I really liked this game and think it was completely underrated. I might be a tiny bit biased about shooters as playing Half-Life was the game that got me totally hooked on gaming. Some people complain about games being linear, but I find them a welcome relief from the thousands of decisions often required in RPGs. Binary Domain is linear and I loved it. To me, this is a very fun game despite a few problems with controls, which were actually quite easy to fix.
Binary Domain's story is engaging if somewhat familiar as it leans heavily on an I Robot, Blade Runner theme with robots that look and act like humans. These Hollow Children, as the world calls them, have no self-awareness of their artificial state and believe themselves to be human. Although utility robots are commonly used for labour, creating Hollow Children is illegal and violates Chapter 21 of the New Geneva Convention, which bans research into this branch of robotics. Sound familiar?
The year is 2080 and our protagonist is Dan Marshall, part of an American "Rust Crew". After global warming caused massive flooding and killed much of the population, it became essential to use utility robots as a labour force. However, creating robots that looked like humans was made illegal. A global organization called the IRTA (International Robotics Technology Association) was formed to oversee the new Geneva Convention. They in turn created Rust Crews to deal with any breaches. Believing the Amada corporation based in Japan is in breach, the team is sent to covertly gather intel and arrest the man responsible for this illegal activity. Your goal is to hook up with other teams sent from Britain and China to complete the mission. The story also explores Dan Marshall's aversion to robots in general through a few flashbacks and cut scenes that reflect a childhood incident. This sets up a twist in the ending.
Once you meet up with the other teams, the game bears a similarity to the Mass Effect formula in that for each progressive mission you must choose two additional team mates from a pool of four, although sometimes the game switches this for you. Each member has their strengths and weaknesses being experts with various types of primary weapons. Depending on whom you've chosen, tough fights can net a very different experience during some missions. Conversely, different endings are dependent on a team member's trust level with you, so even though it might be tempting to stick to members who carry certain weapons, you need to toss it up to earn trust with each one. Your performance and how you answer them during dialogues, will affect their trust meters. This system will trigger slight variations in the ending. To get the best possible outcome, you must earn trust by accomplishing various things while members are on your team. They will tell you when you are doing poorly and when you are doing well.
The game is very linear with the exception that you can collect PDAs in the near vicinity which give you background and historical info. However, if you take too long veering from the path, your squad mates will start yelling at you, which is rather irritating. In single player, voice conversations are basically reduced to one word answers like yeah, no, and dammit. However, they can still affect the trust levels. There are also a few rudimentary tactical commands you can issue, but with a low trust level, the NPC is less likely to co-operate.
The visuals are good, the acting is fair if not brilliant, the controls are lean and the story is pretty good. The menu interface is easy to deal with and there is no agonizing over weapon choices and upgrades as they can only be applied to the primary weapon of squad mates. However, you can also find or buy nano cells that upgrade armor, health and proficiencies for them and you can do more upgrading with Dan's weapons. Game configuration, though, is outside of the game in a separate launcher, a feature I'm not particularly fond off, but you can alt-tab out if you need to change anything.
I thought the combat was good and the robotic AI fairly tough. A good tactic is to shoot off limbs to slow them down while you line up that head shot. Otherwise they will keep coming. The bosses were very interesting and although not too hard, do take some killing. Make sure that everyone is carrying the maximum number of health packs as you can heal each other when one of you goes down.
One problem I encountered on the first playthrough was that it wasn't always clear what you were supposed to do. Instructions are often given by team members, however noise in the game can make it difficult to hear them. There is also the occasional QTE that introduces new and unfamiliar mechanics not used in rest of game. The save system is checkpoint and is a little hard to catch, but it's indicated by a rotating square in the top left of the screen. Also present is the growing trend of making you sit through endless credits if you want the ending scene.
This is a game I feel you need to play more than once to get the full experience. I would certainly be interested in a sequel. It's really kind of refreshing to be dealing with something other than zombies, aliens or mutants.