Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Review

By Matt Cabral - Posted Feb 10, 2011

The 8-bit hero with the ass-kicking appendage returns and -- as you've probably heard -- he can now jump. The new feature will probably polarize players, but it's ultimately a welcome addition once you've mastered it. Whether swinging or jumping, though, there's no denying the appeal of Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2's stunning presentation and addictive, arcade-y platforming action.

The Pros
  • He finally jumps
  • Super-slick presentation values
  • Cool boss battles
  • Content aplenty
The Cons
  • Insta-deaths
  • Some might consider the fact he can jump sacrilege

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Review:

The 8-bit hero with the ass-kicking appendage returns and--as you've probably heard--he can now jump. The new feature will probably polarize players, but it’s ultimately a welcome addition once you've mastered it. Whether swinging or jumping, though, there’s no denying the appeal of Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2’s stunning presentation and addictive, arcade-y platforming action.

Might As Well Jump

Back in the summer of 2008, Nathan “Rad“ Spencer swung back into gamers’ lives in Bionic Commando Rearmed, a current-gen remake of the NES-era classic. He returned less than a year later in Bionic Commando, a full-on, 3D update meant to reboot the franchise for a new generation of potential fans.

Ironically enough, it was the former, not the latter, that was embraced by players and critics. It’s of little surprise then that Capcom and developer Fatshark (taking the reins from now-defunct GRIN) have delivered a sequel to the more modest DLC entry rather than the horsepower-pushing console effort.

In Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, Spencer returns with a striking red porn ‘stache to match his equally shocking crimson coif. But he’s packing more than a fancy new lip ornament; he now possesses the ability to jump. Yup, you heard right, the clawed commando can now use his leg strength to propel himself off the ground.

Given the buzz surrounding this added “power“, I should address it right of the bat: Spencer’s new skill, for better or worse, isn’t the game-changer many were expecting, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. Purists will probably hate it, at least until they learn to skillfully use it in concert with the swinging, but newcomers will never no the difference.

I fall a little to the left of those two camps and, after enduring a slight learning curve, could not imagine playing without it. It’s a modest jump--Super Mario catches more air sleepwalking--but once mastered, it allows for smoother navigation, offers a bit of a buffer from cheap deaths, and generally feels more organic to the experience. That said, stubborn sticklers for authenticity can simply choose not to use it, as the game can be completed without it.

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Bionic Graphics

More impressive than Spencer’s ability to leap over ankle-high obstacles is Rearmed 2’s stunning presentation. This is a beautiful game that builds upon its predecessor’s impressive blend of 2D/3D visuals. While the action unfolds on a two-dimensional plane--stretching vertically and horizontally--the detail-drenched foregrounds and backgrounds will keep your eyes as engaged as your trigger finger.

Vibrant visuals, complemented by physics and particle effects that could teach full-priced retail games a tech trick or two, pop off the screen in a manner usually reserved for Pixar films. From gushing waterfalls and swaying foliage, to fiery explosions and driving rain, you’ll pass rubberneck-worthy sights with every step, jump and swing. The audio work also stings the sense, immersing with a cinematic quality rarely heard in downloadable titles.

The obvious stuff, such as the cool retro-score and ear-rattling special effects, actually take a back seat to subtler touches like the differing audio cues accompanying Spencer’s footsteps over wooden bridges, metal grating, splashing water, and unforgiving concrete. If you’ve got a decent pair of headphones, plug ‘em in and listen up.

Look Out Below

Platforming and gunning through BC: Rearmed 2’s rich environments is generally a blast, but you'll occasionally be grounded by a fun-sapping flaw. Most notably,  the expansive four-directional nature of the levels will see you falling prey to some off-screen deaths. It’s definitely not fun--or fair--to have to revisit a distant checkpoint because you couldn’t foresee the spiky floor that was about to impale your bionic ass.

Additionally, cool weapons and upgrades abound, but you get the two best (health regeneration and grenades) inside the first thirty minutes. Boss battles, on the other hand, are generally inventive, keeping with the addictive pattern-based design the series is known for. And for the less experienced players, there’s even a neat little scanning ability offering hints on the big bads’ weak points.  New moves, challenge rooms, and same-screen, couch co-op round out the package. Playing with a friend is a fun, occasionally chaotic affair; purists will likely go it alone, but it’s a nice option for those looking to partner with a bionic buddy,

While allowing Spencer to jump will seem like sacrilege to some, it ultimately makes for a better game. The presentation also trumps the already-impressive original, providing one of the best looking XBLA games to date.

The aforementioned flaws can’t be ignored, but they’re obstacles most will swing--or jump--past with ease.