RPS Verdict: The BioShock Trilogy

Almost ten years after our first trip to Rapture, the BioShock trilogy has been re-released and (in some cases) remastered. The Collection [official site] looks lovely but it’s far from perfect.

Today, we’re looking back though – a lot has happened since the first game’s arrival, including the departure of director Ken Levine from the studio that made two of the three games, and a resurgence of the first-person immersive sim as a genre. Here, we consider all things Bioshock and decide, among other things, which of the games is actually the best.

Adam: Right. Let’s get the important question out of the way first, and that question is of course, “Is Bioshock 2 secretly or not-so-secretly the best Bioshock game?” It’s something I hear people saying, more and more often, and they are serious, but I’m not sure if that’s just a symptom of hanging around with too many game critics.

As one of those critics, I do have very strong opinions about Bioshock 2 though and I do think it’s the best of the three. It has a lot to do with it having the least heavy-lifting to do in terms of establishing both a sci-fi setting AND that sci-fi setting’s Important Lessons about our own world, but it’s mostly because it’s the only Bioshock game with good combat. And these are first-person shooters, after all. The combat matters.

Am I wrong?

Brendan: You are not wrong. About the combat, that is. Making Rapture into an underwater Tower Defence with children was the best move the designers could have made. But when I think back on the story behind it all, I can’t help but frown and squint. BioShock the First was memorable for obvious reasons, and even Infinite had its clever bits (I suspect we’ll get into just how clever in a moment) but BioShock 2? What was that about again? A lady who snatched your baby? I like the bit that everyone likes though.

Adam: We will get onto Infinite and where it is or isn’t clever in a moment, but straight off I can’t help but notice ‘even Infinite’. Is that what Bioshock Infinite is? ‘Even Infinite’? I mean, it definitely is to me but that seemed to come very naturally.

But, yeah, I agree that 2 is a bit lacking in areas, mainly that the story even when it works is not always particularly memorable. But I think it goes back to the heavy lifting thing I mentioned – the more the stories in the other two games try to do, and this goes for Infinite particularly, the more they struggled to carry the load for me. The lightness of 2 feels even more welcome after Infinite.

Graham: You’re all a bunch of noodlers. Noodling with your critiques and your thoughts. I will be the big excitable dog of the group, then: the BioShocks are all brilliant, and BioShock 2 is the best in most of the ways which count. It’s got the better ensemble, in terms of its cast of characters; it’s got the best level design (relating the story of BioShock 1 to players via a museum full of animatronics? Delightful). It’s got the best combat – both structurally, in those tower-defense-style areas, and in individual weapons like being able to skewer Splicers to the wall with the stake gun. It’s got a more interesting lead character, rather than “a man.”

The only thing it doesn’t have is the shock and novelty of the original getting to introduce the world, and Andrew Ryan, who is the best character. (Ryan built the place, everyone else just lives there, which makes the antagonist in 2 weaker – though still interesting).

Alec That sounds suspiciously like noodling to me, but anyway. I’ve been saying Bioshock 2 is bestest for years, but I’ve changed my mind. Having revisited it a couple of times lately, BioShock 1 is bestest. I can see it so much more clearly now, no longer outraged by big blue men or why doesn’t that character do that thing then and whatever. It’s that much more of a horror game, with a fabulous environment for it, and as soon I I as approached it in that spirit rather than why isn’t it a better shooter or why does the man put the mystery needle in his vein for no reason, it just hangs together so much better. It’s about being anxious about what’s in the next room, but regularly it decides that “next room” isn’t enough, so instead it’s some fucking nightmarish warren of human depravity as well as scary people standing in corners. BioShock 2: totally a better shooter. But I’m just not as motivated by shooters as I was.

Brendan: Yes. Is there anything like the slow-dancing splicers in 2? The lady splicer crying over a pram? Exceptionally creepy stuff.

Adam: I don’t remember any great creepy vignettes like that, no, and nothing to compare to Fort Frolic for sure.

