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CONSOLE: PlayStation 3 DEVELOPER: Fatshark PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): February 1, 2011 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

An army of one, an arm of titanium.

Many moons ago, I took to the PSN and purchased Bionic Commando Rearmed, the reboot to a long-dormant Capcom franchise about a man who, for whatever reason, has been equipped with a bionic arm connected to a grappling hook inside (and somehow losing the ability to jump in the process). Having played both the arcade and NES versions of Bionic Commando prior and being rather stinky at them, I was admittedly extremely apprehensive about trying this one out, believing I'd be an utter failure in the first level. But lo and behold, it was actually a pretty awesome experience, and it's become a game I've recommended to many. Now, years later, I'm finally getting around to the sequel, and I'm not recommending this one much. No, something's missing. Let's call it "heart". Or "fun". Or whatever you want to call it.

Partially responsible for my opinion — before I actually explain it further — could fall in the game's development process. Originally, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 was being developed by GRIN, who created the previous game, but due to having filed for bankruptcy mere months into the development process, the game was shifted over to Fatshark (along with some of GRIN's employees). When a game moves from one company to another, a shift in game creation ideology takes place, and that shift could have quite an effect on the end result.

Or, maybe a company called "Fatshark" would know exactly how to make the perfect game. After all, sharks are good at tackling tough situations. And ripping through them. And leaving blood stains.

Set after the events of the first Rearmed game, our hero Nathan "Rad" Spencer, who has since grown an orange mustache and let his hair grow out rather tuftily, is sent out alongside fellow armed comrades to Papagaya (I think they misspelled "Cuba" there) to investigate the dirty dealings of a man known as Sabio. He's pretty diabolical and wants Spencer's organization, the FSA, to pretty much burn to a crisp. A previous group of soldiers had already attempted the mission, but it, under the leadership of Colonel Brubaker, has gone missing. So now you have to find Sabio AND Brubaker, plus put an end to any schemery happening on the island. That's no small feat, even if you DO have a bionic limb. The developer tried to keep the humour level of dialogue of the first game somewhat intact during the cutscenes as the story unfolds, and to an extent, they succeeded. Rad is still as rad as before, taking little guff and spouting goofy one-liners whenever he feels the urge.

At its core, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is exactly what the first game was: an action-filled platformer where you are required to use your bionic extendable arm to swing to different platforms, all the while avoiding the various Men in the Yellow Hat that gaily saunter back and forth, hoping for a little action. Too bad they seem to mostly be able to only shoot at eye level; they did not anticipate Spencer could duck!

Someone at the FSA Laboratories must have also upgraded his bionic arm, because Mr. Spencer now has to rely more heavily on momentum to get him places. You do lose momentum when you swing and hit a wall (naturally), but that does put a monkey wrench in your stocking when you're trying to swing over to another platform nearby. But countering the momentum is the odd fact that you can now begin swinging even while inert. You could just be hanging there and, with the flick of an analog stick, just start swinging without any external force shoving you around. I don't mind that, but it makes no sense. And, keeping with the first game, your bionic arm can also grab items such as barrels and reel them in. Just... don't do that with an explosive barrel. That only leads to heartache, not to mention an irritating skin burn. The arm is also good for removing shields from soldiers, leaving them open to a bullet to the abdomen.

There are some gameplay elements present that simply do not go together, like swinging on a bionic arm and quickly rising water that will murder you upon touch. A few expletives were uttered, nay, bellowed during that stage, and I vow never to play it again. I'd rather hire someone else to play it for me.

On the other hand, new elements have been introduced with a warmer reception. Being able to hop into a helicopter, for example, is something that had yet to be accomplished until now. At a few points, our Rad hero can pilot a 'copter and shoot enemies, barrels, and other obstacles alike using a reticule and a machine gun to destroy everything ahead of his arrival in the vehicle itself. The helicopter has a life meter, though, so anything you don't shoot down in good time will probably take you out. This mechanic is a nice addition, even if it feels a little out of place and random.

One major change that could send Bionic Commando aficionados into a royal tizzy is the inclusion of a jump function. Never before in the series has the protagonist had the capability of jumping, but for whatever reason, it's here now. Supposedly being able to latch onto nearly any horizontal surface above you and swing to your heart's content wasn't enough. Now, he also has to use his legs. He can't jump particularly high; he's not going to skyrocket to the ceiling with the blasting power of a renegade nuclear submarine gone AWOL, but it's enough to be enjoyed. It's not a high enough jump to, say, hop over these annoying little electric barriers the designers threw around every once in a while just to mess with our heads. There IS an unlockable "Retro Mode", which prevents Spencer from jumping. It does make life more difficult than it should be, seeing as how jumping has become an integral part of the game's design.

