Bioshock: A Defence

By Kieron Gillen on December 6th, 2007 at 12:43 pm.

This is a metaphor.

Now, I was planning on doing this at some point in our Advent games, but Tom over at EG and I were talking about the backlash against Bioshock. He wondered if I had anything to say, and waved some of that fat EG dollar. And lo – I did. 4000 words worth. I may keep my sanity by not reading the EG comments thread – as I noted in the piece…

You see, I was surprised to find BioShock’s not my favourite game of the year. I’m also aware that perhaps the intensity of discourse around the game had something to do with it. When I think of BioShock, I have to wipe away pages of forum nit-picking and genuinely bitter pub-based rows before I can even start thinking about, at its best, how clever and elegant it is and how on its own grounds it makes everything else released in this incredible year for videogames distinctly second-rate. For most of this year, I’ve been too tired to actually do this. But when the response to a patch with free new content is just a shrug and a bunch of whining over free stuff, I can’t help but think we – as a community – need a good slapping and a reminder that we should be a little bit grateful.

Something to annoy virtually everyone herein, I suspect. But, as my old mate Rorschach once said, we don’t do things because we choose to. We do them because we’re compelled.

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416 Comments »

  1. fluffy bunny says:

    I thought it was a very good read. And no, you shouldn’t even look at the comments thread at EG. It’s insane.

  2. Feet says:

    Well it’s certainly a provocative article… :P

    Also, don’t read the EG comments thread, you’ll only die inside. Again.

  3. Alec Meer says:

    I’m too stupid to understand.

  4. Pidesco says:

    I sent you a short e-mail on Bioshock’s meta theme. I hope I don’t come off as an insane Bioshock hating monkey.

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    You don’t, Pidesco. I mail back.

    KG

  6. cullnean says:

    woot need more watchmen quotes

  7. Dracko says:

    No-one cares about the patch, even as its free, because hey, a game shouldn’t have to be fixed, for one, and the new Plasmids are underwhelming. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean we should give a damn.

    Of course, this is a fault in BioShock. But it’s not a fault which you will necessarily hit, and it’s a fault that’s far more easy to avoid than the equivalent unbalancing in Oblivion. Just don’t go crazy with the camera.

    Don’t go crazy with an implemented game mechanic? Don’t use the resources given to you? Ignore a fault (it isn’t one, but fuck it’s embarrassing to be able to kill Big Daddies so easily with a wrench when you’ve researched them) by ignoring a method of game interaction? That’s a pretty bad defence there. Maybe if they’d bothered to make sure the research would assist the player without completely undermining the game’s difficulty, and therefore sense of personal vulnerability, there wouldn’t be a problem which requires you to say “Hey guys, don’t use the camera so much!”. The fault is entirely theirs.

    Because most players would rather be efficient than have fun. This is just the way many of us are wired, it seems.

    Yeah, lousy players, wanting to have as smooth an experience as possible. I don’t see how you can say this without coming off as a pretentiously defensive cunt.

    Your defence of the last third of the game is just utterly pretentious and trying too hard. Like reading The Escapist. Same with the moral issue: Both endings were dull, uninspired and refused to tackle any of the themes the game brought up at any point. When there is no moral choice (and there isn’t), there isn’t any personal investment. That the game beats you over the head with this even to the point where it rewards you for taking the good guy option in spite of what it claimed (And that’s forcing the player’s hand, incidentally. When I realised this, I only helped them because it benefited me. I couldn’t give a fuck less about little plastic bug-eyed critters that barely look like girls even once you’ve saved them). I mean, why would I want to help these things again? They’re vicious and all too ready to kill people off. Stabbing Fontaine to death in the same kind of vindictive pay-off as many, many Hollywood films do is NOT by any extent pushing the medium.

    BioShock believes in videogames and what videogames can be, and – if you go along with it – it’ll take you to places we’ve never really been before.

