Cloud Gaming: BioShock Infinite Thoughts

By Alec Meer on August 24th, 2010 at 9:06 pm.

50% of the conversations I had at GamesCom went something along the lines of “have you seen the BioShock Infinite demo? Game of the show!” The other 50% went “God, I can’t believe they’re making another BioShock game. Why can’t they do something new instead?”

There’s point and purpose to the latter, and it has flicked across my mind too. Not forcibly enough, however, to defeat the excitement I felt when I saw the teaser, and redoubled when I saw in-game footage in Cologne last week. Cast your mind back to 2007, when RPS was a tiny digital acorn getting impossibly excited about the prospect of a new high-concept sci-fi game from the creators of System Shock 2. Bioshock was almost all we posted about for a frightening amount of time. Whether the game itself did enough to live up to that early promise, mystery and anticipation seems academic now, to me. I want to get back to that excitement.

Whatever BioShock Infinite turns out to be, it’s an attempt to do that.

It’s an attempt by a huge a developer to, rather than simply carry on making sequels or give up entirely, dig down to why we cared about BioShock in the first place. Throw away the surface, get down to the formula: a mysterious, impossible place, bound in pseudo-science, history, political allegory and oh-so-teasing mystery. Yeah, there’ll be some sort of denouement that explains the slightly clunky title, but the lack of numbering is, I think, the key. It’s a statement of intent, that BioShock games have key elements, not an overarching story.

Irrational (and, more to the point, owners 2K) could have done a Bungie. They could have just kept on going, becoming tethered to characters and stories and lore and fan service. They could have become jaded, fearful to stray from the path and eventually seeing key people move on, hungry for creative challenge. Instead, they’ve decided to rescue their own game. BioShock 2 was a pretty cool game, but its intrinsic similarities in both theme and mechanics to its forerunner obbed the concept of freshness. Dust the big ideas down, start again – and hopefully correct and improve some of the foundations that some players felt so unsatisfied by.

Who knows? Maybe it really will simply be Flyoshock, a different setting but the same game. A demo at a conference is a demo at a conference, not a game. However, it’s also a demo absolutely suggests a developer taking a big swing, really seriously wanting to impress people rather than take another money-bath.

Kieron’s done a fine job of sharing what’s in that demo with you, but I’ll add in a couple more details. Oh – I’m told the footage should be made public sooner rather than later, by the way.

Particularly, here’s some noteworthy quotation from one of the producers demoing the game in an excellently-decorated faux-1900s boardroom at GamesCom. He’d clearly spun the same yarn dozens of times during the show, but it remained compelling. Forgive the stacatto style – more was said, but this was as fast as I could type, due to a No Recording mandate.

At the end of the 19th century there was a time of great change new technologies on the stage, telephones, gramophones, movies for the first time, movie stars that could be promoted. Advertising on a mass scale, all of these technologies were coming together at the same time.

[Columbia was] A world’s fair that will travel around the world showing all of these new technologies and new American ideals. Columbia began to travel from place to place. It was soon discovered that you could use this thing as a weapon. A Battleship, floating death star. [Then it disappeared suddenly following some manner of conflict.] It suddenly became a myth, some kind of floating boogymen that would show up in people’s nightmares. No-one knew what Columbia was doing or why it was there anymore.”

[The player character, Booker, is introduced.]
If you had competition and you wanted them shut down you hired the Pinkertons. These guys were dirty dirty guys but even by their standards Booker was too much. Now he sits in the bar all day, but people come to him because he’s the ultimate fixer.

[A man comes to him, asking that he rescues a woman called Elizabeth, who was captured 12 years ago. He agrees, because he can find anyone. Where is she? Columbia, the lost flying city of legend. Erk. Fortunately, this guy knows how to get there...]

Elizabeth has amazing powers… When booker gets to Columbia he finds her very quickly. She’s at the centre of a conflict that’s tearing Columbia apart.”

Aaaand cue demo. Where we start, Brooker has just been parted from Elizabeth again, but he doesn’t quite seem to know how. Again, refer to Kieron’s analysis of the demo for proper meat, but I was particularly curious about the condition of Columbia. It looked in good nick, for the most part, and certainly not like the rusty collapse of Rapture, but clearly something has awry. No-one seemed in charge, and no-one seemed bothered when a cathedral-island tumbled out of the sky, its titanic tower carving a ferocious furrow into one of the streets below.

Further signs of abandonment came upon encountering barking political candidate Saltonstall. He’s teased with banks of posters, suggesting he’s a big deal, the Andrew Ryan of Columbia. But then there he is, right around the corner, standing on a deserated bandstand, bellowing racist manifestos to an audience of precisely no-one. For race, for faith, for fatherland! Then he sees you. He’s not happy about it either. Clearly, you’re not the right kind of audience.

