Review: After 20 years, Bionic Commando is back at last!

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Released in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Bionic Commando still manages to elicit longing flashbacks in gamers who've played it. It's been 20 years, but the game is back in all its bionic glory with its first full-fledged sequel.

The side-scrolling approach of the original is gone, replaced with a third-person, Prince of Persia-style perspective and next-gen graphics worthy of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. As before, players control Nathan Spencer, a bionically enhanced super soldier who was sent to prison as a fall guy after the events of the original game. As the game opens, he's bailed out by his former commander, given back his old gear and sent into the field to deal with a terrorist attack on Ascension City.

The perspective may have changed, but the goal's the same—use your grappling-hook-like bionic arm to snag targets and swing your way to your destinations. If you can nail the timing, the game offers an exhilarating rush as you hurl yourself from one end of the city to the other, occasionally stopping to stomp terrorist scum or hurl forklifts in their direction. If you can't get the timing, then you're in for a lot of sudden deaths and reload screens as you drown in flooded streets or succumb to pockets of radiation.

Unlike most grappling games, which only allow you to attach to specific targets, Bionic Commando lets you latch on to almost anything: buildings, bridges, lampposts, you name it. The maps are hedged in by debris and radiation left by a nuclear strike, but within those confines you have near-complete freedom to swing your way around the map, searching for the best way to engage or avoid enemies. The challenge swing-and-gun mechanic echoes that of the original game, and as in the original, if you can't master the timing, you'd best give up and try something else.