Of the numerous Capcom remakes which surfaced a couple of years ago, Bionic Commando: Rearmed was one of the few to win appreciative nods across the board. It achieved the rarest of feats, managing to stay completely faithful to the source material without making you want to ram your hand in the nearest waste disposal unit.
That's not to say it was perfect. As Dan Whitehead pointed out in his review, sometimes the game's determination to stick to the 20 year-old template of the original felt rigid to the point of being stubborn. It was easy to see how the game might have been more fun with, say, a more flexible arm-aiming system, or hover cats.
On the other hand meddling with it too much would have doubtlessly broken the level design, and turned it into Viva Pinata or something. At least Tom would have been pleased.
The logical next step, of course, was to make a Rearmed follow-up that fixes many of the frustrations people had with the original while remaining faithful to the game so many people enjoyed back in 2008. Problematically GRIN, the studio behind Rearmed, went belly-up before making it past the early stages of the project.
Capcom passed development duties onto FatShark. Also based in Stockholm, the studio had previously worked with GRIN and took on some of its ex-staff members. The end result is you'll barely notice the join.
What you will notice is a fair number of changes. The most obvious, if not the most joyously significant, is the logical addition of a daring new invention which FatShark is calling the "jump". Rather than have to constantly rely on Captain Nathan 'Rad' Spencer's trusty mechanical arm to negotiate those troublesome barrels and crates, you can get about without as much faff.
For the benefit of those who enjoy a bit of self-harm in their spare time, you'll also be able to play the game the good old-fashioned way and turn off that meddlesome jump ability. To add an extra level of challenge, the designers recommend you sit on your arm for 20 minutes before playing.
Somewhat anti-climactically, the ability to jump doesn't make much of a difference. You still find yourself forced to grapple almost the whole time to get around effectively. While we're on the subject, you'll probably be curious to know whether they refined the arm aiming system - mapping it, perhaps, to the right analog stick in order to allow for more flexible, precise control?
Nope. Presumably this is part of an attempt to maintain the game's retro feel, but the sad consequence is that basic manoeuvres still feel a little clunkier than they ought to in 2011. You'll once again find yourself doing the pixel shuffle to hit the anchor point just so.
Plus you're still bafflingly unable to move down to platforms beneath you, and the bionic arm can still only be shot out at 45 degree increments. Sure, it's undoubtedly faithful, and dedicate franchise fans will appreciate that. But you can't help feeling the game would be even more enjoyable if the approach taken were slightly more fluid and, dare I say it, intuitive.