His face distorts, demonlike, a horrific effect – and he sends in the crows. Combat, running, sparking handrails in the sky, a bar full of first conversing and then attacking thugs, an immense sense of scale and colour… Again, Kieron’s already described it, but I was lapping up the hugeness of it all, the hints of where else it might be possible to go, how fixed the course was, and appreciating that the place felt a little more alive than Rapture.

The scripting was evident, although the game was played live by a producer. I can forgive the cheating, as this is a game that won’t come out for two years. That said, it still makes me cautious, reticent to believe those incredible sights are truly representative of what I will play in 2012. But: no corridors, no small fights against just three guys. It’s BioShock alright, but a whole lot of the old shackles would appear to have been thrown to the ground.

It’s less lonely, too – Elizabeth is soon back. I would say mysteriously so, but it’s not long before she demonstrates that she’s scarcely a damsel in distress. The lady is an efficient and talented killer. Both her and Brooker chat as they hurry on; it’s action movie dialogue, and perhaps a little jarring to hear a ballsy American voice emanate from what is supposedly you, but it’s confident and slick, the two characters immediately likeable. That may be a trick in itself – Elizabeth’s origins are undeclared, and Booker’s supposed to be a violent thug.

Elizabeth, especially, is a peculiar creature. My eyebrow immediately shoots up at the heaving cleavage, but at the same time the woman’s face is pinched, almost cruel – and not quite attractive. I suspect she’s designed to confuse rather than titillate. Someone, I hope, is screwing with us.

She’s a fascinating piece of character design. Unusual, compelling, and ever so slightly sinister. Is she designed to endorse sexualised game heroines, or to mock them? I don’t know yet. I also notice that, facially, she looks ever so slightly like a Little Sister. Which is intriguing/disturbing/clever/unwise on multiple levels, but it would be incredibly dangerous to chase conspiracy theories at this stage, I suspect – it may well just be me projecting because I know this is a BioShock game, or a side-effect of the semi-shared character art style.

The fight escalates, as one of Columbia’s apparent guardians appears. This is the strange robot seen in the teaser trailer, a bizarre construct of pistons, massively oversized puppet parts and a head that’s almost, but definably not, human. Obviously, it’s hard not to make Big Daddy parallels, but the thing’s completely different. It’s fast, leaping catlike from roof to roof – agile and focused rather than sluggish brute force.

It even throws a horse at you, which immediately has me hoping there will be a multiplayer mode, despite Levine’s recent hints there may not be. I would very much like to throw a horse at someone.

Something’s shared with the Daddies though – a certain sense of tragedy. When the brute is knocked off a collapsing bridge by Booker and Elizabeth’s combined plasmid-but-not powers, it briefly scrabbles for purchase with its huge hands, and that strange man-machine face folds into an almost heartbreaking expression of panicked sadness. Then it falls, plummeting untold distances to the earth below. I genuinely feel bad for it.

Was that the thing that took you, Booker asks. No, replies Elizabeth. That is.

A winged horror appears, seemingly mechanical but, like the robot-thing, clearly aware and fast despite its bus-big size. I catch a glimpse of glowing multi-eyes, again evoking a Big Daddy’s silent helmet-mask, before the thing swoops towards the camera and black fades in. Farewell for now, Columbia.

No questions are allowed afterwards – instead there’s just a polite ushering out of this pleasant period room. I’m very much left wanting more.

I’m also left excited about a BioShock game again. Not merely curious – full-on excited. A developer has decided to take a huge risk and rescue their franchise – not milk it dry or let it rot. It could backfire, sure, but I can’t fail to be impressed by the open statement of “no, mine. Taking it back. Making it right.”

A bigger place, a different place, a more alive place. That’s exactly what I want.

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92 Comments »

  1. J says:

    I would very much like to throw a horse at someone.

    It’s sentences like this that make me glad this site exists.

  2. bhlaab says:

    Yeah, but they CAN’T go back to the pre-release anticipation of Bioshock because we already know that it will be nothing like System Shock underneath the surface (no pun intended). The fact that the trailer opens with yet another permutation of the Big Daddy doesn’t help matters. Not to mention we’ve already got Bio-XCOM on the way from Irrational-lite.

    I was honestly hoping for something outside of the FPS genre this time ’round. Apparently FPS is the only genre that exists anymore.

    • Pantsman says:

      Don’t be ridiculous. There’s the TPS as well.

    • Nick says:

      and MMOs.

    • Jeremy says:

      I think we need to define a new term for the RPG elements in games, because every game now has some concepts of progression and persistence involved. Any ideas? Maybe we can get it to fit into an RPS acronym, for the sake of irony.

    • hosndosn says:

      Why oh why did they have to call it a Bioshock? I’d say it’s “just a name” and probably even a name forced by 2K rather than being Irrational’s idea. But interesting new setting aside, it very, very much looks like a sequel. In a time, where games take 4+ years to develop, sequels are just *such* a waste of potential.