Alec, you’ve made me want to go and replay it instantly – and admittedly, I haven’t for a long time. But my memory is of splicers running toward me and having to shoot them repeatedly. I always wanted it to be a horror game and felt like it was more of an FPS. In case it sounds like I hate BioShock the first, by the way, I like it a LOT. It disappointed me, but in the way that something worth actually being disappointed by does.

Alec Oh yeah, there’s a ton of padding, in terms of routine manslaying. I’d probably be saying something different if I was ten hours in. I guess, for me, replaying a game these days involves seeing what it’s like for just a couple of hours ten years later, with a hype or backlash-free mind. I don’t even want to play the whole thing. I certainly don’t want to do the whole shootybang ratrun of 2 again, as much as I dug it. But I’m so impressed by how BS sets out its stall; the fidelity of the horrible world it builds. We all hailed it for philosopisorisation at the time, but I approach it now much more as it just found some fun concepts to build a world around, then have a grisly ball with. Like Infinite, it’s an artists’ game first and foremost, but the plodding movement and constant paranoia seems more relevant to that than the hey-ho let’s go rollercoaster of Infinite.

Adam: It’s one of the best openings in a game ever, isn’t it? Not just the actual Rapture reveal but the actual bleakness of the open water and the plane sinking – the scale of it seemed incredible to me when I first played it. And then descending into the belly of the beast, there’s such a good sense of going into a VERY BAD PLACE. And I’d agree that for all of my Bioshock 2 bluster, I’m much more likely to go back to the opening hour of the first once a year for the next decade than actually play through 2 again.

Alec I was playing today and for once went some distance past the opening, which I’ve seen a dozen times then usually quit right after, and actually it’s remarkable how much longer it sustains its air of mystery-horror, its shower of ‘orrible detail and deco design. I know more routine stuff lays in wait, but getting into the medical centre and being ambushed by evil dentists, finding mad nurses hiding in cupboards, bodies pinned to the floor with surgical scissors: it’s incredibly well-sustained as an “oh jesus christ what is happening here” affair.

Brendan: That’s a point. Graham, you said that 2 is better in almost every way except the villain. But how can we forget that it is villains, plural. The side-bosses of BS1 were these odd, crazed fanatics, all joined by one central philosophy but maddened in their own way – and they all stand out to me (admittedly, this might be because I have played the first one more). I have strong images of the plastic surgeon, the trolling artist and his eerie sculptures. These were all much more disconcerting than anything I remember from 2 or Infinite.

Except the last boss, obviously. Oh my god. The last boss.

Adam: As much as I hate that boss, final bosses are allowed to be rubbish. They shouldn’t be but if a good game has a shitty final boss, it’s like a lovable dog that does really stinky farts. I just shrug and get on with it – I don’t hang out with the dog to smell its farts, so it’s fine.

Brendan: Adam, you are what’s wrong with videogames. Botched endings need to be expunged from this industry. They are a plague.

Adam: Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to be the man who expunges them but if I have to get a bit of plague to hang out with that farting dog, I’ll do it. It’s a really cute dog. And a hell of a confusing metaphor at this point.

Alec Boggins!

Adam: But look, whether you intended to or not, I think you’ve convinced me that I was wrong in my initial statement. Bioshock 1 probably is the best. And I do love Rapture and all its horrors.

Graham: You’re right, BioShock 1 had better villains – but that’s because BioShock 2 had people, not merely antagonists. It didn’t have that neat repetition of every person going mad in a locked house and spending a lot of time decorating it – though there was that, with Gil Alexander, who is a million times more interesting than Suchong. It painted a more interesting picture of Rapture.

It had great vignettes too, though a different kind of horror. Playing a section of the game as a Little Sister, and seeing the world as beautiful and pristine as they do? I remember that just as fondly as I do Fort Frolic. And BioShock 2 is at times like the guy who made Fort Frolic was put in charge because that’s what it was.

(But yes, BioShock 1 was probably better just because of that newness and Andrew Ryan.)

