We're lying on the floor, dying. Luckily, our AI partner, Big Bo, is nearby.
"Help!" we shout into our headset, taking advantage of the game's voice control features. "I'm coming, man!" replies Bo, one of the most stereotypical African American characters in video game history. Except he isn't coming. He's just standing next to us. "Help!" we shout, the screen fading to red, indicating our imminent demise. "I'm coming, man!" Nothing. He's still just standing there. He isn't even shooting at any enemies. "Help!" "I'm coming, man!" We bleed out and die.
Binary Domain is a third-person shooter from the team behind the Yakuza series. Its big gimmick is that you can use a headset to issue commands or talk to characters. This would be cool, if only the AI wasn't so disastrously thick, and the speech recognition so hit and miss.
Either they hear your commands and refuse to follow them, or they think you've said something completely different. Whenever we shout "Regroup!" in our loudest, clearest voice, Big Bo thinks we're saying his name. "Wassup, man?" he replies as enemies overwhelm and kill him.
Honestly, it's easier to use the controller. Then the game actually becomes fun, because you don't have to worry about your dimwitted companions ignoring or mishearing you. You just press a button and choose from a selection of pre-set commands, and they respond instantly. When you choose to play without a headset connected, the game protests that you won't have as much tactical control, which is a lie. Ignore it, don't bother with the voice control at all, and just enjoy the game for what it is: a dumb, enjoyable, super-simplistic cover shooter.
LOVE AND HATE
You play as Dan Marshall, a member of an elite group of soldiers whose job is to hunt Hollow Children: machines that look and act like humans, but who don't actually know they're robots.
As you might expect from the writers behind the Yakuza series, the story is compelling and well told - even though the dialogue of the main characters is made up entirely of terrible action movie one-liners. It's never a masterpiece of narrative, but it's better than most shooters.
What's really clever is how interactive it is. Occasionally characters will stop and ask you a question. Depending on how you respond - which you can do by either pressing a button or speaking into your headset - their opinion of you will change. The more they like you, the more receptive to your orders they'll be. If you've pissed them off, they'll ignore you. It makes you feel like you're actually taking part in the story, rather than just watching it play out in cut-scenes.
In an early level, Dan and Big Bo team up with Faye, a beautiful Chinese agent. As you move through the level, Bo comments on her 'great ass', and asks you what you think. If you join in with the blokey cat-calling, his opinion of you will rise, but Faye's will drop - and vice versa. Later, a fifteen year-old girl flirts with Dan and asks him if he'll be her boyfriend. If you say yes, you'll get negative points from your entire squad. The game has a keen sense of humour.