      That zombie game, Division 9? It looked amazing. Fresh, original (especially for its time when zombies weren’t as popular). It looked like a truly new style of gameplay, something we haven’t seen before. Using the success of Bioshock, they could have used that leverage to create something equally unique and it would have been a success. Bioshock Infinite, no matter how awesome the setting, just seems like such a waste of of potential.

    • Sobric says:

      Role Playing Segments

    • Adam says:

      @Jeremy

      Role Playing Shooter would be the obvious choice.

    • Okami says:

      @hosndosn: Really? A game where you play a SWAT team shooting Zombies is fresh and original and a game where you run through a fricking floating steam punk city in the sky isn’t?

      I hate gamers.

    • Lukeyb says:

      @Jeremy

      Repeatedly tedious systems

  3. Serenegoose says:

    I am similarly excited for this game. I’ve made no secret that I’m more in love with the sequel than the original (I couldn’t finish the original out of boredom, I finished the sequel in a single, 9 hour long sitting) which I know is an unusual view – and it sounds like they want to keep what made the sequel special, (actually having someone to care about) whilst putting it in a new, fairly original setting that sounds really interesting. Hooray!

  4. Michael says:

    At this stage in a game’s development they’ll be crowing about what they hope to create. The finally game will be strictly less than the potential shown here. Bioshock was basically Doom but with a better back-story and a cool weapon upgrade system. I don’t expect Infinite to stray wildly from this formula.

  5. Monkeybreadman says:

    This hasn’t got me yet, and its going to have to alot, i’m bio-bored (you can use that if you want)

  6. Garg says:

    I’m hoping this game doesn’t do the thing of nearly everyone you meet suddenly becoming a blood crazed maniac at the very sight of you and charge straight at you. I’d like to see at least some neutral people, to give it a sense of place and a better feeling for the life there.

  7. Freud says:

    “A bigger place, a different place, a more alive place. That’s exactly what I want.”

    I’d rather have more interesting things to do than what I was able to do in Bioshock. Ultimately a clunky shooter is a clunky shooter, even if the setting is very pretty.

  8. Sobric says:

    They should have called it Flyoshock dammit.

  9. Jimbo says:

    I’ve no doubt it will be a great game (it’s Ken Levine), but equally I have no doubt that the name will hinder rather than help.

    I don’t believe Ken Levine’s intention was to rescue the franchise at all, even if that were his call to make. I think his employer knew that it was a better use of his talents to have him create a second great franchise for them (two healthy franchises being more valuable than one franchise run into the ground). There were quotes out of 2K at one point that suggested this was the case. Some time between then and now I think somebody over there got cold feet and decided it really would be better if the box had Bioshock on it after all (a decision I am inclined to believe is a mistake, but that’s a different issue entirely).

    The real issue is how much the design is compromised to satisfy the marketing. Ideally it will be Bioshock in name only, with no restraints placed on the design at all. More likely – in order to justify the branding – they will feel obliged to shoehorn a story tie-in in there, and make the gameplay feel reminiscent of Bioshock, regardless of whether that was their original intention or not.

    I really don’t care what name is on the box, so long as the game isn’t hamstrung by it.

  10. CMaster says:

    Still doesn’t really interest me if it’s more Bioshock.
    That game didn’t do much for me, despite the effort and detail of it.
    I do like their settings and such though.

    • Jeremy says:

      I think that’s the point CMaster, they’re attempting to create an IP that rests on those interesting settings.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Its something of a shame really, I appreciate original ideas, but the reason I play games is to play a game. Even so, I do have a secret love for levines worlds, a little watered down, but always intriguing.

  11. Cooper says:

    I don’t care too much about the game. Just. PLEASE Mr. Levine. have the balls to DO SOMETHING FUCKING BRILLIANT with your amazing games writing talent.

    Bioshock was almost there. Almost. Unless the final fifth was intended as bitter irony.

    You know, seriously getting at something about games, what they are how they are played, but refusing to do anything with it, in fact descending into incredibly tired tropes.

    Also, the whole politcal-philosophical tapestry upon Bioshock was built was interesting, but did not play out in any enlightening or fully engaging way. The source material was used to make the game interesting, but, unlike a good book, I was not thinking about it for very long after I stopped playing.

    Do the source inspirational material some justice. Sure don’t force feed me your thoughts, give me the space for interpretation. But there’s something special here. Turn of the Century mixture of wonder and apprehension, immigration issues, national sentiments. This is so incredibly ripe. Do it justice. Make this something I can’t stop thinking about & relating to my own experiences and opinions.

  12. Pace says:

    A flying city? That’s even more ridiculous than an underwater city. (practically speaking that is). (..who cares… yeah yeah, but still, man!)

    • Sonic Goo says:

      I was just thinking how happy I was about the incredibly original setting. I’ve seen a few too many scifi/fantasy tropes lately…

    • Jake says:

      The next game will probably have occasionally flying, underwater cities. Cities that leap out of the water like dolphins. Probably.