Alec Yeah, BioShock 2 a lovely game, and I forgot about that Little Sister section – glorious. If I had a time machine, one of the things I’d do, other than buying 48 crates of Mini Cheddars before they took all the unhealthiest stuff out, is find a way to make my younger self play BioShock 2 without having played BioShock 1. I would love to know how/if it works as a standalone game. It’s helplessly in the shadow of what BS1 established, and particularly that corking intro. Would I feel that more of the mystique and weirdness was there if I didn’t know about the major thematic beats already? How effectively does it convey that stuff without the crutch of BS1 having done it first?

Adam: Fuck me. Now I’m starting to think 2 is better again. Alright, go on. Someone try and convince me that Infinite is the best. Take your best shot.

Alec Shan’t. Ack, I should replay some of it to try and get my thoughts straight. I probably hate it too much now because I’ve lazily let the discomfort fester. I just found it so damn smug, especially in the wake of the self-celebratory, self-justifying DLC, and that got in the way of appreciating it for what it was, which is an extremely OTT shooter with nice set dressing. And, unfortunately, problematic attempts to Mean Something despite how silly it all is, which is where it really falls apart.

I think I’m going to shut up.

Adam: It’s a compelling argument but I’m still leaning toward Bioshock 1 at this point. I’m guessing Brendan ‘Even Infinite’ Caldwell isn’t going to offer a good defense of it either.

Brendan: I’m sorry I said ‘even Infinite’. I only said it because I know everyone else despises it. I saw Leigh Alexander saying it was one of the most “most despicable, irredeemable” games ever made and I couldn’t even tell if she was joking. The thing is, I enjoyed it when it came out. I liked the theme park feeling and the parallel dimension silliness and I especially liked that Irrational were smart enough this time to leave the twist punch to the very end, unlike BioShock 1, which, after its twist, continues on screwing as if it hasn’t blown its load. Is that sentence a bit Too Much? I think it is.

My point is: I liked the gameiness and spectacle of Infinite enough to play it twice. I thought that maybe – just maybe – Irrational were smart enough to make small differences in playthroughs relating to its choices. Then I realised that, for all its quantum state quackery, it really was on-rails. And it was about this time that all the narrative flaws started being pointed out by other writers and I had this “oh” moment when I realised everything those critics were saying was actually quite smart.

Adam: I found it really unpleasant. It felt like a caricature and by the time it started hammering home an ‘oppressed become oppressors’ message, I just wanted out.

Alec Do not forget that the DLC tried to retroactively justify that, claiming wossername wasn’t as psycho as she seemed and had been made to do it for the greater good or something. I think that’s what made me dislike the whole shebang as much as I do. Having cake and eating it rather than holding hands up to an insensitive approach.

Brendan: One of the things a friend pointed out to me was that, in the game, the Irish team up with the resistance. But historically, the Irish in America were assimilated into US culture that much more quickly because of their willingness to overlook or even engage in racism. And I’m allowed to say those hugely general things about an entire group because I am Irish. That’s how it works, right? My point is that I agree, it handles the complex issues of immigration, race, and equal rights with a big daft paintbrush. I think its commentary on labour – one villain’s use of a separate currency to pay workers – was smart because it reflects the old industrial mentality of the early 20th century and that was a practice which actually occurred (and is lesser-known than segregated toilets). But when it comes to the other stuff. Er, yeah.

Adam: As much as I disliked almost everything about the story within the setting – ie the actual flying city stuff and the racism and riots and the rest – I like the actual Infinite concept a lot. I like it when it goes Full Sci-Fi Multiverse silliness. It’s like a huge, bright colourful cartoon of ideas at that point, and absolutely ridiculous and seemingly happy to be so. But the rest of it left such a bad taste in my mouth and my brain and the rest of me. I still remember seeing an early video – maybe even a screenshot – of Elizabeth opening up a portal to what looked like our world, and I love that game. It’s not the game I played when Infinite eventually came out, but I can just about catch glimpses of it in there.

Graham: Noodlers! Noodlers noodling! It’s a sky theme park in which you whizz around in rollercoasters with a shotgun! It again has absolutely stunning architecture – that flooded church near the start? And great vignettes, like tumbling through the sky with Elizabeth in tow! I dug the ending’s ridiculousness, with its crashing together of realities and zeppelins, but it’s grandiose and soaking in ambition and silliness long before that, too. I agree with the criticisms but think, like BioShock 1’s farting dog, they come to dominate conversations far more than they dominated my feelings when flipping around among the clouds.

