Bionic Commando went through a bit of a revival in late 2000’s, getting 3 new games in the series in almost as many years. They got swept under the radar by the second entry, let’s take a look at why.
I am really in to Bionic Commando, I don’t know what it is about the series but I’ve bought every iteration on every console. Unlike other fans of the series Bionic Commando 2009 is actually my favourite of them all.
In 2008 Capcom brought back the NES speedrunner’s favourite Bionic Commando as a 2.5D remake, ultimately to build hype for the 2009 series reboot. This game was called Bionic Commando Rearmed and received great reviews and sold really well, all the while banking on nostalgia, saving up for the reboot coming the year after.
Bionic Commando 2009
Reusing the original title to give a series a gritty reboot is now a widespread trend, we have Tomb Raider and Doom this generation alone. Bionic Commando was a gritty reboot on it’s surface, a generic looking third person shooter. Gone was the brightly dressed protagonist from Rearmed, his red hair replaced with dirty dreadlocks and his high top trainers swapped for mechanical boots, able to withstand tonnes of pressure. “Rad” was gone and replaced with Nathan “Rad” Spencer, a bionic soldier wrongly incarcerated for war crimes he never committed.
While on paper this sounds incredibly melodramatic and completely different in tone from it’s happy-go-lucky (but hard as nails) predecessor, in practice it was quite the opposite. In the same way that Metal Gear Solid (I can’t believe I’m making this comparison either) uses a serious story as a vehicle for fun gameplay, gags and insane situations. Bionic Commando does much the same, but goes much further with it (to its detriment, as we will see later).
The areas beyond the opening stage you would see in previews/reviews were brightly coloured playgrounds to swing around and tackle foes in. Harsh oranges and insanely blue skies make up a large chunk of the game, deep green forests and indoor garden areas are ready to be tackled by Spencer and his Bionic arm. Enemies wear bright red and are easy to spot among the various locales, mechs and super soldiers make up the ranks as well.
The Bionic Arm itself is obviously a hell of a tool allowing you to swing, punch, launch, pull, whip etc. Basically anything you could do with a normal arm, a rope or both combined you can do in this game. The movement options are where the gameplay really shines, Spencer is able to turn on a dime, leap 10 feet in the air and backflip off of foes while being immaculately animated. In the right hands Spencer can dispatch large amounts of enemies without ever touching the ground.
The soundtrack is definitely worth a mention, curated/composed/directed by known badman Simon Viklund, who also scored REarmed, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition and then worked on Payday 1 and 2 at Overkill. It has cool bassy electronic music and soaring orchestral pieces and is the only album I have ever bought off iTunes, so that is some pretty high praise. Seriously talented guy, I’m a big fan of his work.
Why didn’t anyone play it?
Word of mouth really fucked this game over, IGN gave the game a 6 out of 10 due to the story being weak (more on that in a minute) and the gun sounds being quite quiet. It also had a shit multiplayer mode.
I’m going to preface this little rant by saying that the gun sounds are fine, they don’t sound as chunky as your four tonne arm but they are perfectly serviceable. Could it be to make your fucking bionic arm (that can punch a car over 500 feet) look stronger? I can see why they would tone down the gun sounds, but honestly it is a stupid reason to skip this game.
The story of this game is whack. I mean seriously whack. It rides the MGS style melodrama with jokey bits quite successfully up to about 80% of the way through. You get action heavy sections as you let out Spencers pent up rage of being jailed for 10 years, you get quiet moments of swinging through a countryside while having codec calls, the pacing is really good, don’t get me wrong. I’m going into spoiler territory now. Scroll past the next picture if you intend of going in blind, if you want a giggle read on.
When Spencer is pulled from prison he must take on one last job before being able to retire in peace, he doesn’t want to do this, he just wants to be left alone (sound familiar?). So to carrot-stick him a bit, the chief army HQ guy (aptly named Super Joe) tells Spencer he will reunite him with his missing wife if he takes on the mission (technically true).
Some stuff goes down surrounding bionics, ex-military comrades and other industrial military paranoia themes which is super entertaining but not really good. Then the game spectacularly shits the bed and tells you that Spencers wife, missing for 10 years, is in fact living inside his fucking bionic arm. That’s the twist, I don’t need to say more on it because it is one of the strangest story conclusions I have ever seen in my life.
Lastly we come to the weak as fuck multiplayer mode, this game was released in an era where every game had to have multiplayer. I don’t know if you remember those dark couple of years, but people would say they wouldn’t pay for a game that didn’t have a multiplayer mode and other dumb shit like that. The crap multiplayer was also the demo for the game, I didn’t even play it as I was such a REarmed fan I was going to get the game anyway. I think it was just standard Team Deathmatch but everyone had bionic arms. Oh well.
If those little downers haven’t put you off the game, it is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and on Steam. Check it out, its well worth it’s 6-7 hours runtime.