  13. sfury says:

    You do realize that somewhere around two thirds of the game Elizabeth will betray you in a oh-so-horrible-and-unforseen twist and turn out to be the main baddie or one of the main baddies? Also you’ll be manipulated. :)

    In a more serious vein – I do hope there will be some more to this game than fighting way more enemies than in BioShock, in areas way more wider and free-to-roam than BioShock’s, and a general setting vaguely reminiscent but not at all like BioShock.

    I mean we all know what they’re aiming to do, they’ve said it in all the interviews and presentations but do we really need a new setting and story, new mechanics when all of those would be locked in the same old general game design formula that’s been kept intact from System Shock 2. I love that game but it’s time they introduce to its formula something more than moral choices about little or big sisters.

    In the words of the all-wise Rammstein – Ich brauche mehr! Viel mehr!

    Or maybe I’m just a spoiled brat… :)

    Anyway that’s what I think they should do so the game isn’t disappointing as BioShock (which I also liked, but you know – after you’ve played SS2 – “Meh.” )

  14. Thomas M. Hughes says:

    “It even throws a horse at you, which immediately has me hoping there will be a multiplayer mode, despite Levine’s recent hints there may not be. I would very much like to throw a horse at someone.”

    You’re going to have wait for Bioshock Infinite 2 before you get your lackluster multiplayer.

  15. Harley Turan says:

    One thing I find strange is that the trailer confirms that Big Daddies existed in 1912, whilst Rapture was established in 1946.

    • Dominic White says:

      Because it’s probably not set in the same world as Bioshock. Think of it like the Final Fantasy series – there’s some thematic cues carried between games, but they’re entirely seperate entities, so you get pure storybook magic adventuring in FF9, and sprawling sci-fi crazyness in FF13.

    • Harley Turan says:

      Yeah, it just seems odd that they’d put it in there. It’s a bit more direct than a thematic cue, as it’s a physical object that someone must have placed in the fish tank to start with. It makes no sense to put an object in the world who’s only purpose is to break the fourth wall and say “Hey!, We made BioShock!’.

      I mean I understand that it’s just a trailer, and that a Big Daddy (or any BioShock hint) probably won’t appear at all in the final game, it just seems odd to me.

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      The little chap in the fishtank isn’t supposed to be a Big Daddy, just a dude in a diving suit with something perched on his right arm (as I recall the guys on the Irrational podcast said it was supposed to be an oversized hermit crab of some sort).

    • Sonic Goo says:

      It’s always possible that they already had plans or mockups at that time. I’m not too familiar with Bioshock lore, but that could work.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      If you look at the figurine after it falls onto the floor, you can see it’s just a guy in a diving suit holding some sort of crustacean, rather than a big daddy.

    • Harley Turan says:

      http://i.imgur.com/UGryD.png

      Ha! So it is! Thanks for clearing that up. There go my conspiracy theories.

  16. deadsexy says:

    For me the title is really just that, a title. If it is XCOM or Bioshock: Infinite. It baffles me a little that people care so much about that, especially in the case of Bioshock: Infinite. All we got right now is a fraction of information about that game. But that’s possibly why we care about the title that much, because there’s not much else to talk about.

    I guess the only problem about it is that there was a Bioshock sequel set in Rapture but if you look at it this way the whole thing doesn’t play out that bad. So Bioshock hit the streets and 2K had a real winner on its hands. Naturally they want a sequel, Irrational want the same but they’d simply take too much time to deliver on their own ideas for the sequel. 2K is acknowledging that and gets 2K Marin to jump in. It’s actually a good example of how to effectively mix business and art in the gaming industry.

    I just feel a little bad about Bioshock 2 and 2K Marin, because they actually made a great sequel with better combat mechanics and an emotionally engaging story that tried to convey a strong message about parenthood you rarely see in this medium, despite its interactive nature. I think it gets way too little rep for that and by the time Bioshock: Infinite will be out and hopefully deliver on all the expectations it has set, Bioshock 2 will only be known as that bastard child nobody wanted in the first place and thats just sad.

    That said, I am really looking forward to Bioshock: Infinite simply because they are trying what so little devs are doing nowadays – to create new worlds for me to discover. They all have the same tools that open up endless possibilities but the creativity seems to be limited to certain teams out there or those evil publishers are simply refusing to water the sprouts, which is more likely anyway.

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      They’re so brave they’re creating a whole new IP with a new name, new ideas, new engines, new game mechan… oh wait

    • deadsexy says:

      I was merely refering to the world or the city of Columbia, simply because there’s not much more I know about it and I suppose you don’t either. But as I said I couldn’t care less about the name and as far as you can trust Ken Levine, he said they are not using the same engine nor are they using any props from the original. I had my own gripes with Bioshock but it really put me in a whole new world, I wanted to discover every inch of and honestly I stopped caring about new game mechanics in Blockbuster titles. They just need to deliver a good story and be authentic while doing so and it’s not that i don’t want them to be more, I just don’t expect it to happen. Thank god there’s creative indie devs out there… and Portal 2 of course.

