Now that Bionic Commando Rearmed has finally made it onto our Internet (complete with special Eurogamer Challenge Room - did we mention?), it's time to turn our attention once again to Capcom's more expansive, thematically bleaker 3D re-imagining of the series. Developed in Sweden by GRIN with occasional input from some of Capcom's most seasoned hands, Bionic Commando is a cross between acrobatic platformer and third-person shooter, bringing a twenty-year-old, inspired idea into the modern era.
We first explored Bionic Commando's development of the NES original's setting and themes earlier this year; at Leipzig, we had the chance to play around in a few different environments to see exactly how the game - and the multiplayer - are going to work.
The obvious comparison - indeed, the one that the Capcom people themselves have been making - is the Spider-Man movie games, but actually Bionic Commando gives you a lot more control over leaping and swinging than Spider-Man 2 ever did. There's a crosshair in the middle of the screen, and anything that can be grappled onto is highlighted by a blue reticule when you aim at it. Given that highlighted objects comprise pretty much the entirety of the levels, though, it's safe to assume anything you point at can be swung from, so there's no panicked search for an arm-hold in the middle of a freefalling swan dive from the top of a building.
Holding the left trigger extends the grapple, letting it go sends you soaring through the air. There's an unobtrusive indicator to tell you when to let go for maximum velocity, but the timing quickly becomes second nature. It's perfectly intuitive, and a far cry from Spider-Man's practically automatic system. Stupid Spider-Man. Spider-Jerk.
The vertical structure of the levels and perfect leaping, swinging and diving animations all contribute to a real sense of acrobatic freedom. You'll never take damage from falling, and the inspired addition of quick turning on the d-pad means you're always in full control of swinging between beams, trees, buildings or whatever else comes to bionic grapple-hand. With the left trigger held down, it's also possible to run sideways on walls, zip yourself up onto whatever you're hanging from and perform a variety of other stunts with the face buttons.
After five minutes experimenting with the bionic arm, we found ourselves speedily navigating the half-collapsed walls and exposed beams of shattered buildings that make up Bionic Commando's broken cityscapes, developing an eye for the best route through the carefully laid-out environments. The game embraces variety in its settings, seeing its hero swoop around dense jungle foliage as well as the post-apocalyptic Ascension City. The design of the multiplayer areas, too, seems excellent from what we saw, offering a liberating abundance of vertical space to zip about in.