Version tested: Xbox 360
Capcom has been riding the download train pretty hard this past month or so, offering up rejigged remake-sequels to both 1942 and Commando. This latest jaunt to Do-Over City is perhaps its most faithful yet - while also deviating most from the source material.
In both gameplay and structure, Rearmed is a spruced up remake of the NES version of Bionic Commando, almost down to the last detail. Click those blue words and you'll see what I mean. You play, somewhat predictably given the title, as a soldier equipped with a mechanical arm. This can be used to swing across gaps, pull yourself up to higher platforms and to grab distant objects. You can also use it to clobber enemies, although your arsenal of weaponry is considerably better suited to this task.
Levels are selected by guiding a helicopter over a map, with the option to touch down in enemy territory to start the action, or at a friendly base to restock and learn new actions. In every case you make your way up and across the level using your arm. Doorways in enemy levels lead you to communications rooms where you can opt to hack into their system, via a new and rather fun maze-style mini-game, or report back to base, essentially acting as a checkpoint. These communication scenes are utterly faithful to the 1988 original, although the cheesy dialogue is now deliberately tongue-in-cheek, and boasts at least one cheeky dig at Metal Gear's lengthy codec scenes. Indeed, the whole tone of the game is slyly humorous, playing up to the bombast of gaming history without ever feeling disrespectful. "Isn't this silly?" the game seems to ask, "But also awesome fun?"
However, this fealty to the source also means that the gameplay may feel clunky to anyone not versed in the previous games. There's still no jump button, for instance. Upward movement is by the arm only, and this can be stymied by inconsiderate stacks of barrels or crates on the platforms above. Progress therefore becomes a question of working out your vertical route, rather than simply running and gunning. This is fair enough, but it's still rather jarring to have a 2008 action hero incapable of getting past waist-high obstacles without something above him to swing from. He's also incapable of dropping down to platforms below, leading to situations where you're blocked by simple scenery, and have to walk off the edge of a platform and make your way back up again. Forcing the player to rely on the arm at all times shows off the game's unique selling point, but there are times when it's clearly unnecessary and more than a little frustrating.