Review: Binary Domain
An interesting story and premise aren't enough to keep this mediocre shooting experience afloat for too long.
- Worth The Time?Not really, especially when there are so many other better titles out at the moment.
- Things LovedThe emotional and gripping cutscenes, the intriguing premise and story, the way robots come apart when fired upon, lengthy campaign, some nicely polished visuals in certain areas.
- Things HatedHorrible, horrible voice acting, sub-par visuals, terrible soundtrack, poorly designed boss fights, very average gameplay, badly implemented ideas, a real lack of innovation, average multiplayer with nothing worth staying for.
- RecommendationBinary Domain might be appealing to shooter fans that really have nothing better to play at the moment. It's a game that functions and works, but beyond that there is really nothing unique. The story and setting might appeal to you, but it really can't carry what is ultimately a mediocre package.
- Name: Binary Domain
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Competative Online, Co-Op
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Sega CS1
- Publisher: Sega
- Price: R499.95
- Reviewed On: PS3
Binary Domain can by summed up in a single sentence: The videogame iRobot never got. What exactly does that mean, for all of you who haven’t ever watched iRobot? Basically, you’re not going to be doing any murderous acts against humanity for once in a shooter. However, if there was a robot union or something similar, they’d probably be up in arms, since you fall just short of committing mechanical genocide in Binary Domain. At its core, it’s nothing more than a cover-based third person shooter with some light (and I mean extremely light) squad mechanics. There are also some novel ideas that try to be pushed forward, however this is where things fall short. Since the only really selling points of this game fail to manifest into something meaningful, Binary Domain ends up being a simple shooter that falls into a pit of mediocrity.
Thankfully, it doesn’t start out this way. Story wise, Binary Domain actually has a lot of potential, and while the story could’ve been better during this out, it has set up something that could be further explored in the future. The story takes place in 2080, where advanced A.I companions and robots flooding the streets is now a reality. Strict laws govern how these robots can interact with humans, but the only law you really have to focus on is Clause 21, which basically states that robots cannot be manufactured and designed to act as humans in society. And, as expected, someone breaks this rule, and robots start being uncovered all around the world, themselves unaware that they are in fact machines. As Sargent Dan Marshall, you and a team of mercenaries from around the world are tasked with uncovering who integrated these robots into society, and put a stop to it.
It may not sound like the most innovative premise when you think about it, but seeing it in action is really interesting. This is mainly due to some standout cutscenes, especially ones where seemingly normal humans are ripped out of the crowd and told that they are in fact robots. Seeing the wave of emotion and events that follow never gets less heart-wrenching, and I truly sympathised with these robots during these sequences. Although it does take one hell of a long time for the story to gather some steam, the climax after this roughly 11 hour experience is well worth it, and the twists that present themselves near the end are surprising to say the least. At least in this department, Binary Domain can be proud of itself, however, it’s in other more crucial departments that it stumbles and falls.
Since we’re talking about story and narrative and all of that, I think it’s safe to insert my utter disgust at the voice-acting, right? Well, I’m doing it anyway, because if I don’t I might just burst open like a ball full of rage soon. Voice acting in Binary Domain isn’t poor, it’s utterly horrible. Characters talk with stale expressions and process nearly no personality. Lines of dialogue are repeated so often, that I found myself wanting to stop playing purely for that reason alone. Characters are 2 dimensional and aren’t unique in the slightest. Dan comes off as a cocky American, and despite having teammates from the U.K, China and France, I ended up liking my French Robot companion the most. That is, until he wouldn’t shut up either. Hearing the words “Aigh” and “Oi” blurted out nearly every five seconds nearly cause me to join the robots and open fire on my teammates. If Binary Domain had a mute dialogue option, I would surely check it.
But enough about that and more about gameplay. Binary Domain plays exactly like your favourite third-person shooter. All your usual elements are hear, from sticky cover to roadie runs, blind fires and a really delayed melee system. If you’ve played titles such as Gears of War or Uncharted, then you’ll have no difficulty getting to grips with the controls. Everything works fairly well, although the cover system does feel a little too “sticky” at times, and the fact that you can’t cover switch around a surface’s corner is quite annoying. Cover spots are conveniently placed all around, so don’t hesitate to pop into the nearest one, especially when you figure out how deadly Binary Domain’s robots are.
