Swedish developers GRIN only made a few games before filing for bankruptcy. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and its sequel were easily their finest moments. Dismal movie tie-ins Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Terminator Salvation were their worst. Bionic Commando sits in between. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s like playing one of the shoddiest games ever.
Dreadlocked and fowled mouthed hero Nathan Spencer is equipped with a bionic arm that can be used to swing through the levels, and then later in the game grab hold of enemies and fling them though the air. Throwing cars at foes is oddly satisfying too, especially cars that are on fire.
The first few levels aren’t anything spectacular including a ruined office block and a derelict city but the later levels, such as a public garden with giant greenhouses, are a lot more alluring. I think if GRIN had changed the level order it would have made a greater first impression on people. The flora and fauna is really quite beautiful in places.
Boss battles are fun and creative too – one is set in a car park against a giant mechanical worm. Upon seeing it for the first time Nathan asks “is that a big health bar or are you just pleased to see me?” Weapons are an entertaining bunch, particularly the tarantula rocket launcher that automatically locks onto enemies.
This retro revamp managed to keep me entertained until the end but I’d only give it a 7/10 due to being rather frustrating in places. The thing is, with only a few changes it could have easily been an 8/10. Nathan can’t swim, so as soon as falling into water you get literally three seconds to find something near to grapple onto and leap out. This is very rarely enough time to do so, causing Nathan to drown many times. He’s a commando for pity’s sake – I’m sure he can hold his breath for longer than three mere seconds.
Another annoyance is that instead of invisible barriers around the environments GRIN put in blue clouds of radiation. Stumble into a radiated area and, again, you get about three seconds to jump out of harms way. A few times I was picked up and thrown by mechs (which are decently designed, I might add) onto the top of buildings with blue clouds on and was killed instantly. It’s also impossible to tell when the mechs have their weapons locked onto you. A few times I was just running around unaware that there were mechs in the area and then blasted to bits by their plasma shots.
Something that does act in the game’s favor is the challenge system. When gaining a new move or weapon you’re set optional challenges, such as killing 5 enemies with one shot from the grenade launcher. Most of these unlock achievements and I found myself trying to find ways to unlock them, such as herding all the enemies into one area as if they were sheep and then unleashing a certain attack.
If you don’t expect perfection from every game you buy then this is worth a look. Especially if you can find it for as cheap as I did – a purse pleasing £4.50 from Tesco.