The original Bionic Commando Rearmed could be described as a perfect storm of a game. Designed to help promote a full retail release, this re-imagining of a NES-era classic combined crisp graphics, controls that were tighter than a drum, and a killer soundtrack that was so utterly fantastic that it had many flocking to buy it. With that in mind it would be fairly realistic to expect most gamers to be frothing at the mouth for a new title, which is now here in the form of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2.
Set after the events of the first title, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (BCR2) finds our hero, Nathan “RAD” Spencer, returning for duty with a posse of raw recruits under his Bionic tutelage. The mission this time around is to overthrow a rogue state with a figurehead reminiscent of a certain Cuban leader. This flimsy premise helps frame the action as Spencer shoots and swings his way to victory across the different levels. Each area has a different theme encompassing everything from the initial raid on Puerto Calao at dusk, through to dense jungle foliage and industrial complexes, so there’s certainly variety throughout.
As with most sequels, there’s been one or two cosmetic changes to go along with Nathan’s new combo of hairdo and natty moustache. By pressing the right trigger and using the left analogue stick to highlight red glowing areas within levels, the player can find clues on bypassing doors and revealing secrets about boss encounters. In addition to different weapons and extra life tokens found in hidden areas, there are also modifiers that can be selected to augment the various weapons secreted in various hard to reach places, requiring replays of areas to unlock everything and certainly appealing to the more obsessive gamer out there.
However the change that will gain the most immediate attention is that Nathan can now jump over obstacles. While this might have many shrugging their shoulders in ignorance, it was a missing feature in the original, with the player forced to navigate purely with the grappling hook augmentation RAD was packing. In fairness it isn’t a big deal and if the player so wishes they can choose not to use it at all and award themselves “hardcore” kudos, or some similar token of merit, amongst anonymous Internet users. The jump can certainly help with momentum, in as much as it will kick-start the player into a leap before throwing out the grappling hook, but if it was still missing it really would be doubtful if anyone would actually care. The grappling itself has also had a slight tweak, but most players will find themselves adjusting to the feel and timing without too many problems.
On the surface, it appears that BCR2 has added a lot to the original, but spend more than a couple of hours with the game and the cracks start to appear. The level design has lost the tight, compact feel of the original, in favour of meandering levels that become a trudge to navigate. Also gone is the irreverent sense of humour which was abundant in the first; now it feels very po-faced, almost taking itself too seriously – a real shame considering the charm of Bionic Commando Rearmed.
Another highlight of the first game, the boss fights, feel underwhelming this time round, with none of the zest or ingenuity on display previously. Certainly, the patterns required to learn to defeat them could always be figured out in time, but here they somehow feel distinctly sub-par and you can almost sense them going through the motions, virtually bereft of any new ideas. They may have the scale, but they definitely lack the quality found in the original.
By far the biggest crime BCR2 suffers from is how drab it feels to play. The slog through the overly long levels doesn’t help as they meander to a conclusion. Then couple these emotions with how easy the game is – especially in light of the fact that once you pick up certain equipment, it almost breaks the game. Having the health regeneration modifier selected and with each subsequent extra life being added to the starting total for each level, means only the most buttered fingered players out there will struggle through the game. That’s if even they can be bothered to continue…
While it boggles the mind that this can weigh in at a hefty 1.4GB and still manage to look rougher than its 214mb predecessor, by far the biggest question mark is the continued omission of online co-op. Bafflingly it still retains a co-op element in offline mode, but even then it corrals players together in tight formation, never letting you stray too far from each other.
Taken in isolation, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is a competent game, but those who have played the original will find themselves constantly comparing it to what’s gone before and feeling decidedly downbeat, struggling to find anything that outdoes it in any way. Sadly Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 suffers from being unable to live up to the very high standards set with the original title, leaving little more than a sour taste in the mouth and a sense of wasted opportunity.