Basic Information:

Developer: GRIN Software
Publisher: CAPCOM
North American Release Date: 05/19/09
European Release Date: 05/22/09
Trophies: 42 Bronze, 4 Silver, 3 Gold, 1 Platinum


CAPCOM's Bionic Commando on the NES defined an era of video games down to its very essence. A side-scrolling 2D platformer/shooter that based its gameplay completely on the usage of protagonist Nathan "RAD" Spencer's Bionic Arm (a quasi-mechanical weaponized device in place of Spencer's left arm with multiple practical usages), Bionic Commando was instantly considered a cult hit and acquired a surprisingly large fanbase. Over two decades and an excellent downloadable remake later, can inconsistent developer GRIN's follow-up to one of the most beloved NES games of all time stay true to its high-flying heritage, or does CAPCOM's first product of its suspect HD remake trend fall hopelessly into the abyss?


So, how does the usage of the famed Bionic Arm translate over into 3-Dimensional space? Surprisingly enough, GRIN's Bionic Commando is an absolute blast to play, and the controls in this sequel feel far more natural and freewheeling than those of its predecessor.

Swinging around is pure joy.

Control of the Bionic Arm is primarily centered on the L2 button, as a quick press of this trigger launches Spencer's tethered robotic instrument at a number of possible targets. Almost everything in the environment is interactive; Spencer can latch himself either to almost anything to start a long chain of swings, or glide swiftly towards an enemy to attempt a number of gruesome kill mechanics. Swinging around in Bionic Commando is easily the game's strongest aspect, as the transition from one object to another feels fluid and seamless, with little exception to the rule. Throwing guys (and miscellaneous objects) around is also entertaining, as the bionic arm has the capability of hitting targets well over 100 meters away without the slightest difficulty. Kill enough goons with the tools provided and Spencer's adrenaline meter kicks in, allowing him to either perform a devastating arm-swing attack that kills all enemies in the general vicinity or to absolutely annihilate everything in sight with an extremely powerful Death From Above move. This broad flexibility adds up to an excellent incorporation of the Arm into the 3D space; believe me, pegging a BioReign heavy with a destroyed car from across a crevasse is an absolutely priceless experience.

Bionic Commando also incorporates a heavy shooting mechanic that ultimately works well in tandem with the mechanics of the Bionic Arm. Controlling Spencer's weapons strays little from the norm in today's Third Person Shooter standard, as tapping the R3 button zooms in the camera and R2 fires Spencer's selected armament. The weapons themselves are unfortunately standard fare, but this adhesion to the genre's recognizable guns is negligible with the inclusion of the bionic arm.

The HIKER is particularly appetizing.

Spencer has the capability of holding both a bionic super-weapon on one side and a high-powered rifle on the other; so what should he do with them? Shooting and swinging simultaneously is a possibility, but it is incredibly difficult to control and simply not recommended. What is recommended, however, is using the arm and Spencer's weapon concurrently to create battle sequences unlike any other. For instance, Spencer can latch onto an enemy, shoot him a couple of times with his Tungsten pistol, and hurl the corpse at another awestruck grunt. Combination strategies like this one are best used in the game's 3 or 4 boss battles, as each fantastic encounter is exceptionally designed and cleverly influences the player to incorporate different mechanics to emerge victorious.

This guy is a TON of fun to take down.

Despite having an excellent gameplay foreground that allows for an experience that is wholly unique to the genre, Bionic Commando has a small number of niggling issues that, while not truly detrimental to the experience, are prominent enough to be noted. For one, the enemy AI is borderline retarded, as both grunts and BioMechs (gigantic mechanized infantry suits) alike wander around hopelessly the minute they lose sight of their target. In addition, falling into water immediately starts a ludicrously short countdown to game over, and grappling to safety while underwater is needlessly frustrating. Finally, the oft-mentioned "radiation" that serves as the game's boundary system is sometimes placed in dubious locations, causing occasionally unnecessary damage.

Restrictive radiation permeates the city.

But none of these minor hiccups are able to derail what is a fast-paced and fluid experience that ultimately appeals to both the series faithful and newcomers alike.


Set ten years after the events of Bionic Commando: Rearmed, GRIN's Bionic Commando places you once again into the shoes of ex-TASC officer Nathan Spencer, a bionically-enhanced soldier whose exploits in Alaska ten years before halted the antagonistic Imperials' imminent North American invasion. Despite his heroic actions that saved the FSA from an all-out war on the home front, Nathan Spencer has not had the best decade; a federally mandated "Bionic Purge" enacted 5 years after Spencer’s excursion has permeated the country, causing the arrest and execution of many bionically enhanced soldiers in order to re-relegate the military to be exclusively "human". While many of Spencer's mechanized compatriots immediately fled the country in search of refuge, a foolhardy Spencer decides to resist the mandate, and is promptly sentenced to 5 years on death row and an eventual execution.

After 5 years on Death Row, Nathan Spencer is not happy.

The tale of Bionic Commando truly begins mere days before his scheduled execution. Super Joe, a crucial character from the first Bionic Commando, pulls his military rank to waive Spencer's capital punishment in order to assign him to a high-profile covert operation located in the recently-devastated Ascension City. Spencer quickly learns after a rough insertion that the nuclear explosion that rocked the city only days before has not only seemingly killed every human inhabitant, but also has allowed for a major high-tech terrorist military force known only as "BioReign" to set up shop around the city's hotspots.