    • monkeybreadman says:

      There is truth in your words. Just the hype boat left me behind on this one, (this time it worked?)

  17. Bye, Old Shock says:

    Eh, I’ll wait for it to be remaindered or a cheap Steam sale.

    Bioshock was pretty and oh so fun, though I really was disappointed that it had next to none of the RPG qualities of System Shock 2 (or even the clunky but fun SS1).

    Tonics and Plasmids and the occasional weapon upgrade didn’t do it for me like the hard-won upgrade chips in SS2. Even improving a weapon in SS2 needed a hacking minigame.

    The hack minigame in BS1 was fun though. But pretty as it may be, it became a slog. Only the pretty and the plot saved it. For the most part.

    BS2 has sat on my hard drive for months now. I’ve played perhaps 15 minutes of it, and ran across so many crippling and genuinely stupid bugs that I gave up. I’ve worked with their support guys and checked the forum, and patched it, but the patches have been mostly multiplayer fixes. Things supposedly fixed in patch 2 were not really fixed in SP at all, which is funny. They even announced the day before release that a mixup meant certain sounds were missing and it’d be fixed soon. That was February. No fix yet.

    2K has been simply horrid at fixing BS2, so I’m not giving them any more money.

  18. ts061282 says:

    Bioshock was cheap pulp with a tired narrative mode (tape recorder), self-conscious and heavy handed literacy, and a clever twist. Which puts it on par with popular science fiction. This serves the bottom line and the industry as such, but not the medium or those who care about its advancement.

    Common’ RPS, what happened to you?

  19. Alexander Norris says:

    I’ve expressed my thoughts about this elsewhere, so just please tell me the mêlée weapon isn’t a wrench again this time.

  20. Justin Keverne says:

    Isn’t there some pithy saying about “books” and “covers” and the judging thereof?

  21. Justin says:

    perhaps a little jarring to hear a ballsy American voice emanate from what is supposedly you

    What? This happens with me all the time. Oh. You’re in Britainland.

  22. pipman3000 says:

    ok cool it’s bioshck in the air with racism instead of randian rape-physics or whtever that nuts books were about (rape was what they were about).

  23. Jason says:

    I think you don’t read enough science fiction, ts061282.

    Or perhaps the science fiction I read isn’t the popular stuff? Either way, even science fiction books I’ve considered just ok have a more nuanced, and satisfying story than Bioshock.

  24. Anthony says:

    As someone who didn’t detest either of the other two, colour me interested in this new one.

    Yeah, Bioshock didn’t live up to the huge expectations we placed on it. I honestly don’t think that’s Levine’s fault though – we gamers are more than capable of whipping ourselves up in a self-propelled orgy of hype without anyone pushing it along. The first game was one of the first really big launches for the so-called ‘next-gen’ and in that role it performed admirably.

    I’m glad they’re taking some of the thematic strengths of Bioshock and putting in some turn-of-the-century steampunk goodness. And since I know it’s Bioshock, I have a pretty good idea what kind of game it will end up being and I’m totally fine with that.

    Also, Flying City by the makers of the world’s best Underwater City? You know it’s going to be good, down in the deep cynical blackened centre of your soul. Probably not a revolution, but bloody good regardless.

    • Freud says:

      It wasn’t only our own hype. It was Irrational doing a good job hyping it up too with the talk about “spiritual successor to System Shock 2″. Ultimately it turned out to be something completely different.

      In the end, Bioshock was a huge commercial success and System Shock 2 wasn’t. This should of course lead us to lower our expectations quite when it comes to Bioshock: Infinity. But it still is a damned shame if they didn’t aspire to do something with more depth this time around. I mean, if I had Heston Blumenthal make me a meal I wouldn’t want him to do scrambled eggs. Even though I am sure his scrambled eggs would taste very well.

    • Dominic White says:

      “we gamers are more than capable of whipping ourselves up in a self-propelled orgy of hype without anyone pushing it along”

      So true. Unfortunately, most gamers also lack the introspective capacity to blame themselves for the dissapointment inherent in building up an imaginary perfect game in their own minds, and finding out that reality doesn’t live up to it.

      Instead, you get people calling the RPS writers hacks for having the nerve to write about popular games. That’s just tragic.

    • DK says:

      “So true. Unfortunately, most gamers also lack the introspective capacity to blame themselves for the dissapointment inherent in building up an imaginary perfect game in their own minds, and finding out that reality doesn’t live up to it.”

      That’s bull and you know it. Ken Levine is on record, on multiple ocassions, as stating Bioshock is the successor to System Shock 2 and how it’ll be even better in every way. He LIED. That has nothing to do with “gamers hyping themselves up”.
      Levine hyped it up, and it didn’t fall short. You can only fall short if you leap in the first place, but he didn’t even TRY. It was a dumbed down, utterly boring clunky shoot-fest with a nice twist and great artstyle. That only works once, and they’re trying to do it a third time.

