Friday, May 9, 2014

All You Do Is Talk Talk: Binary Domain

First, I wanted to thank everybody who read my previous post, and Bryan Ochalla in particular, who led most of that traffic here. This is just one gaming blog of thousands, and it's difficult to get noticed when there's that much competition. I'm grateful to all of you who took the time to listen to my thoughts on the Tomodachi Life fiasco, even though other writers went into greater detail and had first-hand experience with the Japanese version of the game.

Ash from Bare Knuckle 3, the Japanese version
of Streets of Rage 3. Such depictions of gays
are not uncommon in Japanese pop culture.
(Image courtesy of RPGCodex)
Speaking of that, it looks like Nintendo of America will offer more relationship options in the next Tomodachi Life game, if this press release is to be believed (Thanks to Atlus USA's Nich Maragos for the link, by the way). Nintendo of Japan, on the other hand, seems intractable in its decision to keep the series gay-free on its home turf. Talking Time member Estragon was kind enough to translate the company's response to the controversy, and its cavalier dismissal of the issue is infinitely worse than Nintendo of America's wimpy excuses from yesterday. Generally speaking, Japan has a rather... juvenile view of homosexuality, and many of Japan's gay citizens have grimly accepted that the country will never grow out of it. To quote Japanese Twitter user @tumblin_dice_K...

Recently I don't play games much so I didn't know, but even if I played it I don't think I would have thought, "It's stupid that there's no gay marriage! Let's protest!" I'm already just that used to my existence being ignored in this country. Sadly.

Thanks (again) to Estragon for the translation.

Well, I've got that worked out of my system. Let's turn our attention to another recent annoyance! I purchased Binary Domain in one of the all-too brief sales at the Microsoft Store, and can tell you this... if you buy only one cover shooter with a science-fiction theme this year, it should be something else. May I suggest Mass Effect 3?

Jerks R Us.
(Image courtesy of
Binary Domain is similar to the bro-riffic Gears of War, with slimmer characters (even the game's big black stereotype looks like a twig next to Marcus Fenix), a sleeker setting, and voice activated squad commands. The voice commands are optional... in fact, if you want to keep your sanity, I would suggest unplugging your microphone and throwing it in the back of the closet for the ten hours it'll take to finish the game. Your commands are either misunderstood, ignored, or angrily rejected, to the point where you'll abandon all hope of guiding your teammates to victory and just shout obscenities into the mic.

The only other feature of Binary Domain that distinguishes it from the sea of other cover shooters on the Xbox 360 is its storyline, set in a future where global warming has drowned most of the world's population and the few that remain are threatened by a robot rebellion. As Dan Marshall, it's up to you and your often annoying fellow soldiers to invade Japan and put an end to a new wave of more human than human androids known as "Hollow Children." 

"The cigar makes me look cool. The drinks I
need to stay interested in Binary Domain."
(image courtesy of
It's a familiar but effective plot... more than one reviewer has drawn comparisons to the science-fiction classic Blade Runner, but you could probably draw parallels to Hideo Kojima's Sega CD release Snatcher as well. However, a twist that happens about halfway through the game stretches its credibility to the point of snapping. One of your partners is the offspring of a human father and an android mother, which is supposed to introduce conflict to the robot-hating team of mercenaries, but just leaves you wondering about the developers' tentative grasp of biology. How, exactly, does this work? Are you familiar with the old robot saying "Does not compute?"

What's more troubling to me are the frequent scenarios you're forced to complete to progress, even though they're not always adequately explained. "Shoot this sign," your first teammate Bo barks, "and get the lead out!" There are several signs in this room... which one do I shoot? "Blast the cable to kill that giant rampaging mech!," another partner screams, conveniently forgetting that the cable's not even visible unless you climb to the roof of a building on the playfield. Yeah, thanks for not mentioning that. That focus button doesn't help me much when there's a wall blocking my view of the target. 

Stop me if you've seen this before.
(Image courtesy of
Right now, I'm stuck at a part where you have to fuel up a vehicle. (Yes, that's a couple hours before the human/robot hybrid revelation. You could say that I ruined the surprise by reading some walkthroughs on the internet, but this game came pre-ruined.) Your commanding officer demands that you defend him from a constant onslaught of robots, but half the time, you don't even know where he is, or where he's taking that payload of fuel. The fuel gets blown up, he screams at you, rinse, lather and repeat until you take the disc out of your Xbox 360 and slam it to the floor. Those earth-friendly cases shatter real good, by the way.

So that's the Binary Domain experience in a nutshell. Loud, frustrating, obtuse, and with gameplay that hinges on a gimmick that's somehow less intuitive than pressing combinations of buttons on the controller. I might go back to this game if the disc somehow survived, but I could make better use of my time by returning to Mass Effect 3 instead. It doesn't impress me as much as the previous entry in the series, but it's a dozen times better than this.

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