Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 Review
Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 is the sequel to 2008's Rearmed, itself an enhanced remake of the original NES game. The series long protagonist, Captain Nathan 'Rad' Spencer returns in an all-new adventure to stop General Sabio, leader of the Papagayan Islands. Featuring slicker controls and new level mechanics, but also the staple bionic arm-flavoured gameplay, does this sequel stray to far from it's roots or does it hit the sweet spot for innovation? Story & Gameplay
When the Federal States of America, or FSA, receive a threat of attack from General Sabio, they send Colonel Brubaker to tackle the dictator - but the FSA soon lose all contact with him. In response, they send in war hero Captain Spencer and a team of other bionically enhanced soldiers to locate the Colonel and combat the threat Sabio's missiles present. As the team splits up in order to cover the unknown islands, things begin to take a turn even farther for the worse as it they discover that Sabio's defenses are much more elaborate then they once thought.
The story has an interesting role to play - it serves as an 'interquel' to the previous Rearmed 1 and 2009's Bionic Commando console title. For those who played BC 09, they may remember some controversial plot twists. Rearmed 2 actually does a surprisingly good job of making these twists make a bit more sense, while not exonerating 09's plot completely it does enhance it quite a bit. Veteran players will get an extra level of enjoyment out of this, as it is clear the devs wanted to respond to the earlier backlash.
Gameplay-wise, fundamentally not a whole lot has changed but it does feel quite different. The game still features the instrumental bionic arm gameplay, allowing you to swing from under platforms and climb up them. You also receive an arsenal of 3 types of equipment. A set of weapons ranging from the typical revolver, a bazooka with laser-sight auto-aim, and more. Passive upgrades give you an enhancement that works without you doing anything. Finally, active upgrades that can be used by pressing Y. There are a ranged of items for each type, and they can all be upgraded to more powerful versions. Many are required to traverse and find secrets in levels, for example a hacking arm allowing you to take over a computer to open a door nearby. While the amount of different items is impressive, like many games with a wide set of tools some of them don't feel useful enough for you to have equipped a lot of the time. You'll general just stick to the best ones, only swapping out occasionally.
There are a few changes compared to Rearmed 1 that may be a little controversial. First and foremost, you can now jump, though it is not required to beat the game (and there's an achievement for beating it without ever jumping). You can now also reel in and out while swinging, start swinging from a standstill, and you must press B to release your arm from whatever it's grappled to. While some may disapprove of these changes, they allow for more fluid movement across levels and are more welcoming to newcomers, without losing the overall charm of swinging that the series is known for.
The only main downside to the title are the actual levels. They're not inherently bad - they feature sweeping landscapes and well hidden secrets. However, along with the size expansion comes a loss of 'compactness' from the first title, leaving some areas a little to repetitive. Some levels also feature sections where you use a mounted sniper or a helicopter with a minigun for most of the level. These are obviously there to help inject some variety, however they're not very fun and the levels they're featured in tend to be a bit boring.Score - 7.5/10
A fairly interesting plot in itself, nothing earth-shattering but it will keep you interested and adds to the overall series universe. Made more enjoyable by it's enhancement and explanation of events in Bionic Commando 09. Changes to the swinging mechanics definitely help modernize the title without losing any of the fun, and gunplay and secret-finding are definitely as sharp as ever. However, some of the actual level layouts can be a bit disappointing. Graphics & Sound
The graphics seem to be one of the inarguable qualities in this one - pretty much everyone agrees they're great across the board. The game uses 2.5D environments (so they're fully 3D but you move in a 2D plane). Everything from waterfalls and foliage in lush jungles, Mayan-like temples and ancient ruins, and futuristic labs or factories lend to a great variety in locales. These, along with the various enemies, bosses and characters look awesome for an Arcade game, and the large amount of different colours help make the game very pleasing to look at.
Like the original Rearmed, the soundtrack consists of NES-like music with modern 'techno' influences. A few tracks are direct remixes of songs from the NES title. Overall, the tracks fall under the 'good, but not very memorable' category - slightly disappointing considering how the songs from Rearmed 1 got stuck in your head for days. Still, while actually playing through the game, the music is definitely fun to listen to and add to the respective levels. Score - 8/10
Graphics are a great step up, with pretty much every facet of the game looking quite pleasing to the eye. Coupled with interesting and varied locales as well. The soundtrack has another good mix of NES-style and electronic overlays, though they're not quite as memorable as in the original.Achievements & Value
By themselves, the achievements are a pretty interesting mix. 3 are simply story related, nicely spread out as to not make them to repetitive. Beating the game without jumping is a sensible choice and it's a fun challenge for yourself. Same goes with playing the entire game with 'prestige' items equipped - since they give you no extra abilities, forcing you to fend off your attackers with just your swinging abilities and main weapons. Challenge rooms return, but there are only 24 compared to Rearmed 1's 56 main rooms - and they're significantly easier, but still a good test of your skills.
The real main problem with the achievements seems to be the apparent glitchiness of a few of them - namely, any that require you to beat every level under specific circumstances (Hard mode, no jumping, prestige items and co-op). Due to this game not being hugely popular, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. The main theories seem to be either disconnecting from Live means you lose progress for the level you're in, or going for more then one of the 4 achievements at once (ex., playing Hard mode and co-op together) seems to make the achievement not unlock when you finish all the levels. Avoiding either of these circumstances (replay a level if you disconnect/go for one overall achievement at a time) will hopefully avoid these issues, but it's hard to tell.
Rearmed 2 has the ever popular 1200 MSP, or $15 US, price point. This seems a bit silly in comparison to the original Arcade title's $10 price point. While this game features better graphics and lots of new gameplay mechanics, it also has less challenge rooms and reduced co-op functionality. The game will still keep you well occupied if you go for all the achievements, but it still seem like that extra $5 is an unnecessary addition. Score - 6/10
The achievements themselves are pretty damn good, challenging you to play the game in all sorts of different styles and get to know the new mechanics well. However, a spot of glitchiness on some of them is, as always, an annoyance. The price also seems a bit exorbitant, but the game still gives you a decent amount of content overall.Summary
Despite lots of new interesting ideas and a great use of it's prequel status to BC 09 regarding the plot, Rearmed 2 still seems like a bit of a step down from the original. However, the gameplay and controls are still tight and series fans will most likely enjoy the experience. Overall Score - 7/10