Bionic Commando

 

Capcom has a proud heritage of cranking out sequels. But while Street Fighter devotees have been spoiled over the years, disciples of 1988’s Bionic Commando had to wait 20 years for a proper follow-up. While it was widely unsung as a game, the original BC—a side-scrolling action title where you couldn’t jump, and instead careened around levels with a bionic arm—was influential. The 2008 remake honored the original, but the 2009 sequel updates it for a new generation.

The new Bionic Commando picks up 10 years after the original: Nathan Spencer has been imprisoned by his own government agency, which is out to brush bionic operatives under the rug. Just before his execution, his commanding officer Super Joe springs him to investigate a mysterious “weapon of mass destruction” that’s just been detonated in Ascension City. From there, you’re set loose to soar around, latching your bionic arm onto the scenery to rappel down walls, swing between things, and chuck cars and corpses at your foes as you infiltrate enemy lines.

Subtle RPG elements cleverly complement the action, rewarding increasingly specific challenges—like defeating 30 enemy soldiers with your metal limb—with benefits like increased ammo capacity or maximum health. (Though the game’s lack of a health bar implies you should take that latter reward on faith.)

As you squeeze off headshots and sail around the stunningly rendered destroyed city, the game’s only hiccup is in forcing you to read fine-print-sized text about the game’s optional mythology. But don’t let a little reading stop you from enjoying what’s essentially a playable action movie.

Beyond the game: In the game’s alternate "future," Pepsi, Capcom, and Nvidia still have plenty of money to blow on in-game advertisements. The many logos that pop up are disorienting. 

Worth playing for: Hunting down snipers as their laser sights lick at your heels, forcing you to deduce where they are while the context-sensitive Dark Knight-like soundtrack booms in the background.

Frustration sets in when: The arm becomes more of a detriment than an asset: It’s conveniently susceptible to radiation when you explore too much, and its weight assures that you’ll quickly drown if you accidentally swing into water and can’t find a way out fast enough.

Final judgment: An 8-bit gem gets the respect it deserves.

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