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3 November 2008 1,762 views No Comment

Even though it was inevitable, I’m still pleasantly surprised to see that BioShock 2 is already to the point where they have a little trailer out for it.

It was only about a year and a half ago that Bioshock smashed into the gaming scene like an overhyped meteor. Critical acclaim for this game would have had you believing that it was Jesus coming back in DVD-ROM form.

While many gamers complained that this was a watered down Kids-R-Us version of System Shock with hint arrows and infinite lives, others embraced it as the game of the year pointing towards it’s strong storyline and next-gen graphics. Well actually, a lot of the gamers who embrace Bioshock just pretended that the game is flawless.

Personally, I’m torn between the two lines of thinking. I’m generally not one to point to storyline when any aspect of the gameplay is weak, but I found the story in Bioshock (complete with grade-A voice acting) to be one of the most engaging I’ve ever played through. I had a hell of a fun time playing through the game twice. My biggest problem with Bioshock is that for all of its successes, it never lives up to the game it could have been. It’s like a naturally talented athelete who insists on skipping practices to snort cocaine.

All that said, I think Bioshock is a perfect candidate for my series on great games that have tragic, and painfully stupid flaws. Maybe 2k can take a couple of notes before finalizing the sequel. As always, I’m going to be very specific, so BE AWARE THAT SERIOUS GAME SPOILING SPOILERS AWAIT for everyone who hasn’t already beaten the game.

Would you kindly beta test the sequel?

Would you kindly beta test the sequel?

5. Best soundtrack that you never get to hear.

Bioshock has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory. Too bad you wouldn’t know that from playing through the game. From the Andrew Sisters to Frank Sinatra the game is loaded with kitschy-cool songs…that fade out after about 12 seconds to be replaced with stereotypical and monotonous “tension” hums. The in game Rapture-Reminders are incorporated brilliantly over the citywide PA system. Why not execute more of the music with Rapture Radio in the same way? Inescapable mood setting. Instead, like most of Bioshock’s failings, they buried their own genius.

4. You barely get to interact with water.

In terms of concept for unique game setting BioShock must score near 100%. A retro underwater city. In terms of execution, it must score near 15%. Save for the intro, you’re dry and and on foot for the duration of the game. The fact that there are times when you’ll be playing this game and forget that you are actually 20, 000 leagues under the sea is a travesty. While there are a couple of times when water is used creatively (mostly as background or something your peer at but can’t interact with) those times are few and far between. The missed opportunities for swimming, controllable submarines, scuba suits, rooms that suddenly take on water, etc. etc. etc. are mind boggling. By trying too hard to be thematically dark, they actually threw away a lot of their opportunities to be creative. By the time you’re spelunking the apartments and Atlas’s home for girls towards the end of the game you realizes that some of this crap looks like it could have been from a grainy DOOM mod. And that’s sad.

3. You transform yourself into a big daddy and the only ability you get is a limited screen view.

This is just so symbolic of the problems of Bioshock. Excellent concept, with an engaging explaination in the story, followed up by awful execution. How many gamers got excited and thought…”Oh hell no, they didn’t go there…oh snap! I’m going to become one of those things!” only to realize you just get your screen view shrunk into a circle. No awesome twisty arm to drill your opponents with. No charging stun / smash attack. No rigged rivet gun. Now you just moan and complain like a big daddy when you take damage. And trust me, you should be moaning and complaining.

2. Widespread insanity means no character interaction.

What a copout. You won’t be halfway through Bioshock before you realize that anytime you meet a character who isn’t a crazed zombie, they’re going to be crazy or dead pretty soon. I guess you can call Bioshock a survival/horror if you want, but this you against the world thing is getting pretty tired even for an FPS. How much more interesting would it have been to encounter single holdouts or small camps of survivors in Rapture who hadn’t succumbed? Or maybe some are in the midst of succumbing? Maybe some are fighting back and have optional missions for you. No, alas. There aren’t even any live cats for you to play with in Rapture.

1. The endings are a disaster.

You know what? I would have been cool with just two variations of the game. Having simply two distinct stories that unfold during the game. And Bioshock never really touted multiple endings as its strong point. But as it stands, the Bioshock endings make Fable look like Fallout. Obviously, the only real choice you make in the game is whether or not to kill the little sisters. But the effect is has on the story is so minimal it’s painful. Adding insult to injury is the fact that both endings suck. As the coda to an epic underwater adventure that probably consumed a couple weeks of your life, you’re treated to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it afterward before being spat back onto the main menu. And since you’ll probably notice that there’s no multiplayer option there, you’d think they would have gone the extra mile for the story.

Speaking of storyline, my honorable mention for the stupid list: why the hell doesn’t Andrew Ryan just command you to kill Atlas (or otherwise do your bidding) once he knows who you are? Although Ryan’s suicide is dramatic and powerful it doesn’t really make much sense. Granted he’s not the picture of sanity, but why would such a strong character kill himself when he’s still got options? Not to mention he leaves the damn self-destruct override key lying around with you, Atlas’s lackey, as the only one left alive in the room. What the hell was he thinking?
So it will be interesting to see where the sequel goes from here. I’ve heard mumblings that they were planning a prequel where the action would surround Rapture’s downfall, but the trailer seems to indicate something in the future. As it stands, the conclusions offered up in the first one were so short that it would be easy to work around them. So long as 2K takes my list to heart, we should be in for a perfect game.

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