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Japanese shooters have never fared well in the states with the maybe-exception of Earth Defense Force, but the team of Sega and new developer Yakuza Studios are putting their dreams and ambitions behind a future shooter Binary Domain, heavily influenced by Gears of War.
Binary Domain is, an original squad-based shooter by Toshihiro Nagoshi, creator of the Yakuza series. The scene is 2080 Tokyo, long after a full-scale robot invasion leaves humanity clings to the last threads of hope and survival. Toshihiro has stated his intention to bring about a marriage of gameplay and drama and bring personal humanity to the actual game instead of showing it all in cutscenes. The big new innovation to the shooter formula is the ‘Consequence System’. Now before you ask “Isn’t every single game ever made its own consequence system?”, the key here is consequence of action in relation to the characters of this original squad based shooter.
The AI has been programmed to react to your subtle in-game choices, including the pace at which you play, how aggressively you fight, how courageous or cowardly you act and how you speak to other team members whether fighting or not. Should you speak unfairly to your comrades or force them out of the way or act as a generally incompetent leader, they will begin to mistrust you and you will find them not in any state to risk themselves for your sake.
What happens when you treat them well and allow them to help you should be fairly obvious. With such an emphasis on in-game drama and squad leadership, it would be fair to say that this is a fairly story oriented game. Your actions as a leader will also decide the path that the story takes. With the writers of the Yakuza series behind the project, it’s shaping up to hold its own fairly well.
The final touch in Binary Domain is the integrations of a headset to speak with NPCs in game to issue commands and affect the gameplay and story in other ways. The creator has stated that he wishes players to grow more attached to the characters in the game through this method of direct interaction and voice command.
The emphasis on AI construction in the world of Binary Domain seems centered around the idea of your relationship with your companions and how well players can handle a leadership position. Both in-game and in the story, there are chances of betrayal against your teammates, or even more dauntingly, against you. Team Yakuza is hoping to design the game so that these sections have “actual cause and effects in the game’s progression.”
To put a common complaint to rest, Toshihiro has also stated a disdain for games with naggy and needy AI counterparts. “We want to make sure the AI can basically stand on its own that, so that it doesn’t require babying,”
Will Binary Domain be able to rise from the common parlance of ‘Gears Of War ripoff’ and become a truly unique experience? Will Team Yakuza be able to craft a world that seems to respond to your actions and create a deeper sense of presence in Tokyo’s post apocalypse? Can a Japanese developed third-person shooter finally make it big in the American market? Stay tuned and keep your eyes on this slick, polished shooter for the Machine Age, it comes out on February 28th for Xbox 360 and PS3.