Have You Played… Binary Domain

Have you played Binary Domain

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

My cursor lingers over Binary Domain whenever I pass it in my Steam library, accompanied by memories of bullets slamming into metal skeletons and malevolent robots slowly marching towards my vulnerable squad of fleshy humans. No other game has made shooting up machines so satisfying.

Androids have been infiltrating humanity for reasons I forget, and that’s a bad thing, presumably, so a squad of macho shooty folk have been tasked with putting a stop to their secret conquest of Tokyo. There’s more to it than that, probably, but I confess that it’s all drowned out by the robo-murder.

Sega managed to strike that rare balance between enemies who can soak up a lot of damage and enemies that are actually fun to fight. A lot of these androids can take quite a bit of punishment, and their armour can often deflect your bullets, sending them shooting off in all directions, but you’re always made to feel like you’re still seriously messing them up.

So instead of just standing there, completely ignoring the barrage of gunfire, these Terminator analogues react explosively. You can blow off limbs, and watch as chunks of metal come flying off them, whittling them down until you get that delicious kill shot. And they’ll keep coming at you until they’re ‘dead’. Even when they’ve got no legs, they’ll drag themselves forward with their arms. It’s brutal in a way that would be extremely unsettling in a game with human enemies. It’s pretty unsettling with robots.

Take away the robots and Binary Domain is pretty much Gears of War, mechanically, and like Gears of War it feels less at home on PC than it does on consoles. It separates itself from the testosterone-fueled Gears series one more time, however, with the addition of the ability to use vocal commands to manage your squad. Unfortunately, nobody in Tokyo can understand my Scottish accent. It’s a novelty, though, and the game can easily be played without it.

My cursor is hovering over it again. Maybe I’ll get back to it today?

23 Comments

  1. Dewal says:

    What you describe reminds me of Mass Effect 2. Shooting the robots made me feel like a character in I, Robot. You can see the damage each shoot makes and it made killing bullet sponges something pleasant.

    • Holderist says:

      There is a companion relationship mechanic in the game too, speech choices, decisions, etc. I never played the game more than once to see what different results can come from your choices though.

  2. Lawsoneer says:

    Funny. I was just thinking about this game yesterday. I had only played the demo back in the day and was considering giving it a try.

    I’ve got too many unplayed games in library though. Subnautica it is.

  3. Eraysor says:

    I absolutely loved this game. One of the most enjoyable shooters of the last generation, easily up there with Gears for me.

  4. haldolium says:

    At the time (and after arranging myself with some weird mechanics clearly made for controller input) I quite enjoyed the game. Nothing I would play again though.

  5. nimbulan says:

    I tried to play this game once, but it has quite possibly the worst mouse support of any shooter ever released. It has extreme mouse acceleration at low sensitivity, and extreme negative mouse acceleration at high sensitivity. I actually managed to get through Dead Space with kb/m, but Binary Domain was too much.

    • neuroxia says:

      Same here; I tried playing the game on 2 different occasions and gave up every time. It feels like i’m controlling my mouse with a giant elastic pole from hell; It’s either too fast or too slow or going bananas.
      I might still give it a try on consoles or with a controller in the future.

    • popej says:

      Fixing Dead Space mouse was as simple as turning vsync off. I wonder if Binary Domain is the same?

      • neuroxia says:

        Nah, it has nothing to do with that; It’s just their weird implementation of mouse, with the game being a console port;
        Also it crashes from time to time; Both on my current pc and also on the pc i had back in the day when it was launched.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      This is one of those games where the control scheme is so bad that all other qualities are irrelevant. It deserves zero out of whatever scale you might use to rate it. It’s like a movie where every single shot is wildly out of focus – at that point it doesn’t really matter what it’s about or how good the story or acting are, it’s totally ruined.

  6. a very affectionate parrot says:

    Binary Domain is excellent, shame there will never be a sequel. Quirky Japanese third person shooters have seemingly disappeared.

  7. Behrditz says:

    “No other game has made shooting up machines so satisfying.”

    For me, there is also the arcade classics Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns. Those games were the reason I bought and loved Binary Domain.

  8. Jalan says:

    Starting to think I’m among a small number of people who just didn’t like this game. It’s still strange to write that, since it’s made by people responsible for the Yakuza series but the game is really not like that series at all and if it did anything, I really wished it would have opened the door for Yakuza PC releases.

    Instead, I’ll remember it for some bad gimmick mechanics, not-so-great M+Kb controls and a water section that felt like maneuvering a curling stone through an obstacle course.

    • Cerulean Shaman says:

      Sega has already publicly stated interest in porting over their console exclusives and they specifically mentioned Yakuza and Persona series by name.

      We just have to wait now.

    • MajorLag says:

      I didn’t like it either. I don’t remember too many K+B control issues, though I do recall a strange desire the game had for me to use a mic, it was just really, really boring. It was just a pretty bog-standard cover shooter with nothing noteworthy going on.

  9. Don Reba says:

    A very underrated game, including by RPS. I am a big fan of cyberpunk, and Binary Domain takes the best cyberpunk story premise I’ve seen in gaming (I won’t spoil it) and serves it on top of a solid cover-based shooter.

    The mouse and keyboard controls are pretty unconventional, but I didn’t have much trouble adjusting.

    • Cerulean Shaman says:

      Did you try both controller and KB+M? Which did you prefer considering what sounds like an unusual KB+M scheme?

      • Don Reba says:

        I didn’t have a controller back then, but if I did, it would probably have been easier to use it.

        • Cerulean Shaman says:

          Thanks, I’ll give my Steam Controller a go then. Been craving a shooter so I’ll hit it next once I’m done with Ni No Kuni 2.

  10. Vultus says:

    Honestly, i played this game a couple years ago and what i remember the most about it is not the weird mouse sensitivity but that super hard part where you have to defeat the gorilla boss. I couldn’t even remember the weird mouse sensitivity when i saw the title of the article here. All i remember is the anger and tries on trying to defeat that thing before giving up. On all the walkthroughs i saw people barely survived that part.

Comment on this story

HTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>