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Screen » Film Events

Hooked on Grappling: Bionic commando never makes the leap to great


Now that's upward mobility.The United Nations recently hosted a discussion about the television show Battlestar Galactica. The purpose was to examine how the show can foster thinking among the international political community regarding subjects such as terrorism, torture and the role of religion in government. Yup. Deep, real world stuff inspired by a frakking TV show.

It can only be a matter of time before the U.N. holds a videogame conference. On the top of my list of things that governments should learn from videogames is that a bionic arm is a useful thing to have. Not only does its extendible/retractable hand make items on high shelves accessible, but its seamless merging of cybernetics and neural flesh also allow mental computer hacking.

The arm's extend-o-reach makes it a convenient source of transportation. By latching onto streetlamps and overhanging girders, one can swing Spider Man-style through city streets. Nathan Spencer, the hero of Bionic Commando-a reboot of the arcade oldie-can even swing using a single bionic arm while using his standard-issue organic for shooting enemies.

If the U.N. could make bionic appendages as easy to operate as the triggers of a videogame controller, governments worldwide could do some serious good. At the very least they could put an end to the shoddy web slinging control in the Spider Man games. They'd also discover a useful close-ranged weapon. Not only can a bionic arm punch and grab, but it can also pin enemies down.

Nathan can even use his arm like a bullet-closing the distance between himself and an enemy from long-distance to lethal in a moment. By grabbing a foe and pulling himself toward his enemies, he can stomp them, punch them, or simply shoot them up close. Now that I think of it, the U.N. should take another hint from Bionic Commando: Don't design anything with an obvious red weakspot. Anyone with a bionic arm and some sturdy footwear can take it down, no problem.

THE GOOD: Bionic Commando presents itself with solid graphical style. The camera automatically keeps Nathan in useful view, following him close when he's fighting hand-to-hand, at portrait distance when he shoots, and wide when he's swinging through the game's huge, nonlinear environments. When he swings through the city, the distant crumpling skyline is artfully blurred, becoming a background painting until Nate swings forward into it.

THE BAD: Beautifully lit buildings would often be torn into fragments of digital motion as I swung in front of them. And although most of the game's lighting is done in real-time, there was a circle of light that wouldn't catch my shadow when I walked between its wall and lamp. The game tracks ammunition, but has no reload button. Nate's voice perpetually has the echo-chamber effect of a person speaking in a tunnel, even when he's out in the open. Etc.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Too many good ideas are too unpolished, keeping Bionic Commando from being great.

Bionic Commando ★★★✩✩
Rated Mature; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

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