Fans of the original Bionic Commando and its HD remake are in for a treat: this sequel delivers a fairly strong storyline that, while somewhat one-dimensional and unevenly paced, remains engrossing until the credits roll. The tale itself caters primarily to the devoted fan base of the franchise: there are myriad references to its predecessor and a startling amount of unexpected twists and turns. Although the story is a tad light in the character development compartment, Nathan Spencer exports just enough of a pathos quality for the player to sympathize with his constant struggle to maintain his humanity. BioReign is also an inherently interesting enemy to combat: Spencer is wholly unsure of the terrorist organization's motivations at the game's exposition, and the gradual revelations that follow are genuinely interesting.

Unfortunately, the game sometimes seems to forget that there's a covert operation occurring in Ascension City at all; for periods of up to a half an hour, there was absolutely no mentioning or advancement of the storyline whatsoever. This might be fine for a game that tends to shy away from a compelling narrative, but the fact that the game's finale throws everything it has left at the player in about a 20-minute time span makes this inconsistency a tad suspect. As a result, I needed a second playthrough to fully appreciate what the story had to offer.

The tale may be "video game-ey", as Spencer's travails occasionally run headlong into cliché. But nevertheless, Bionic Commando delivers something that all current-generation CAPCOM games have lacked; [B]a storyline that is legitimately engaging.

Bionic Commando’s campaign consists of a finely-tuned 9-11 hour experience through the devastated cityscapes of the eerily quiet remains of the once-proud Ascension City. The pace of the single-player structure is decidedly stop-and-go; at one moment, enemies can be thrown at the player at a relenting pace, while the next moment Spencer could be quietly swinging on long rows of deactivated airborne mines through a peaceful vista. It is this stutter-stepped structure that truly defines this new Bionic Commando, and the system works well. A word of note should be made to the various difficulty settings: those who have a taste for challenge should jump immediately to the Commando difficulty, as the two lower difficulties are incredibly easy to blow through in little time at all.

Entertaining from start to finish.


Multiplayer, however, is a different story altogether. There are only three modes available from the outset: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Domination. The game's multiplayer structure supports 10 players, but this number seems far too small on the bigger maps and far too large on the smaller maps. Online lag is a common sight, as there were far too many instances in which the game barely functioned on a basic level. Games are generally unbalanced in the favor of more skilled players, the maps are poorly designed, and there is no real sense of accomplishment after finishing each match.

Cool in concept, not so cool in execution.

Essentially, the multiplayer aspect of Bionic Commando (despite the caveat of the bionic arm) feels derivative, uninteresting, unwieldy, and not really worth anyone's time. The online modes feel completely tacked on, and seem to be present only to bolster the game's plausible "replayability" statistic that has become so needlessly important. The multiplayer functionality, unfortunately, is only to the game's detriment. Stick to the quality single-player portion of Bionic Commando, as the online modes are simply not worth checking out.


GRIN's Bionic Commando strays from its current-generation genre competitors by sporting a pleasantly varied color pallet that results in vibrant vistas and appropriately desolate cityscapes. Simply put, the game looks great most of the time, and the framerate remains rock-solid throughout the campaign. The game runs on GRIN's in-house DIESEL engine (the same engine that runs Terminator Salvation), which means that the technical specs might not be as high as those of the graphical powerhouses that run the genre’s juggernauts. Nevertheless, Bionic Commando pushes GRIN's tech to the maximum, as each and every in-game environment does not disappoint.

The game can look fantastic.

The score is also well done, as dedicated players will hum along with the bombastic orchestral remixes of the NES game's classic beeps and boops. The soundtrack is regularly incorporated into the gameplay, especially when the music rises and falls with the highs and lows of Spencer's mission. The voice work is a little shaky, though, as every male character seems as if they recently swallowed a pound of gravel and the sparse female actresses rarely express any sort of humanity whatsoever. This lack of emotion isn't really a deal-breaker, though, because each character's lines are reasonably well-delivered.


Bionic Commando's Platinum trophy is quite attainable, thanks in part to the fact that there are no multiplayer trophies to be found. Be ready to endure some tedium with a number of infuriating challenges, but otherwise the Platinum is a worthwhile pursuit.

Closing Thoughts

I'm going to be completely honest: I was taken aback by Bionic Commando's overall quality. CAPCOM's not-so-hot next-gen track record of Dark Void, Lost Planet, and Resident Evil 5 is surprisingly topped by what is easily developer GRIN's finest work. With a cool storyline, an excellent presentation, and a gameplay experience unlike any other, this HD Bionic Commando is certainly worth the price of admission.


Gameplay: 9.0/10
Murkin' fools in Bionic Commando is a ton of fun, as the gameplay is completely open-ended and allows for a seemingly infinite amount of ways to complete each level. Small issues like dumb enemy AI hold back what is otherwise a fantastic gameplay experience.

Singleplayer: 8.5/10
An excellently paced and well-thought out 10-hour single player campaign, coupled with a surprisingly fun but unevenly paced storyline.

Multiplayer: 5.0/10
Mediocre: ultimately the game's crucial misstep. How such an original multiplayer concept can be so derivative and boring is beyond me. Server issues also abound.

Technical: 8.5/10
It might not run on the most powerful tech on earth, but Bionic Commando is one pretty game with a pleasant variety of environments to explore. The remix-heavy score is excellent, but the voice work is merely average in comparison.

Overall: 8/10: GREAT