Binary Domain Impressions

Though you’ve probably never heard of it, Binary Domain was a landmark title for Sega (in a bad way). As Sega’s most recent boxed release, it’s failure at retail contributed to substantial worldwide layoffs and a major restructuring of its publishing strategy.

Was it a bad game? Not from what I’ve read from the reviews, and general discussion on the internet. Because I was looking for something to scratch my Vanquish itch, I had this on my list of games to pick up when it hit $20. Though the game isn’t very old, it didn’t take long for it to drop to that price in my area. Is it the Japanese Hamburger I was looking for?

Binary Domain takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2080 AD. Someone in Japan is making robots that are indistinguishable from humans, which is in direct violation of the New Geneva Convention. You, as a member of the Rust Crew, are responsible for apprehending the mastermind behind these human-like robots before they do terrible things to mankind.

I’m about 40% of the way through the game, and the story is…very Japanese. Everything is very over the top to the point of ridiculousness. I’m not sure if its craziness is a symptom of elements being lost in translation, or if the game is genuinely insane, but it’s unmistakably Japanese. I’m usually willing to overlook the faults of these types of stories if there’s enough charm behind it, but the plot behind Binary Domain hasn’t won me over in that way. Maybe if I get further into the game, something will win me over.

Production values for the game are not the game’s strong suit, either. The art style is very bland, and the voice acting is below par. It’s evident that the game wasn’t translated with care, as the voice acting feels disjointed and misguided. If you’ve ever played a poorly translated Japanese game before, you’ll immediately recognize what’s going on here. At the very least, the game runs at a smooth frame rate most of the time; only dipping during the most intense boss fights.

Right now, the game’s only saving grace is its action. The moment-to-moment of shooting waves of robot baddies is solid, but that’s mainly a symptom of this game borrowing most of the core Gears of War formula. However, most of the game’s attempts at building on that foundation fall short. It’s big innovation is its voice recognition system that allows you to communicate with your AI squad matest through a headset, but it doesn’t really make any tangible difference to the experience. Binary Domain also tries to set itself apart with an upgrade system, but augmenting your teammates with improved weapon properties and power-ups also doesn’t make them perform any better.

I came into this in hopes that it would be a cool Japanese take on the generally Western formula, but it fell short of my expectations. Not sure if I’ll go back to finish the single player or try the multiplayer yet. With so many other shooters you can play, it’s hard to recommend this middling offering unless you can grab it for dirt cheap and you’ve exhausted all other options.

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