Review | Bionic Commando: Rearmed

I can't comment on the facial expressions here and remain PG-13...

I can't comment on the facial expressions here and remain PG-13...

(Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Capcom, PSN / XBLA / PC)


Bionic Commando
was another one of those games I didn’t really get into as a kid.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: For me, as for any young boy, the grappling hook seemed like the ultimate in locomotive technology, and having one integrated into a robotic arm seemed like the coolest idea ever conceived. I was all over this game; I didn’t get it myself, but a friend did, and you can believe I was over there the day the shrink wrap came off. He was kind enough to let me play first, and so I did. And then I died. On the first level. Spencer was slow, awkward, and clumsy, and I couldn’t really adjust to the technique of grappling in lieu of jumping. Not that I gave it much of a chance, of course. Bionic Commando was clearly going to be ball-bustingly hard, and I knew myself well enough to know I was just gonna get pissed if I kept playing. I didn’t progress far before I set it aside. I just wasn’t a very patient kid.

Honestly, I’m still not the most patient guy in the world. Therefore, the highest praise I can give Bionic Commando: Rearmed, given my hot & cold relationship with the original, is that I played it through to completion twice and loved every second of it.

More than just a graphical upgrade, BC: Rearmed modifies the gameplay in a number of key areas which have served to improve the overall experience. It’s risky business to change too much when doing a remake, butCapcom has demonstrated that they know exactly where to stop. Every change makes sense, either because it improves the overall mechanics, adds content (there’s a new level and new equipment), or removes a bad design decision from the original.

New graphics, familiar layout.

New graphics, familiar layout.

Thankfully, many of the mechanics that were so onerous to me as a kid have been modified. Immediately noticeable is that Spencer can swap weapons on the fly. Where previously you had to pick which gun and comms chip to bring to each level — aggravating guess-work that only served to artificially lengthen the original game — now all your equipment is available on the fly. In addition to streamlining the level-selection process, this means that you can switch weapons during combat, which expands adds a layer of strategy to the encounters.

Speaking of combat, Spencer still dies quickly, but gone now is the mechanic of increasing your pitiful health bar by picking up bullets (bwah?) dropped by enemies. Now you can take a few more hits, and enemies drop health items occasionally. These new drops tend to restore less health than you lose from a single hit though, so the game still punishes you severely for being incautious. On the other hand, the continue system is removed, so there’s no senseless need to restart the entire game simply because you suck at it. The ability to save is a welcome addition as well, as are new weapons like the Vector Cannon and the Plasma Rifle.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems a bit easier to grapple these light fixtures than their NES predecessors.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems a bit easier to grapple these light fixtures than their NES predecessors.

Thankfully, Capcom had the good sense to retain the aspects of the game that worked. The world map, with the quasi non-linear level progression is still intact, as is the wonderfully absurd plot. The grappling hook remains much the same, and as a bonus the game gives grappling a sense of weight that was woefully missing in the original. That is, until you run into a wall, at which point Spencer bounces off like a rubber ball, loses his grip, and generally plummets into a pit of spikes. This is being changed in an upcoming update, but it wasn’t included in the game I played. This is pretty unfortunate, really, because it’s by far the worst feature of the game.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is more than just a fantastic update to an (incredibly frustrating) gem from a bygone era, it’s hand-over-fist the better game. It came out last year, and it’s easily one of the top 5 releases of 2008. I could talk about how it’s dirt cheap onXBLA as well, but there’s really no point. The game is of a high enough quality that the price doesn’t really even matter. Play this game because itdemonstrates how to do remakes right, and because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Laugh at the absurd story, grapple across some chasms, kill Hitler, and enjoy thesatisfaction of facing a challenging game and defeating it. You won’t be sorry.

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~ by Matt Altieri on July 3, 2009.

One Response to “Review | Bionic Commando: Rearmed”

  1. Haha am I honestly the only reply to your awesome article?!?

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