Binary Domain looked a bit low rent from the previews, and the games press was lukewarm. For my money though, this is the most fun I've had playing a video game since I don't know when. And I don't mean "I'm impressed" fun, I mean total immersion, in the flow, laugh out loud fun. This is a great game, there's no ifs and buts about it.
The short version is, this game pits you against robots in future Tokyo. When I heard that concept, I was sold - and the design team absolutely delivers on the premise. The robot designs are all fantastic, they move wonderfully, and they die amazingly. Blasting them into pieces produces different effects - if you make a headshot, they'll freak out and attack their teammates. If you shoot their legs off, they'll crawl towards you Terminator style. If you shoot their arm off, they'll pick it up and attack you with it like a club. It's great.
The shooting is fun, feedback is good, and the cover system is fluid. The benchmark third person shooter is Gears of War, and BD is a straight variation on that game's mechanics. Your character, Dan, moves quicker than Marcus Fenix though, and unlike in Gears, where you'll be quickly shredded by gunfire, charging into heaps of enemies in this game is encouraged. Most surprisingly, Binary Domain has ideas of its own that put Gears to shame.
The most important of these is to tell a coherent and moving story, which gives the action a real feeling, something I found thrilling. I was expecting nothing more than the usual gung-ho claptrap, but I was quickly drawn into events by the game's humour and intelligence. I never ever played a shooter for the story, but I found myself playing late night sessions just to find out what would happen next.
In this game, the story is gradually revealed to be very emotional, and I had more than a few moments when I was delivered into gameplay with a specific emotion to carry me along. It was a very strange experience, and one that I would like to have more of in video games. The people who designed this game are very, very clever. When it finished, I'd genuinely been taken on a journey. I never felt that before in a game. Even Bioshock's atmosphere was punctured once the story was unravelled as a gimmick; and the Uncharted games, which have great characters, don't really have stories, just plots to hang the one-liners on.
It's not an original game, but it is complete, unified, plays excellently, is paced expertly, and has been made with a lot of care. Just to compare, I'd rate it above Vanquish, which I also loved, and definitely above the Gears of War games, all of which play fantastically, but then you have to put up with all that witless posturing.
It's also a long game, I played through on Survivor (Hard) difficulty, and it took about 12 hours. I felt like a really got my money's worth. No new game + as far as I can tell, but I look forward to returning to this game down the road, and not just for the stellar gameplay.
Binary Domain is definitely in my top 5 games of this generation. Finally, a genuine surprise!