IGN’s Tristan Ogilvie said it best in her review: “Binary Domain is essentially the best Terminator game ever made.” Third-person action/shooters are perhaps the most oversaturated genre in the gaming industry today, and a sequel to one of the more mediocre titles of this breed is perhaps unwarranted.
Yet there’s a spark of something brilliant hidden in Binary Domain that deserves to be unleashed! The game’s premise was gripping, set in a world where robots are not only able to imitate humans but (spoiler alert!) give birth to humans in a stunning twist near the end of the game’s campaign. The beautifully realized cyberpunk urban environments are a unique backdrop for battles with the game’s countless enemy robots, all of which dynamically broke apart with every bullet crashing against their metal bodies. The enemies in Binary Domain provide enough variety to stay engaging, and I never got tired of smashing apart those sleek exteriors to show the metal grey skeletal structures beneath these robot foes. Upgrading the traits of my squad mates introduced a dash of RPG into an otherwise by-the-books third-person shooter, as did the constant choice of who to take along with me for the next mission.
For these elements, I’m glad PlayStation Plus lobbed me this game for free. Binary Domain is a game that shows enough new elements to be memorable and more than enough to warrant a sequel. But a sequel must be made if only to apologize for Binary Domain’s other hideous design decisions.
Binary Domain 2 needs to start with abandoning all of its characters. Nobody cares about Dan, who’s only claim to fame is being the most generic white action hero ever, his ridiculously sexualized Asian love-interest (that awkward kiss scene still gives me nightmares), his stereotyped black friend or any of the other one-dimensional squad mates that accompanied him. The only one I’m on the fence about is Cain, who combined a capable and friendly robot personality with an annoyingly over-the-top French accent.
Instead, replace Binary Domain’s cast with a squad where the player can choose who they play as. This game’s premise screams with the need for co-op, but restricts players to assuming the role of one boring meathead with an assault rifle, excepting of an optional game mode. That’ll clear up one of Binary Domain’s major flaws, although something will also have to be done about the game’s director.
Almost every cutscene in Binary Domain’s campaign features awkward moments where the camera strays in one place for far too long, or a lack of music or sound tears us from immersion. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the game didn’t show occasional moments of maturity and brilliance in its setting, or didn’t come across like it was genuinely trying to tug at our heartstrings here and there. Many of the ideas in Binary Domain are good ones, but their poor execution is what makes the game wallow in mediocrity.
I could go on for tens of paragraphs analyzing every little thing that’s wrong with Binary Domain, and why it’s still at heart a good idea that needs some more polish before it can be fully appreciated. I could talk about how thrilling several of its colossal bosses were to fight, or how satisfying it felt to shoot the legs off a robot and watch it crawl toward me in rage or how the game has the right amount of polish in MOST of the right places. But until I’m paid to do something like that, I’ll just leave you with one of Binary Domain’s many dopey moments: