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Eurogamer Expo 2011: Binary Domain hands-on

Eurogamer Expo 2011

The success of the Gears of War series has seen many more shooting titles include cover as a main gameplay element. There’s something visceral about slamming into cover and blind-firing at the approaching enemy as a fallen friend slowly crawls towards you for help. Binary Domain is one of these titles, but before this weekend all I knew was that it’s being developed by Sega and featured robots and guns. It sounded, and is, very Japanese.

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The story opened up with an introduction to the five main characters as they walked through a generic building and chatted. There’s the jaded English captain, black guy built like a brick shit-house, slim Chinese lady, short haired female demolition expert, and, last but not least, Dan, the usual mysterious, good-looking, dark haired guy. All the voice acting was in this build, and while it was the usual gung-ho talk, it was delivered quite well.

There’s also the inclusion of making choices or issuing orders. By either using your mic or the controller, you can answer context-sensitive questions (can you handle your liquor?) or issue orders for your team to cover you or open fire. It works well, and the AI responds to your demands suiting the situation. They will provide covering fire when instructed in an attempt to pull the enemy’s fire from you, granting a second or two to reach new cover or fall back.

Once the characters had finished talking, I was given the option of selecting two of them to join with. The squad then left the building to enter a back alley. Venturing forward, the captain shouted for us to get to cover. Diving behind a concrete road block, two patrolling robots could be seen approaching. The captain then issued an order to sit tight and I was presented with the option of agreeing or changing the order to open fire. In this instance, I agreed with the order. Once the robots turned back the order was given to attack, and then engagement began.

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As a cover-based shooter, it’s imperative that you stay secure and use environmental protection. You can blind-fire over cover and lean out to aim, as well as leaping over and rolling forwards. It may be by the book on paper, but the animation is lush. A quick comparison sees it sitting comfortably between Vanquish and Gears of War. The characters move well and the weapons have a real kick to them. The pistol became my favourite weapon thanks to the precise and magnum-esque power it contained.

As our bullets hit the robotic enemy, they fell apart piece by piece. Small chucks of plating can be blown away to uncover the metal skeleton underneath and whole limbs can be detached. A well-placed shot split one of them in half, leaving the torso to crawl towards me like T-800 at the end of The Terminator. With the first firefight over, we headed out of the alley and into a T-junction.

Here there were a few more enemies to take out with a sniper rifle, but nothing taxing – until a giant mechanical machine stomped over a high-rise wall, that is. Completely covered in armour, the battle required several different tactics to take this behemoth down. The fight lasted quite a while, and as this was an early encounter it paves the way for gigantic battles later on.

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There’s a strong aesthetic throughout Binary Domain. The sky is piercing bright and compliments the shining, white exteriors of the larger enemies I confronted. It’s a future designed by Apple; one where the iPad has taken control of its former masters. The detail present as the robots fell apart was incredible and gave impact to every round you fired off into them. The only lacking animation was when throwing grenades – it was awkward and rather limp-wristed.

Binary Domain was a real surprise. It looks and plays wonderfully, and the boss battles are on a huge scale. My only concern is how well the story will be developed, and if there will be any changes to the scenery. It’s now up to Sega to ensure that the story and setting can keep up with the intense gameplay mechanics they’ve created.

Binary Domain will be released on February 14 in North America and February 17 in European markets.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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