August 19, 2011

X’11 – Hands On with Binary Domain

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:30 am

Binary Domain
When Sugarhumans descended on X’11 yesterday, I had the opportunity to get my hands on futuristic robot shooter Binary Domain. I approached the game having seen only what the trailers provide—offerings that can feel a little generic, given the crowded third-person shooter market.

I suppose it’s the videogame equivalent of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – that you don’t really know the nature of a game till it’s in your hands.

To my pleasant surprise, Binary Domain proved to be a sharp, limber shooter.

The demo offered me the option of choosing a set of squadmates who had been specced to fill the usual roles. Some options had been blocked out, implying that further characters would be unlockable in the full game.

During the demo my group was rolling through a ruined building, and one of my teammates asked me a question—that’s when the game surprised me by offering me the opportunity to respond conversationally. Later, I employed the same conversation/command system to instruct my squad to move up, to cover me, or to charge ahead, guns blazing. Through commands and conversation, the game is said to focus on building trust with one’s teammates, and such can affect their behaviour.

As for gameplay? Well, maybe you’ll find this trivial, but as combat began I tried to run off the second story of a blown out building, and my character didn’t stop at the edge—he leapt off and hit the ground. A moment to recover, and he was moving again, leaving me free to scale another building and eventually jump directly onto the head of a massive robot enemy, where I wrestled to keep my footing and blow out the enemy’s brains.

That sort of mobility intrigued me. In another game, that fall could have been fatal, or my character may have simply been prevented from walking off the edge. In Binary Domain, though, I could run up a couple of floors, and if overwhelmed by fire, drop down instantly to escape and reposition.

The robotic enemies that drive the title’s plot initially look somewhat plain and uninspired—they’re humanoid, with smooth, plain green coverings. However, this changes quickly as firefights begin; the green plating cracks and breaks away, exposing metallic, wiry bodies that crackle with electricity.

Binary Domain
When I was a kid, I watched a lot of Robocop and Terminator—and somehow those characters always seemed coolest at the end of the movie, when the action had chipped away at them, leaving them ravaged and exposing their working parts.

Shooting in Binary Domain has a similar novelty; the enemies respond to fire with satisfying fidelity, and there’s a certain grimness in the way their breaking bodies expose their somewhat monstrous inner workings. Additionally, the machines are fully destructible—robots who’ve lost limbs to weapon fire will continue to fight as best they are able, and hilariously, enemies who have lost their heads will continue to march and search aimlessly for targets.

More interesting is that any fully functional robots in the vicinity will quickly eliminate beheaded comrades, aware that they pose potential threats—thus distracting them from what the player is doing, if temporarily.

Binary Domain managed to surprise me with its immediate coolness—which I suppose is the best sort of surprise to have. The title is slated for release early next year, so while there’s still some significant development to be had, what’s there now suggests an interesting game on the horizon.


  1. Those robots look a heck of a lot better than they did in the first teaser trailer… I look forward to this game… Isn’t it sad though when you can look at a game and just KNOW it probably won’t sell well? I have a feeling…

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — August 19, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

  2. I checked it out early in the day yesterday, and man I am still reeling from how surprised I was. The weapons felt great, and the way that plastic coating pinged off the robots was a treat. I was able to blow away elements of cover as well, concrete wall edges and the like. The city deserves some more words too, it’s quite lovely when you get into bigger open spaces – I mean I always hope for more interactivity with the environment, but I feel like there is more that will reveal itself as the title gets closer to launch.

    Comment by Jamie Love — August 19, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  3. I felt that way about Vanquish, yeah–another awesome and under-appreciated title.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — August 19, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

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