Set in a war-torn 2080 Tokyo, Binary Domain puts you in the shoes of Dan Marshall, leader of an international military squad sent to stop the illegal production of androids (the humanoid robots, not the cell phones) known as Hollow Children. You’ll fight through both Tokyo’s seedy crime-filled underground and its affluent chrome upper city.
Binary Domain marks another attempt by a Japanese developer – SEGA, in this case – to emulate a more Western style of gameplay. And as far as combat mechanics and gunplay go, Binary Domain is easily one of the best shooters to come out of Japan. Your robot foes, while not particularly intelligent, will dismantle realistically as you fire at them, adding a more immediate sense of weight to your bullets. Enemies will even claw their way across the battlefield without legs, evoking all sorts of Terminator creepiness.
But if there’s one area in which Japanese games always seem to fail at emulating the Western style, it’s dialog. Binary Domain boasts some of the most cringe-worthy localization this side of All Your Base Are Belong To Us. After commenting on a female character’s rear, the muscular bro squad mate asks “You’re in agreement, am I right?” While the question itself made me facepalm, my response – or rather how the game interpreted it – was quite interesting.
Therein lies Binary Domain’s unique take on consequence and decision making. It aims for a more organic relationship with your squad members. Your behavior both in and out of battle will affect each squad member’s trust meter. Making comments they don’t like, such as demoralizing a female teammate, or putting them in dangerous situations will lower their trust level. Meanwhile, using smart tactics and being respectful in conversation will raise their trust meter. The more a character trusts you the more likely they are to follow your orders during a firefight.
Although this consequence system is certainly ambitious, it starts to fall apart when you realize just how limited your tactical options are. You can’t make any specific squad commands, like ordering a character to move to a certain location or to attack a certain enemy. Instead, you can only make vague orders like Charge or Cover Me. What’s more troubling is that these commands apply to your entire squad, rather than a specified squad member. This means that if your team consists of a sniper and a heavy gunner, you have to apply the same commands to both characters.
Still, Binary Domain looks to be a satisfying cover-based third-person shooter. Its Japanese sensibilities work in its favor for the most part, providing gorgeous Tokyo landscapes and over-the-top robot battles. However, horrendous dialog and clumsy squad commands leave something to be desired.
Binary Domain comes out on February 28 in North America and February 24 in Europe for PS3 and 360.