Having a bionic arm sounds cool, but try eating soup with it.

Beyond Spencer's grappling prowess is his weapon-toting aptitude. Nathan Spencer is locked and loaded, ready to blast away anything, from the weakest of soldiers to the most grandiose robotic abomination. He's got a few new toys to play with here, including grenades, a homing bazooka, and an electrical snake that will climb walls as needed. Power-ups for these are well-hidden in various stages, each of which can be revisited with new abilities to open up previously unassailable areas. Unfortunately, they are only used in but a few instances, making them more for show than for progression's sake.

Cap'n Spencer also has a new physical move in his arsenal: the Ground Pound. After jumping from a considerable height, pressing X and holding Down will give him immeasurable strength to pull a Yoshi onto the ground below, breaking any cracked terrain beneath his feet... well, fists, actually. He must have some serious calluses. This move somehow made it past any game testers Fatshark hired because, during more than three separate play sessions, the move went awry, resulting in him somehow getting stuck with his fists in the air until I pulled off a different move (but I could still walk left and right stuck in a mid-air pose) or, more hilariously, the audio of Spencer screaming would freeze, forcing me to hear "AAAWWWWHHH!!!" non-stop until I completed another Ground Pound. It's glitchy, and it's just funny.

Other things have changed, not necessarily for the better. Gone is the ability to choose between many different paths to get to your destination, as in every Bionic Commando game prior, instead providing a linear path from one area to the next, typically with a bit of banter between Spencer and some other character to tie the places together. I miss being able to choose my next destination, rather than pushing me to another level. Granted, most platformers are like that, but in the case of Bionic Commando, it's like giving a child a bucket of candy one day and then taking it away the next for no discernible reason. Sadly, as a result, I sometimes had the sense that some levels were just daisy-chained together without much thought put into their connections. Then again, isn't that also true of most platformers? (Why does Mario go to random ice worlds all the time?)

The boss battles are definitely the game's highlight — and they are always epic, regardless of how deep into the game you are — yet they're simultaneously a bit of a downer. I think the problem lies in two parts. One, the boss variety is minimal — in fact, there are only a handful of them, and they get recycled/revived/refurbished, whatever you wish to call it. Reusing bosses should be reserved for Dr. Wily's castles in Mega Man games, and that's about it. Two, their weak spots is as obvious as a marshmallow in a snowstorm. Thank goodness for GameFAQs forums because I'd probably have spent a good part of 2017 figuring this stuff out, and I seriously need to get laundry done sometime soon.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2's presentation is largely a carryover from the first, with slick 3D-rendered graphics on a 2D plane taking the place of legendary pixel imagery. Though the first and second game's look could be considered interchangeable, I'll give BCR2 the nod for being more colourful. The sharp green foliage really sticks out in some stages. It's a shame the game's first impressions are those of darkness, as the very first area you visit is set at night. It's also the little details that stand out, such as the ragdoll nature of enemy corpses as they tumble and fall off-screen. Similarly, the audio, like the previous game, was composed by series creative designer and composer Simon Viklund and throws more electronic tunes at you that hearken to the styles of older Capcom titles and actually pulling melodies from Bionic Commando games of old. They're pretty decent songs, although they don't stick out quite like those of the original Bionic Commando Rearmed.

Another criticism comes from my version in particular, the PlayStation 3 version, requiring players to constantly be online as part of its DRM, despite the game not involving any online multiplayer action. "Oh, my internet's out. Guess I can't watch YouTube. Suppose I'll play a game instead." Just not THIS game. There's no legitimate reason for a constant internet connection, other than for Capcom to keep an eye on you and ensure you aren't playing a bootleg, unpaid-for version. Is that a frequent occurrence? Hmmm... I wondered why the title screen said "Bionized Commander"...

Whereas Bionic Commando Rearmed kept me hooked on every lifting of the controller, I felt less of a press to continue on with this sequel. Something was missing, even though it essentially played the same way. Perhaps the level design wasn't quite up to snuff. Maybe the lack of neutral zones, where players could relax a bit, enjoy some banter, and grab new items, was the culprit. Or it could've been the overuse of spikes, electric shock tactics, and gritty equivocal boss battles that turned me off somewhat. No matter what the reason, I'm simply underwhelmed by this sequel of sorts. Die-hard fans of Bionic Commando games will still have a field day with this one, but at the end of the day, I have to wholeheartedly recommend the first reboot over this one.

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