Bionic Commando (2009) | PS3 | Xbox 360 | PC
We at IrrelevantGamer would like to introduce you to our first ever “Retrospective Feature Game”. Where we review, exhibit and properly illustrate some of our favorite games. For our first featured game, we’ll be looking back at Capcom’s 2009 Bionic Commando, down to the making and development, story, soundtrack, and a short review/retrospective.
The Making of Bionic Commando (2009)
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Swedish Studios GRIN and Capcom.
The making of 2009’s Bionic Commando came with Developer GRIN already working on Capcom licensed games. In the summer of 2008, GRIN developed Bionic Commando Rearmed, published by Capcom. The game received very positive reviews down to its visual effects, soundtrack, and nostalgic side-scrolling gameplay the series is well known for. The game also served as a prelude to the 2009 BC game. Somewhere along the way Capcom and GRIN greenlit the next installment for the year that followed and set the game as a direct sequel to the ’88 classic. However, this time, the game everyone knew as the side-scroller shooter was now set as a third-person action adventure game.
Fun Fact: Bionic Commando runs on GRIN’s own ‘Diesel’ engine, the same engine that powered BC Rearmed, along with many other titles under the developers belt. The engine has since been refurbished and has powered many other titles, most noticeably, the first and second installment of PayDay.
(I’ll try to keep it short, if you’ll like to know the full story, visit here)
The story is can be straight forward, but it takes a turn half way through and it feels like your playing another game. The events of Bionic Commando take place ten years after the events of the first NES game. The story starts off with an atomic blast that desolates the city of Ascension. Our hero Nathan “RAD” Spencer who’s been imprisoned by the agency he once worked under is awaiting execution. While taken to be executed, Spencer is halted by a somewhat distressed government operative named Joseph Gibson aka “Super Joe”, who works under the Tactical Arms & Security Committee. This committee hires or recruit trained bionic operatives who have been committed for acts of violence and crime, and are then used for their accessible handy work. In Spencer’s case, Joe needs him most urgently.
Spencer is then dropped into Ascension City (Snake Plissken style) and reunites with his detached bionic arm. Super Joe makes sure Spencer cooperates with the FSA, the same government agency that betrayed and incarcerated him. His mission is to find the people responsible for the attack on Ascension City. As the game progresses Spencer discovers intel on Project Vulture, a super advanced weapon being sought by the same Bionic militia/terrorist group Bionic-Reign. Spencer is then tasked to also retrieve the item before the terrorists do, which Nathan feels uncompelled to do so. Joe then gives Spencer an ultimatum to complete the mission in order to receive his freedom and not await execution, he also mentions clues to the whereabouts of his missing wife.
Now this is where the story gets a bit convoluted. During the game, Spencer gets flashbacks of his past. In which we learn he and his former Bionic partner Lt. Jayne Magdalene two years prior failed to eliminate two rogue bionics who allegedly murdered a handful of people. He irons out with the two rogue bionics and helps them break out of prison. Spencer and an injured Magdalene free the two rogue bionics and Spencer is later arrested, then sentenced to be executed. He also has visions of his vanished wife who’s been missing for some time, which in many of the flashbacks seen, Spencer’s wife tries to warn him of a looming event.
Joe is later revealed as the mastermind terrorist leader of Bio-Reign, in which he also enlisted the help of Gottfried Groeder (a returning character from Bionic Commando Rearmed). Joe also reveals to Spencer about how his vanished wife never left, how he found her to be the perfect candidate to sync into Spencer’s Bionic arm. According to Joe, Bionic technology works only when there is a host both with an emotional and physical level towards its subject, Spencer, and his wife had been the perfect match. Joe then gets his hands on the bionic weapon, Project Vulture and activates it, while Spencer quickens towards Joe’s location. Spencer’s former partner LT Magdalene makes her return to help take out Super Joe, who’s now in a Bio-Mech suit. Magdalene is killed and Spencer is forced to helplessly watch. Spencer then grapples among other android-biotech soldiers called Vultures and one by one Spencer takes them out mid-air, to then finally reach Super Joe. He kills Joe and both are seen falling down onto The Vault from which he, Joe and the vultures had ascended earlier.
