You play as Nathan Spencer who has been jailed since the events of the original Bionic Commando
. The government outlawed bionics and Spencer had his trusty arm taken from him. After a terrorist attack on a major city, Spencer's old comrade, Super Joe, lets him out in order to investigate. Spencer has his own agenda since his wife went missing and agrees to help only if they tell him where he can find her.
Swinging around with the bionic arm is what made the original so special. In the new reboot of Bionic Commando, there is the same sense of novelty but in a more open environment. Spencer's bionic arm is his main method of travel and it is a major mechanic that is as useful as the amount of time you invest into learning it. It is definitely not easy to start swinging by at first, but once the rhythm and flow start falling into place, you soon start feeling like a one man wrecking crew.
The first thing that disappoints ever so slightly is that it isn't an open world game. They tease and mislead you into believing that you can swing around Liberty City like Spiderman, but in reality it is a series of short levels with a hazy fog that surrounds the immediate area to guide you to the next waypoint. It takes a little of the sting out when you realize how many levels there are to work through, so it makes sense that it can't be an open world game... yet. There are three acts with three chapters each with five to seven levels. So there is plenty of game to go around, and once you get to the many difficult enemy encounters, you will be glad that the checkpoints don't send you that far back.
Combat is designed to break up the swinging, so you can have something to do before reaching the end of the level. Spencer can also use his arm as a weapon if need be and the combo system mixes into the gunplay nicely. There are a handful of guns that are acquired throughout the game, but I recommend trying to solve each situation with your wits and the arm first (you will feel like a bad ass!) Knowing your arsenal is key to beating any of the enemies that show up and succeeding offers a feeling of accomplishment that I only get from beating any Ninja Gaiden game. There aren't too many weapon types, but then again there aren't too many enemy types either, so you won't need any more than they give you. The worst thing about Bionic Commando is that the guns don't feel satisfying when you fire them. It isn't a big thing, but it is one of those issues that ask, why not follow through? This is a trend that Bionic Commando suffers from overall though; really clever ideas and genuinely interesting game mechanics that are tarnished a bit by a slew of minor design choices.
Once the story ends and you see the love it or hate it final cinematic, you can dive into the multiplayer. Honestly, the multiplayer in Bionic Commando is way more fun than it should be. You would expect a game of this nature to have multiplayer tacked on as an afterthought, but here it is tons of fun. All of the maps are pulled from levels in the single player, but you swing around them as regular soldiers with enhanced bionic suits that allow them to grapple the environment and each other. I wish there was some sort of progression system to earn rewards and new gear, but as it is, the multiplayer is a fun diversion.
Bionic Commando allows you to go back and replay completed levels. It sounds great at first, but before starting the level, a dialogue box pops-in and informs you that you cannot earn trophies, collect hidden items, or unlock challenges. What is the point then? The only reason I would go back to those levels is so I can pick up anything I missed the first time around and without the ability to do that, it just seems pointless.