Adam: The game is serving up noodles! It’s the farting dog that follows through!

Infinite was the one where the things I didn’t like did dominate my feelings while I was playing. If it was a theme park, it felt like the owner of the theme park kept sidling up to me while I was queuing for the rides and telling me that he’d heard about this thing called Racism and really wanted to share his pamphlets and six part lesson about American history with me. I couldn’t see past it to the fun stuff. Or I could, but only for a few minutes at a time.

That’s not to say that I think a theme park shouldn’t try to tackle those issues….err, well maybe not a theme park but this does remind me of an interview I read today about the new Magnificent Seven movie, where Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt seem horrified that the interviewer might try to get them to talk about ‘ideas’ when they’re just there to promote a film. I absolutely think a big ol’ blockbuster action adventure can tackle Big Ideas, Infinite just didn’t work for me in that respect. And I think that’s partly because it uses the ideas as window dressing rather than actually engaging with them.

Graham: This is one of my favourite videos and seems relevant.

Alec I agree with Graham somewhat in that over time this stuff has obfuscated “but is it, y’know, a fun action rollercoaster with all the graphics?” which is certainly what the publishers probably wanted even if the creatives wanted us to read their pamphlets. But thing is, I also got pretty bored sometimes. I could see its working a lot of the time: enter area, notice sky rails and platforms and whatever, something happens, everyone leaves, hello baddies. It would be so routine if it wasn’t for its ALT-REALITY and also SLAVERY noodling. Shoot and bin dive, shoot and bin dive. I’ll take the dog’s unexpected bottom-burps over that any day.

Adam: That leads into a question that I wanted to ask all three of you, actually. I think Infinite might have worked better for me if the action had grabbed me, but I thought it was the most boring just in terms of the actual movement and shooting – which seems impossible given how kinetic it all looks.

But the question is this – do you think the BioShock games have actually influenced either blockbuster FPS design or been at all responsible for some of the immersive sim resurgence we’re seeing? They’re hugely successful, well-respected games, and I think there’s a tendency among People of a Certain Age to think of them as one link in a chain that began with Looking Glass or even earlier. But I think they also exposed a lot of people to certain kinds of design for the first time, and maybe made them more interested in what a first-person game can do. Any thoughts on that?

Alec Dishonored is absolutely influenced by it, both in terms of “oh thank god, we get to be weird and twisted and go beyond Man With Gun Does What Mans With Guns Do”, and in being a reaction to where BioShock fell short. Open city, customisable powers, opportunity to dig into people’s stories and make a choice about how to treat them rather than have them thrown at you in this often rather screeching way. But more generally, BS1 feels landmark in terms of being – ugh – “cinematic”, like a blockbuster sci-fi movie rather than selling itself on the fact of violence and guns. I think it’s been in the mix for even CODs and Battlefields trying to be more than Level 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. In some respects, it’s recent-ish action games’ Sixth Sense – made the idea that there has to be a twist, a big reveal, almost essential for any game which wants to go galactic.

Brendan: I agree. I think if anyone thinks the BioShocks fit into the genre of ‘immersive sim’ they are telling themselves a BIG FIB. They’re self-fibbers. I think Dishonored and the Deus Ex reboots are more loyal to that formula and while their focus – world design uber alles – is definitely a result of BioShock’s success at world-building, the things that you do and can do in those games is much more true to the spirit of immersive sim. Sure, in BioShock you can set oil on fire or put electricity through water. But that’s different from the multiple pathways of Deus Ex or the chaining powers of Dishon — oh wait I see. Dishonored is exactly the same.

Adam: The actual definition of ‘immersive sim’ is ‘first-person game where you have an inventory so you don’t have to eat directly out of the fucking bins’.

Graham: I think BioShock was riding a wave that was already happening, towards more open and expansive experiences across all games. Crysis was the same year, and was a game where you could stealth, or shoot, or tank, and go up and above and under and through as well as directly forward. Assassin’s Creed was the same year. Far Cry 2 was the next year. I think Grand Theft Auto probably deserves more credit for introducing people to the idea that their action games could include more than shooting.