  25. DigitalSignalX says:

    Hrm, this will seriously infringe upon my diligently ignoring the second one. Ignoring two bioshocks will be altogether more distracting.

  26. monkeybreadman says:

    There is truth in your words. Just the hype boat left me behind on this one

  27. dethtoll says:

    You know, I was a big SS fan for a while back there, and I spent a long time being angry at Bioshock 1 for not living up to SS2′s standards.

    But recently I’m slowly starting to come to the conclusion that Bioshock was a better game.

    I mean, they’re essentially the same game, anyway, Bioshock is just SS2 Lite, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The game is much more streamlined, which keeps the flow going. SS2 had a lot of stuff that broke the flow, such as inventory Tetris and the whole “research” thing. I don’t mind playing with inventories, but inventory Tetris is bullshit and SS2 was one of the worst examples. As for research… okay, the camera was a bit of a pain to use, but at least you weren’t forced to just drop what you were doing and go find some chemical that was in only one storeroom on a deck you hadn’t visited in hours, and that’s after you sifted through the supplies listing for each store room. Most of the arguments against the Vita-Chambers (which I personally had no use for, but then I never used the SS2 equivalent either) were not only increasingly unhinged (my favourite was someone droning on and on about how they could just respawn and die repeatedly while hitting a big daddy with a wrench until it died and that meant the game had no challenge) but utterly moot when the turn-Vita Chambers-off option came in the patch.

    The other thing is that the plot and setting are more original- I’m not saying SS2′s plot and setting are bad, but they’re pretty standard sci-horror. Ooh, spooky spaceship full of monsters! SHODAN may be a central part of the plot, but she feels like a bit character in her own game. She doesn’t actually reveal herself until halfway through the game and has nothing of her original menace because she’s been reduced to little more than a voice with an internet connection- her sudden turnaround can be seen from miles away. Maybe this wouldn’t mean so much to someone who’s not played SS1 but it sure meant something to me.

    Bioshock’s writing, much like SS2′s, degenerates a bit towards the end, but a lot of that has to do with a few poor decisions such as the endings you get being wholly dependent on a hamfisted gameplay mechanic. But if you can get past that, what you get is something I’ve always found rather incredible- a game touching on a subject that simply does not get discussed in gaming in favour of Michael Bay explosions and the same old cliches and tropes over and over again. Anyone who thinks Bioshock’s story is unoriginal or falls flat or whatever should call me back once games start building themselves around a pointed critique of objectivism on a regular basis.

    The tl;dr of this is that SS2 has a lot of ideosyncracies that simply don’t hold up anymore. Has it aged well? Yes, yes it has, but after 10 years of SS2 and 3 years of Bioshock, I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say I expect Bioshock to last longer.

  28. TailSwallower says:

    Damn you SereneGoose! I’d been happy to completely ignore Bioshock 2 because everything I’d read about it said it was inferior to the first… But then you had to come along and ruin everything!

    That all said, I’m surprised that they let an apparently lacklustre sequel get released when they had been planning on coming back to the same game universe. I guess it helped to keep “Bioshock” in the collective unconscious for a little while longer…

    • Serenegoose says:

      BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      *ahem*

      Yeah, I was going to ignore it too due to the way I never finished the first, but I seen it for very cheap, figured I could use a new game, and grabbed it. I’m very odd with my games though. I also preferred Majora’s Mask to Ocarina of Time (ooh, consoles :O) because of its emphasis on the side quests and helping people out, rather than being a mysterious hero of time who’s just there to save the world. I never really found much of a story in Bioshock 1 – you wandered around doing what you were told, because you knew nothing about your character, and ultimately, nothing was ever really revealed beyond ‘what flimsy motivation you had didn’t exist in the first place, so nerr’. Bioshock 2 made it a story about a Father looking for his daughter, and I was able to get on board with that idea a lot more, because that’s all you’re there to do. It’s not about saving the world from a vague concept, (which I am utterly sick of) it’s about finding your daughter. Everything else is incidental to that.

  29. Muzman says:

    It does look nice and sounds loaded with novel, interesting and evocative ideas. But then, that was true about Bioshock as well.

    (and a plague on whoever it was that put magic in and psi powers in steampunk in the first place. I know some fo the books get a bit magic-y in places but it’s way more subtle than this stuff)

  30. Vinraith says:

    I think I’ll follow the same pattern I’ve followed to great success with previous Bioshock games: Ignore the pre-release press and hype, buy the game at a nice steep discount, and enjoy it for what it is rather than worrying about what it’s not. For that purpose, this looks every bit as entertaining as its forebears.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Vinraith has the right of it. Even if I am a little more excited, this is my plan of action, too. Full price games are for the wealthy, these days.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      Personally, for me, I buy full price when I want to support the developer. That usually means indie and niche developers, which works out well as those sorts of games invariably provide more gameplay and more enjoyment than the AAA stuff anyway, at least for me. 1 AI War is worth 10 Bioshocks to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the latter.

