Just what the world needs, you may be thinking, another sci-fi shooter set on a devastated future Earth. Ah, but Sega's Binary Domain, due out on Xbox 360 and PS3 next year, is being overseen by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the creator of the brilliant and offbeat Yakuza titles. And although the game is about humans battling an invading robot army, Nagoshi claims to be fed up with standard sci-fi blasters.
"What I wanted to create this time was a dramatic and energetic sci-fi shooter," he said recently, in earshot of whoever wrote Sega's press release. "When you hear sci-fi you may think of cold, clinical environments but with Binary Domain I wanted to combine this with a deep human drama. The keyword we have in mind for this project is 'Life'."
Indeed, it seems that there is to be some ontological soul-searching amid the highly strategic battles.
As the release continues:
Fighting through the derelict lower levels of the city, players control an international peace-keeping squad that soon starts to question their surroundings and the choices they made. Are the robots becoming more human, or are humans becoming more like machines?
Hmm, it's Vanquish meets Bladerunner? Rainbow Six meets Akira?!
Interestingly, both Sega and Nagoshi himself are keen to pitch this title at Western audiences, and hope that the theme of humanity wrestling with its own consciousness (as well as with giant battle droids) will have a universal appeal. The sentiment also echoes an ongoing crisis of confidence in the Japanese game design sector where studios are faced with both a declining native market and a global audience that has turned away from Japan's arcade-inspired titles, toward US mega-brands like Call of Duty, Halo and Grand Theft Auto (developed in the UK, of course, but for a US publisher).
Personally, I'm a little worried about Nagoshi's leap into the Tokyo of 2080ad. What makes the Yakuza series so vibrant and enjoyable is the games' side-quests and cultural meanderings, the strip tease joints and karaoke bars, the lively rendering of Shinjuku nightlife. It's doubtful any of that will survive a robot apocalypse. But let's wait and see.
For now, check out the trailer and let us know what you think.