Preview: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

So far, I'm not really sure I like Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. Some context: I'm a huge fan of both the original Bionic Commando and its 2008 remake, Bionic Commando Rearmed. They're two of the cleverest, most challenging games around, a real treat for someone that's been playing games for nigh on twenty years.

So why am I unsure of Rearmed 2? Because Fatshark had the audacity to change things -- and if you're a cranky old codger like me, you might be resistant. The rest of you, however, will probably welcome the game with open (bionic) arms.
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The most obvious change is the ability to jump, which we've known about since the game was first announced. I have to admit that it does make some things easier, like getting past two-foot-tall obstacles. Spencer can't jump very high mind you, so you'll still need to make prodigious use of his bionic arm to get around. Another change is that Spencer can now climb ledges, which is likely great news to anyone who ever just missed a jump in the first game.

However, the major control change, for me at least, is with the swing mechanic. In the first Rearmed, releasing from a swing was as easy as holding the analog stick in the direction you wished to leap. Now, the grapple will always stay attached until it's manually released by pressing the B button. It seems like a minor tweak, but it really alters the flow of swinging and makes it more difficult. I was told by Capcom's Rey Jimenez that the change was made in order to prevent players from accidentally disconnecting the grapple. He added that Fatshark strove to remove anything that was "unnecessarily difficult or awkward." I guess he's got a good point, but Bionic Commando vets will definitely have to adjust.

Beyond these changes, the sequel is same game retro fans loved the first time around with some new editions: Rearmed 2 includes an even brighter color scheme and a redesigned Spencer, who now sports a mustache and a different hairstyle. The levels are more varied too, thanks to the new jump ability, which allows Spencer to reach heights he couldn't before. The two levels I played were fairly large, featuring plenty of secret areas.

In addition to the weapons available to Spencer, there are now "component" stations located within different areas of each level. These components can add either passive or active abilities to the bionic arm. There were two active abilities in the demo: a grenade launcher and a bionic uppercut. The one passive ability was a health regenerator, which was very handy during boss fights. Spencer can only have one active and one passive component active at a time, so deciding which to equip when you find a component station is a strategic choice.

Some enemies may be easier to defeat with one option, for example, but another component might allow Spencer to reach a secret area. One component in particular, the grenade launcher, was actually required to defeat a boss -- a fact that took several deaths to figure out. Jimenez informed me that the final game will have over a dozen components, many of which may offer access to new areas in levels you've already beaten.

So, there are a lot of new things to ingest in Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. Many could be difficult to accept initially for the bionic veterans out there, though anyone frustrated by the original will probably see the changes as a godsend. Remember though, Rearmed 2 is still being developed by the core team members that made the first, and they certainly proved themselves the first time around. As a real fan of the series, I'm willing to put in a little extra practice for the chance to keep swinging.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.