Gamescom 2011: Binary Domain Preview – It's All About Trust
Written Sunday, September 04, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Having previously seen Binary Domain at E3 2011, we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw and were particularly intrigued by the game's trust mechanic, which dictates the kind of relationship you'll have with your squad. Set within Tokyo, circa 2080 where robots are commonplace in society, you play as US Operative Dan Marshall who leads a crack team of robot hunters known as the Rust Crew, against an army of cybernetic organisms and illegal synthetic humanoids called 'Hollow Children', who look human and believe they're human. And with competing robotics corporations Amada and Bergen both creating illegal cyborgs, Dan and the rest of the Rust Crew have their work cut out for them.
For our E3 demo, SEGA's Jun Yoshino and Yakuza Studio's Daisuke Sato had touched upon the trust-based aspects in the game that shape Dan's interactions with his buddies, as well as the game's smart voice-recognition functionality. For Binary Domain's Gamescom showing, SEGA chooses to focus more on both of these aspects, especially the 'Consequence System', which takes into account your actions and behaviour in battle, adjusting how your allies respond to you in critical situations. Low trust levels will cause your teammates to disobey your orders, respond to you with derision, snappy put downs and leave you to die when you're on the floor bleeding out.
To show just how much trust - or a lack thereof - can affect the gameplay, Producer Yoshino opens the demo with a scenario in which Dan has garnered the lowest possible trust level from his squad. They don't trust him one iota, meaning for this run through of the demo, Dan finds himself having an exceedingly hard time. With female British Operative, Faye and French robot, Cain on his team - two of the five characters you can choose from for your squad - Dan finds himself fighting through Binary Domain's common or garden robots, shooting off their limbs to hobble them or blasting their heads off to send them reeling and confused, shooting in every direction.
With Tokyo suspended upon stilts in Binary Domain's dystopian future, we find ourselves in the upper levels of the city, later into the game's story. In the full version, you'll start down in the lower levels and work your way up into Tokyo's higher echelons as you progress. With Dan's trust bar at zero, following actions like putting his allies in danger, issuing bad commands and failing to efficiently perform his duties, our first encounter with a small group of robots on the platform at a train station starts off badly with Cain barking at us to put ourselves directly in the line of fire. “Be a point man!” he shouts, demanding that we push forward and adopt the role of bullet sponge.
Responding to Cain's yells, we take point and blast a few robots away, prompting an arrow above Cain's and Faye's heads to go up, indicating that you've just performed a positive trust action. Trust levels can constantly fluctuate based upon specific things that you do, so when a heavy unit glides in and lands on the platform, Dan rushes in and attempts to blast it to pieces as quickly as he can. In doing so, Dan gains a little more trust, but is brought down. Calling out for a medikit proves fruitless thanks to the next-to-zero trust level, and Marshall is left to die.
Yoshino then fires up the second demo, which is the same train station and the same scenario, except Dan's trust levels are at a full four bars. This playthrough is completely different, with Cain happily going forward for you, helping you out where necessary and even giving you some encouraging compliments. Cain and Faye also follow your commands to the letter, and will even go the extra mile, dispatching some snipers on an overhead walkway for us, as we volunteer to take point ahead of Cain this time around. Dan is also downed, but almost immediately revived by Faye, before crossing through an empty train carriage to the other side of the platform. Yoshino then chooses to demonstrate how the voice recognition has come along, plugging a headset in, which is instantly detected.
“Love you,” Yoshino tells Faye via the headset, who reacts with a confused and exasperated response. “What now?!” she exclaims. It's far more responsive and sensitive than it was during our showing of the game at E3, indicative of the leap forward the game has taken since then. The demo continues and leads into a large open area in which Dan, Cain and Faye are assaulted by a huge red robot gorilla boss, who flings lumps of rock at you rather than its poo. The order comes in to Faye for the crew to shoot its head, so the squad act accordingly, also unleashing an EMP burst once their on-screen meter is full, to stun the boss. You'll be able to purchase abilities like these using the credits (CR) you accumulate from destroyed robots, as well as ammunition, weapon upgrades and new abilities.
A couple of minutes fighting the big red gorilla pass by and the demo draws to a close, leaving us once again suitably impressed by Binary Domain. We're slightly unsure about why you'd want to be an asshole and cause mistrust amongst your squad, as the consequences are usually negative. However, Sato and Yoshino assure us that the decisions you make won't always be obvious, so you may rub someone up the wrong way without realising. The story will also be affected by your approach, with Sato telling us that “the route will start to differ depending on who's in your squad” and how you interact with them. This ought to encourage multiple playthroughs, as you'll get different cutscenes depending on which characters you pick for your team (which can consist of up to four at a time) and their individual trust levels.
Binary Domain is fast becoming a game that we're tipping to be one of the dark horses of 2012, with some truly interesting and innovative components making for more than just another standard third-person shooter. We'd like to see some more variation in the environments, as what we've seen thus far consists primarily of clean white, clinical futuristic facilities or drab grey, urban street sequences. Yet, if the Consequence System delivers on the promise we've seen so far and the action and set-pieces measure up, then Binary Domain should be worth keeping an eye on.
Binary Domain will be activated on February 14th, 2012 in North America and February 17th, 2012 in Europe.