compatibility system that determines your effectiveness with the rest of your squad. Your teammates’ trust levels shift on the fly during the action depending on your behavior and how you respond to their comments, questions, and requests.
If you bail someone out while they’re pinned down by enemy fire, their trust level will increase. On the other hand, if one of the guys makes some stupid inane comment about the robot baddies (“We’ve got ‘em on the run!”) and you either ignore it or respond by telling him how stupid and inane he sounds, his trust will, not surprisingly, go down. Squad members with low trust levels won’t fight effectively with you and may choose not to help you out when you need it the most.
Voice commands are touted as a way to further immerse you in the game. While you can always respond to your teammates via a dropdown menu, you can also plug a headset in talk directly to them. The game interprets your words into answers to your teammates’ questions or orders like “Cover me!” or “Shoot that fucking robot!”. The voice recognition is supposedly sophisticated enough to know when you’re, say, hitting on your female partners and having them respond accordingly (lots of slapping and restraining orders, I presume). Some of us had a bit of trouble getting the voice commands to work reliably, but hopefully any hiccups will be cleared up by the game’s launch next year.
Team-based multi-player is almost a given with today’s shooters, and Binary Domain is no exception. I tried my hand at team deathmatch and a “Data Capture” mode which really boils down to capture-the-flag. Like the single-player mode, there isn’t anything really revolutionary in the multi-player, but it’s tight, thrilling, and fun once you’ve learned the maps.
Binary Domain is scheduled for a February 2012 launch. Those dirty robots will never know what hit ‘em.