This weekend proved to be a real treat in the demo area. Without looking far, I was able to find not one, but two demos to draw my attention. But seeing as I am currently still playing on the PC, the Mass Effect 3 demo will just have to wait. Instead, we are here to talk about Binary Domain.
At first glance on all the trailers that get shown as ads, I was ready to pass this game over. After all, what can be so exciting about robots crawling around that look like they could have walked out of the I, Robot movie released many years ago? But then, I saw the trailer "Bigger then you Think" on PSN. Within the first 20 seconds, I saw a man scream about how someone lies and then rip his own face off, revealing something akin to the Terminator undernieth. NOW they had my attention. It didn't take long to cut to the usual action scenes we expect in most trailers which looked pretty cool, as well as showing some more of these "mock humans." I got the impression this is going to be a game of "who is real," and the phrase talking about how you can tell what's machine anymore in the short trailers began to make sense. I decided I was going to download this one.
The demos give you two levels to play with, one being on the streets and giving you a feel of the squad-level controls the game will give you, while the other will focus a lot more on the action. Both give you the feeling that the game is trying to be Gears of War with a few new tweaks, be it selecting your squad sometimes, commanding your squad directly, conversations that let you choose who will do what, or even the occasional complete change of pace as you use quick-time-esque parts to take on bigger enemies. The results, however, seem a bit mixed.
While I (at least in this generation) can not claim to be a fan of analog sticks for FPS style controls, I have to say this felt a little clunky. I couldn't put my finger on it at first. The sticks turn you about as fast as expected, there is a great aiming mechanic to make pinpoint shooting manageable when you have to do it, but something was off. And then it hit me. There is no separate button for dash or cover, or really anything outside of reload, weapon choices, or voice commands. This game employs the "do everything" button, which results in sometimes your character not doing what you would like... like taking cover against a wall while you are trying to run to a better location, or run past something you wanted to dive behind.
I know other reviewers (most notably ZeroPunctuation) complain about these functions, and frankly, I agree. It seems the few times I DO play a game that uses this mechanic, it just proves somehow off... with exactly two exceptions. Those would be Mass Effect 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Deus Ex succeeded because it mapped run and "duck behind cover" as different buttons, while Mass Effect 2 somehow managed to make the game understand the difference. Perhaps it is because they did not use a roll command on the same button as well. It would do well for developers to learn from them for that reason alone.
But that said, this isn't a deal breaker... just a day one breaker since I have much better feeling games to get to. My personal recommendation would be to keep an eye on this one, but maybe, wait for the price to drop. After all, it is competing with some very heavy hitter titles that both just came out and will be coming out soon. It should be fun, but it can wait.