    I agree with the former. What it does however is nothing new. Frankly, all you’ve managed to show me with your article is that fans are indeed an annoying lot, especially those of sub-par games who feel the need to write defences then claim being alienated vindicates them somehow. Get off your fucking cross.

    Also, don’t give us the cutscene bullshit. Loading screens between transits are just as bad and remove from the sense of place. And you’re “rewarded” with dubious ones by the end anyway.

  8. Jae Armstrong says:

    Super Mario Galaxy had cutscenes?

    *goes to boot up Wii. Plays. Comes back*

    Okay, apparently it does have cutscenes. This makes me slightly confused in that ten minutes ago I would have sworn blind that there wasn’t ten seconds of hands off storytelling in the entire game.

    On the other hand my kneejerk response to that little paragraph (despite the fact that intellectually I know it follow Half Life in its incredibly self satified “look ma, no cutscenes!” approach) was that the number of times I was standing around doing nothing in Bioshock while people talked at me was… uncountably large.

    I think this is probably a psychological thing, down to the fact that Bioshock’s narrative is far more forward in the game than SMG’s. Obv.

    Moving swiftly on, I did make the mistake of reading the comments thread. Thankfully I sold my soul years ago, so I didn’t have anything to lose.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    I love Super Mario Galaxy, I stress. Just “Pure” is one of those words which always raise my hackles. It’s a bit Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Mario.

    KG

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    (And you’ll probably guess that I’m not going to much defending of the piece. Its’ 4000 words. I’ll almost certainly just be repeating myself)

    KG

  11. Muscrat says:

    It was one of my most anticipated titles this year, and was set to be my favourite – which it now isnt – and it was a little bit of a let down – but still exellent. However the backlash is a bit unjust. It is a great game.

    Methikns the big difference between Bioshock and Shock 2 imo, was that Shock 2 felt alot more like a survival horror, and Bioshock a (uh) – shooter.

  12. Theory says:

    For example, pre-patch PC fans were angry there was no option to walk on the PC. But – y’know – walking is about allowing you to move quietly. You can move quietly through the crouch, signifying creeping. In terms of the tactics allowed by your player, you can do the same.

    Tactically maybe, but not thematically. I’ve played the game with a controller and with a keyboard and the difference analogue movement makes is profound. When you aren’t forced to choose between running around like a nob and perambulating gently the game’s spaces become marvellously immersive. Creeping around nervously and making quick dashes is as natural as moving your thumb. It gives the design more meaning when you’re interacting with it in a more organic way.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Theory: You note, your argument has nothing to do with whether BShock is “Dumbed down”. It’s an immersiveness argument. I don’t disagree.

    KG

  14. Andrew says:

    One thing regarding the moral issue – I’ve no real problem with a binary ending, as such, in that even one Little Sister death is enough to doom you, but the problem is that it doesn’t apply to player redemption. I read things from quite a few players saying that they’d harvested one Sister then been shocked by it and rescued every single one of the others. But they still got the ‘Oh my you’re Darth Rapture’ ending, because the game doesn’t keep track of that.

    Same with people who stopped harvesting once they’d reached Tenenbaum’s sanctuary and seen the Little Sisters up close, away from the Big Daddies. While the first ‘redemption’ is somewhat nebulous, you’d have thought the game would be able to tell if you’d harvested Little Sisters post-Tenenbaum or not. That would have been a fairly easy thing to register, I think.

    That brings me to another criticism of the narrative – actually being brought to Tenenbaum’s in the first place if you’ve been harvesting every Little Sister you come across. I first thought the Sisters had rescued me because I was such a good guy and had rescued them – like for like, so to speak. But then I found out that this wasn’t the case and I was very disappointed.

    Meh.

    Bioshock is a good game. But it could have been better. A lot better. It’d be that film getting the Cinematography and Make-Up Oscars but none of the really big ones, essentially.

  15. Mr Pink says:

    Enjoyed the article Kieron. I think it was something which needed to be written- but I guess such a backlash was inevitable considering the hype the game received.

