Last year’s Biomutant was Swedish studio Experiment 101’s first official release and despite being led by some notable talent that previously worked on the Just Cause series, the game fell flat in a number of areas. Its handful of achievements with beautiful visuals, cool characters, and charming aesthetic that mixed playful whimsy with dark biotechnology were more-or-less neutralized by the mediocre combat, boring quests, and a story that clearly had bitten off more than it could comfortably chew. Overall, the game was met with a resounding “meh” from most, while many others would fall on either side of that middling feeling depending on how lucky or not they were with the unpredictable performance.
What’s worse, following the story of Biomutant is a mostly bland experience. Nothing ever really sticks out as particularly bad, and no one moment really blows you away. It’s all fairly rote and doesn’t change much from the array of decisions you make as you go through it, which, with how grandiose and ripe with possibility the setting feels, is a rather disappointing reality. Other than picking a general ideology and a tribe to favor at the beginning, most decisions in Biomutant will lead to roughly the same things. Lots of scuffles with other post-apocalyptic creatures, and the redundantly structured missions, all blur together pretty quickly and usually leave it to you to introduce your own variety into them.
"Following the story of Biomutant is a mostly bland experience."
The occasional boss fights are probably the highlights of the combat side of the game, as these giant “World Eaters” are fun to take on and pack a few surprises. The RPG and customization side of things is similar to everything else in that it constantly reminds you of it’s potential with the vast number of weapons and other items that can nudge your character into different directions, but rarely ever capitalizes on all of that with fights that largely play out the same few ways throughout the majority of the game. Especially in the first third or so of it.
The biogenetics and psi-powers do mix things up nicely with a commendable amount of variety on your end, but enemies’ attack patterns never really match you in that regard, and some visual effects from combat can obscure the enemy too much, making it impossible to anticipate their next move. Making that worse, the camera still gets caught up in surrounding shrubbery more than it should, interfering with an already impaired combat experience. With so many other great games that came out last year, Biomutant’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived, and perhaps deservedly so. It brought a lot of cool ideas to the table in terms of its design, and subsequent updates over the last year have improved some areas in notable ways, but at the end of the day Biomutant only ends up offering a few sparks of the roaring fire it could have been.
Now, with the native PS5 version in our hands it seems like the grand promise of Biomutant is a little closer to reality. The depth and lushness of the game’s world is much easier to appreciate, as running through it all at a solid frame-rate is undeniably charming most of the time. The variety of areas and characters you come across make the world feel like there’s almost something new to discover in it, despite the fact that most of those things are going to be strikingly similar to each other. The graphics of Biomutant were never really a problem, but now that these consistently well-done textures and gorgeous lighting techniques are met with equally solid performance and optimization, the game can convey its odd combination of cutesy weirdness and dystopian futurism even more convincingly.
"You can almost feel the much more substantial PS5 brute forcing its way through the limitations of the last gen version."
You can almost feel the much more substantial PS5 brute forcing its way through the limitations of the last gen version, and it even goes so far as to have three display modes; Quality mode which hits you with that 4k sharpness with a frame-rate capped at 30, performance that gets you 2k visuals at a pretty solid 60, and the far more compelling quality unlocked mode which tries—and generally succeeds—to have the best of both worlds with 4k resolution and an uncapped frame rate that seems to be at least 50 or 60 most of the time. With forced VRR turned on for my PS5 it’s even more stable, and to my eyes it looks like I could be getting more than 60 at times. The bottom line is that it rarely dips into anything low enough to notice, and that’s pretty cool for a game that just came out last year and looks as good as Biomutant does. That doesn’t fix the occasionally sloppy and often mediocre combat fundamentally, but it does smooth out the peaks and valleys of it and lets you see what it’s trying to do a little more clearly.
Attention was clearly paid to the PS5 in particular though, as I often noticed some clever implementation of the DualSense through sounds and vibrations that reflect little things like the subtle mechanical pitter patter of an old film projector, as well as some trigger resistance for shooting that makes the ho-hum combat a little more entertaining. Thanks to the performance improvements, the auto lock during combat feels a little more useful now too, yet not so much that I don’t still prefer to use the hard lock with R3 most of the time. On top of everything, a free PS5 upgrade is available with a clear, simple way to transfer your PS4 save over right from the main menu. This way, those that bought in early and perhaps shelved it because of its underwhelming state, have no reason to not give it a second chance now. That is, unless your main problem with the game was its redundant combat and bland missions. Those issues still persist of course, as this is still the same Biomutant that took some lumps for that last year.
"Now it’s an okay-to-good game that can actually realize what it’s trying to be and stand on its own two legs—for better and for worse—which is a much better look for Biomutant, as it does undeniably have some bright spots that are worth showing off."
Released in a questionable state originally, this version of Biomutant seems pretty serious about making up for that as much as it can. Aside from redesigning its core mechanics and general gameplay, this is about the most that could have been done to resuscitate Biomutant’s credibility and long-term reputation. It’s a reasonably good game that will give die-hard looters and customizers plenty to do if the game clicks with them, but overall, it’s still one of those games that insists upon its timelessness on the surface despite never really earning it. As it was, it was an okay-to-good game with bad performance, which is a bad combination, as the few things that do stand out will be hampered making the totality of the game betray its few triumphs. But now it’s an okay-to-good game that can actually realize what it’s trying to be and stand on its own two legs—for better and for worse—which is a much better look for Biomutant, as it does undeniably have some bright spots that are worth showing off.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Great performance gains; Still beautiful in its art design.
Fundamental flaws still present; Mediocre combat; Repetitive quests; Trite story.
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