    • Serenegoose says:

      True, but games like AI war, correct me if I’m mistaken, don’t tend to cost £39:99, which is rapidly becoming the price of most ‘mainstream’ games here in the UK – which is what I was referring to when I said ‘for the wealthy’. Obviously full price for most indie devs is not quite such a financial burden, and I’m less reticent to wait for a deal before I part with my money.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      Yes, it’s cheaper. If it weren’t, though, I’d still be happy to pay full price for a game like that, which was my point. For me, a good strategy game or RPG from a niche/indie developer is far more worthy of my $50 than almost any AAA game I can name.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Ahh, fair enough. I get you.

  31. negativedge says:

    “Whether the game itself did enough to live up to that early promise, mystery and anticipation seems academic now, to me. I want to get back to that excitement.”

    Yeah, why would people that get paid to care about whether or not games are any good care about whether or not games are any good?

  32. Neut says:

    @dethtoll

    While you’re correct that SS2′s inventory system and research etc. were less streamlined than Bioshock’s, the important thing to keep in mind is that SS2 isn’t a shooter in the way that Bioshock is. The fiddly inventory/interface were all in there because it made sense within the context of the game world – of course you had to juggle shit around in your imaginary backpack, of course you had to actually go find the chemical you needed in the ships storage room, of course time wouldn’t suddenly pause for no reason and all the hybrids would wait for you to finish your hacking. These all added to the *shudder* “immersion”. The game wasn’t about being a slick polished CoD type shooter, it was just about creating a believable little world, with all these little incidental complexity that might not make sense from a purely gameplay perspective.

    The problem I had with Bioshock was that it tried to be both a slick polished shooter and create a believable emergent world at the same time, but started doing things for the sake of polish that detracted from the believability of the world – why can I carry so many weapons all of a sudden? Why do I automatically try and ingest every piece of food lying around as soon as I find them? Why the aforementioned time pause while hacking? They’re not huge issues or anything but together with the constant combat it did make it harder to appreciate Rapture as a place compared with the Von Braun.

    Plus it didn’t help that Bioshock progressed as a series of levels while SS2 was divided into “decks” that you could freely travel between.

    • dethtoll says:

      First things first, i just want to make a correction- Bioshock’s progression is nearly identical to System Shock 2′s progression, because aside from a trip back to engineering and the occasional sojourn to a chemical room, you really have almost no reason to go back to a previous deck. Likewise, Bioshock’s progression gives you no real reason to return if you’ve explored everything before leaving, with the exception of the muse box in Fort Frolic (though it’s also a good place to stock up after the clusterfuck that is Olympus Heights and Apollo Square.)

      But you’re implying that immersion is objective, when it’s not. I have no problem playing around with an inventory, but inventory Tetris- especially SS2′s particular brand of it- is one of the things that have always irritated the daylights out of me. I don’t want to fiddle around rearranging my stuff just so I have enough squares in an arbitrary shape to pick up a weapon, that’s not anywhere near fun. Having to go back to the chemical storage room, just so you can do a little extra damage to enemies that typically die in a few shots anyway, comes off as pointless.

      Bioshock was a slick polished shooter, sure, but its own idiosyncrasies did not, as a rule, do any serious damage to the atmosphere, immersion or experience for me. And, back in the day, the same was true for System Shock 2. The point I’m trying to make is that System Shock 2 simply no longer holds up as well as it used to, and I say this as someone who was angry with Bioshock for a good 2 years. My views on the two games have only recently changed, and while I fully accept there’s a lot of stodgy old farts out there who reject Bioshock because it’s not exactly like System Shock 2, I submit that that is not a bad thing.

      I have a healthy love for games new and old, but as I get older and have less time I simply have less patience for fiddly nonsense that gets in the way of my enjoyment.

    • Neut says:

      Yeh my bad, I don’t mean to imply that these things give SS2 an immersion of 94 while BS only had an immersion of 78 or something ;) I should have clarified that these things improved the immersion for me.

      You’re correct the progression of the two games were almost identical, though I do recall a fair bit of jumping between decks in SS2 (though it’s been a while since I played it). Still the important thing (for me) is that you could go between decks. It might not have served any purpose but the option was there. In BS if I recall correctly, once you take the bathysphere to the next section you’re there for good. I don’t think the comparison is fair if I’m honest since SS2 only had to deal with 2 spaceships whereas BS had a whole city, though Ken Levine did say in one of the early BS interviews that he set BS in an enclosed city because it was basically better to simulate a smaller environment well than a large environment badly (ie. why can’t I go here, or why doesn’t this thing work the way it’s supposed to), so based on that statement I think SS2 did the whole simulating a smaller space well better than BS.

      “Having to go back to the chemical storage room, just so you can do a little extra damage to enemies that typically die in a few shots anyway, comes off as pointless.”

