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A sequel to the remake of 1987’s Bionic Commando, Rearmed 2 has quite a reputation to uphold. Though the series has never really taken over the market as many platformers have, it still holds a dedicated, rabid fanbase. In some respects, it holds up well, but in other respects it leaves much to be desired. Fatshark, true to Capcom's platforming roots, has created a fun but difficult title. Unfortunately, not all the difficulties are intentional and can be detrimental to the gameplay.
Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 (I know that’s a mouthful) follows the Bionic Commando himself Nathan “Rad” Spencer and his team of Bionic Banditos in their attempt to overthrow a tyrannical dictator, save a crucial field agent, and disarm some missiles. If the story unfolded just like that, it would be quit boring. Luckily for gamers, there are a few twists and turns in the relatively weak storyline that kept me from dismissing it all together.
Gameplay is slightly altered from what Bionic Commando veterans may be accustomed to. The addition of a jump button will most certainly divide the community. The levels are clearly designed for the primary method of platforming to be the bionic claw, but the jump button tends to make it almost too easy to traverse the levels. Instead of learning the intricacies of the claw like players in previous games were required to do, it is now easier to jump your way through many levels. In laymen’s term, it turns the game into just another platformer.
The game operates on a 2.5 dimensional plane. This allows backdrops and character models to convey depth without sacrificing the 2D gameplay at the core of this franchise. The graphics are bright and vibrant, but suffer from occasional tearing and glitches. The graphical problems aren’t enough to really break the game, but seeing them repeatedly in the course of a 4 hour campaign is completely unacceptable, especially when it has Capcom’s name on it.
Rearmed 2 is in need of a serious balancing in the difficulty department. You receive many weapons during the gameplay, but the majority of enemy encounters can be resolved with the pistol or grenade attachment, both of which have infinite ammunition. The last fourth of the game; however, will test your patience to the extreme as it is laden with so many platforming pitfalls that even advanced players will sweat as they make their way through the game’s excruciating final levels. I understand wanting to stay true to the game’s roots, but the sudden difficulty increase is just infuriating.
The game features a cooperative feature on each level that allows another player to join in the action. The second player resembles the one from the NES cover of 1987’s Bionic Commando, and the inclusion of that player ramps up the difficulty. Enemies will be greater in number, and bosses will alter their strategy to accommodate the extra player, usually this boils down to the boss firing off a few more attacks before exposing their weakness. Co-op play is considerably more difficult as both players share lives and once they are depleted, players must restart the level.
Rearmed 2 also features challenge levels that will appeal to hardcore fans of the franchise. The challenges range from time trials to having limited weapons or abilities and will test the patience of even the most dedicated players (they are challenge levels after all). If you enjoyed the campaign but wanted a higher difficulty then this is for you. If you struggled with the game’s mechanics and fumbled your way through the story, you may want to skip this section of the game. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, and you most certainly do not want to develop an aneurysm.
I’m rather split on how I feel about this game. It is most certainly encouraging to see that classic franchises can find new life in the digital download market, but I don’t want to encourage games that feel like they only gave 80%. Rearmed 2 feels like it’s missing something, that intangible something that puts a game over the top. It has some iffy swing mechanics, uneven difficulty, and graphic glitches but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth of your time. The boss battles are events in themselves, the story is pure 80’s cheese, and all in all Spencer has a charming red moustache. For fans of the franchise, it’s a no-brainer but newcomers may be thrown off by the sometimes finicky controls that can cause frustrating pitfalls. Bionic Commando is looking good, and if Fatshark and Capcom iron out a few problems the next installment could be really special; this one falls just short of being great.