Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 Xbox 360 Review

The great thing about Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and the Virtual Console/Wiiware is that they give us old fogeys a chance to play classic games that we loved in our youth. In fact they can give classic franchises a whole new lease of life, bringing sequels to games that previously never had any. This is the case with Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. Up until a few years ago there was only one Bionic Commando game ever made. Then we got the 3D environment based HD sequel, and a remake of the original version with some spruced up visuals. Now we have a sequel of a remake, and things have changed.

Now I’ve never played the original Bionic Commando Rearmed (from now on referred to simply as BCR), but I had always heard good things about it. So I was interested to see what its sequel had to offer. First impressions were not exactly inspiring though. The first thing to strike you are the game’s visuals, which are best described as average and generic. Considering the standard of graphics in downloadable games of late  this was not good, so I thought I’d go take a quick look at the previous game to compare. Surprisingly the three year old predecessor had a slight edge on its recent sequel. As a well seasoned gamer I know that graphics aren’t everything, but still, I would’ve thought they could have done a bit better. It’s the gameplay that counts though, so I thought I’d let that pass for now.

Like I said, I’ve never played the original BCR, but I hear that its major selling point, the thing that differentiated it from other platform games was that you couldn’t jump. Well, he’s taken his time but the little guy has finally learned how to get his feet off the ground, without using that bionic arm of his. Yes, Nathan ‘Radd’ Spencer can now jump. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can imagine a lot of fans of the original being pissed-off about it, making such a big change to a formula that made the original unique. I can only go on my own experience of the franchise though, which was up until now just the 3D re-imagining, and he could jump in that. So I personally don’t have a problem with it, and if you really want, you don’t even have to  use the jump button – there’s even an achievement in it for you if you don’t.

In an attempt to recreate some of the righteous indignation some old-time fans may be feeling about it though, I tried to play the game without jumping. At first it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference, it was just as easy to drag barrels out of the way with the bionic arm as it was to hop over them and there were ways to swing up to ledges otherwise just out of reach of your extending arm. A couple of times I thought I’d got to a point where I was going to have to use the jump, but I didn’t give up. I did some exploring (and thinking) and eventually found my way through to the end of the first level. And I can see  their point now; without the jumping it’s a far more intelligent game. You can’t just bound and shoot your way through, you have to think and feel your path through the environments. That aspect of the game is still there though, and they haven’t exactly broken it if you look at the jumping as just another way to play the game. You can take the intelligent approach if you want to, but if you’re feeling a bit more gung-ho you can always just go in all guns blazing and jumping around like a mad man.

Either way there’s still fun to be had swinging around on your bionic limb. The levels are quite large and widespread, allowing for exploration to find little extras and bonuses. These extras can be a lot of fun, if all you had was a gun and grappling hook for an arm some of the game’s bosses would be extremely hard work. But there are lots of different upgrades to be had, improving your durability and firepower, and giving you extra abilities. The game has a couple of other nice little bits and pieces to add variety too; at one point you get to man the gun turret of the helicopter, fighting off any threats along your pre-ordained flight path. There are also sniper towers to be found here and there that you can use to pick off enemies at long range. These bits are nothing spectacular, but they do add a little bit extra to help pull it out of the sea of mediocrity.

The visuals may not set the world on fire, but the gameplay makes up for it a bit, all they need is a fitting story to complete the package. If you’re a fan of dodgy B-movie action flicks that go straight to DVD then you won’t be disappointed. Your commanding officer has been kidnapped by the tyrannical despot of an island nation that just happens to have a nuke all set to launch at your capital city. It’s certainly not going to win any awards, but it’s the type of story the franchise is known for, the over the top hero battling against insurmountable odds to save not only the world, but his best buddy at the same time. They’ve even given Spencer a ridiculously spiky hair-do and big 70’s porn-star moustache to make him that little bit larger-than-life. A look that whilst frowned upon in the real world military, is just the sort of thing your B-movie hero needs.

The last thing to mention really is the price. You get a pretty reasonable package here, but the pricing is a bit on the steep side. If it had been 800MSP then it would’ve been worth it, but at 1200 it’s probably a bit much, even for fans of the franchise. If money isn’t an issue for you, and you’re desperate for some more bionic arm-swinging action, then it’s a probably a worthwhile purchase. If not though, it might be best to give it a miss, or at least wait for the next XBLA sale.

6 out of 10
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