What BioShock introduced was probably a formula (can one of the enemies be ICONIC? Can the character’s hat be ICONIC?) for the design of a game’s aesthetic, and the idea that a mainstream action game could tackle POLITICS and ISSUES. Eg. BioShock gets us Watch_Dogs’ hat and Spec Ops: The Line’s don’t-you-feel-bad-about-that? setpieces.

Brendan: Spec Ops: The Line, aka The Mediocre Shooter With One Great Bit.

Alec Well, Duke Nukem maybe did Iconic Look first, it’s just that it stopped being funny 15 years ago and hasn’t realised that yet. I can’t remember – does BS1 have ammo crafting and weapon upgrades in it, or is that just BS2? I feel like it might have set some mainstream precedents for DIY weapon tweaking and player preference as opposed to “and here are the new toys in the exact order we decided” too. Oh, it definitely did, didn’t it, because everyone got cross that the magic electric spanner was overpowered. I *loved* the magic electric spanner myself. Clubbing scary people in the dark (especially while they were slow dancing) seemed so much more appropriate than Tommy Gun wildfire in a glass house under the sea.

Adam: So BioShock introduced us to electric spanners and led to iconic baseball caps and everyone feeling terrible about shooting people? That sounds about right.

OK. Final round. Pop quiz. Will we ever see another BioShock game now that Irrational have become a tiny studio and Ken Levine has left for pastures anew? Is there any juice to be squeezed out of the name?

Alec Without a doubt – unless the remasters bomb. It’s one of 2K’s biggest brands. They’re not gonna care about exhaustion or tales being told. I just hope they’re willing to explore new places rather than go back to Rapture yet again. Time was I craved a pre-fall Rapture RPG, but nah, it’s done. Gimme brand new cray-cray instead. That’s what ‘Shock is for. And for the love of the sweet baby Jesus in each and every dimension, please don’t make everything connected. Random self-contained madness only, please. I’ve had enough lighthouses for a lifetime.

Graham: 100% yes. From a purely boring business perspective, Infinite might not have done as well as hoped, but the series as a whole has still sold like Venetian masks at an underwater New Year’s Eve party and it still has one of the most recognisable names in all of games. (And some of the most recognisable characters, world design, etc.) Whether there’s actual creative juice left inside, I don’t know, but I’d bet someone else’s money on a new BioShock being announced next year.

Brendan: I would be fine even if there was “a man and a lighthouse”. But I’d want that to be included in the most tangential manner it could. Possibly as a painting at the end of a long corridor in an otherwise completely new world. “Oh look,” says a character as they stop to look at the painting. “A man and a lighthouse.” Then they continue on and nothing more is said.

Alec Actually I demand that we get to fight a giant blue lighthouse at the end of BioShock 4.

Adam: In BioShock 5, you are the lighthouse. OK. Two more questions. First up – will Michael Fassbender play Andrew Ryan or Hero Man in the eventual BioShock movie?

Alec No, no, this will be a Kit Harrington joint. You just wait. That man’s sad-puppy face will haunt licensed adaptations for a decade, I’m sure.

Graham: Armin Shimerman will play Andrew Ryan, of course. In full Quark make-up.

Brendan: Dakota Fanning from the past as the Little Sister.

Adam: Bees?

Graham: Fassbender plays the bees.


Adam:: Just to be clear, ‘BEES?’ was the final question rather than an extension of the Fassbender question. But there we are.


Alice Bees!


  1. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    *scrolls quickly to the bottom*

    Being an absolute philistine, I haven’t actually played the first two Bioshocks as yet, they’ve been sitting in the ol’ Steam backlog for a while. While I’ll be getting on with the first this weekend (look at me, getting in early on the WAWAPTW thing) I was wondering, should I hold off reading this article, or is it fairly spoiler-safe?