    SPOILERS FOLLOW

    While I’m firmly in the pro-Bioshock camp, I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the game nearly as much after the big reveal. My biggest complaint of all involves the sequence where you “become” a big daddy. During this time you are constantly told of the consequences of your actions. You are told this is an irreversable procedure. You are becoming a monster. I found this idea very interesting, and the mechanics (the bubble on the display when you put the helmet on, the “clump” of the boots) reinforced the horror at what I was becoming. But the game betrays itself. As soon as you arrive at Fontaine, the big daddy helmet disappears, and the boots stop stomping. And in the final movie, you are human again. What the hell? Where are my consequences?

    I hope this doesn’t come off as hugely negative, as I really loved Bioshock, but I thought this was indicative of a “lack of polish” in the story post “twist”.

  16. Andrew says:

    Oh, also – System Shock 2 had weapons upgrades.

    And the Invention system never felt right to me in Bioshock, because it didn’t seem real that you could make a first aid kit out of rubber hose and a bit of pipe. The ingredients didn’t match the end product except for the shotgun shell casings.

  17. Thelps says:

    In defence of KG’s article (not that he needs my assistance) he himself is writing ‘A Defence’ of Bioshock. It’s been my perception, and a lot of people’s, that the game has been treated unduly harshly for what is, in my opinion, one of the strongest narrative experiences any game has managed to execute. When I say this, I mean, on every single level. The game itself, the mechanics of combat, the need to scavenge weapons and armor, the art style, the characters, all complement the story-arc itself in a way that so few games manage to marry together. That Bioshock has little replay value is a testament to this in itself: the game is telling a story in a massively refined, balanced manner. Any variation on that story for the benefit of replayability weakens the quality of the storytelling itself. This is what leads me to sympathise with Ken Levine’s resistance to multiple endings, as, again in my opinion, it would strengthen the story itself to have a more open ended, ambiguous ending that makes less direct conclusions for the player, but rather invites them to think about what has happened for themselves.

    I absolutely agree with you Dracko, in that BioShock DOES cop out in a number of ways, in that it doesn’t always encourage you to try the full range of your options, and rewards you sufficiently for sticking to what you know, but, again, I believe that if it was more forceful about making you test your options then the game experienced would be narrowed as a result. As it stands, you pick how you want to play the game, and are free to vary your style as you go. If the game pressured you into making FULL use of every option available to you then surely you would find yourself forced into picking specific solutions much more often, as the developers tried to show off every little game mechanic they came up with, in fear of you not noticing them yourself. For example, because there are certain plasmids some people never use is, to me, a strength, since the game is clearly stating that they’re there if you want them, but it’s your choice to employ them, not merely the requirement of a contrived scenario so you can marvel at all the pretty little animations associated with each of them.

    I could go on but basically, I believe BioShock is an excellent game, one showing a hugely coherent narrative that bleeds into the gameplay much more than the vast majority of narrative-based games. I believe it’s more a good game than a bad game, and that definition is predicated on how it uses the narrative as its utter focus, even so far as into the sense of choice of HOW you play the game (mirrored by the narrative’s binary choice of how to deal with the Little Sisters, and the clear political motivations and choices of the city of Rapture as a whole, and of the characters you encounter via the recorded logs). I totally see Dracko’s point, but I chose to overlook his criticisms as they appear within the game (though the ones I don’t refute I consider completely valid).

    I didn’t get much sleep last night, and my argument has holes, most of which I’m confident I can fill, with a little more coffee, but I think BioShock DESERVES the benefit of the doubt because, to me, its a sub-genre of game that isn’t attempted often, and that has chosen a rather unique path which could do great things, if followed by more developers.

  18. Piratepete says:

    I am struggling to put my finger on why, for the first few hours I was “Wow” with Bioshock, the setting, the music, the beautifully constructed non-cutscene set pieces (The pram shadow for example), and yet felt so unsatisfied at the end of it.

