Binary Domain – Preview

Some games have a certain quality to them. You look at them and notice a diamond in the rough, something that will probably pass the majority of people by but, for a select few, will represent a game that they will remember with a distinct fondness. Binary Domain could be that game. While at Eurogamer I got the opportunity to sit down for a hands-on with the upcoming third person squad-based shooter Binary Domain, currently being developed by Ryu ga Gotoku Studio and produced by Jun Yoshino (who worked on the excellent Vanquish).

It’s got every possibility of being written off as another Gears of War clone, but with robots instead of ugly aliens that burst out of the ground (rather than from within John Hurt). Binary Domain also has a male lead and a squad of male followers, with a couple of females in tow. Testosterone is getting chucked around like someone’s got a dysfunctional hormone problem, and there are knee-high piles of rubble, cars, buildings, boxes, bins, and signs everywhere. If it’s not a knee high wall you can ‘hug’ and hide behind, then you’ve probably turned on your PC by accident and started playing Peggle or something.  So far I’m not painting the rosiest of pictures and were it not for my opening quote from Disney’s Aladdin about being a diamond in the rough, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Binary Domain wasn’t anything special.  As is often the case with the greatest of games, however, it’s all in the details.

As I loaded up Binary Domain and started the first level (which took place in a ruined downtown area of Tokyo), I noticed the option to change my control method and button layout in the load screen. While this may seem highly inconsequential to most people, it made perfect sense to me. Loading screens are routinely boring; they may have a tiny symbol which does something interesting the first five times you see it, or otherwise just offer you a tip that you could have worked out around the time you were old enough to develop common sense. So, having the option to do something in the loading screen seems like a smart design choice, although it hasn’t been confirmed for the final build.

Entering the first level we were treated to a brief cut-scene and the opportunity to pick our squad. I had three slots and five people to choose from, so I naturally picked the guy with the biggest gun and the hot chick. Strangely, the hot chick had a bigger gun than the guy so my wires got crossed and I started wondering if he liked taking long walks and trips to the beach, but I digress.  The people that you pick will specialise in certain weapons (in my case, a heavy gunner and an explosives expert) and you do without the ones you don’t choose (happy trails sniper and solider).

My team of emotionally confused misfits and I moved forward and the game started showing layers of depth before a shot had even been fired. The two characters started interacting, with the guy questioning the girl about her past (clearly insecure as he was being outclassed in weapon size) before they then came to me to make a final choice on the discussion. It was a simple yes or no answer, however, and it didn’t seem to have any real consequence.  While that may sound disappointing, to be honest, it’s quite refreshing given the setting.  It was a relief not to have to worry about what would happen if I crushed this butterfly while speaking to this person about conversation tree five, part two, sub section four. I was advised by the gentlemen at the booth that your teammates will interact in different ways, depending on who you take with you. I was also told that trust plays a part of the game – although I didn’t get to see that in my playthrough – and the A.I will shape an opinion of you based on your combat skills. Interesting.

The game is set in 2080 and the opposition takes the form of robots in various shapes and sizes. Apart from knowing there is some sort of robot uprising, I didn’t learn many other plot details, but then when did we need a motivation to blow up robots? As I came across the first group of enemies, the burly alpha male asked if he should just charge in or if we wanted to take a more stealthy approach. If this is something that is replicated through the game then, again, it will be refreshing not to have it dictated how we will approach situations. I chose the stealth option and leapt from cover to cover, moving gradually closer.  Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and I got spotted very quickly. The robots look very similar to the design from the film ‘I, Robot’, but without the human face, and they take a fair amount of punishment too, with the player having to strip away a layer of armour before causing any real damage. The usual combat mechanics were here, with four weapons to chose from (one being grenades), melee attacks, and blind firing from cover. Although blind firing is nothing new, it still boggles the mind how wrong it looks in most games. If someone’s holding a machine gun at an odd angle and firing for prolonged periods, it won’t stay still and neither will the fool holding it. Binary Domain seems to have understood this because the recoil was certainly more noticeable and your character’s arms shake violently throughout. Like I said, it’s all in the details.

The combat itself was fun and frantic. Robots continued to advance on my position, fearing not for their safety. They did get behind cover but never stayed still and always advanced, which certainly made combat more tense and I was retreating as much as I was shooting. Even when I thought they were dead, some crawled towards me, latching onto my leg and the only way to get them off was to draw shoot them, get a team mate to take them out, or punch them.  Interestingly, a head shot doesn’t kill, but just makes the robot fire uncontrollably.

Over the course of the session I encountered two large robots, the first being bipedal and standing stationary between two buildings. It quite happily spewed bullets and rockets at me while I tried to fight it and I just managed to rip off several layers of armour before being advised to scale the adjacent building to clamber onto its head. From there I was able to fire into a central core while using the one of the analog sticks to keep my character balanced. He eventually fell to the floor, defeated. This was clearly no easy task and was made all the harder by the swarms of regular robots. The second robot was even larger and was a cross between a spider and the spaceships out of Independence Day. In order to defeat it I had to use robots to expose weak points on its legs and underbelly. To cut a long story short, my pathetic aiming was no match for my limited supply of rockets and I was quickly finished off. I did get knocked down a couple of times and was able to self-revive by shoving a large needle into my heart (the cure to many of life’s ills); I don’t doubt that were my two companions controlled by real people rather than the computer AI we could have done a much better job.

I was told that the build I played had been refined from E3 and had given plenty of polish and it certainly reflected that; what was also a pleasant surprise was that the team seemed happy to take any suggestions or criticisms and use them to mould a better game.  Overall, my experience with Binary Domain left me in a very upbeat mood. The game shouldn’t be cast aside as a clone of a genre that is growing stale; it certainly seems less insane then Vanquish, but that will likely be a good thing, and with four player co-op confirmed this is certainly one to watch.

Last five articles by Chris



  1. Stu Stu says:

    I’m keeping tabs on this as it looks like it could be a diamond in the rough, but those graphics really remind me of the Mass Effect world. That isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, the nice, clean glossy environments and the vibrant colours look great. Consider my interest level raised even higher after reading this.

  2. Joeydale13 says:

    Great write up Toffer,

    I played both the levels at Eurogamer and proudly called it my game of show…Not necessarily because it is THE best game there but because it was something I was not expecting to be as good as it was.

    The dialogue options are a nice little distraction, and they do change depending on who you select. I went with the English S.A.S Operative and big guy Toffer played with and they were talking about going to strip club afterwards and would I like to join them (i clicked no…). You can also give the voice commands using a headset which could be good…

    You never know, this could just be what life will be like when Apple rules the world….

  3. Mark Mark_S says:

    I had not heard anything about this game until right…now. Looks good, i’ll keep some tabs on this I think.

  4. Edward Edward says:

    It was a great little title, and the guy who was explaining all the different bits of the game to me as you were playing was so nice and friendly that it helped really warm me to the game.
    I did find him later on and give him the inflatable omni tool I had like I promised him, and he was so glad I remembered. But I digress, Binary Domain didn’t look too bad at all, and I think a lot of people warmed to it a lot more when they actually gave it a shot, but I’m worried it’ll become reliant on teamwork and having people instead of AI later on, especially if the spider boss was anything to go on.

    Good job Chris :D

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