Robots with feelings and emotions, mechanical beings with independent thoughts that don’t know or admit they are artificial, living among us a perfectly normal life. If you think this is familiar, Blade Runner already presented this scenario in a very good classical movie and Binary Domain draws ideas out of this film and more. I, Robot, Terminator or A.I: Artificial Intelligence are other movies taken into account just like games such as Gears of War, all playing a role in the mix that has Dan „The Survivor” Marshall as the leading man.
In 2080, global warming and climate changes have forced humanity to rebuild its cities above the new water level, with robots replacing the work force. An American company (Bergen) leads the market and the robotics research, but Japan is catching up through the Amada Corporation. But there’s some bad blood between the two, with accusation of corporate theft and the plot thickens when the Hollow Children appear, synthetic creatures, but indistinguishable from real humans until you put a bullet in their head. The Americans suspect the Japanese have broken a treaty that forbids playing God and send in a IRTA (International Robotics Technology Association) shock team to investigate the events in New Tokyo and catch the ones responsible.
Since Binary Domain draws inspiration from so many products and no original ideas come in, the team under your command is also a big cliché: Big Bo is the Harlem huge muscled Afro-American; Charlie is Mi-6 and despises the Americans and their gun-ho approach; his partner, Rachel, a rocket launcher girl, is the model of the woman choosing the military as a career; Faye comes straight out of the rice fields of China, but has no issues in using a sniper rifle and Cain is the robot companion of the French agent that was supposed to complete the team. There are other characters helping Dan along the way, but not all of them will get to see the end of the story.
The game’s intention is to make you love these characters, to suffer and laugh with them and this is where the Trust system comes in, mixed with the possibility to voice commands. This vocal support is a great idea in theory, with the game using some predefined words and phrases. On the other hand, technical issues stop Binary Domain from using something else but a microphone headset (like a camera with a microphone or even a stand-alone mic) and won’t deactivate these commands automatically if it didn’t detect the right peripheral. Thus, you got to go into the menus to deactivate the voice system if you don’t feel like talking to yourself in single-player.
Just the same, the „No configuration file found” message you get during the first launch isn’t an error, though many gamers will be tricked or get scared that they have wasted their money. It’s just an unfortunate way of signaling the need to open the configuration file found in the installation folder; moreover, Binary Domain won’t realize that there’s no Xbox 360 controller attached to the PC and you’ll get gamepad visual indications with no equivalent on the keyboard. No worries, it’s again all about the manual configuration of the keyboard and don’t forget to save the choices when you’re done.
After so much hard work, Binary Domain offers waves of enemies, timed scenes and some variations with ski jets, cars or a huge robot. The Gears of War inspiration is visible right from the start, especially when it comes to cover. The levels themselves are mostly limited to corridors in ruins and buildings and are filled with crates, walls and other environment items that serve as cover. The voice commands should’ve had an essential role here: coordinate your companions for maximum efficiency – the sniper up somewhere for a cover position, heavy guns in front as tanks, grenades and flanking for a topping.
But that’s just theory because the higher ground is only for the AI and Faye never gets into such emplacements, which makes you question the usefulness of a sniper in an enclosed space. Practically, the game can be finished just following the basics from the mini-tutorial: shoot the legs, then the head.
The enemies are robots that come in different sizes and colors, the common ones are green; the more advanced versions are red or blue, with or without a shield and hitting the legs is again the best way to make them drop it and become vulnerable. Other types come with huge guns the size of two Terminators or look like harmless boxes until they pull out their guns; the AI uses the cover, but also gets out in the open straight into your line of fire, no matter if it’s the enemy or your squad mates. Since the ending is influenced by the Trust level, it’s not that good to see those guys getting shot for no reason and then getting upset that you tried to kill them.
Actually, the Trust system it’s just a failed attempt to give the game some RPG components, together with the nano-mechanical and weapon upgrades that can be bought during the story. Though commendable, these elements don’t go beyond the “superficial” level and it’s pretty easy to buy all you need and improve the weapons at least to level 7-8 by exploiting areas where enemies spawn endlessly. You can also regain your mates’ trust in the same way because they will unconditionally praise your accomplishments and the high kill count.