    I think its easy to blame the game, but is it that I as a gamer suffer from a kind of FPS ADD, where after the initial wow you end up wanting to find the end of the story, and in the urge to get to the end you don’t appreciate the journey at all. I mean I thought I was pretty thorough about investigating each area but was I? Obviously not due to not seeing the Pavlovian electric shock thingy John mentioned.

    Having recently just finished it I am coming to the conclusion that I am going to play it again (a rare thing for me), and this time be the good guy.

    In essence I suppose I feel that it was perhaps too easy towards the middle and the end, and I (certainly one evening where I was tired and a bit ratty) did ‘rort’ through certain sections missing perhaps key things and using vita chamber like they were going out of fashion. I completely missed why the Vita Chambers aren’t used by the Splicers. However I also missed some of the narrative through pure practicality, such as a sleeping baby next door that i needed to be able to hear but not wake up with the screams of splicers being eviscerated.

    If you played Bioshock can you truly say that you gave it the full attention that it perhaps deserved? Is it that it was so rich in detail that we collectively missed key elements that made it all hang together?

    I fully agree with Johns point, personally I am now a pipemania expert after hacking everything in site, was that just lazy because it was easiest for me to do? Should I have deliberately challenged myself to be inventive or should the game have challenged my inventiveness?

    Is it really the Developers fault if we are too lazy to appreciate or see the effort that has gone in to make it a coherent plot, or rich and detailed world setting? Does the average gamer need to be lead more by the hand in this age of high def graphics where it is no longer the case where a door can be found by looking at the change in texture on its surface? Do we need to have ‘plot item glint’ as well as loot glint?

    Or shall we just blame it all on being dumbed down for the 360?

    I haven’t got the answers but I think I am going to play it again in the near future with the headphones on and give it my full concentration, and with the vita chambers off.

  19. Andrew says:

    On the other hand, things I liked about Bioshock:
    1. The masterful opening.
    2. The weighty combat.
    3. Some of the plasmids.
    4. The setting.
    5. The ghosts – better than SS2′s, though the logs definitely weren’t.
    6. The big twist.

    Definitely a game people need to play. But I like picking holes in things, and Bioshock can have many holes picked in it. And there were bits that genuinely disappointed me, as mentioned above.

  20. Matthew Gallant says:

    Wow, what part of the game is that screenshot from (the “Smuggler” one)? I don’t remember seeing it, which is strange because it looks like it would be really memorable.

  21. Andrew says:

    It’s from the very beginning of the docks area that you enter, very early in the game. After your first bathysphere journey, I think.

  22. drunkymonkey says:

    “Your defence of the last third of the game is just utterly pretentious and trying too hard. Like reading The Escapist.”

    Jesus fucking Christ, you really hate The Escapist, don’t you?

    As far as the article itself goes…it’s funny, because as someone who would deem Bioshock a very good game rather than, say, an excellent one, I do agree that the narrative is brilliant, and the morals presented to you are probably the most complex ever in a videogame. One of the strange things I picked up on – and I do wonder if anyone else did – is that when Atlas tells you “would you kindly pick up a crowbar or something” even though you do indeed pick up “something”, it isn’t a crowbar. Lo and behold, a lot of the people who will play Bioshock will be fans of Half Life, and so they might find it disappointing, or at least unexpected, that they’ve picked up a wrench instead of a crowbar. I’m probably looking too much into this, but I presume that the designers were trying to give the player the same sense of disappointment that the protagonist would feel by not fully carrying out Atlas’s orders. But then this is more than likely complete dribble.

