Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Going Commando (Again)

We go hands-on with our first preview of 2011, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, and emerge wanting a bionic arm more than ever. Impressions await you inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: January 1, 2011
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The games industry, like nearly everything, is cyclical; it has its ups and downs, and when it's up, things are glorious. When it's down -- like, say, the last year or two -- the results can be heartbreaking; plenty of developers with promise have fallen to the looming spectre of budget cuts and cancelled studio projects. Such was the fate that befell Swedish dev house GRIN, who had cut their teeth for years on PC ports and were catapulted into "where the hell did these guys come from?" status with their retro-revival of the original Bionic Commando with Rearmed.


Bionic Commando Rearmed did an absolutely brilliant job of preserving the tough-as-nails gameplay of the NES original, only fussing with the formula enough to make it feel at once new and old-school and mixing in absolutely fantastic re-imaginings of the original 8-bit tunes provided by Simon Viklund. As it turns out, modern audiences may have found that that classic challenge a little... intense and a patch was released shortly before the studio shut down that added a handful of helping hands to gamers that found the original challenge a bit too much (plus Trophies!).

Many of these tweaks, from unlimited lives to being able to re-extend grappling hook lines to non-fatal disconnects when hitting walls (plus a handful of difficulties) have all been folded into Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 along with a handful of new techniques including the nigh-sacrilegious decision to allow the now-mustachioed lead Nathan Spencer -- gasp -- jump? This news may not come as much of a shock if you read our original E3 preview, but something we weren't able to glean from our brief time with the game during the show was just how much more comfortable with his bionic appendage Spencer has gotten.

Clearly the full-blown 3D Bionic Commando wasn't exactly as well-received as GRIN's 2D effort (and may have signaled the beginning of the end after subsequent efforts like Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Terminator Salvation garnered similar reviews), but that doesn't mean it didn't have solid ideas. In transitioning to "new" dev FatShark (which now counts ex-GRIN employees among its tertiary teams), Spencer was given a few of the rebooted RAD's moves to help update things and tie the whole jumbled mess together.

Among the new moves are a simple little wall slide down any sheer surface by simply pressing toward the wall, the ability to freely reel in and out, and to make a little short-hop-style swing when fully reeled in that can be used for smaller, more precise jumps, new hot-swappable add-ons, more (and beefier) weapons and the gound pound "Death From Above" move from the 3D effort that can help clear out destructible bits of terrain scattered throughout the levels.

A note about those levels: while this is a sequel, taking place a few years after the first game and sort of threading in elements from the reboot like RAD's bionic arm aesthetic, it feels almost like a new game in its own right because of the subtle but significant changes to the way Spencer controls. Likewise, with no need to follow the rote 8-bit path of the original, the levels have grown in detail and pathing; there are now often multiple ways to get to the end goal, some with hidden items and, in a nice infusion of Metroidvania elements, more powerful weapons or routes that can only be explored after returning with better equipment.

That equipment isn't just relegated to guns anymore, though those are absolutely present, from rocket launchers to shotguns to machine guns and plenty in between (each with four upgrade tiers that can actually change how a weapon works). As we already mentioned, Spencer can now equip upgrades that tweak and enhance his abilities. Split into Active (triggered with the Triangle Button) and Passive (always on). Things like regenerating health or rapid fire with the latter and grenade launchers or shields for the former are all here, and like the weapons, they can be upgraded -- though "only" three times.
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