Forsaking the usual common enemy of either zombies or Nazis, Sega’s Binary Domain decides to focus on destroying robots. Set in the year 2080, humanoid robots exist; however, it is illegal to create any robots that resemble humans too closely. Of course, it happened anyways. They are called the Hollow Children, robots so lifelike that they existed for years without anyone knowing.  Upon discovering the existence of these Hollow Children, an international Rust Crew is put together, a team specifically created to fight robots. You play as Daniel Marshall, a wise-cracking, arrogant American who has a serious loathing for ‘scrap-heads’ (as he calls them). Your team is made up of the usual juiced-up, tough-as-nails soldiers.  To them, the fact that a Hollow Child exists is an abomination and all must be destroyed.  So they are sent to Japan, specifically Amada Industries, where they believe these Hollow Children were created. Your job is to find proof of Amada Industries transgressions, as well as arrest Yohji Amada, the creator.

The story itself is pretty good, at least in terms of shooters. The fear that the Hollow Children could be anyone means trust is scarce, and it creates incredibly high tension. The debate surrounding whether artificial life should be considered alive or not hits on a lot of moral and ethical problems, as would be expected.  You feel for these Hollow Children that everyone hates solely for existing. There are a few twists; some predictable, others completely unforeseen, and some questionable, at best. The characters aren’t amazing, but you won’t completely hate them either. It’s hard to go through ten minutes of the game without hearing a bad one-liner.  Since nothing is too amazing, it gives off a very average feeling.  What’s above average, though, is the setting. Starting in the slums of Japan, you can see above you to where the great metropolis resides.  As you progress through the game, you are able to enter into that metropolis, which brings home the massive inequality found in this future world. It really helps to cultivate an incredible, slightly depressing atmosphere. The future created in this game seems completely possible, keeping the game grounded in reality.  The graphics are great, and there are some intense actions scenes that will make you grip the controller tightly, waiting to gain control to get Dan out of another mess.
What really sets Binary Domain aside from other third-person shooters is the actual gameplay. Generically, it is a third-person
cover-based shooter with basic weaponry (assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, etc.) that you can upgrade as you see fit, along with adding stat-boosting nano-machines onto the characters (eg: defense + 8). The fun part is absolutely obliterating the enemy robots, who are destroyed in the most fantastic of ways. Their pieces fly off in clouds of scrap metal, so it really feels like you’re doing some serious damage.  Even better is the fact that these robots never stop trying to kill you.  Shoot a leg off and they will hop and limp toward you while continuously shooting.  Even taking out both their legs doesn’t stop them, since they will crawl on the ground still fighting.  They are programmed to kill and will not stop until destroyed.  The double-tap rule is the key in this game: just because they’re on the ground doesn’t mean you should stop shooting. Having multiple possibilities in the destruction of robots is a fantastic way to make shooting enemies extremely fun without getting repetitive.  That is true for the entire game; there are enough changes in gameplay, whether a car chase in the streets, a battle on a train, or multiple boss fights (one including a giant spider that knocks down buildings), that Binary Domain never feels repetitive.

The other key aspect of Binary Domain is the focus on working with your AI squad.  You can use a microphone and issue commands from a list, which works well enough, but not perfectly.  However, a microphone isn’t necessary since you can also give quick commands with a press of a button. Communication is stressed heavily; your squad will often ask you morally heavy questions and if you answer correctly, they will have more trust in you. Your relationship with your squad will affect the story and gameplay; if they have low trust in you, they may not follow commands in battle.  Giving orders during battle isn’t anything new, but the fact that your squad may not follow them, or complain after the battle about a wrong order, is an interesting concept. Interesting doesn’t necessarily mean good, though.  No matter what commands you give, you will still do about 90% of the fighting. A team member might tell you to take the left side and they’ll take the right, but most likely, you will end up taking both sides in the end. You also have to seriously go out of your way for your squad to not trust you; even unloading an entire magazine into their back might not make them lose that much trust in you. Besides answering questions, you gain their trust by simply shooting robots, which is the entire point of the game, so you are almost always gaining their trust. All in all, the trust dynamic doesn’t mean much since you do almost all the fighting anyways, whether they trust you or not.

There is an online multiplayer, but it’s as basic as basic gets. There are the usual classes you can choose between and the usual online modes, like Team Death Match and Capture the Flag.  These modes are a little dry and absolutely nothing new, making them far from special or amazing.  Then there is the Invasion co-op mode, where you and some buddies survive an onslaught of enemy waves. It’s fun enough, but it gets old and, worst of all, the lobby is empty most of the time, making it hard to even enter into a game.

With all the complaints, Binary Domain isn’t actually a bad game; it simply could’ve been better. For example, a co-op campaign would’ve been great, and making the AI a bit smarter would have gone a long way.  The 8-10 hour campaign is intriguing, has a great atmosphere, and will keep you playing until the very end without feeling like it’s dragging on. Shooting robots has never been more satisfying and will never get old. The communication with your squad is interesting, but just not that important. The best way to explain Binary Domain is that it is a good game that is simply unpolished. If touched up in a couple areas, it could’ve  truly shined as one of the better games on the market.  Nevertheless, as it stands now, it’s simply an interesting concept on ethics and a fairly fun campaign to play through.

Final Verdict:  The campaign is worth playing at least once, but the generic multiplayer lowers the replay value.

[xrr rating=7/10]

This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Binary Domain by SEGA

About The Author

Neil has had a passion for video games ever since the Atari entered his life so many years ago. He's been writing about them for over two years and sees no end in sight. Reach out to him on twitter @nconnors13