    My main point is thus: Internet fanboys are a rabid lot, and I do find it annoying that I can hardly go to any sites without people bickering and insulting both their opponents and their dislikes because of what they feel is right, and the best. Bioshock was a typical example of this. In the EG comments thread, you have people purposely mis-quoting Kieron to make it sound as if he thinks Bioshock is the best game this year. The insanity, intolerance, and spitefulness is really dispiriting to see, and to be honest makes me lose a bit of hope for games as a medium. If fans could only debate about these things logically and politely, then that would be great, and I think gaming itself would lose the negative image of itself. But when you have people on supposed mature gaming comments boards, such as The Escapist, GamePolitics and even this one calling other people “pretentious cunts”, claiming if they ever saw Jack Thomspon they’d go right up to him and kill him to prove that gaming doesn’t effect anyone, and the other malarkey that goes on, I can’t see progress in that field being made.

  23. Piratepete says:

    Oh and I fully agree with Andrew about the little sisters, if you are going to have multiple endings then I would have thought a redemption ending would have made more sense than the black and white version we got.

  24. Piratepete says:

    Matthew Gallants comment is interesting, he didn’t see the hung smuggler, but I did, yet I still don’t know why the splicers don’t use the chambers.

    People missing out on different parts of the narrative maybe?

    *rubs chin*

  25. Steve says:

    I just thought the general combat mechanics were a bit weak, and I don’t know how a first-person shooter can get 10/10 without great shooting.

    Maybe I need to evolve.

  26. Matthew Gallant says:

    I probably saw him at the time, he just dropped out of my memory like my math skills after a final.

  27. Steve says:

    Piratepete, they’re tuned to Ryan’s (and therefore your) genetic code. That is pretty clearly explained in game, so if you didn’t know that, it really does validate Kieron’s point about people not paying attention.

  28. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    Yea the EG forums are a bit of a sesspit at the best of times. Not sure why Kieron was ‘compelled’ to write this as I, personally, saw no reason to defend it. Fab game…not the greatest, but very enjoyable and a good addition to my ever-expanding collection of 360 games.

  29. I_still_love_Okami says:

    Just because Bioshock failed to live up to all the things people were expecting it to do (i.e. be something that transcends gaming and leads humanity to a bright future where everybody lives happily forever and has sex with beautifull women all the time.) doesn’t make it anything less than a great game.

    It could be argued that it failed in many respects. But it only failed relative to what it was trying to do, compared to other games it excelled in most departments.

  30. Dot says:

    There is one single flaw in all of that: you can’t have a spiritual sequel to a FPS/RPG without actual RPG elements, as far as I am concerned. I did play through the game and I did enjoy it somewhat, but it staggers me that regardless of all the technical innovation, it plays far worse than SS2 did, and unlike SS2 which I replayed a total of five times, I’ll probably never touch Bioshock again.

  31. Bonus says:

    I loved the article.

    As a developer at a small company who knows how much time and effort goes into even what would be considered “small” and not particularly stellar scoring games it’s encouraging to see people sticking up for truely great games.

    I can see where the time and effort must have been spent getting things in and it’s always a push to get something out the door in the end but these guy’s must be commended on making a game worthy of a debate and not just another title to be thrown away and forgotten about a couple of months later.

  32. Jachap says:

    I loved Bioshock and I largely agree with your article, Kieron.

    The repetition issue is a tough one. Bioshock is really no more repetitive than any other game. The trouble is, it has the balls to give you the full range of options pretty much right from the start instead of rationing out the abilities level by level, in the old Command and Conquer “Have the really good tank now” sort of way.

    This means that by the second level, you’re electrocuting people in water, igniting them when they’re standing on oil etc. And you can repeat those actions as much as you like until the end.

    The reason people pick up on the repetitive nature of doing so is because… there’s all these other plasmids. You’re led to think that – given how Adam has corrupted a whole city and how totally awesome it must be – that by the last level, you’ll have even more options for manipulating the environment to your will. In reality, you’re still setting people alight/electrocuting puddles.

    I harvested Little Sisters because that’s what Atlas told me to do (and I was doing everything else Atlas said so…) and I wanted to become fucking Superman.

