Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector profile on GiantBomb.com

While growing up, I passed on playing the original Bionic Commando for the NES. Money was tight, there wasn’t as much media covering video games to help us make informed decisions, and I was only three years old. But I had always heard later on just how awesome it was to use a grappling hook to get around and shoot pseudo-Nazis and felt I missed out.

Of course, 20 years later I would get my chance when the original Bionic Commando would be remade as a 2.5 D port named Bionic Commando Rearmed. Then, Capcom published a 3D action-platformer Bionic Commando that was supposed to take place 10 years after Nathan “Rad” Spencer’s original adventure and saw the story take a drastic turn into a post-apocalyptic conspiracy theory driven world with very little explanation, but had some sweet new elements, like grenade launchers and the ability to actually jump.

Finally, Capcom and developer Fatshark, who took over for developer GRIN who had started the work on this game before folding in 2009, decided that they needed to fill in the chronological gap between those two titles and see what they could do if they combined the most popular elements from both games. And so I present to you Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and let me tell you, it brings a lot more to the table than just a sweet porno mustache for Rad.

The plot is similar to the original Bionic Commando, but instead of going after pseudo-Nazis and Generalissimo Killt, you are going after a Fidel Castro type named General Sabio who is threatening to bomb the FSA from his just off-shore island nation of Papagaya. The FSA sends in decorated war veteran (and Ed Harris look-alike) Colonel Buebaker, but he quickly disappears and so a team of bionics, spear-headed by Spencer, is sent in to retrieve the Colonel and defuse the missile crisis.

General Sabio is far more brilliant than Killt ever was though and aside from just employing some tanks and goons in jumpsuits, Sabio also has a variety of flying drones, tanks that can climb up walls, and some special jungle themed robots that will cause havoc for Spencer and his crew.

And speaking of jungle themes, the look of Rearmed 2 is much brighter than in the original. The first Rearmed was limited in its level design and color palette because it was taking so much from the original Bionic Commando. With Rearmed 2 being its own special adventure, I’m sure the idea to drop Spencer onto a tropical island wasn’t a mistake. From the dull, bland colors of prisons and robot factories, to dank mines, lush jungles, and snow covered peaks, I started having flashbacks to my SNES days and the original Donkey Kong Country because of the great variety of landscapes you have to traverse and how much they just seem to jump off the screen.

If familiar with the Bionic Commando series then the audio won’t surprise you as much as the graphics. Many of the themes from Rearmed and the 2009 3D Bionic Commando return with a few tweaks and keeping with the tradition of its Rearmed predecessor, there are almost no voiceovers whatsoever besides a few exclamations from fallen foes.

The biggest difference between Rearmed 1 and Rearmed 2 though comes in the gameplay. The basic mechanics are still there like using your grappling hook to get around and you have a variety of guns to take down your foes. But now included is a feature from the 3D Bionic Commando and that is the ability to jump.

Now, many diehards of the original game took up arms when they heard of this development for this new side-scroller in the series, and it does make it feel a bit more like a traditional platformer, but it really is a plus because it allowed for a larger variety of puzzles and scenarios to put Nathan into that may have been limited otherwise. And the diehard purists out there need not fear. If after playing through the game once you are still not convinced a jump ability is for the best, you can unlock a “no jump” mode that allows Nathan to move through the game in his old-school swing only style.

Aside from this, to go along with old school collectibles like Yashichis, Nathan also sees new upgrades to his arm like a grenade launcher that fits into his shoulder or ammo regeneration that, much like the 3D Bionic Commando, he can collect either initially or by revisiting levels later on. There is also the inclusion of his “Death from Above” maneuver that is great for breaking through weak floors or wiping out several foes at once.

There is also a completely new ability called Bio Vision that acts much like Samus’s scanners from Metroid Prime where you can pause the game and scan the world around you to find out information like what weapons barriers are weak against and clues on how to take down bosses.

My biggest complaint with Rearmed 2 is that they took away a lot of the staple elements from the original game like the overhead map where you could choose what path you take and instead have laid out a linear path where beating one level leads right into the next one. Also, the ceiling view mini-levels that would start when you bumped into an enemy truck have been removed completely. Although not the most memorable aspects of the original Bionic Commando, the ceiling-view mini-levels were a nice break from the meat and potatoes side-scrolling levels and were a solid attempt at mixing up the gameplay.

When all is said and done, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 takes elements from its predecessors, but is really its own game more than just a carbon copy of either one. The physics with the grappling hook are very tight and the puzzles, bosses, and level design hark back to a simpler, yet more difficult time in platform gaming. The jump feature will irritate purists, but overall was a necessary evolution for this franchise and although the gameplay is now very linear, there are twice as many levels as in Rearmed 1 making the single player campaign nearly a 10 hour experience. Add in local co-op multiplayer, the return and expansion of the challenge rooms, and online leaderboards for speed runs for each level and Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is well worth its $15 price tag.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 9.0: Continuing with the same style as the first Rearmed, the 2.5D world that Nathan finds himself in is far more colorful and diverse compared to the world based off the original Bionic Commando. This vibrant style is a pleasure for the eyes and only loses a point due to the simple picture inserts used instead of cut scenes.

Sound: 7.0: Although some brilliant new songs flesh out the soundtrack that features a revamped version of the original Bionic Commando themes, a lack of voice acting and repetitive screams of pain from dying foes is definitely a downpoint.

Plot/Plot Development: 8.5: Paying homage to the original Bionic Commando which was modeled after Nazi Germany, Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 did a brilliant job modeling itself after Fidel Castro’s Cuba. This also made the villains somewhat predictable though in just what they would try to do unfortunately. At least the game did a great job of bridging the gap between the original Bionic Commando and the 2009 3D platformer release.

Gameplay: 7.5: Although there are some great additions to the series like finally being able to jump (even if purists out there were grinding their teeth about it) and some new weapons was something to help keep this from being a straight rip off of the first Rearmed. Unfortunately, some of the swinging glitches and some brand new ones caused by the jumping tend to crop up and makes the platforming even more difficult than it needs to be. Throw in the linearity implemented in this new game’s level selection and the gameplay isn’t as strong as most would like.

Replay Value: 8.0: A lack of a versus mode is unfortunate, but with dozens of collectibles scattered around each world, co-op available in the story mode, the return of the challenge modes, and a variety of difficulty levels makes this have some very solid replay value for a downloadable title.

Overall (not an average): 8.0: For the amount of content you get for the price tag on Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, this is a great game, but it does lack the polish you would like from a completed game and that keeps this from reaching elite status. If you are a fan of the Bionic Commando series though, this is an easy purchase.

 

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