Coming from ex-Avalanche devs, Biomutant aims to deliver something that doesn’t just feature a lot of spectacle, but offers up a compelling narrative. The game also uses a fairly unique way of telling its story by largely being in the in-game present, but using flashbacks to infuse the adventure with not only more context to how your customizable character’s life came to be, but also throw in some sleek faux-VHS filters over the action to help sell the flashback itself. As is often the case in modern-day games, a massive calamity event has occurred and it’s up to you to help bring the world back together – or help tear it apart if you want.
The sense of choice is very much akin to Sucker Punch’s Infamous series, with a bit of a different take on it since tribal warfare plays a part in the adventure too. Beyond light and dark side alignment leading to different levels of powers and weapons being able to be accessed earlier and a different appearance, choosing one path over the other leads to some pretty funny little banter between the angel and devil avatars. It’s far more humorous than it has any right to be and winds up adding some much-needed levity to the proceedings. Your character’s family was wiped out by the big bads of the world known as the worldeaters and as the name implies, they’re gigantic and imposing.
Those wanting to scratch a Monster Hunter itch can definitely do so with Biomutant, and the game’s ability to work as not only a way to battle massive foes but also have fun taking out smaller enemies while exploring the world makes this a more user-friendly alternative to other games out there. It seems like it might be a knock to say that, but if someone has been curious about Monster Hunter games and just doesn’t want to take the plunge, then Biomutant can help get them familiar with some of the concepts and principles – like parrying to nix damage then following up with action commands. Here, a pair of button presses with proper timing will not only avoid damage, but allow you to deal out a lot of it very quickly.
It’s satisfying to take a foe down bit by bit with a gun, then run up close for sword-based attacks – a bit like Devil May Cry in that regard – and then take them down when they go for a big shot and counter it right away to take them out. There’s a thrill to the combat here that other games can’t quite match and a lot of that comes down to the sheer amount of variety available for attack types and play types. If you’re a first-person shooter fan who loves playing as a sniper, then going with a long-range ranger may be best. You’ll still have melee attacks, but your longest-range shots will deal out more damage and help take out larger groups from afar.
Beyond just preferring ranged or stock guns, there are also many preferences for attack affinity – like psi powers that enable longer-range elemental attacks that aren’t limited to ammo counts. The variety of ways to attack and choosing how the player approaches the adventure is impressive, especially since it’s possible to change course to varying degrees throughout the adventure. Want a psi-infused character that wields high-powered melee attacks? Have at it as long as you take out the enemy bases for your affiliated group; taking out strongholds allows the player to build their skills and weapons up far beyond what they could through normal means.
Combat is natural and goes for a traditional control scheme with your left face button acting as a main melee attack, the top one being a special meter-limited power attack, and your triggers assisting with fine aiming, firing, alongside normal stick usage for movement and aiming. Playing with the DualShock 4 feels great, but the DualSense’s larger handles make it a more comfortable option. Unfortunately, gyro controls aren’t baked in – so gyro aiming isn’t possible yet. Given how much more precise that is than stick-based aiming, hopefully support for it gets patched in later on. As it stands, both short and long-range combat feels natural and rewarding to use.
One area that Biomutant gets right that a lot of games get wrong is the sense of power that you should feel as you level up and gain more skill. Leveling up your weaponry leads to things like better aim and more damage, and like a well-crafted JRPG or Metroidvania system it does make the player feel more powerful as it takes less damage to take out bigger foes and of course, you can take less damage as well over time or you can choose to buff other stats. Going for more agility for your level-up bonus makes it easier to evade, while buffing your intelligence makes puzzles easier to solve.
The mix of action and puzzle solving is fantastic, and for those wanting more action and tire easily of too much puzzle-solving, you’ll be in for a treat. The puzzles are there and pose a healthy challenge as the adventure goes on, but don’t wear you down mentally or come off like a chore at any point. They’re very much like what we’ve seen with Uncharted or 3D Zelda games where they’re brain-teasers, but can be solved quickly – keeping the focus on the combat while still offering up some variety.
Visually, Biomutant is as hit and miss a game as I can recall in quite some time. The environments themselves have a lot going on – but the detail looks a bit iffy and more on-par with either an early PS4 game or latter-day PS3 game like The Last of Us. Going between the base PS4 and playing it on the PS5 showed a minor boost in detail on the PS5, but nothing that brought it up to the level of what would be expected in a 2021 release. However, in keeping with the team’s experience with Just Cause 3 and Just Cause 4 – where the former looked fantastic, but couldn’t keep up and so Just Cause 4 featured massive visual downgrades in exchange for better overall performance – it makes a lot more sense. Here, the framerate on the base PS4 is mostly good with some drops – while it’s rock-solid on PS5.
The graphics are definitely not cutting-edge and yet remain pretty good-looking overall thanks to a consistent framerate and lush environments. Nothing looks quite as good as it should though and it definitely feels like a game that’s being held back a bit visually no matter what system you’re playing it on. Over time it should look better, but as it stands now it looks good with room for improvement when it comes to things like fur. The photo mode is top-notch stuff and allows you to have a lot of control over the kinds of shots taken and really does a lot to showcase how good the game can look with bloom effects on shots helping to accent the graphics.
Biomutant’s sound design is strong across the board, with both its voice work and sound effects working in concert to build the world up. The cast does a fantastic job of bringing life to the characters and making your avatar a sympathetic character with flashbacks and then going to the present day where he can either be bitter or kind. The soundtrack works for both big battles and smaller moments, and adds a relaxing element to things when they get hectic with calming menu music. It’s a top-shelf soundtrack and one that sticks with the player after a long play session. The sound effects for enemies around you and your various attacks all hit a bit different – making a pistol shot feel different from a sniper rifle – while a good set of headphones helps drive home the excitement when you’re surrounded by a sea of enemies.
Biomutant isn’t perfect, and it’s got some odd visual jank that drips into other elements of the game – but overall, it’s far greater than the sum of its parts. Combat is a treat and it feels natural to shift between melee and ranged combat, while having a high degree of variety in what you can do at all times. Definite improvement is needed on the performance side of things when it comes to the base PS4 version, and hopefully the game gets some PS5-specific improvements visually down the road. As it stands now, Biomutant is a flawed, but super-fun game that is well-worth picking up as long as you come into it with an open-mind and are prepared for an experience that may not top the charts visually, but offers a fun blend of combat that can’t be found anywhere else.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: THQ Nordic
This review is based on a digital copy of Biomutant for the PlayStation 4 provided by THQ Nordic.