Binary Domain, Sega’s cyberpunk third-person shooter is an extremely underrated game in the true meaning of the word.
It was developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (Devil’s Details for PC), makers of the Yakuza games, and published by Sega in 2012. Directed by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the mastermind behind the famous Yakuza series, Binary Domain is quite different from his previous works. Nagoshi stated that he wanted to explore the themes of life, more specifically through the use of robots. It’s a cyberpunk-themed game, and the game has interesting views on technology, robots and how society would behave in such a world. There are numerous references to other cyberpunk works and fans of the genre will be pleasantly surprised.
The plot of Binary Domain is really interesting and has a well-established backstory. After global warming caused worldwide flooding, much of the world was left uninhabitable. Since most of the world population died out during the calamity, the governments of the world had to rely on robots to be their main workforce. American company Bergen now controls a majority of the robotic production, making the United States possibly the most powerful nation.
Their rival, a Japanese corporation Amada, sues them for stealing their patents, but ultimately loses. With the economic concerns rising, the world governments create the “New Geneva Convention”, and in one of its clauses (Clause 21), it specifically forbids the creation of humanoid robots, also known as “Hollow Children”. Years after the signing of the treaty, an android attacks the Bergen HQ, previously having no idea that he was a robot. This leads to the suspicion that the founder of Amada Corporation is behind the attack, and a global task-force, known as the “Rust Crew” is sent to investigate.
You play as Dan Marshall, a member of the Rust Crew, and together with your squad you must find the Yoji Amada (the founder of Amada Corporation), and bring him in for questioning. While Dan Marshall might look like a typical shooter protagonist, you will discover that he has character depth and is deliberate about his actions. Each member of his squad has their own beliefs and motivations, and they fit into the story perfectly, in turn, only make it richer and deeper. One of the first things that you will notice is the amazing graphics and attention to detail. You can tell that the developers worked hard. The voice acting is excellent, and the cutscenes are masterfully done, which is no surprise as the game was directed by Toshihiro Nagoshi. If you have played any of the Yakuza games, you will recognize his style almost immediately.
A major part of the game is the consequence system. This decides how the squad views and trusts you throughout the game. Their opinion is based on how well you play and how you treat other squad members. This is a nice touch, and will push you to play better, and pay attention to the story. The conversation between the squad members also affects the trust levels and can have long-lasting consequences.
The other big feature of the game is the ability to issue orders to your squad members. You can do this in several ways, one of them being voice commands. The game is programmed to recognize six different languages, including English and Japanese. However, this feature doesn’t always work as intended and can lead to some, either funny or frustrating moments.
You can give orders such as Regroup, Fire, Heal, etc. If the squad member doesn’t understand you, they will simply respond with some variations of “What?”, “Come again?”, which can quickly become repetitive. Hopefully, this feature can be turned off, and you can issue commands either via a keyboard or a controller. You also have the option to select who is in your squad, except in certain parts of the story, where squad members will stay with you until the end of the level.
The gunplay in the game is good, and there is a good variety of enemies and bosses. It may be odd seeing a scoring system implemented in a modern game, but it fits the gameplay surprisingly well. Everything that you destroy will bring you points, that can then be used to upgrade your weapons or abilities. In addition to your guns, you can also use a melee attack, turrets, grenades, etc. Weapons include pistols (which is highly accurate), SMG, shotgun, assault rifles, machine guns, snipers, and the RPG. Some are more accurate than others, but upgrades will make them more useful as the game progresses.
Binary Domain’s AI will also adjust to the way you play making the game more interesting. For instance, the AI can work in groups or toss a couple of grenades your way, if you are in one spot for too long. The boss fights in the game are innovative and creatively done. Some of them will have glowing weaknesses, but more often than not you will destroy different pieces of the boss. The design of bosses is also excellent and you will encounter big baddies such as mechs, robotic dogs, huge dinosaur bosses, etc. There is a good enough variety to keep you entertained throughout the game.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Binary Domain also offers multiplayer. There are several classes available that consist of Special Operations, Assault, Heavy Gunner, Demolition and Recon. Two factions are available for you to choose from, the Ministry of Homeland Affairs and resistance fighters. There are several modes that you can play, such as Data Capture, Domain Control, Operation Invasion, Team Survival, Team Deathmatch and Free For All. These modes are all some variation of the classic multiplayer mods found in most games.
The game was later updated to have two DLCs packs available. One being the Dan Marshall pack (which gave you more weapons and skills), and a Multiplayer Map Pack. Binary Domain received positive reviews, from both critics and fans, and was only criticized for its voice-recognition system. While the game sold pretty well in Japan, in North America there were only 20,000 copies sold by April 2012. Producer Daisuke Sato in a July 2018 interview said that he was open to the idea of a sequel, as long it was ok with Sega. However, due to low sales, the sequel might never arrive, but fortunately, the game doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
The game is available on Steam (available for really cheap on sale), and you should definitely pick it up. More importantly, the game is optimized and will work on most PCs. There were no crashes or freezes during my playthrough. That being said, give Binary Domain a try if you like good action, story or third-person shooters!
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