Although, it’s a bit of a weird balance. The A.I is unforgiving at times, and you’ll more often than not be caught on the brink of death, but playing on normal, I only saw the game over screen about half way into the game. Robots swarm at you from all different directions, and they do a good job of carving you up when you’re not behind some thick metal (sometimes, the game just allows them to shoot through it though). On top of that, shooting a robot’s legs can cause it to fall down, only for it to crawl creepily towards you and latch on when you least suspect it. The way robots come apart while you fire at them is mechanical gore at its best, and it really makes up for the lack of some real violence. Different types of robots pose all sorts of different threats, though some just feel as if they just take more hits than others, rather than being a more tactically challenging opponent. Boss fights could’ve made up for this, and while the scales of these fights are truly astonishing, all they boil down to are mad dashes for ammo and tons of frustration when you fail after being knocked to the ground.
Binary Domain also attempts to show off some not so very new, but novel ideas nonetheless. The first is voice-integration. While playing, you are able to deliver various different voice commands to your other two teammates, and the game does a good job of recognising each and every command clearly. A vast commands list allows you to alter the way you deliver commands, and even allows for a few f-bombs here and there. All in all, it works well, it’s just such a shame that the tactical side of this game doesn’t really flesh out at all. You are only able to issue very basic moves, such as charging forward, providing cover fire and regrouping. Other than that, your teammates do their own thing most of the time, and quite frankly, I don’t think I ever felt the need to issue commands to them (except one time where I couldn’t activate an elevator because a squad mate wasn’t in it properly). It feels like a really big missed opportunity, as full fleshed out squad mechanics could’ve add a great layer to the gameplay.
Another neat, but poorly implemented idea, is the interaction you have with squad mates. Throughout the campaign, you engage in real-time dialogue with your companions, with your response either increasing or decreasing their trust in you. Some choices directly impact the game as well, but these little effects are hardly worth noting. Sadly, dialogue options boil down to three choices. One answer is always the obvious right choice, and often just makes you feel like you’re agreeing to anything. The second option is a blatant aggressive stance, and the third is kind of like a answer you’d see on the first few questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. You know those painstakingly stupid responses that are just there to fill the gaps. So basically, if you want your teammates trust, you’ll end up just hitting one button to respond the entire game, which just makes the whole point of interaction boring. On top of that, I never really cared for my teammates trust anyway. Having them trust you means more stupid one liners (which are awful, see above), but it also means they’ll listen to most of your commands. But since that feature is so poorly utilized, you really don’t need them to follow orders at all. On the flip side, if they don’t trust you, they might not listen to anything you say, but don’t worry; they’ll still heal you when you’re down.
Visually, Binary Domain is a weird, mixed bag of oddities. On one hand, cutscenes and outdoor environments look spectacular, and the sun reflecting off a futuristic Tokyo is really a sight to behold. Sadly, most of your story takes place in grim, grey corridors in sewers, security checkpoints and broken buildings. On top of that, these indoor environments do little to draw you into this futuristic world, and having some obscene low-resolution textures littered around is just not acceptable anymore. Bosses and robots are designed well, and the mechanical workings that take place look really good. However, fighting a particularly big boss often led to some framerate slow down, and whenever things got a bit too hectic, the same thing happened. On the sound side, the soundtrack is uninspired and really easy to forget, which isn’t hard to do since most of the things you’ll be hearing is the firing of your assault rifle. Trust me, this is actually for the better.
Outside of the single-player campaign, which is surprisingly lengthy, there are your typical multiplayer modes that you’d expect to find in a third-person shooter. Competitive multiplayer includes modes such as team-deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill, so there’s nothing really to get excited about here. The co-op mode may be fun a few times with a friend, but it lacks any real depth to keep it interesting for long. This too is a bit of a missed opportunity, as a strong multiplayer component with an innovation here or there could’ve been something special. Like a Robots Vs. Humans mode, where robot players come apart in a similar way to the single-player. I don’t know, it’s just really uninspired, and really boring, so having it there really doesn’t impact the overall package.
Despite its small success, Binary Domain ultimately feels like a massive bag of missed opportunities. Having a consequence system with teammates could’ve really added a whole new layer to team-based gameplay, and more unique features could’ve made this title really stand out. However, it falls face first into a pit of mediocrity, and there really is nothing here that could justify a full price purchase at the moment. The story is interesting enough for at least one playthrough, so maybe when it’s half price, consider picking this up. Just don’t expect anything ground-breaking or innovative.