Conventional weapons are weaker, mostly because, with the left trigger so concerned with the arm, you have no lock-on. If you're in arm range of an enemy, grappling them will centre your view like a lock-on, serving the same purpose, but over distance you just point and either click in the right stick to zoom a bit before firing with the right trigger, or spray. It's never as comfortable as a Gears of War or Call of Duty, because the analogue is better suited to surveying for grapple targets, where there's a degree of compensation on the part of the mechanics to let you hook on without having to be too precise. That said, the sniper rifle's perfectly compliant, and the tarantula rocket-launcher, which locks onto multiple targets a bit like Panzer Dragoon or Rez, always runs out of ammo before you become bored of its explosive brilliance.
Despite the awkwardness of weapons combat though, the game remains fluid and engaging providing you master the swing mechanic. This will cause a few problems, but it's more forgiving than it was on the last two occasions we looked at it, and I liked it fine then. After about four hours of the single-player game, I was able to swing competently around the environment, occasionally having to pause and re-engage with the scenery, but generally making good progress. You can get a better idea of how I did in the videos I paused to record for Eurogamer TV.
And the combat, as long as you rely on the arm-related moves, fits in smoothly. Tackling a polycraft is a game of trying to swing close enough to lock on and crush it with zip-kicks, or take it out with heavy machinery propelled by the arm, and there's no end of fun to be had picking off a single soldier with zip-kicks, retrieving his body and using it to pummel his mates.
It's not all good news though. Although levels are fairly open, those radiation borders are a pretty blatant analogue for invisible walls, except they kill you if you linger. There's a lot of water, too, and with your heavy arm this virtually always kills you unless you can scramble onto nearby dry land within a few seconds, which isn't very easy because you have to aim from below and the submerged camera doesn't show you anything but blurry outlines of things above the waterline. In one particular case, I lost my bearings and ended up dying repeatedly as I struggled to jump between a series of deactivated aerial mines. Were I a better swinger, I might have been fine, but it seems trivial not to punish struggling players with such a harsh watery death so frequently. The first half of the game is also broken up too regularly by load screens and building interiors, which make the enjoyable side of combat more awkward.
GRIN still has a bit of time to iron out these issues - the build I've played, though extensive, isn't by any means final, with multiplayer still to be introduced for one - and the bulk of the action is engaging and distinctive, marrying a good swing mechanic to fluid physical combat unlike anything in your average third-person shooter or platform adventure. The story's enjoyably cheesy too, thanks to some nicely hammy opening cut sequences and silly voice-overs, and there are a good few neat Capcom touches, like collectible 8-bit sprites from the original NES game.
Overall, I'll be surprised if we have to batter the final game with superlatives in two months' time, but I can see it earning a happy recommendation, and perhaps more if the right tweaks are locked into place. Capcom certainly won't scale the same critical peaks with Bionic Commando as it did with Street Fighter IV, but as another example of the Japanese publisher attempting to restore dormant intellectual property to its former glory, there will be more applause than consternation.
Bionic Commando is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 22nd May, with a PC version to follow shortly afterwards.