As you may know, I wasn’t very fond of Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Actually, I totally despised just about everything about it and was left wanting to find and beat everyone involved with the game unconscious with frozen turkeys. It left me with so little hope for the upcoming 3D Bionic Commando game that I didn’t even notice when it actually came out, and only when Yahtzee reviewed it was I reminded this game existed. But I still wasn't laying down $60 for the game, not after Rearmed, and especially not after hearing the game was only six hours long, and ESPECIALLY not after reading about the bullshit plot twists the game pulls out of its ass towards the end. But I still felt some obligation to get it under my belt like everything else Bionic Commando so I rented it, then later bought it used, and while the game itself is not as blisteringly painful as Rearmed was, certain liberties taken with the plot offended me deeper than anything BCR ever did.

So ten years have passed since the events of Rearmed, and everyone hates bionics, prompting the miltary to strip them all of their bionic parts. Some get stripped, some die, some run away. Our hero, Nathan Spencer, stripped of his bionic arm and sunglasses, has been on death row for fives years for doing something in Alaska that's never explained. He hasn't bathed in all that time, turning his hair from clown red to greasy brown, and has also grown himself some fine dreadlocks and massive arm muscles which make him look a member of some rock band on steroids, which I guess makes sense since he's voiced by the singer of some band I've never heard of. But on the very day he's to be executed, a terrorist organization called BioReign nukes a city, so MGS4-era old man Solid Snake Super Joe busts him out of prison to do something about them in exchange for a pardon and information on his missing wife, but not his glasses. Sounds straightforward, but boy do they ever make a mess of this.

The game itself isn't bad, but it's also not very good. Mediocre, I guess, because while the game has its moments it tends to be more irritating than challenging. One edge BC360 has over Rearmed is the analog stick actually works for a 3D game. The swinging controls mostly work, but there is one aspect of it that really pissed me off. Now, in the 2D Bionic Commando, Ladd/Rad/Spencer only swung in maybe the bottom 120 degrees, like a pendulum. You know, the way something should swing? Here, Spencer almost makes a full circle, stopping just short of the circle's apex. The 2Ds always taught me to release at the peak of a swing, but you do that here and you'll just end up flying straight up, usually resulting in Spencer unable to latch onto neither the floating mine thing you were aiming for nor the one you just swung from, thus falling into water and drowning because he can't hold his breath for more than five seconds. If you want to make any distance you have to release when Spencer is at the bottom of the circle, which while awkward is at least easily adjustable to.

Another pain in the butt the game throws at you while swinging is how it keeps you from going where it doesn't want you to: irradiating the surrounding buildings. Sometimes you can tell an irradiated building from a clean one by the blue smears on a radioactive building, but not always. Okay, so if you do run into a radiated spot that doesn't have blue stuff, most of the time you just let go or turn back when the radiation sign appears, but that's not always an option. One time the destination marker was pointingto a building surrounded by water, but when I swung to that building I found it was irradiated. I couldn't get away from the radiation, so I then had to choose between dying of cancer or drowning. Turns out I was supposed to go on the other side of the same building. And a few times in the game you have to go through an irradiated area to get to your target, causing further confusion when I figured I wasn't supposed to go that way when in fact I was.

The other half of gameplay is melee and gun combat. Melee combat is actually kind of entertaining. The most satisfying moments in the game include bitchslapping an enemy to a ledge then as he flailed to regain balance, booting him in the ass to his death, or throwing a guy into a bottomless pit with a satisfying scream, or wiping out a whole platoon with one well-aimed rock. Gun combat is a whole 'nother ballpark. Every time guns got involved I started wanting to kill something. I'd often empty my entire gun trying to shoot a guy who could hit me with every shot from the same gun, and I'd like to know what crazy night-vision binoculars the enemies are using that they can see me a mile away in the dark with no flashlight. And then there's sniping. As soon as Spencer reveals one inch of himself, the enemy snipers instantly aim for him and start popping caps in his ass. Most of the time you can just run from them and make your way to your target, but at least three times you have to take on the snipers at their own game. But when you get your hand on a rifle, Spencer aims the thing so slowly and wobbles it like he's drunk, and you'll often be surrounded while trying to get the enemy into view, good luck getting in a snipe before the bad guys do. I hear on Commando difficulty Snipers kill you in one hit. I'm sorry, but if that's true, then going through this game on Commando difficulty is up there with getting all the stars in Super Mario Sunshine on the list of tasks I'll get around to when all of Earth's oceans turn to Kool-Aid.

Then there's the fucking gorilla mechs. Okay, the first few encounters were tolerable. Then they start coming in pairs. Okay, fair enough. Then they start calling in backup when you kill some of them. Then they start coming in freaking packs. Then they start weilding giant lasers, while still coming in packs. Then they start flying, while coming at you in pairs. Then they start teaming up with a small army of machinegun wielding grunts, while still flying and coming at you in pairs. And I cannot tell you how many times in these fights I knocked one over and went to grapple-kick its glowing blue back only for Spencer to grab the ground under it instead, or when I was trying to get behind it by jumping and grappling the ground behind it and latched onto the mech itself, resulting in Spencer getting uppercutted into the ozone layer.