    The fact was, I didn’t ever become Superman and if I have a real criticism of Bioshock its that. I felt like the Plasmids were an extension of my arsenal. I used them and my guns though, really, I had hoped that, by the end, they would have superseded my “conventional” weaponry all together and I could just deck the halls with Splicer blood at the click of a finger.

    Anyway, whilst failing to become Superman, I found out about Atlas and visited the nursery and thought, “What a horrible murdering fool I’ve been.” Everything about that section spoke to me directly, in the reverse way it spoke to Andrew, I thought the Sisters had rescued me because I was their only hope and it the only way to show me what an ogre I was being.

    That’s proof, if anything, that the narrative is a powerful one. It played on the role I had taken and the role Andrew had taken – despite the fact we chose different options.

    So I changed my ways. As an enemy of Atlas, I was, by extension, a friend of the Little Sisters. That was just part of the U-Turn incurred by Atlas’ revelation.

    The idea that you can continue to play and still Harvest Little Sisters, despite the fact you are obligated to protect them, just baffles me slightly. I mean, if you do that, you really are a cunt and the ending should have been the Little Sisters killing Fontaine and then swamping/killing you, too. That’s got a sort of poetry to it.

  33. Tellurian says:

    I guess it’s just my personal thing to find the combat mostly annoying, and thus through the endless repetition provided by the rampant respawning pretty much wrecking the game for me for the most part.
    I played through it, enjoyed some parts, like it even overall, yet due to me totally buying into the hype can’t shake of the feeling of diappointment.
    I wanted to love it, hug it and hold it forever, but… This is no relationship material. One night stand okay, but I’d rather be gone when morning comes, so I can just stick with the memories and not face the painful truth.
    (Tellurian just gained +3 on his geek score)
    And that’s hopefully the last thing I’ll have to say about Bioshock online.

  34. Andrew says:

    Jachap, that’s a great idea about the ending. It would have made so much more sense than the ‘muahahahahaha now take over the world’ bollocks.

    As Kieron says in the article, even Bioshock’s lowest ebb (the final battle) has good points. Or at least one good point. Which is the way the Little Sisters deal with him. That was brilliant. The rest of that section… nah. Not brilliant.

  35. Dracko says:

    Thelps: I agree with you with the options. What annoys me in the defence is then hearing that somehow being an efficient player is a bad thing.

    What pissed me off the most about BioShock in the end was that for all the claims of environment, there wasn’t one: You get this brilliant set-up at the beginning and a brilliant mid-game moment (Hephaestus should have been the end point, honestly) and then what does it do? Make you face off superzombies, a tank and screaming little girls in some exceedingly restrictive corridors. With loading screens between them. Whatever happened to the idea of the player having to genuinely use a living, breathing environment? All you have are maniacs rushing at you with lead pipes and the like. They seldom bother to do what we were told they would do: Search for Adam, wander around, get in fights (Instead, they just want you all dead). This isn’t a world, it’s a bloody shooting gallery. I can think of far older games that at least made your enemies come off as, you know, characters, by virtue of context alone.

    drunkymonkey: The Escapist is pandering elitist nonsense and one of the many reasons gaming will have yet to be considered seriously for a long while going. It puts in evidence a frustrating symptom of games not wanting to tackle themselves on their own grounds or even merits. And I don’t intend to kill Jack Thompson, like you’re so quick to assume (Which doesn’t make you any better than any other rabid fanboy, incidentally), I just think Kieron here is being a nonce, and an insulting one at that. You can’t write an article calling people idiots for not liking your precious game and then claim you’re a martyr for the Internet Hate Machine. The notion that he was “compelled” to do so further proves that BioShock fans really aren’t secure with the way the medium is going. It’s a footnote game in that regard.

    The most unfortunate thing here is, and I’m sure many will agree, there were the makings of something great here.

    Somehow when Yahtzee says it, people laugh and laugh and roll on their backs. Funny that.

  36. Dracko says:

    Oh, and Dot, the last thing FPS games need are RPG mechanics. Talk about a lack of self-assurance in game design.

