meta-review: Bionic Commando remake

16 Oct / by: M&R / 26 comments /

Wow.. this is exactly what’s wrong with commercial games.

When we first heard of this project, we were worried that yet another grappling/physics-based game would be coming to take on Robotology. After watching the video, all we could think was “this is the sound of a great game being F’d in the A”.

They couldn’t possibly have just stuck with the original story which, though corny, would have at least had an sense of humour about itself? Come on! You are Radd Spencer, a soldier with an experimental bionic arm, sent on a mission to save Super Joe from the clutches of the evil Badd. That’s hilarious! And anyway, no one’s going to really care if they’re having a great time grappling all over the place.

Instead, it’s apparently better to mash together terrible movie cliches. “Radd Spencer” has become “Nathan Spencer”. Why not just call him “Blandy McBland” or “Egg”? Is there a more generic tough-guy name in all of history? It at least matches his background story: yet another heroic soldier locked up for crimes he didn’t commit, or, crimes he did commit clearly in the name of justice, only to be set free as a risky, last-ditch super-weapon. “Bio Rain” just sounds like “Trying to be Metal Gear Solid”. And “Ascension City”, nice touch — apparently “Climbsville, West Tallington” was too obvious.

Why, WHY does every action video game have to pretend it’s the most bad-ass, super-tough thing ever? Doesn’t anyone realize that that just comes off as very lame? They must have assembled a writing team consisting of the 4 people on earth who played through Max Payne 1 and 2 without ever feeling embarrassed by the dialogue. Even action movies tend to have at least some self-awareness.

It’s worrisome that they spent over three months designing the bionic arm, and it still wasn’t good enough. And the degree to which they agonized about what the hero should look like is another concern. If you had spent the past 7 years of your life fighting to get this game made, why wouldn’t you care more about, say, how running/swinging/shooting feel (i.e the actual game) rather than this sort of trivial superficial crap? It’s almost like these sorts of totally-irrelevant-to-actually-playing-the-game details are what’s important: for example, the anecdote about how Nathan Spencer is just soooo bad-ass, they had to ship him and his arm in separately. WOW.. Can’t WAIT to play this game, it sounds amazing!

Here’s an idea: rather than waste millions of dollars developing a pathetic, tired, over-worked plot, why not keep the old story — it’ll have a nice, unique, “ironic nostalgia” vibe the 25-35 year old gamers will love — and put that money into making the game more fun to play? The sad thing is that no matter how much money is sunk into the writing, it’s never going to get better because for some reason the idea that video games should aspire to be more like film has become prevalent. The type of people who subscribe to this ideal can’t seem to make the mental shift from “this is the most epic, cinematic story EVER WRITTEN” to “we’re making a video game, why not make it fun to play and then worry about writing a plot that fits in with the game?”.

We’d rant about the fact that this remake is of course in 3D rather than 2D, and how incredibly unsurprising and boring that decision is, but by doing so we might have made the same mistake ourselves. Here’s hoping that, despite all the worrying points listed above, Bionic Commando is still a great game! Or, wait, no, here’s hoping it stinks, and Robotology is great! Hahaa! In your face, classic game much loved by nostalgic gamers everywhere!

comments ( 26 )

  • Though not having any idea as to what the game you reviewed is like, (I cannot acess the website from my school) I definitely agree that game developers need to focus more on the gameplay rather than the looks/story.

    Can’t wait for Robotology!

  • I’m starting to see a pattern here: More wrinkles in character’s face = deeper storyline 😛

  • Haha, well, definitely the most unusual game review I’ve read. Those large game companies should be put in their place

  • Badass people want badass epic games.

  • I wonder how many years it’ll be before some ‘fan’ decides to create a remake of the classic platformer, N.

  • given that they have yet to release anything about gameplay, it /could/ still be good
    *hopes capcom doesn’t f’ it up*

  • that story = the crap. You guys are very correct. I will disagree though, if companies stopped half assing their stories like this and actually wrote something memorable and something emotionally engaging it would be worth while. You’re correct though, if you are just going to put crap together and call it a story don’t even bother.

  • I agree with you totally. It seems the bigger games companies aren’t focusing on what will make their game sell, rather than what the game will look like.

    Has anyone else noticed that the “rants” section is getting steadily bigger? :p

  • Story is just another generic story. I dunno, it’ll probably hyped for a couple of weeks, be forgotten, and be doomed to a small section of the shelf where a couple of months later some guy walks by with only “Oh yeah, that game.”. It may be okay if they actually do good, but the likely hood of such a thing is slim.
    On a completely different note, it bothers me that on the link’s comment section everyone complains about the “soldier from prison thing, like in Gears of War”. Haven’t you heard of Doom, guys?