Amusing Anecdote: There was this one level where I was jumping around some domes in raging water during a dark rainstorm, dodging snipers and a flying machine that wouldn't get off my back, and at some point some tries to contact Spencer only to degrade to static, and Spencers yells at the top of his lungs "Oh for FUCK'S SAAAAKE!", and I started laughing hysterically because that's pretty much what I was thinking at that point.

I'm not going to touch on the soundtrack for long, because it's mostly different ways of playing the Area 1 theme from the NES game, though I think I heard the Area 5 theme once. But I guess the graphics are alright, but that might be because I find it hard to really complain about any game that has any colors other than dog shit brown, rotten pus gray, and monkey puke green and no bloom. Still, there's only a handful of areas and once you've taken your first glance in each area you've seen all there is to see for that area type, and they're pretty cliched anyway. You start in a ruined city, go through a rock fissure, go around the city some more, go through another fissure, go into a forest area, then a combination of city and forest in a botanical garden, go back through the city, go over some oil rigs, go back through some more rocks, ride a giant robot spider, go through some more rocks, then it ends at a generic military complex resembling something out of Halo.

Speaking of, I wonder just how much the guys at GRIN were fans of Halo? You can only carry two weapons at a time, but one is a pistol you can't drop and the other is one of five special guns you can't reload. There's also no health meter. As you take damage the screen turns red and you start to hear a beeping sound, so you drop the fight to hide Spencer in a corner to suck his thumb for a few seconds while the colors return to normal.

And like games like Halo and Gears of War, the tone flits schizophrenically between straight-faced drama and macho comedy. Sometimes it's a "war is hell" drama as you trek through the ruins of a once heavily populated city. Sometimes it tries to tug your heartstrings with the subplot of Spencer’s missing wife or the depressing ending. But when Spencer kills somebody he often shouts retarded one-liners like "SUCKS TO BE YOUUUU!" or "I'LL SEND YOU THE BILL LATER!" or simply laughing, and really takes too much pleasure in killing his enemies for war to be hell or for us to really care about his missing wife. And then there's moments like hearing a popular lullaby I can't for the life of me remember the name of playing when Groeder's robot spider falls over and explodes or reading an interview log where the interviewer implies the interviewee was gay for Spencer, two of the Achievements are "I Got Hard" and "I Went Commando", and there's that infamous Easter Egg with the Mohole boss as well as Spencer's "battle taunt" and the fact the thing is vaguely phallic. Also, there is a fine line between "adult" and "childish" when it comes to profanity, and when everyone in your game says “fuck” like a thirteen-year-old whose mother isn't around and just discovered he wasn't going to go up in flames for saying it, I'd say you've crossed that line on a speeding drag racer with no brakes.

Bionic Commando 360 also carries the unmistakeable stink of incompletion. My first wiff of it was when I went onto this circular platform bordered by a bunch of giant statues of people doing a pseudo-Heil Hitler towards the center. It was pretty obvious there was supposed to be a boss here, but instead you get to sit there and watch Spencer trip a very dimwitted female bionic with super speed who runs straight into his claw cable, and when the cutscene ends you go about your merry way. Bionic Commando also lacks anything resembling a final boss. You quick-time event yourself through an army of flying robots that look like a cross between mosquitoes and the army droids from the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and once you get near the big bad guy himself instead of a firey climactic showdown or even one last QTE, you get a cutscene where Spencer and the big bad guy yell at each other for a little bit, then Spencer kills him for you by headbutting his face in, and then you get an ambiguous and unsatisfying ending.

Okay, I’m done dancing around the spoilers and I'm going to address them now, so if you don't want the game spoiled to you then feel free to hit the Back button or click here or close your browser or turn your computer off or whatever.

In the last hour of the game, the plot takes a left turn at the corner of Tooty and Fruity, and we’re hit with the second most cliched, idea-deprived, and insulting plot twist ever, when it’s revealed Super Joe was evil all along and was just using Spencer to get control of Project Vulture. After Spencer delivers the MacGuffin, Joe takes off in a helicopter while his buddy Groeder, some German bionic from Rearmed, orders Spencer's execution. Spencer escapes and vows to get Joe and Groeder. Oh, for those of you wondering, the number one most cliched, idea-deprived, and insulting plot twist ever would have been revealing Super Joe and Groeder were the same person all along.

