When you think about the best action games you’ve ever played what immediately comes to mind? The Uncharted series? One of the many God of War games? Or perhaps you’ve got a soft spot ‘Lara Croft’ and the Tomb Raider games? Well, allow me to potentially blow your mind and tell you there’s a game that exists which is (maybe) better than all of your suggestions. One that can actually lay claim to being (one of) the best action games ever made, period (…perhaps).

And I guarantee you (probably) haven’t played it either because as it was widely reported by various games blogs, including this Gamasutra report from April 2012 in which it also details Mass Effect 3‘s early North American sales figures, my game in question had only shipped 20,000 units in North America in its first two months. That’s not good.

For those of you that can’t be bothered to click the above report, or simply haven’t cottoned on yet, first of all shame on you and second of all the game I’m harping on about is SEGA‘s Binary Domain. As I said before, (probably) one of the best action games ever made. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking it can’t be THAT great otherwise more people would have bought it and the sad truth is Binary Domain probably hasn’t sold much more than what it achieved in 2012. In fact VGChartz reports Binary Domain has sold a measly 270,000 units worldwide to date (the 19th of January 2014) A mere drop in the ocean when it comes up against other, big budget action titles. But don’t let its poor sales put you off, Binary Domain is a true best action game (candidate).

The main crux of why the few that have played Binary Domain love it and hold it in such high esteem is that it’s an action game that’s not simply happy being a slick, fun action romp, and to say Binary Domain is just that would be doing it a massive disservice. At a base level it’s one of the best third-person shooter experiences you can currently get your grubby little mits on, but Binary Domain boasts a genuinely interesting, original Sci-Fi setting and story (something which is extremely difficult to achieve in a world post-Blade Runner and Total Recall). It also presents some beautifully engaging features which, with a bit more polish, would’ve tipped the game into the category of a definitive ‘best action game ever made’. Despite this Binary Domain is still infinitely more captivating than its counterparts.

A screenshot of the Spider Mech boss from action game, Binary Domain

Summing up just how badly Binary Domain was marketed (if you could call how little the game got promoted, marketing) the main points that the game had initially been sold upon are small innovations compared to some of the brilliant features overlooked. Whilst its voice command system is a neat little addition, allowing the player to command and interact with their AI teammates in a fairly intelligent way, the novelty does wear off. The game’s advanced AI system means enemies adjust on the fly to combat the players advances but in reality is barely noticeable. The real magic lies within Binary Domain‘s consequence and augmentation systems, bringing RPG-like elements to proceedings. The consequence system essentially boils down to a system which tracks the trust levels between you and your teammates via your interactions. The more negatively you interact with a team member, the less trust they have of your character which may have repercussions when it comes to the games ending. By no means is it more complex or sophisticated as similar systems, the morality system in say the Mass Effect series for example, but it still adds an extra layer of interest and intrigue to a genre that has been done a thousand times.

Binary Domain‘s augmentation system is very much in the same vein. It allows users to add different stat boosting augments to different characters, boosting everything from HP and defence to evasion and inventory slots. Its attraction is down to how the augments work on their jigsaw like grid, preventing the player from using every augment all at once; so finding the right balance between which stat boosting abilities to use for each character comes down to trying and testing, combined with your own playing style. None of this is reinventing the wheel but, much like the consequences system, augmentations provide a refreshing twist to the third-person shooter genre formula.

A screenshot of a boss from action game, Binary Domain

So, it’s safe to say it’s not so much one single thing that makes Binary Domain utterly brilliant but more so a sum of its parts. With a few extra, unique additions in the form of its consequences and augmentation systems it merely builds on the fact that it’s a stand out third-person shooting experience. The recently mentioned Sci-Fi plot does what so many other third-person shooters fail to do – actually make you care about what’s going on. It’s baffling how so many games get it so wrong, but Binary Domain‘s story has an absorbing tale of the future, the environment, corporations and humanoids, with extra exploration of the relationships between different countries and their prejudices. It just so happens to have people with guns and lots of shooting in it too, all of which makes it about a million times more interesting than Manshooter: V or Guns & Bullets 2: More Guns.

One of my other main gripes with those types of third-person shooter experiences is that they take themselves far more seriously and instead to try drag some sort of emotion out of you. Like Commando with feelings. Binary Domain avoids this by some genuinely great writing that has you laughing out loud: a robot with a French accent, a macho, wise cracking lead character that verges on parody and some tongue in cheek character dialogue. Binary Domain is a game that has a sense of humour and it’s all the better for it.

We all know that third-persons live and die on their gameplay. It’s a fine line between repetitive entertainment and monotonous drivel. Binary Domain avoids this some way by constantly changing up it’s gameplay mechanics a little. To break up its shooting sections there are moments in vehicles, interactions with the environment and getaways. Nothing new perhaps, but these junctures are so well done that they never feel out of place or annoying. Rather than getting caught up with tedious frustrations with the fact that you are doing the same thing over and over again for hours on end Binary Domain is a glorious frolic through a robotic future, unaware of what is coming your way next.

And there you have it. Why Binary Domain may be the best action game ever made because it steers clear of all the pitfalls most action games fall into but, at the same time, adds its own unique additions to keep things interesting. To be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t just bother writing this little summary instead. Would’ve saved us both a lot of time and trouble. Oh well.

Written By Kieran Roycroft, 20th Jan ’14