    • GrumpyCatFace says:

      Yeah, I would not read this article. Hit the first Bioshock at night, with minimal lighting in the room. The next time you look up, it will be dawn, and your confused family will be staring at you.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      Bioshock is probably the most overrated game ever. If you want to enjoy it, lower your expectations drastically. Also, prepare to kill the same 4 enemies over and over for 12 hours straight.

      • poliovaccine says:

        While I don’t like to align with the hyperbole of *anything* being the “most *anything* ever,” in terms of sheer ratio of recommendations to disappointments, you just might be right about that. God knows that’s how it was for me.

        Maybe I was just spoiled on horror by growing up on Stephen King and Thomas Harris, but when I picked up BS1 as a horror game, I was let down. I think I need just a little bit of psychological credibility in my enemies, I mean even zombies have a backstory, and between the lazy idea of the splicers and the crushing weight of the hype, the whole thing just felt tame to me. Mad doctors? Bloody surgical scissors? Old lady cackling? Really? You half expect someone to stick your hand in a bowl of peeled grapes.

        I tried it again as a straight FPS awhile later and found it much more enjoyable in that light. That’s the recommendation I’d use to set someone off to Rapture. But people talked up this game to me like it was going to rival your first LSD experience or something. I think realistic expectations serve to make for a better time with the game than any inflated by nostalgia and the snowball effect of passing time.

        I mean, to me, Fallout New Vegas is the perfect game, and I am still playing it years later. But I know not everyone will like it, and I don’t recommend it highly to someone who likes shooters, or who values cinematic quality graphics, or etc, etc. Just like Bioshock is a lot of things, but man, it is no horror game and it is no immersive sim. It’s a shooter, and a good one, too. And its lovingly rendered world is strangely at odds with that fact…

      • MisterFurious says:

        Yeah, I agree. The game is a total bimbo. It’s really pretty to look at but there’s not much going on beneath the surface. The art design is great. The story is pretty good and it deals with issues that most games don’t (which is why video game critics go wet over it) but the actual game is pretty shitty and the whole “save the little girls or murder them” choice was really stupid. It’s a pretentious asshole of a game that’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

    • snowsurfer says:

      I strongly suggest using the mouse and FOV fixes you can find online, you will not want to play the game as it is – completely unplayable with M&K in its original state. One would have thought that this is a fix they would have implemented in the “overhaul”, but no, we just got the console overhaul, nothing has been fixed regarding the controls.

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    2 was bestest Bioshock, and always will be of the original trilogy, whatever 2K do with the franchise. Best story: it humanised Ryan, it actually played with the “Ayn Rand=bad” schtick by saying “Yes, but here’s how the flipside could be just as horrible and self-deluding”, it framed its conflict with actual human concerns rather than leaning so heavily on UNDER THE SEEEEEEEEEA or ham-handed politics, and it didn’t insult my intelligence (come on, Binfinite literally explains the plot right in front of you, and then pretends you didn’t notice for the next ten hours! None of the quantum wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey nonsense means a god damned thing! Nothing about Columbia makes a lick of sense! Gah! :chokes:). And yes, best combat, too, where you couldn’t get away with wrench/lightning for the whole game, or where the extra systems were more than utterly superfluous (beat Binfinite with the same weapon/vigor apart from the idiotic final battle, never used tears, never used the skyhook unless I had to).

    Bioshock the first is still a very good game, but it was always clinging on to That Twist, Rapture is more about great atmosphere than any real sense of place, and the final act is painfully dull at times. I’d be far more likely to go back to Shock 2 (indeed I want to, to be honest, to get those Steam cheevos). Still, I’d much rather try Shock the first rather than ever play Binfinite ever again.

  3. TehKory says:

    “Bioshock is asking you…to make these choices…it’s much more important that you make a decision to pull the trigger and then you are the one who has to answer for it later.”-Leigh Alexander, on a PBS interview I’ve never forgiven her for about videogames as art.

    Leigh Alexander’s opinion on Bioshock was already silly by the release of Bioshock, and it’s only gotten sillier by the time Bioshock Infinite came around, apparently. Nobody can blame you there, Brendan.

  4. aircool says:

    I enjoyed playing them first time around, but now? I don’t think I could face all the bin ratching.