Speaking of Groeder, he and his cheesy German accent are terrorizing the rubble of Ascension City on a giant robot spider, which towards the end of the game you get on by riding a really longass elevator it conveniently had down for you. You, uh, dislodge some giant soda cans, then fight Groeder himself. I had to laugh at the intro movie to the fight with Groeder. Groeder taunts you, then it cuts to Spencer and you hear some sick cracking and sludgy noises, then it cuts back to Groeder in his transformed state. Meaning GRIN couldn't be bothered to animate his transformation. The fight itself is the most asinine in the game, and is pretty much impossible to lose to since he only has two attacks but dilly-dallies long enough between each one for Spencer to auto-heal, he doesn't recoil you off the platform far enough you can't grapple your way back, and the swarm of robo-bees he summons when he's down to half health don't pose any threat if you just keep moving. Okay, there's something you have to do to make him vulnerable, but the player would have to be extremely dense to not figure it out within a minute, and only that long because that might be how long it takes to learn his attack pattern to do what comes naturally to any gamer.

After Spencer shoves a grenade in Groeder's mouth and kicks him off his giant robot spider-thing, he goes on find Joe in a mech with a bunch of angel wings (drop the fucking Safer Sephiroth envy, people) where Joe reveals he not only was he the leader of BioReign, but he also had a hand in creating bionics, and it was his idea to make bionics the way they were: requiring somebody close to the person receiving the bionic part have their brain cut out and put into the bionic part. And he kidnapped Emily, and used her to make Spencer’s arm. And shortly after this announcement he smashes that female bionic from that obviously cut boss battle earlier in the game. And then he reveals he killed Spencer’s dog, Muffins, just because he was bored. And he once tore the "Do Not Remove" tag off a sofa. And his first instinct when eating a chocolate bunny is to bite its face off. The point they’re trying to make is Super Joe is EEEVIL, dammit!

I realize every Bionic Commando game has, how might you say, occured on its own plane of existence where the same events happen: facist dicators try to take over the world using a weapon called the Albatross, a guy named Super Joe is sent in and kidnapped, a guy (or in the case of Elite Forces, possibly a girl) with a grappling hook has to rescue him then team up with him to trash the Albatross. One plane was done in contemporary wartime, one plane was set in a cyberpunk environment, on a third everyone was cyborgs. What happens on one plane stays on that plane and doesn't affect what happens on another, so if Joe is evil on this plane it doesn't mean the Joe from the NES or Game Boy games is evil. But BC360 is a direct sequel to Rearmed, which is supposed to retcon the NES game. It's bad enough when I'm asked to accept an inferior product as canon. It's downright offensive to watch somebody defile what remains and say "THIS IS THE REAL STORY, AND I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE IT CANON."

I wonder if they didn't originally intended for Joe to turn on you, but at some point in production the team realized they weren't sure where they were going with what they had, their deadline was coming up, and just did the first thing that came to mind. I also bet the original plan was to reunite Spencer with his wife and she'd explain she was creeped out my him being half robot but realizes he's still her Nathan Spencer or something, but then they pulled the SHE'S HIS ARM nonsense out of the same rectum JOE IS EVIL came from. So basically, GRIN sacrificed characterization to try to fool people into thinking the plot was deeper than it really was. Developers and gamers alike need to understand that convolution =! depth, and all this crap does is put more holes in the plot than a gangland assassination. Questions I have off the top of my head:

I'd like to finish by touching on something that was pointed out to me by a friend of mine at a local game retailer (no, it’s not Gamestop). After the credits roll a message appears in Morse Code, and is then translated. Another message in Morse Code appears, but blips out before it's translated:

-... . ... - .- . - .. --. . .-.-.-/ .- ..- ... ..-. ..- . .... .-. ..- -. --. / ...- --- -. / .--. .... .- ... . / --.. .-- . .. / ...- --- .-. -... . .-. . .. - . - .-.-.- / .- -.- - .. ...- .. . .-. . / .--. .-. --- .--- . -.- - / .- .-.. -... .- - .-. --- ... ... .-.-.-

When you translate the Morse Code, you get a message in German:


Um, do those last two words looks like “Project Albatross” to anyone else? Let’s run that through a German translator which I realize aren’t 100% accurate, but this seems to make sense:


Oh, I get it now. They intentionally left this game unfinished so they’d have an excuse to make a sequel where our hero thwarts Project Albatross.... again.... and who's writing this, anyway? If it's in German it seems like it would be Groeder, but we saw Spencer blow his head off earlier.

If they had simply called this game something else, like "The Adventures of Captain Dreadlocks Roboarm McAngermanagementissues", I would have been kinder to it. The gameplay is functional and with some tuning-up could have been good. The major plots twists would have still been offensive, but only on the basis of being stupid and predictable instead of shitting all over a well-established storyline and characters. Anyways, the game sold poorly and the developer, GRIN, went out of business a few months after its release, so while we may never have the answers to all the questions Bionic Commando 360 left behind, I think that's a fair price to pay for the end of this glorified fanfic.