Bionic Commando Rearmed Review: Swing Low, Sweet Re-Release

Let's get this out of the way right now: Bionic Commando Rearmed isn't a "reimagining" of Capcom's 1988 classic. It's not "based on" the characters or premise, it's not a sequel, it's not a prequel. This is the original Bionic Commando, albeit with a freshly-applied coat of paint, and it brings to the 360, PS3 and PC all the pros and cons that go along with that.

So. Considering this is a remake of a twenty year-old game, is it worth all this fuss? Worth your time? Your money?


Faithful - This is your father's Bionic Commando. You're still swinging between platforms in a 2D world, you're still playing through a bad 80's action movie (which is good), there still aren't many games that can really nail the joy you get from stringing together a series of perfect hook-shots to traverse a tricky sequence of ledges.

Spit & Polish - While it plays like your father's Bionic Commando, it doesn't look like it. The locations and designs will appear familiar to fans of the series, what won't be familiar is how great the game looks with ragdoll characters, hand-drawn backgrounds and a warm haze that makes the whole thing look like it's been dipped in sweet, delicious caramel.

Love - This is no cheap update, knocked out for the sake of a quick buck. There's love in this project, a genuine drive to update both the feel of the game and the spirit. From the delightful banter between Spencer and Haley to the intercepted chats between the bumbling imperial troops, we're presented with a game that not only captures the mechanics of a simpler time, but also the - pardon the misty-eyed reminiscing - innocence.

Bang For Buck - For your $10/$15, you get the core Bionic Commando game. Which is no slouch, especially on Hard. Then consider it's a gorgeous game with a classy soundtrack. Then consider it's got both co-op and deathmatch multiplayer (though these are offline-only). Then consider that, unlike the original, Rearmed has over 50 "challenge rooms" that play out like Portal/speed run puzzles, and you'll realise that you're getting a lot of game for your money.

Faithful - Nostalgia's great, but when you're recreating a game from 1988, we can do without the shitty parts. Anyone who hasn't played the original will wonder why a super soldier, capable of superhuman feats, can't...jump. Not even to get over a small barrel. And anyone who has played the original will wonder why the swinging collision mechanics are still so woeful, leading to many frustrating and unnecessary deaths during the game's trickier platforming sections.

Digital Controls - We reviewed the game on the 360 (though we have also played it on PS3). And by God, Street Fighter aside there's never been a game to make you hate the console's awful d-pad as much as this one. You will die, and die often, because the mashy pad sends your arm in a direction you don't want it to go. If you own both consoles, you'll want the PS3 one, just for this (that and the PS3 version's a tiny bit slicker).

You really should go get this. Get it because it's a polished, challenging experience, which is one of the best downloadable titles (at least on console) we've yet seen. Get it because it takes the soul of a classic game, yanks it out of the grave and puts it in a sexy new body. Get it because Capcom deserve to be rewarded for not just re-releasing a classic, but releasing it in a way that, twenty years on, once again makes it relevant.

Bionic Commando Rearmed was developed by GRIN & Capcom, and published by Capcom. Released on August 13 on Xbox Live Arcade, August 14 on PlayStation Network & PC. Priced at 800 Microsoft Points/$US 10 on console, $US 15 on PC. Reviewed on Xbox 360. Played to completion of main storyline.

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