Capcom's big-budget revitalization of its Bionic Commando intellectual property has the potential be outshone by its classic remake, Bionic Commando Rearmed, as far as hardcore fans are concerned, but the new-gen update, the one starring Nathan Spencer, shouldn't be overlooked. Both are graphically gorgeous in their own ways, with Rearmed presenting a tight, clean and colorful 2.5D re-skin, with the all-new Bionic Commando appearing to be an impressive visual achievement, stuffed with attention to detail and smart level design.
Bionic Commando's move into the third dimension looks to potentially present challenges on par with the original NES classic, bringing a rather complex mechanical arm-swinging mechanic (plus jumping!) into a more freely navigable 3D space. Add to that camera control that's totally up to the player and Bionic Commando could be seen as overly complex, a potentially rough 2D to 3D transition.
We're still hopeful despite that, for reasons we'll hopefully make clear.
GRIN has already implemented a rough tutorial system that aims to get gamers up to speed quickly. Players will learn the basics of claw usage, combat and more via quick tasks early on. Add to that visual cues that indicate the ideal moment to release your jump and where one should shoot their bionic claw, players may pick the mechanics up simply. Bionic Commando also does a bit of thankful fudging when it comes to zipping up and over platforms, making upward mobility less frustrating than in its retro namesake.
Visually, the new Bionic Commando is more than just impressive. Protagonist Nathan Spencer's dreadlocks wave believably in the breeze—a minor detail, yes—as does the transition from devastated city settings to lush forested areas—a more impressive feat artistically and technically.
At this stage in development, with a ship date still "TBD," combat feels unfinished. Spencer's powerful mechanical arm could launch bad guys into the air, but they floated oddly, something we hope (and assume) will be fixed in the final version. The ability to disable one half of a pair with the bionic arm while firing at another shows that combat has potential. That Spencer can lob, then spike cars at enemy soldiers might prove that GRIN has a bit of a sadistic streak.
In the end, there's a lot to like about the new take on Bionic Commando and an equal amount of concern. The game is extremely easy on the eyes, but potentially frustrating control still has a chance to get in the way of us fully enjoying it. It almost reminds us of Sega's Gunvalkyrie in a way, a title that was still enjoyable despite its faults. Fortunatley, GRIN's spin on Bionic Commando still has plenty of time to work out the kinks, hopefully letting the solid gameplay shine.