      Is a bit pointless, but like i said I felt that these kind of fluff were helpful for making the world more believeable. As for inventory tetris, I dunno I must be one of the few people in the world that actually likes it. I mean if you’re gonna have an inventory system I think it’s a pretty clear way to represent graphically how much you’re carrying and how much you can carry (compared to the weight system used in Morrowind anyway).

      Just to be clear I did enjoy BS a lot, but I did think there were some things SS2 did better, and I definitely do not reject it because it’s not exactly like SS2. If anything I think it was a bit too much like SS2 in some regards, and that it might’ve worked better as a game of pure exploration with almost no combat in it. Like when they first demo’d the game they made a big deal about the “ecology” of the creatures in Rapture, so it was a huge shame that most of the creatures you encounter aggro you immediately. It would’ve been much more interesting for most of the inhabitants you encounter, if you encounter any creatures at all, to simply ignore you, or be friendly, or occasionally freak out at some slight you’ve done – definitely would’ve kept you more on edge, especially with their insane babbling.

    • dethtoll says:

      No, you’re NOT stuck there for good- which you might have gathered by my mentioning returning to Fort Frolic. You can go back even as far as to the original bathysphere station you started in (only so far as what hasn’t collapsed behind you, naturally- SS2 did the same thing though.) However, BS2 does funnel you along, though to be fair they give a valid excuse for why you can’t go back. That’s probably why you got confused.

      As for believability, sure, but is it FUN? Not really. And that’s the whole point. It’s perfectly possible to promote believability and immersion without some boring fiddly nonsense that cuts away from fun time. And inventory Tetris… I dunno. i don’t like the whole hyperspace arsenal thing either, but you’ve got to strike a balance. I think having a limited set of inventory slots but none of this rearranging nonsense is the best way to go. Weight systems I can deal with, as well.

      While I agree that Bioshock had too much in the way of combat and they changed the lighting from the moody look it was in the E3 2006 vid to something a little brighter, at the end of the day some of those promises like the ecology thing were just too much to live up to (if Rapture were much more open- like an underwater GTA- it would have been different) and we just have to accept that. They’re neat ideas, sure, but some neat ideas are best shelved for later.

      SS2′s main problem, I think, is that it was better at breaking new ground than it was at holding it. Bioshock is essentially a retread of SS2, but what it and SS2 have in common, IMO Bioshock does somewhat better. (A major exception being the audiologs, most of which do not do very much to create a believable world like SS2′s did, because there’s simply too many of the “main characters” blathering on about whatever and not enough fluff side-arcs. Bioshock 2 was a little better in this regard.)

  33. solipsistnation says:

    Actually, they DID “do a Bungie,” just not the Halo part. There was a series of 3 games before Halo, if you recall– Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal, and, uh, Marathon Infinity.

    That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the name of the third Bioshock game…

    • Dominic White says:

      Erm, they patched that shortly after release.

      Cmon, you’re better than this. What is it about Bioshock that makes people start wildly grasping for things to get angry about?

    • Tei says:

      You hope is fixed at release?

      I don’t. I expect the same error again, Hope I am wrong.

    • oceanclub says:

      I really they don’t have the physics locked at 30 frames-per-second like the previous games.

      I’m not sure has anyone dealt with this but: does this same take place in the same universe as the previous games? I had always assumed that Bioshock takes place in “our” world; after all, the city is a secret and life goes on for the rest of the world.

      P.

  34. Chaz says:

    Had I been at GamesCon I would have been in the other 50% that went “God, I can’t believe they’re making another BioShock game. Why can’t they do something new instead?”

    But then the original Bioshock didn’t really do much for me. It looked very pretty and that was about it. The combat mechanics were off, which for what is pretty much a straight shooter with a fancy upgrade system, was not good. The whole special powers things left me feeling cold, as throwing lightning bolts and fireballs was all just a bit too swords and sorcery for my liking in a sci-fi game. For me the game also lacked fear and tension, and how could it not after the 6th time I’d popped out of a respawn tube to keep whittling down a big daddy that kept crushing me with ease. What rankles me is that it should be just the sort of game I like, and yet after several attempts to do so, I just can’t seem to get into it and every time I put the game down I find it very hard to bring myself to pick it back up.

    Unfortunately this new trailer isn’t really doing anything for me either.

    The 2 System Shock games on the other hand, I loved to bits.

  35. dethtoll says:

    im gay

  36. Johann Tor says:

    So, is the point of this piece that there is reason to specifically be _hyped_ about BS, and that this is what BS is all about? Come on!

  37. Newp says:

    Reading some of these comments makes it clear that there is no more miserable life form than a jaded PC gamer. I fully expect all of you to invent new perspectives, because 1st and 3rd person viewpoints are so trite! Let’s invent the FOURTH person perspective! Oh wait, that would make it a sequel of some sort, which makes it automatically not cool.

    It’s hilarious to me that gamers would act as if it were incredibly easy to make a highly literary, intellectually satisfying VIDEO GAME. As if the medium does not limit that at all. Whatever. I look forward to this game, and the haters can go pound sand.

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