These days discussions on the decline of eastern developers (Japanese) versus the rise of western developers (American) are quite common. The difference in gaming ideology manifests itself in genre preference, gameplay features, and story elements. Whichever you prefer comes down to taste and the opposing flavors are often easy to spot. Eastern games favor linear gameplay and character-driven narratives. Western games favor opened-ended gameplay and player-driven progression.
This difference in gaming philosophy has caused a major rift that has left Japan scrambling to catch up to their western rivals. It is for this reason that we see games like Binary Domain. From the minute you start playing it you’ll get the feeling of a Japanese studio trying to emulate an American one. Is this bad? Not necessarily. With titles like Vanquish and Conduit 2, it’s all too clear that Sega is desperate to break into the shooter market. Does Binary Domain succeed or fail at this endeavor?
In the realm of squad-based shooters, Binary Domain is a valiant effort. The ability to give voice commands is fairly responsive and makes the experience fairly unique- should you take advantage of it. If the game itself were more of a challenge, perhaps this feature would stand-out more. As it stands, you really don’t need to micro-manage your squad too carefully. You can beat most of the campaign utilizing your team as cover (or meat shields as I like to call them.)
Visually the game is impressive, but by no means breath-taking. The weapon effects and character models are all up to standard, but nothing is particularly memorable. Neither the enemies nor the scenery is very inspiring. I can’t imagine too much is going on under the hood- making it all the more disappointing that the graphics don’t take greater advantage of the PS3’s raw horsepower. Then again, it’s become all too commonplace to see matching visuals across the Xbox 360 and PS3 this late in the generation.
Very quickly you’ll get the feeling that Sega’s developers had their eyes on the action sequences of Mass Effect when they worked on Binary Domain. This squad-based shooter desperately tries to individualize itself while so often it hints at the shallow origin of the gameplay. You’ll also pick up on some “Gears of War” influence pretty frequently. It’s all too easy to spot the trademark, no-neck characteristics inspired by Epic’s flagship Xbox 360 series. Fortunately the color scheme in Binary Domain consists of more than just grey, dirt, and blood- one big step above Gears of War!
The controls aren’t too complicated. For anyone familiar with the genre, you’ll pick it up and have no problems. The aforementioned voice commands are certainly fun to utilize, but they aren’t perfect. Keep instructions simple and speak clearly for the best results. The game is billed as a tactical, squad-based shooter, but this isn’t really the case. Only the most basic of stratagems are necessary. The game is action heavy and fast-paced, planning is rarely necessary.
Unless you’re totally new to shooters, you’ll likely blow through the 8-10 hour campaign. That leaves a multiplayer mode for ten players that will increase the longevity of the title. Be warned- the multiplayer is a little more bare-bones than a lot of gamers have come to expect. All in all, if you’re a fan of the titles that inspired this effort from Sega- you might enjoy it. Just make sure you’re in it for the campaign as the multiplayer seems to exist solely to round out the package.