The End, after we see the two characters fall, the screen goes black and the game is over. We’re left with Spencer saving Ascension City and eliminating all the Bio-terrorists. During the end credits we do hear a sound in morse code that signals a message to which we the player are to assume the story does not end there.
This game wouldn’t be as memorable to me as its soundtrack. Received very well by game critics, Kotaku even called it “suitably epic as well, with classic Bionic Commando music remixed into the sort of score you’d expect from a big-budget action flick.” If you clicked play on the bar above, you’ll get a taste at the incredible music that came along with this game, I highly recommend music game fans to give this album a listen. Seeing Rex shoot out his Bionic arm and swing around the environment, the soundtrack plays in the background really immerse your gameplay and feels like you stumble into a world that is in need of a savior. Many of the tracks were simply a reboot sound for the series and the rendition was fully digital. It features a fully-orchestrated rearrangement of the song from Jamie Christopherson (Bionic Commando Main Theme), as well a piano arrangement titled, “Piano Theme” made and performed by José Luis Gonzalez Castro. Easily on my top 5 best soundtracks ever.
Fun Fact: This I found out years after owning the game. Nathan Spencer is actually voiced by Faith No More’s lead singer Mike Patton, which to his credit did and incredible work. Awesome band by the way.
Unfortunately, Bionic Commando (2009) didn’t do quite well financially, as one critic put it “failed to grab the series success”. The game was also released right around the time the first Infamous game debuted, giving Bionic Commando a stiff competition at the retail store. The game as with every other game did have its faults, the gameplay was quite simple and at times repetitive, you were left wanting more from Spencer and wanting more from its Story. The environments and scale all seem very limited, you’ll expect a much broader world for Spencer to really take advantage of his Bionic arm. There were parts in the game that did give you this freedom, however not as grand as you’ll wish it to be. I remember going around exploring parts of the world and questioning the endless possibilities this game could’ve had, you always felt something was missing entirely.
It must have been difficult for GRIN to completely change the play style of one of the gaming’s most iconic side-scroller shooters. At times GRIN and Capcom relationship during its development was in dismay. Capcom was even quoted saying “Our experience with Bionic Commando has demonstrated the difficulty of outsourcing the development of new title to overseas companies”. Maybe this was the reason why Bionic Commando in some way felt like a rushed titled. Why when Japanese and Western developers collab with certain IP’s, plans for the game just don’t pan out. Unfortunately, GRIN closed its doors the same year the game was released due to financial difficulties and later filing for bankruptcy. Some time later former GRIN employees later formed a new development studio named Might and Delight, where they now develop downloadable games. Capcom did follow up with a sequel with Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (2011), which did well, it did however, received mix reviews, many felt the 1st installment as superior.
As of now in 2016, Capcom has kept quiet on anything related to the return of Bionic Commando, it’s been five years since we last saw the series. Although maybe it’s best when time passes and it sees a new and fresh take. It’s a shame, however, that the original NES version is not on the NES-Mini list of games that are set to be featured. The game is truly iconic and I hope Nintendo release some sort of DLC that includes the ’88 classic.
The reason why Bionic Commando (2009) is our first featured game is because (well for one, it’s a personal favorite of mine in the past
ten years) and it’s one of those many games that simply came and went. I still have a love-hate relationship with it, at times it pissed me off and at the same time astounded me. Yes, this 2009 game that bombed left an impact in my gaming experience possibly forever. A game that as of today I still go back and listen to its fascinating soundtrack, and imagine what the game could’ve been. GRIN and Capcom did do an incredible job in the end and hats off to them for at least giving BC this kind of iteration. Here’s hoping we see the return of this beloved series very soon.