Man versus machine
Binary Domain, out now on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, is a third-person shooter which puts players in the middle of a battle for humanity in robot-invaded Tokyo in the year 2080. You take control of an elite group of soldiers tasked with hunting down 'Hollow Children', machines that are indistinguishable from humans in terms of their outward physical appearances and actions, much like Terminators or Battlestar Galactica's Cylons.
Hollow Children don't actually know they aren't human, which allows for some interesting characters and storytelling opportunities. That's not to say Binary Domain isn't cheesy or clich? at times, but it does a decent job of avoiding the level of stink that's commonplace in many modern shooters.
Gameplay-wise, the basic combat mechanics don't deviate much from the cover-based shooter blueprint, meaning it's easy and satisfying to bounce between cover and pop out into the open to fire off rounds at targets. It's not quite as fluid or easy on the eyes as a series like Gears of War, but it's by no means a slouch either, serving up some ferocious firefights, impressive boss battles exciting vehicle chases.
The development team behind Binary Domain is actually the same group of kooky Japanese guys and girls that has spent the last few years making the Yakuza gangster games. As fans of that series can probably imagine, team Yakuza wasn't merely content to churn out another run-of-the-mill shooter; instead, it opted to throw in a few unique features that help it stand out from the crowd.
One of these is voice controls. The game allows players to use a headset to get chatty with their computer controlled comrades by barking commands down the microphone, or conversing more gently if they choose. The voice recognition can be a little temperamental and easily confused by accents, but it works for the most part and is great fun to use. The game claims players won't have as many tactical options when playing without voice controls, but we found that sticking to traditional pad controls was an equally effective way to play, so those who don't like talking to their TVs needn't worry about missing out.
No 'I' in 'Team'
Your responses to questions also have a direct impact on how other characters behave in combat. If they take a liking to you they'll be more inclined to follow orders in battle, but if you've rubbed them up the wrong way they have a habit of letting your commands go in one ear and out the other. This means it pays to be attentive, as getting to know your team could prove the difference between life and death, which has the knock on effect of making you more invested in those around you.
Binary Domain also features a multiplayer component that helps to extend the life of the game, but the maps and unlocks on offer are a bit thin on the ground and the modes available don't push the boundaries of the genre in the same way the single player game attempts to. There's a co-operative wave defence game type, various objective capture modes and standard deathmatch action, all of which is perfectly playable and will appeal to shooter fans, but it nevertheless feels like a bolt-on to the solo campaign rather than a fresh experience in its own right.
Overall though, it's highly refreshing to play a third-person shooter that tries to be a little different from the crowd, even if this thinking doesn't extend to multiplayer. Binary Domain is a fresh, capable shooter that has an interesting setting, story and mechanics. If you like a slice of originality with your shooting, you should definitely pick this up.
- Refreshing, original features.
- Well realised sci-fi world and characters.
- Solid cover-based combat system.
- Voice recognition can be temperamental.
- It isn't the prettiest game in the genre.
- Multiplayer could add more to the package.