Cover-based shooters feel like they have run their course nowadays, but it appears Team CS1 didn’t get the memo. Binary Domain is heavily inspired by games such as Gears of War and Army of Two, but slight enhancements and different approaches on the formula as well as some solid development and a touch of Japanese flair have resulted in a game that is surprisingly well made.
The plot is dramatic, cheesy, and very Japanese. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that the antagonists are the Japanese government: they are suspected of developing robots that are indistinguishable from humans – a breach of the Geneva Convention. Cue a band of former spec-ops soldiers from different nations all forced to put aside their differences so they can succeed in infiltrating the robot-infested cities of Japan.
The storyline has clear influences from Terminator, I, Robot, and Blade Runner, so sci-fi fans will be more than familiar with the whole “do robots have souls” theme. The script is simple and full of one-liners that’ll make English majors cringe, but it’s fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (kudos to the English regionalisation team). There’s also a distinct lack of moe characters, and the ridiculous Japanese over-dramatisation is kept to a minimum – a move that’s bound to get on a Western gamer’s good side – although towards the end there’s a lot of dramatic gun pointing at the camera.
The action is fantastic. Robots suffer from locational damage, allowing for the player to shoot off arms and legs; destroy armour; and perform headshots to force robots into firing wildly into their allies. The enemy AI is impressive and keeps you on your toes, but your team’s AI is woefully frustrating, made apparent every time they wander into your rifle sights. Binary Domain also features a voice command system that allows you to converse with your team mates as if they were real people, but I found it to be quite finicky despite spending a while training it to my voice. Words like “wait” would be mistaken for “Faye” (a character’s name), which would result in disgruntled responses from my teammates wondering if I’m still fit for command. Maybe it’s just my Australian twang that’s confusing the game’s speech recognition engine?
Characters can be buffed by purchasing upgrades for reload speed, melee damage, health kit capacity, and so on. New weapons can be purchased for your character, and your teammate’s weapons can also be upgraded at shop terminals. It’s a minor addition, but investing back into the characters I played with was a nice touch.
The game looks incredible and plays at a decent frame rate too – an especially impressive feat on the aging Xbox 360 platform. The visual style is reminiscent of games such as Vanquish and Metal Gear Solid, with clear menus; flat fonts; short, controlled character animations; and plenty of weather and fluid effects. Most battles are filled with plenty of robot shrapnel, particles, and visual filters, so there may be a touch of slowdown in certain parts, but it’s otherwise a pretty seamless experience.
Binary Domain was a surprise hit for me. Other than the patchy voice command system, the over-dramatised story, and the weak replay value, it was still a great experience that I wanted to see through. Epic moments, great presentation, and enjoyable action sequences manage to balance this title out nicely.