One of the more Western-style games I saw at Tokyo Game Show this year was Sega's Binary Domain. My first glimpse of Binary Domain was in a 40-seat theater with surround sound that would lift a small child off the ground. The 15 minute video showed an action-packed story. Of course, everything was in Japanese, but imagine a world set in 2080 Tokyo where man and machine have become almost the same, to a point where machines have infiltrated government agencies in a plot that involves robots, treachery, violence, love and action... lots of action, ridiculous amounts of over the top on crack action.
You play the part of Sargent Dan Marshal, the leader of the Rust Crew, a group of the most hardened special forces recruited to hunt down Yoji Amada, the founder of AMADA Corp, the major Japanese Robot Manufacturer.
The game is a tactical third person shooter; basically, if you’re familiar with Mass Effect 2's combat system, it's pretty much identical, although with some pretty cool extra mechanics. First, you can use voice commands through your headset to communicate and give orders to your squad mates. You can have up to three other squad mates, either AI or co-op with friends online.
Second, the creators of Binary Domain say the AI is the most lifelike in a game to date, adapting and changing as to how you interact with them. Allied and enemy robots are programmed with advanced AI technology, and each one of them will take actions individually based on the situation they are facing. For example, if an enemy robot gets its armor destroyed, it will hide behind obstacles. If a robot's head gets destroyed, it will randomly blind-fire at everything. If the legs are destroyed, a robot will come crawling towards you. Even a single battle with less challenging robot enemies will be fraught with tension. You will encounter over 20 varieties of enemy robots, including humanoids, tiny robots, and humongous mechs as big as a four-story building.
So how does it play? Well after the theater, I was ushered up a floor to where we were able to get on some PS3's to check out Binary Domain. As the entire demo was in Japanese I can't say too much about voice acting, but there is a lot of dialog between characters as you walk towards objectives and in combat. As I mentioned earlier, it is a lot like Mass Effect 2's combat in the sense that it’s a close over the shoulder camera, brought even closer when aiming down the sites of your rifle.
A cover system allows you to press a single button to attach yourself to a wall or fallen soda machine. Pressing the fire buttons on their own allow you to blind-fire around cover, while aiming sites lets you aim over the cover. Nothing new here.
What is a bit newer is giving orders to your AI comrades. This can be done either by bringing up a menu with face buttons indicating who you want to give an order to, or talking through your headset. At this stage, only Japanese can be understood by the game, however an English version is also planned for release. From what I could tell from the video demonstration of this, you can say things like "take cover" or "push forward", and the character would give a comment back to confirm and follow orders.
There are also major events to experience, such as a stupidly large robot that backs your crew into a corner. You’re tasked with climbing a nearby building to find a rocket launcher to remove its armour, before climbing another building where you can press the action button to jump off the roof top, onto its back and begin a balancing act on the analog sticks while pressing the fire button to shoot the back of its skull in to take it down. It was a pretty rewarding sequence to say the least.
There’s something about Binary Domain that makes me want to see more. I think it potentially has a lot to offer in terms of story and action-packed sequences. While combat did seem very similar to other third person shooters, I think the scale of tactical gameplay elements using voice commands and the co-operative aspects makes this an enjoyable game.
The Good: Robots. Big Robots. Bigger Robots. Drama and over the top action.
The Bad: Will this just be a reskinned Mass Effect 2...with more Robots?
The Ugly: English release date TBC