||Robots with feelings and emotions, mechanical beings with independent thoughts that donít know or admit they are artificial, living among us a perfectly normal life. If you think this is familiar, Blade Runner already presented this scenario in a very good classical movie and Binary Domain draws ideas out of this film and more. I, Robot, Terminator or A.I: Artificial Intelligence are other movies taken into account just like games such as Gears of War, all playing a role in the mix that has Dan ĄThe SurvivorĒ Marshall as the leading man.
In 2080, global warming and climate changes have forced humanity to rebuild its cities above the new water level, with robots replacing the work force. An American company (Bergen) leads the market and the robotics research, but Japan is catching up through the Amada Corporation. But thereís some bad blood between the two, with accusation of corporate theft and the plot thickens when the Hollow Children appear, synthetic creatures, but indistinguishable from real humans until you put a bullet in their head. The Americans suspect the Japanese have broken a treaty that forbids playing God and send in a IRTA (International Robotics Technology Association) shock team to investigate the events in New Tokyo and catch the ones responsible.
Since Binary Domain draws inspiration from so many products and no original ideas come in, the team under your command is also a big clichť: Big Bo is the Harlem huge muscled Afro-American; Charlie is Mi-6 and despises the Americans and their gun-ho approach; his partner, Rachel, a rocket launcher girl, is the model of the woman choosing the military as a career; Faye comes straight out of the rice fields of China, but has no issues in using a sniper rifle and Cain is the robot companion of the French agent that was supposed to complete the team. There are other characters helping Dan along the way, but not all of them will get to see the end of the story.
The gameís intention is to make you love these characters, to suffer and laugh with them and this is where the Trust system comes in, mixed with the possibility to voice commands. This vocal support is a great idea in theory, with the game using some predefined words and phrases. On the other hand, technical issues stop Binary Domain from using something else but a microphone headset (like a camera with a microphone or even a stand-alone mic) and wonít deactivate these commands automatically if it didnít detect the right peripheral. Thus, you got to go into the menus to deactivate the voice system if you donít feel like talking to yourself in single-player.
Just the same, the ĄNo configuration file foundĒ message you get during the first launch isnít an error, though many gamers will be tricked or get scared that they have wasted their money. Itís just an unfortunate way of signaling the need to open the configuration file found in the installation folder; moreover, Binary Domain wonít realize that thereís no Xbox 360 controller attached to the PC and youíll get gamepad visual indications with no equivalent on the keyboard. No worries, itís again all about the manual configuration of the keyboard and donít forget to save the choices when youíre done.
After so much hard work, Binary Domain offers waves of enemies, timed scenes and some variations with ski jets, cars or a huge robot. The Gears of War inspiration is visible right from the start, especially when it comes to cover. The levels themselves are mostly limited to corridors in ruins and buildings and are filled with crates, walls and other environment items that serve as cover. The voice commands shouldíve had an essential role here: coordinate your companions for maximum efficiency Ė the sniper up somewhere for a cover position, heavy guns in front as tanks, grenades and flanking for a topping.
The enemies are robots that come in different sizes and colors, the common ones are green; the more advanced versions are red or blue, with or without a shield and hitting the legs is again the best way to make them drop it and become vulnerable. Other types come with huge guns the size of two Terminators or look like harmless boxes until they pull out their guns; the AI uses the cover, but also gets out in the open straight into your line of fire, no matter if itís the enemy or your squad mates. Since the ending is influenced by the Trust level, itís not that good to see those guys getting shot for no reason and then getting upset that you tried to kill them.
Actually, the Trust system itís just a failed attempt to give the game some RPG components, together with the nano-mechanical and weapon upgrades that can be bought during the story. Though commendable, these elements donít go beyond the ďsuperficialĒ level and itís pretty easy to buy all you need and improve the weapons at least to level 7-8 by exploiting areas where enemies spawn endlessly. You can also regain your matesí trust in the same way because they will unconditionally praise your accomplishments and the high kill count.
The visuals are decent, with pieces of robots flying around and blood invading the screen in case you get hit. Your teammates can help you (at first you get three life kits) or you can heal yourself if youíre in danger of dying. The music is well chosen for the dramatic moments, but the narratives are reserved exclusively for cut scenes, in order to avoid showing too much of the bland character models, the lack of lip sync or the animations that donít really go beyond a frown.
Binary Domain took inspiration from many places, but didnít manage to gather those ideas into a shell that goes beyond a decent coherence; the story is ridiculously clichťd, the dialogues are passable at best and the Trust and voice systems arenít exploited enough to really matter. Just the boss fights are somewhat fun, but ultimately it depends if you have enough patience to face the tons of (s)crap just for the thrill of taking down such huge metallic monsters.