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Review: Bionic Commando

John Funk | 3 Jun 2009 13:00
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The problem with the combat in Bionic Commando - other than its sluggish start - is that ... there really isn't much variation with the enemies you'll face, and the variants that do exist are hardly all that different from each other. Nathan will be flinging and shooting his way through the same enemies from the beginning of the game to the end, and it gets repetitive. The game's handful of boss battles are some of its best moments - but they're unfortunately few and far between.

In fact, repetition is probably Bionic Commando's most obvious Achilles Heel. Even the breathtaking scenery starts to look a little same-y after a while: Fighting your way through the rubble of an underground highway tunnel is cool the first time, but the subsequent identical-looking tunnels are yawn-inducing.

There are so many concepts in the game that are really cool the first time - or even the first few times - you encounter them, but then they fast wear out their welcome. "Hey, I can rip a train car from the tracks and throw it at enemies! Awesome!" gives way to "Oh, it's a train car, I bet I'm supposed to throw it at something. Meh." There's a triumphant, heroic music track that really got my heart pumping when it played during the game's first boss battle - but when they used the same music for every climactic fight past that? Not as cool.

A flaw that's readily visible from the get-go, on the other hand, is the game's excruciatingly frequent load times - made worse by the fact that every time you die, you'll have to sit through another one as it re-loads the level. Death is commonplace in Bionic Commando, whether from enemy bullets, swinging into irradiated areas, or drowning in neck-deep water because Nathan's bionic arm is just too damn heavy... and sitting through a loading screen every single time is adding insult to injury.

These are all blemishes on an otherwise solid title, but nevertheless, they hold the game back - there are raw sparks of greatness here, but even those sparks lose their luster, and you're left with a game that's merely "above average" to "eh, it's good, I guess." Maybe if the game were actually shorter, it wouldn't have worn out its welcome like it did.

Bottom Line: After a slow start, there's a lot of cool stuff in Bionic Commando - the combat is brutal and fun, swinging through bleakly beautiful ruins is exhilarating once you get used to it, and it has some awesome boss fights. But these awesome ideas are marred by overuse, and it wears out its welcome after a while. Also, you'll probably hate loading screens after beating the game. I know I did.

Recommendation: Give it a rental before you buy, but make sure to spend enough time with the game to get past the sluggish first few hours.

John Funk wishes he had a grappling hook arm.

This review is of the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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