Ever fancied yourself as a budding Rambo? Figure that anyone can save the world as long as they’ve got a big gun and enough ammo? Want a different slant on the side-scrolling shoot-‘em-up genre? Well, Bionic Commando: Rearmed may be what you’ve been searching for.
Bionic Commando: Rearmed is a remake of the late 1980’s NES game Bionic Commando. The original posed the usual plot of a madman trying to conquer the world, but Capcom sought to give a twist to the usual shoot-‘em-up style – there was no “jump” button. Instead, the hero had an attachment on one arm that shot out a grapple line, enabling him to climb up levels and swing from overhead objects like a modern day Tarzan. This unique method added a different dimension to puzzles, where just a single block on the ground could mean a difficult search for a way to proceed.
Although Rearmed contains the same basic gameplay as the original, GRIN weren’t willing to just re-hash Capcom’s original title. Instead they totally reinvented the look, added on extra multiplayer modes, and basically reworked the entire game into a modern take on the original. The levels are predominantly the same with only the occasional tweaks, though the major change for anyone managing to complete the original game is the last boss (instead of a extremely difficult “kill with one shot or fall to your death” scenario, there is now a full final level to beat). But most importantly, the mechanics of swinging have translated well to the 360 and grappling is as versatile as ever, being able to be used on platforms, objects and people alike, as well as for defence. The grapple takes a while to get used to, as it doesn’t shoot instantaneously once pressed, so practice is needed to fully use the agility of the system.
As for the look of the game, it’s a treat for the eyes. Clearly it’s one of the better-looking Arcade titles and has lovingly been touched up to fully utilise the capabilities of the newer console. The sounds have also been worked over, with explosions and gunfire sounding crisp. Even the original 8-bit melody has been remastered, but somehow it sounds more harmonious and dramatic. It’s clear that great care has been taken to please fans of the original as well as to appeal to the modern gamer.
For those who want to play with a friend, there’s two ways of going about it – co-op or multiplayer battles. Unfortunately both can only be played locally, not over Live. Despite this handicap, the co-operative mode for the campaign has been done superbly. It’s not just a cheap rehash of the single player version but a total rework, all the AI changes and there is more of an emphasis on teamwork to get past even the lowly footsoldier. And even boss strategies have to be reworked – quite often one person will have to act as a diversion to allow the other a shot at the boss’ weak spot.
On the other hand, the actual “deathmatch” multiplayer modes are OK without being anything special, with three modes being versions of trying to kill or knock opponents off platforms. Unlike co-op, being unable to play online really hurts and unfortunately it isn’t something you’ll be coming back to repeatedly.
On top of those modes, there’s a plethora of Challenge rooms to test your swinging prowess, and other numerous features meant to interact with full retail Bionic Commando, released not long after the Arcade title.
Though the game is great, there are a couple of flaws. First off, when moving around the main map, you may encounter enemy forces and be forced into (what they called) a “meet the enemy” level. Unlike the rest of the game, these are done in a top-down view. Unfortunately, they don’t offer the same sense of enjoyment as the grapple is rendered pretty much useless, and they can become tedious after a while.
Secondly, this is a difficult game, and has a steep learning curve at that. Though it’s slightly easier than the original, precision grappling is required (usually over a bottomless pit) and can get frustrating. To mitigate this, losing all your lives simply returns you to the main map with unlimited continues, but the repetition can get irritating.
All in all, this is a great game and should (at the very least) be tried as a demo. A great Arcade title, and at 800 points is a bargain.