  • I can’t agree with your 3D point, 3D is just as valid as 2D, and many great games have resulted from a step up to 3D (metroid prime and super mario 64 spring to mind).

    As for the storyline, yeah, it is a bit disappointing, but the majority of people buying games just want to shoot stuff, and you can’t blame the developers for trying to make money.

    It’s nice to see some developers respect values that really make games good though, and I’m expecting a lot from robotology.

  • Was waiting for the “in your face” =)

  • Yeah, it should have been Metal Wolf Chaos, with a grapple. 😉

  • I don’t think the story is a good indicator of a video game’s quality. I’ve had the chance to use a grappling hook in a brilliant Unreal 2k4 mod and I think it is about time that someone has brought that weapon to a 3D game.

    The gameplay is the star of the show here, and it is wrong to bash or praise the game solely on the narrative.

  • But it is totally right to bash a game and producer for talking incessantly about picking the right colour for his arm/clothing/eyes and all the, here’s a real F-word: “focus groups” they had to do to pick the right “cool” look instead of talking about, you know, how the game plays.

  • to be fair, that arm did end up looking pretty damn cool.

    that said. yes… i just hope that they exaggerated their focus being all about the story to try and appeal to the “masses” rather than focussing on the gameplay which some of us understand to be a much more important part of game.

    gameplay is afterall… the part that separates games from other mediums. if you don’t put the VAST majority of your time and effort focussing on it, my suggestion would be to SCRAP the game, and just make a movie… or a comic book…

    because yes.. your absolutely correct.. without great gameplay.. you have a shitty game. even if the story is cool.

  • Scrap is just crap with an S in the front.

    *Cough*Robotology rocks*cough*

  • Sounds like another overambitious designer-wanting-to-be-a-writer. Feels like a lot of them designers/storywriters (who often got the role on the wrong premises) lack self-awareness. Just like really really corny script writers. Or the dude in the bar who wants to talk to you about his Call of Cthulhu Character’s background.
    Then it could be the suits’ fault. It can always be.

  • I wrote about just this thing on my site when the announcement and first screenshots were revealed.

    I think part of the reason I enjoyed Earth Defense Force 2017 so much is that it didn’t take itself seriously. That, and guns that fire bouncing bullets that you can easily outrun, but will kill you instantly if you touch them. Fun times.

    Now if only we could get a US release of “Zombie VS Ambulance” by the same team…

  • Awesome points. Bionic Commando was a fantastic game, and I’m sure may gamers around today never played it (as we original video gamers are getting older). It didn’t need to be made serious (which is actually just lame). The changes are incredibly stupid.

    And the transition from 2D to 3D has not improved everything. Super Mario Bros was far more engaging in 2D, bouncing on a stream of koopas was just easier to implement in 2D than the virtual wasteland that is 3D. Sure, levels are pretty but it’s just not the same.

    I’m sure 3D can be done better, but I don’t feel 3D platformers step up to the level of gameplay and action of 2D platformers.

  • […] DIGG_URL==’string’?DIGG_URL:window.location.href); document.write(“”); } )() GSW points to a harsh take on the upcoming Bionic Commando remake, but the “metareview” makes more technical […]

  • (another gripe:) The claw-transformation video that he was so psyched about has an extra finger appearing from “behind something” which is kind of a cop-out. If you can’t come up with a cool way to slide out an extra finger, why not just make it a hand with one fewer finger?

  • Let’s all remember and mourn what happened to Blaster Master. ;_;

  • […] meta-review: Bionic Commando remake […]

  • Yo so wait … you didn’t find ANYthing good about the game at all?

    Can you write about what would make the grappling better? What kind of control scheme would allow you to get that feeling of fluid control?

    And c’mon, Max Payne was fully aware of its own campiness. You can’t it was fun as hell to play back in the day.

  • I realize this is an old post, but it just made me laugh how absolutely right you are on every point now we can actually play the game.

  • Interesting read, but doesn’t it violate some kind of industry rules about respecting your fellow peers? I mean, it’s not like “N” is without fault and is flawless. It has a few issues too. I’m all for opinions, but this blog has a rather nasty spin on it that is screaming for Karma to swing in on a bionic arm and bust a cap in the lil’ “N” ninja…seriously. Show some class! (and for goodness sakes fix that blasted glitch in “N” on the 360 where your ninja’s bandana gets snagged on the edge of things and stretches the length of the screen!) You’ve had PLENTY of time to fix that!

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