The Average Gamer

Binary Domain Preview

Binary Domain is one of the many games coming out early next year. I saw it way back at E3 and finally got to play it recently. It’s an odd one. One the surface, it’s just another shooty bang game with corridors and giant robots but the team at Yakuza Studio are innovating on a rarely-seen dynamic; NPC relationships. I spoke with game director Daisuke Sato, translated by producer Jun Yoshino.

The game is set in Tokyo, 2080. People are accustomed to seeing robots doing work around them. Japan and the US are the leading nations in robotics development and it’s illegal and taboo to make robots look like human beings and this triggers the events in the game. The organisation that regulates this set up a global taskforce. You play Dan Marshall, the leader of this taskforce that has to infiltrate Japanese robotics company to find out the truth. Judging by the dude at 0:46 in this trailer, yes. It’s true.

As the team leader, you get to choose from a nice multiracial group of people to choose from between each mission. I played the demo several times during the Eurogamer Expo on both on normal and hard modes and switching up the characters between missions does bring some entertaining interactions between your team. Pairing a Brit with an American will trigger some fun stereotyping and pairing the flirty bloke with a woman can show you a lovely car-crash of a pulling technique attempted as you walk with your team to the goal. It’s a bit more interesting than silently wandering down corridors at any rate.

“It’s a big part of the game to strategically work well with your team mambers when fighting but we feel it’s more important to communicate even outside of battle, to build up a relationship with each and every one of them and to get emotionally attached” said Sato. The team are doing this though voice recognition. As anyone who had the misfortune of watching my Skyrim livestream will know, I have a habit of talking out to NPCs. “Lydia, get the hell out of my way” is a familiar refrain.

With Binary Domain, SEGA are developing voice recognition to give orders to your team and not in the wishy-washy read-from-the-dialogue-tree way that’s coming for Mass Effect 3. You can press L2 to bring up a list of common commands and conversation options to read but you should be able to use natural language as well. When agreeing to an instruction, you can say “Yes” as given in the prompt but you should also be able to say “Yeah”, “Okay” and other phrases that are more you. Asking for healing when you’re down will be as simple as saying “Rachel, help me”. Personally, I will gunning for the ever-popular “MEDIC!”

I didn’t get to try this in the demo but I was told by Sato that characters will react to swear words as well. “They do react, we’ve prepared that,” said Sato. “That’s the kind of thing that we want to push more to the gamers out there. For example, if Charlie was in the way and youre trying to shoot at this enemy, I can tell him to fuck off. He can react to that. Whether it’s ‘My bad’ or whether he’s insulted, it’s that kind of feel that we want people to experience” Hopefully it will be better than the Xbox dashboard at recognising regional accents.

In battle, you can also agree to a team order and then defy it by e.g. not covering the left flank. As with any decent battle system, your opponents will exploit this vulnerability and you’ll be the dickhead who got everyone shot. Your NPC teammates will no longer trust you and they’ll be less likely to assist when you’re bleeding out, or to follow your orders in future battles. In short, don’t be a dick. You’re not everybody’s overpowered hero in this game so treat your teammates with respect.

The robots you’ll be fighting have a detailed limb damage model with different behaviours depending on what you do. Shoot them in the legs and they’ll go down but the buggers will keep crawling towards you on their arms alone. Take them out quick or they’ll latch on to your leg and hit the self destruct button. Rather more disturbing is when you blow off their gun arm. Being machines, they’ll simply bend down, pick up their rifle and resume shooting with the same accuracy as before. It’s monstrous.

I’m really looking forward to Binary Domain. The story looks like it could be decent sci-fi exploration of humanity as well.

A few gangsters had stumbled upon an injured man in the rumble, and to their surprise, saw his metallic skull through his head injury, revealing him to be a “hollow child,” a robot made to look like a human. What made it disturbing was that as they pulled the sack off his head and kicked him to the ground, it became clear that the man begging for his life had absolutely no idea he wasn’t human. It wasn’t until he caught a glimpse of his injuries in one of the gang member’s sunglasses that a glimmer of recognition – then horrified disbelief – fell across his face.
Carolyn Gudmundson, The makers of Yakuza bring us a new vision of neo-Tokyo, GamesRader

Sure, it’s yet another cyborgs vs humans story where you shoot the crap out of a bunch of robots. At least it’s not zombies.

Binary Domain will be out on PS3 and Xbox 360 in February 2012