I had the chance to play an hour or so of Bionic Commando in multiplayer recently.
Bionic Commando is a game all about movement. Your arm is a grappling hook that can attach itself to the environment and propel you around. Think of it like Spider-Man’s web-slinging… except you have to manually aim at buildings, poles, ledges, etc within range.
It will take you at least an hour to feel comfortable with how the grappling works. I say “at least” because after my hour with it, I still hadn’t mastered it. The learning curve is steep.
The issues I struggled with were:
– Judging how close I had to be to an object to be able to hit it with the grappling hook: Sure, there’s a crosshair that turns blue when it passes over something grapple-able, but even so I frequently found myself leaping off a roof, thinking I’d be able to grapple onto the building across the street, only to fall short and crunch onto the pavement below. Which is okay, since you don’t take falling damage, but it’s far from the graceful ballet you’re hoping for.
– Constantly readjusting the camera when climbing a building: When ascending a skyscraper, you fire your grapple up a certain distance then jump. The camera will re-centre itself so you’re looking dead ahead instead of up, meaning you’re always fighting to look up where you want to be going.
– Running around is boring: When the grappling and swinging works – and it tends to work best in closed environments where you can rely on always being able to grapple onto a physical ceiling – it’s a joy. Until you land on the ground and the abrupt contrast makes on-foot movement seems really slow and ungainly.
But I suspect practice is a major factor at play. Given more time, I could see myself becoming better at the basic controls and feeling more comfortable and capable of flinging myself around.
Practice may also overcome the other problems I had. Since each player’s movement is more unpredictable here than in a typical ground-based shooter, it proves difficult to aim well with the range of available weapons. As you imagine, trying to line up a shot while you and your opponent are both swinging through the air is a tough ask – doubly so when you’re still coming to terms with the basic movement controls.
Brian mentioned in his preview earlier today that you can grapple an opponent then kick them. I found this the most effective way of gaining kills in deathmatch. It doesn’t do much damage on its own, but if timed well it can send the other player flying out of the play area – i.e. into instant-death water or bottomless pits that appeared in several of the maps we saw.
I’d agree with Brian that the multiplayer is a diversion without a lot of substance. However, I can see potential here for a small but hardcore community of players who have taken the time to really master the novel controls. These guys may get a lot out of it, but I suspect the rest of us will decide it’s not really for us.
If you’ve checked out the demo, let us know what you think of the controls? How well do you think multiplayer Bionic Commando works?