Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 [Review]

While it isn’t quite up on par with the original Rearmed, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is a sequel absolutely worth playing.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

If there’s one major publisher that is treating its classic franchises with the proper reverence they deserve, it’s certainly Capcom.  While their major retail releases such as Dark Void and Lost Planet 2 have received mixed reviews from critics, the games they put out on Playstation Network and Xbox Live have all been top quality.  The new additions to the Mega Man franchise have been terrific games and other efforts, such as the remake of 1942, have also been strong additions to the downloadable games market.

However no title or remake sticks out as the most refined and lovingly created as 2008’s Bionic Commando Rearmed.  With its wonderfully preserved game play, interesting visuals, and killer soundtrack, the original Rearmed will always hold a place in my heart as one of my favorite games of the last five years.  Now developer Fatshark, a team consisting of previous Rearmed creator Grin studios, has released a sequel to the 2008 update in the form of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2.

The plot of the Rearmed 2 picks up several years after the original.  Series protagonist Nathan “Rad” Spencer is sent along with a team of cybernetic-enhanced soldiers to stop a fascist dictator from unleashing a potential missile strike onto his homeland.  While there are twists and turns along the way, it’s not exactly a compelling plot.  Most of the story in the game is unveiled via text boxes and really serves no purpose other than to send the player from area to area.  It’s minimal at best and more of a formality than anything else.  What will really drive the player to the end of the game isn’t the story but rather the classic Bionic Commando game play.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

For those unfamiliar with the series, the original Rearmed was a 2D platforming game that had players going from level to level and fighting bosses along the way.  While this sounds typical of these sort of games, there are several unique features that define the series.  The first and most important being that Spencer must rely on his bionic arm, a type of grappling hook with other applications as well, to traverse the levels.  All the areas in the original Rearmed required players to use precise timing to swing over large gaps or grapple onto bosses in order to complete the level.  Also hidden throughout the levels are upgrades for weapons and new abilities to be discovered, most of which can only be gained through masterful timing of the bionic arm through perilous spikes or deadly traps.  The difficulty of the Rearmed did prevent quite a few gamers from finishing it, but those who became proficient with the mechanics behind the game definitely fell in love with it.

In creating this sequel, Fatshark has made some small tweaks to Rearmed 2’s game play.  This time around players can now jump across small gaps and hurtle over obstacles instead of relying on the bionic arm constantly.  While this does make some of the platforming a bit less harrowing, skillful use of the bionic arm is still a necessity in almost every level.  Some new moves have also been added to Spencer’s repertoire such as a ground pound executed while jumping and the mechanics behind Spencer’s arm have been tweaked to be more responsive. There are also some turret sequences here and there, but these moments aren’t particularly fun or interesting.

At its core, the new Rearmed sticks to the formula which has defined the series.  Players will travel from level to level, unlocking new abilities and getting new weapons along the way.  The game demands expert use of the bionic arm as levels progress and by the end the difficulty can become a bit punshing.  As always there are obstacles in some areas that cannot be cleared until new upgrades are found late in the game.  Savvy gamers would do well to return to early levels in order to get extra lives and fully unlock all there is in Rearmed 2.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Unfortunately Fatshark has played it safe and settled on a design philosophy of quantity over quality.  While there are a lot of levels in the game, none of them are as fun or memorable as those found in the original Reamed.  There are tons of new upgrades available for weapons, sub-abilities and passive abilities, but out of the over thirty hidden ones only a small handful are particularly useful.  Most players will likely choose their favorites early on and leave the rest unused for the duration of their time with the game.  The design here isn’t quite lazy, but there is a definite lack of innovation that makes the game a bit stale.

Even if the game play can feel a bit worn at times, the visuals and sound design of the game are still fresh.  The bright and eye-catching color palette of the original game returns here as the new jungle island locale of Rearmed 2 supplies players with quite a bit to look at.  From the initial port harbor level to underground mines and hidden bases, the areas do manage to look unique throughout.  The composer who worked on the first Rearmed, Simon Viklund, has also return to supply new original music to this sequel.  Although the new tunes do not have the same punch as his previous soundtrack, they are still very fitting and are worth listening to on their own.

For those players who enjoy having a friend along for the ride, Rearmed 2 does feature a local-only cooperative mode.  Like the previous title, every level in the game can be completed with a friend and the second player can jump in or out between levels. While having a buddy tag along for the adventure can be fun, the game is actually far more challenging when friends are in the mix.  Those taxing levels in the final third of Rearmed 2 require such an expert use of the swinging mechanics that frustration is inevitable.  Adding a second player to the mix only doubles the frustration when the game ramps up the difficulty.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Even if multiplayer isn’t your style, series veterans looking to play the game solo will still find plenty of content in Rearmed 2.  In addition to the heap of hidden upgrades strewn throughout the game, each level has its leaderboard for statistics and times that can be compared with friends and top global standings.  As they were in the first game, the achievements and trophies that can be earned are pretty demanding and time consuming.  Players who beat the game can also unlock “retro mode” which turns off jumping and the challenge rooms from the original game return.  Only the most expert of Bionic Commando players need apply when trying to tackle the grueling difficulty or top the time leaderboards here.

While it takes little risks and can feel somewhat stagnant at times, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is a title that mostly succeeds in what it sets out to accomplish.  Like the recent release of Mega Man 10, it is an original sequel to a decades-old title that captures the spirit but not the charm of its franchise.  It is very competent in its design and features a ton of content to those who love the original, but Rearmed 2 still suffers from a certain lack of inspiration. Still, for fans of retro games or Bionic Commando in general, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is a quality title that delivers on the classic game play that made the series so iconic.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is available now for $14.99 on Playstation Network and 1200 Microsoft points on Xbox Live. There are no plans for a PC release as of the time of this review.

Jason Wersits
Jason Wersits
Jason Wersits

MASH Veteran

Jason Wersits is a Senior Editor for Mash Those Buttons. A lifetime resident of New Jersey and a diehard Starcraft fan, Jason spends the bulk of his time on the site working with the review staff to cover the games you care oh so much about.

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