Thursday, 14 November 2013

SEGA Shooters: Vanquish & Binary Domain

"Do me a favour, plug me into a Sega"
Unfortunately, I don't mean the kind of shooter in the pic above, Sorry. As we continue with SEGA week, I think its time to have a look at a couple of SEGA's current gen shooters. Binary Domain is a traditional Third person shooter developed by the Yakuza Team while Vanquish serves the other end of the spectrum with an arcade style developed by Platinum Games. I was considering a review for each one last week, but I wouldn't want to overload myself with too many reviews in a week as I still have some articles planned for the rest of the SEGA week. Instead I'm just going to kinda retrospective them both within the same article as it'll also show just how much they contrast even though they are both third person shooters. While both feature story's based within the near future, they each go in a different direction. Vanquish Sets itself upon a space station used for harvesting Solar energy that has been occupied by Russian nationalists and had its power unleashed as a weapon onto unsuspecting cities. You play as a DARPA agent and its your job to prevent anymore attacks and rescue an important scientist. Binary Domain, on the other hand, is a little more down to earth. The story revolves around 'Hollow Children', androids that look like humans but also seem to be unaware that they are actually androids. This is against a treaty signed by the nations of the world and some evidence points toward a Amada corporation based in Japan. You play as Dan Marshal and, with your Rust Crew team, set out to find out whats going on. To be honest, I much preferred the story for Binary Domain of the two. At times it comes across as a little Blade Runner in its execution, plus with The Yakuza Team being behind it your pretty much guaranteed a decent narrative (Yakuza 3 is testament to that) The down to earth aspect always helps with making it more beleivable. hats not to say Vanquish has a bad storyline, it doesn't, but its just not as deep or involving as Binary Domain. Shinji Mikami stated that the game design of Vanquish itself was inspired by Casshern, an anime series from the 1970's, which is probably why the execution of the story gave me an anime vibe while playing through it. Either way, both stories aren't going to win any awards but you'll be happy with whichever you choose.
Even with both games being shoe-horned into the same genre, they both play radically different. Sure, both games feature a cover system/ammo cache/stores for upgrades & weapons/limited amount of weapons to carry and more staples of the genre. Its Vanquish here though that deviates the most of the two. Vanquish plays quite a lot differently to most Third-person shooters, never mind Binary Domain. It has a fast-paced style of gameplay reminiscent of 2D bullet hell shooters, while also chucking in the odd beat 'em up elements and an original sliding-boost mechanic that adds to the game's fast paced gameplay. A bullet-time mechanic also comes into play when activated, using your boost meter to slow time and allow you to even the odds. A score is tallied up between sections in levels and a boss has to be conquered too, all adding up to feed the old-school arcade vibe you'll feel as you fire the game up. Binary Domain treads a more traditional path when it comes to its mechanics though, playing out as you'd expect most other shooters to do. A major part of the game is the Consequence System. Trust plays a part in the story mode on how the squad views the player. This affects both the storyline and the gameplay, where the characters behave differently depending on trust levels. Voice comms can also be used in an old-school Socom kinda way. Both games play well, but where Binary Domain plays like a traditional game, Vanquish plays more like a traditional SEGA game.
Both games offer up some nice visuals. Binary Domain goes for a sharper, cleaner image while Vanquish seems more detailed and packed with effects. Its difficult to judge on which is the better of the two with regards to graphics & sound so Ill let this excerpt from Made2Game do the job - Vanquish likes to wow the player with huge amounts of excellent effects and visual filters to accentuate the action. Some nice design touches include the game being set within a cylindrical space station that allows the player to see the world stretching out in front and indeed above them in more than a slight nod to Halo, along with some excellent enemy design - the transformer-style movements that some of the larger bosses use to transition between different phases of attack patterns in particular can be quite spectacular to witness.
In contrast, Binary Domain lacks much of the in-your-face flashiness of Vanquish; indeed, on the surface it actually comes across as quite a sterile looking game. Happily though, this style actually complements the tone of the game well, with huge corporate blandness engulfing the super clean and passionless world of future Tokyo. Also, the way that the body armour of the many robo-foes you face falls off as you shoot it looks fantastic as well as giving good visual clues as to the damage you are dealing. The facial animation, seemingly taken wholesale from Yakuza, is excellent, and the way the metal structure of the ‘hollow children’ (what the game calls robots that look no different to humans - think Blade Runner’s replicants) shows through and melds into flesh looks fittingly horrifying. SO its really down to preference on this aspect too.
When it all comes to a head like now in the closing paragraph, its tough to choose one over the other. Both offer such different gameplay that each is worthy of a playthrough. With how cheap they can be had for these days, theres no excuse for not trying them either. If push comes to shove, then Id pick Binary Domain. While its gamplay probably isn't as good, with it coming from The Yakuza Team it more than makes up for that with every other aspect of its design. I still say you should try both though If you don't want to end up like the 'Hollow Child' in the picture above.

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