  5. casshern09 says:

    I will never understand people liking Bioshock 2. I thought it was utter garbage.
    First one will always be the best one to me.

    • casshern09 says:

      Or maybe I should just give it another try now. Maybe I will do that.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        You should! At least try Minerva’s Den, quality DLC there.

    • wonboodoo says:

      I think it depends on what you value in games. Those who value game-play over narrative (e.g. me) are more likely to prefer 2 over the others. My review:
      * B1: Introduced a superb world, probably one of the best in video games. Great game-play, great enemies, but let-down by the last third and I thought “the twist” was tacky & way-overrated.
      * B2: Improves on the great game-play of B1, reuses B1’s wonderful world, and unlike B1 was strong from start to finish. B2 may not be as original as B1 but, unlike B1, B2 is a perfect game.
      * Infinite: Beautiful to look at and I loved Elizabeth, but the rest of the game was a let down. The gameplay was tedious, the enemies were boring, and the story was an unfocused meandering mess. Infinite was my biggest disappointment of that year.

      • aepervius says:

        I value narrative above gameplay (a good gameplay without narrative does not interest me – OTOH IU will take a poor gameplay if there is a good narrative) that is why binfinite is on top for me , B1 second distant and b2 at the bottom. It all depends on how you approach the narrative/gameplay combo.

        • TheRealHankHill says:

          Replayed them, on Infinite now. Infinite is easily the best gameplay.

    • Shazbut says:

      I didn’t like it either. It didn’t have the benefit of the other 2 of seeming like a new and exciting thing and so came across to me as an average shooter set in a trite and dumbed down world, and with the annoying side-quests expanded. Why does the tannoy in Rapture announce plot details for no reason? Why are all these audio logs here? Why are all the bad guys so simplistic? Why is death such a meaningless event, removing all tension from the gameplay?

      I mean, they all have this nonsense going on, but Bioshock 2 is coming into an environment we already know so there’s less to discover. I’m not even denying it’s the best game of the three. It might well be. It’s just as games they ain’t much. As worlds, they’re something. But with Bioshock 2, the world and it’s story have kind of been done by the time you arrive.

    • Jalan says:

      Mostly agree, but my specific reason is why most would actively prefer the one crummy section in the first game (the escort mission where you play faux Big Daddy) being turned into an entire game on its own. It’s like wanting to be Songbird for the whole of BioShock Infinite – the idea might seem cool on paper, but the reality is a letdown (Minerva’s Den being quality or not be damned!).

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    Glad to see B2 being championed, too many seem to dismiss it as “the crap one” without even trying it. Yes, it’s back to Rapture, and the retconning in of the Family is awkward at first, and it is glossed over how a flooding and burning city filled with insane people can still be doing that years later.

    But the characters are actually better, the voice acting is fantastic. Yatzee among others critized the first for making you choose between being a saint and the lovechild of Hitler and Satan, with no in between. Well, B2 has a lot of in-between, and the endings come from how you treated your enemies, with no clear signpost that one choice is more moral than another or “doing this will give you the bad ending”.

    When I played it the first time I thought the main storyarch of the antagonists was a lame “well look, both sides are bad” South Park sort of preachiness, but it fits neatly into B1. It is not that being altruistic or even collectivist is automatically bad, it is that Sofia Lamb like Andrew Ryan does not practice what she preaches. He proposed the invisible chain, the heroic capitalistic struggle for survival with no outside intervention….until he realized he was actually losing. Then he used all the tools he had damned the surface states for using. She on the other hand preaches love for her fellow man, and she probably even believes in it, but she does not truly feel it herself. She preaches instinct but she is coldly rational and even when she loses her daughter she grieves her as a failed lifetime project more than anything else. She is the rational one Andrew Ryan claimed to be, and he is the one acting on instinct which she praises.

    B2 also had fantastic level design, more open, secret-filled and non-linear levels than the first one, and with more verticality (thank you, Groping the Elephant blog).

    Less said about B:I the better though. I wouldn’t be quite as harsh as Leigh there, but yeah, it’s bad.

