Review: Binary Domain (X360)

Pop culture is packed full of references to dystopian futures where humanity is overrun with robots. It’s not always the fault of the robots. Sometimes, it’s those wacky humans who create them for evil. It’s hard to pick sides when playing Binary Domain, though.

Binary Domain opens in a dystopian Japan in 2080AD after global warming has incurred its wrath on the planet, ending the lives of millions with massive flooding. Humanity is forced to build robots for the rebuilding over the devastation. A new Geneva Convention is drafted banning the creation of robots that believe themselves to be human, known as Hollow Children.

All was well until one was found and killed in the US. Fingers pointed to Yohji Amada, founder of the competing Amada Corporation in Japan who’s behind making robots look like, live among and think that they’re human, and must be stopped. You play Dan, former US Special Forces, forming the US part of the Rust Crew, an international group of specialists tasked to track down Amada. You are joined by longtime teammate Big Bo and various other team members of different nationalities and weapon specialties as the story progresses.

You’ll be facing with a lot of angry robots who are tasked with the stopping of the uninvited Rust Crew as you travel around a futuristic Japan. Gameplay revolves around the fulfilment of mission objectives such as holding off the hostile robots or taking down a massive 8-legged mechanical beast with rocket launchers. Gamers not good at running and gunning are eased-in by various tutorials early in-game, so there’s a bit of hand-holding to show you the ropes.

Binary Domain’s story is controlled by the game’s Consequence System and the actions of the player, like combat competence, friendly fire and conversation choices will affect how the story turns out. Players must earn the trust of their teammates and causing the trust level to drop may cause them to not agree with your commands or want to risk their lives for your sorry butt. Players can choose to let the game go either way, though, because the game won’t stop you.

The game also gives players the chance to assign who goes to their team for the current mission, something that can be used wisely for an edge in battle. It also give you the opportunity to suck up or sour down teammates who haven’t had the chance to fight alongside you.

The other core feature of the game is the voice recognition command system, something not commonly implemented like this in games. So instead of hitting a set of command buttons to tell your AI team to attack or when you need help, which you still can do, you scream into your headset a specific set of flexible commands for quicker action, just like you would when playing with humans online. The system recognises the cue words surprisingly well across Asian accents, but sometimes the slightest noise will trigger a command so keeping a fair distance from the speakers could help.

In your arsenal is your primary Assault Rifle, Pistol sidearm, hand explosives and whatever secondary weapon you can pick up, ranging from sniper rifles to miniguns. You can choose spend your Credits (earned by shooting robots into scrap metal) to upgrade the primary weapons of you and your teammates and obtain nanotechnology to augment your health, defences and item counts a la Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The ammunition vending machines even pumps out bonuses like a typical pachinko machine in Japan.

The thing that can break a shooter like this is a flimsy camera angle, and Binary Domain is spared from one. The third-person chase camera does an excellent job following the player in-game as he dashes across the playing field avoiding enemy fire, flowing seamlessly in and out of minor cutscenes. Holding Y also points players towards something that requires their attention, always helpful.

Graphics are competently rendered, but watching your enemies explode in a shower of metal under the sunshine of Japan’s upper city is pretty mesmerising. The same set of background action music plays in the background, but it shouldn’t bother you too much as it’ll be drowned in your constant gunfire. The game is fully voiced in six languages, so you can actually throw voice commands at them using German.

Binary Domain is a highly enjoyable squad-based shooter that is complemented with competent AI, running and gunning and the ease of using voice commands. Sure, there are more intense shooters around, but Binary Domain is a good game to kick back to if you’re tired of those. Definitely one to look at.

Graphics 9.0
Everything is where it should be, with no noticeable lag or glitches. The gleaming surfaces of futuristic Japan’s upper city is pleasing to the eye.
Sound 8.0
Voice-recognition vocal commands are competent as are your AI partners’ response outside of the fully-voiced cutscenes.
Gameplay 8.0
The game eases you into the future of squad-based combat, but leaves you to take command when you are ready.
Lasting Appeal 7.0
Chapter select and a higher difficulty level can be unlocked once you play through the story. There are also collectables to hunt for to open up more of the backstory.
How the RGB Scoresheet works

Binary Domain is a SEGA squad-shooter game for the Xbox 360, as well as the PlayStation 3 and coming for Windows PCs. Multiplayer modes were not tested.