  37. drunkymonkey says:

    “And I don’t intend to kill Jack Thompson, like you’re so quick to assume (Which doesn’t make you any better than any other rabid fanboy, incidentally),”

    And I don’t assume you intend to kill Jack Thompson, as you’re so quick to assume. I was making a statement about the Internet gaming community a whole.

    And you’re also quick to assume that Kieron is calling people idiots. I don’t know where you got that idea from, but it’s one without merit.

    And as far as The Escapist goes, it’s pretty much irrelevant to this topic, but what I will ask is: where else do you think we can forward games journalism? Gamespot, perhaps? Jostiq? 1up? The Escapist, much like Edge, is a publication that treats games seriously, and while a few articles are sub-par, the majority is thoughtful intellect.

  38. Lorka says:

    Games leave themselves open to missed subtlety more than any media. I had to grit my teeth in a pleasant smile as a friend stumbled blindly through the exquisite world of HL2, blind to all but the most glaring spectacles.

    Thinking about it, I took the same approach to Bioshock after a while. The combat mechanics weren’t perfectly fluid, and I felt like the Rand references were bloodily on the nose. Quite soon, I was powering through sighing at conventional set piece design and pedestrian weaponry.

    Now Kieron, I feel like I may have missed out.

  39. Kieron Gillen says:

    To be honest, Dracko, I stopped reading when you used the word “Pretentious”. It’s one of my off switches.

    KG

  40. kwyjibo says:

    The most serious criticism of BioShock is that it’s combat does not match the lofty heights set by Halo, Half-Life et al. That in trying to revolutionise everything, it forgot what was most important.

  41. Dracko says:

    Kieron: No surprises here.

    And you’re also quick to assume that Kieron is calling people idiots. I don’t know where you got that idea from, but it’s one without merit.

    We were reading the same article, yes?

    The Escapist takes games anything but seriously.

  42. Kieron Gillen says:

    Really, no offence, Dracko. It’s just one of the things which make me sigh when said in an actual perjorative fashion. I’ll come back later and read everything properly, I’m sure.

    The only actual thing I consider an actual insult in the piece is the stuff about people’s ignorance of history influencing their views. I couldn’t work out a way to say people lacked some knowledge without making it one.

    KG

  43. hazylium says:

    The most serious criticism of Bioshock was what Dracko mentioned earlier: contrary to the pre-release hype, Rapture didn’t actually feel like an environment populated by creatures that felt like they actually lived in the place, rather than simply being bog-standard videogame enemies, as they turned out to be.

    Given that this was one of the primary reasons a lot of us were interested in the game in the first place, you can hardly begrudge us for feeling disappointed.

  44. drunkymonkey says:

    Kw: I actually thought the combat in Bioshock was quite good. While I haven’t played Condemned for its blunt weapon goodness so couldn’t compare, the first time I used the wrench in Bioshock felt very kinetic, and very satisfying. The later weapons, like the tommy gun, were less impressive.

    Unless of course you mean the AI of the enemies. In which case, yeah, they’re not as challenging as the ones in Half Life, with their intelligent cover-seeking AI, but methinks they weren’t supposed to be. They were meant to be crazed, and not at all bothered about tactics.

    But overall, I agree. The combat certainly did not match the cinematics of those shown in the trailers, and it was that kind of mis-leading hype that Irrational really should have avoided. Aside from the physics plasmid, the game kept reminded me that I was firmly rooted to the limits of my arsenal, and the environment around me, and my body, could not be exploited as they seemed to be in the CGI.

    When you look at it though, very few games, if at all, allow you to properly do this, aside from dreaded ATEs and scripted moments. No one really capitalised on the ideas put forward by Red Faction, and Dice’s Mirror Edge is a long way off. Sure, it could have tried to innovate, but it had its hands full enough with crafting an original world and the most morally driven narrative in gaming.

  45. Alistair says:

    You know how in Being John Malkovich the character who takes Malkovic over is a puppeteer? He wants to create great art & drama in his chosen medium… and everyone thinks he’s a twat because they’re just puppets. I see Bioshock as limited in the same way. As Ken said, it’s a shooter. You can refine the genre all you like, and create whatever kind of setting or backstory you like, but when the only thing I can actually do is… shoot, you ain’t never going to achieve nothing. You can say – No! There are no choices! That’s what’s so great! Personally, I would fire up say, Oblivion and choose to do or not do a bunch of things. Problem solved, by games that have, you know, choices.

    Bioshock does a lot of great things, but like all shooters, it’s a Quake TC.

  46. Butler says:

    I read several reviews. I played through BioShock on the 360 (crime?) I rarely stray away from game related banter, but this really is an exception.

    I honestly have no fucking clue what all the fuss is about.

    It’s a very accomplished game (95%).

    Fin?

  47. Jim Rossignol says:

    Dracko: your problem with “RPG mechanics” is presumably levelling, D&D stats etc, rather than the idea of a more open environment with more interactive possibilities than shooting?

    I normally take the idea of FPSs “learning” from RPGs to mean that FPS could be wider, with scope for talking to the monsters, etc.

    My problem with Bioshock was largely one of structure. I love almost everything about it – even the combat. But I nevertheless knew, and was annoyed by, the fact that it was just a linear shooter. It never opened up, never really used a hub structure, never returned me through previous areas as in System Shock. I wonder whether if Bioshock had been structured a little more like, say, Stalker whether we’d have had half these criticisms.

    As for all this hoo-ha generally, I think Bioshock was just a very big target. The fact that the people who might have been rabid about have actually been disappointed, and therefore fairly quiet, has led to a mass slaying of it. Exactly the opposite to how, say, Halo games are received. No one has leaped to the defense of Bioshock – except for Kieron – which means it’s all too easy to kick it to death.

    Finally, can folks please not call anyone a c***, under any circumstances. It’s unacceptable. Thanks!

  48. Piratepete says:

    “Piratepete, they’re tuned to Ryan’s (and therefore your) genetic code. That is pretty clearly explained in game, so if you didn’t know that, it really does validate Kieron’s point about people not paying attention.”

    Its not clearly explained if the only time you can play is while baby is asleep in the next room and you have turned the sound down, as i explained above that is my fault and not the games designers, hence my commitment to play it again with more attention.

    (But thanks for explaining it, kinda makes sense)

  49. Chris says:

    Good article, and I agree with a lot of it.

    The only real problem I had with Bioshock was that the speed of the game remained constant for 99% of it: slow. Sure, creeping through corridors while spooky things are going on is great fun, but it does tend to wear on you after a while.

    To point out one of the magnificent things about Half-Life 2: the game changes speed constantly. You have your corridor creeping, in spades, but you also have pedal-to-the-metal airboat and buggy sequences. Sometimes you’re being hounded by choppers, sometimes you’re hunting them down. Striders make you run for cover and stay hidden, urban combat lets you cautiously proceed or rush around, guns blazing.

    Switching gears helps differentiate the areas of the game, too… I don’t know about you, but other than the Little Sisters training ground and maybe the theater, Bioshock, in my memory, is just a blur of dark, cluttered corridors, whereas a number of completely different levels and areas in HL2 leap to mind. Not to say Bioshock isn’t beautifully designed, and I certainly remember a lot of the art, but I couldn’t really tell you which level was which, or what happened in what level.

    Bioshock has a few sequences where you’re rushed by a mob, and they’re thrilling, but for the most part, it’s creeping around slowly, picking off baddies a couple at a time. Again, it was fun, and I truly enjoyed the game, but I think it needed a few more changes of pace. Still, fantastic game overall.

  50. Pidesco says:

    See Kieron, Jim here agrees with me about bioshock’s linearity.

    It means I must be right!!!11!!”!!!

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