    • Zekiel says:

      Interesting comparison of Ryan and Lamb there, thanks. In spite of enjoying Bioshock 2 I never really “got” Lamb and never spotted what you identified there about her being like a mirror of Ryan.

  7. Eight Rooks says:

    Also, now I’ve watched that video, thank you for that, Graham. Seriously. At times I think half the people (at least) who work in the games industry need to be told something along those lines, relating both to the nonsense they come up with and their misplaced faith that every single person who consumes their product is a special snowflake who could be the next David Foster Wallace or whatever if someone could just put a pen in their hand.

  8. Pidesco says:

    The first Bioshock took the System Shock 2 experience and kicked it in the head until most of the immersive sim bits and crawled away to die under a rock. I didn’t even look at Bioshock 2.

    It’s similar to happened with Rainbow Six after Raven Shield.

    • mont3core says:

      What of the new system shock games coming out? Remaster, 3, rather surprised they are not mentioned here.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’m still annoyed about BioShock being marketed as a “spiritual successor” to System Shock. No it fucking wasn’t.

      • dr.denton says:

        To be fair, they stopped that way before release when it became clear that they intended to make actual money from the game ^^
        What bothered me the most are the bland core mechanics of the game. I wouldn’t mind playing a good shooter, but as things are, in my opinion even SS2, which is supposed to be less shooter and more RPG/Adventure, does a better job at that (awful, gamebreaking balancing aside).

  9. dystome says:


  10. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    I have very strong opinions about this franchise, so I’ll try to contain myself :p

    Bioshock 2 is the best of the bunch, both for how it humanizes its characters and for how it flips around the premise of the original game (it’s the only one in which your choices not only matter but are the crux of the entire story). It has stuff to say about parents and children and legacies and redemption that’s really quite beautiful, all wrapped up in the best gameplay the series has to offer (though of course it’s also, by its very nature, the least surprising of the three).

    Then again, though, the original Bioshock is clearly the best, for how it delivers an experience that still feels totally iconic in nearly every respect. The later games made halfhearted attempts to recapture the deranged glory of Steinman and Cohen, but they never even came close. Bioshock also has some seriously great level design–most of the areas involve you being set loose in environments where you have to complete objectives in different parts of the map, and that kind of open design combined with a wealth of side-passages to explore makes the whole experience feel much less linear than in actually is.

    Bioshock Infinite is clearly not the best of the three, and yet I think it might be my favorite. It’s all the best and all of the worst that AAA gaming has to offer rolled up into one, a brilliant five-hour game wearing the skin of a thirteen-hour game, constantly threatening to collapse under its own weight. I love it to pieces. The story (once it mostly abandons the early political themes and gets to the sci-fi stuff it’s actually interested in) is personal and heartbreaking, and while “Would You Kindly” is better known, for me it can’t match the gut punch of a certain slo-mo sequence during Infinite’s ending. It’s a game about alternate selves, and about guilt, and regret, and becoming something you hate. (And, yes, it’s a game about games, if you’re into that sort of thing). I’ve beaten it three times, and it never gets any less powerful.

    Burial at Sea…yeah, let’s not talk about Burial at Sea. In retrospect, given that Infinite’s story is still kind of a mess after five years in development, it was probably asking too much for Ken Levine to churn out something worthwhile in six months. I’ll be first in line for whatever he does next, though. Bioshock is a weird combination of a AAA budget and a very personal vision, and I think we could use more games like that, even when they fail.

    • SBLux says:

      hear hear

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose BioShock Infinite or Burial At Sea Part 1. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose BioShock 2.

      Because BioShock 1 was co-developed by 2K Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose BioShock 1.

      Clearly the answer is Minerva’s Den + Burial At Sea part 2.

  11. Sin Vega says:

    As usual, Alice says what we’re all thinking.

  12. GrumpyCatFace says:

    For my part, I’d say that B1 and B2 are each one of the greatest games of all time – in different categories. Any comparison between them really does come down to apples v oranges. B1 is incredible survival-horror, while B2 is more of an FPS with some horror elements.

    Infinite is fucking garbage though, seriously. Couldn’t stand more than 2 levels of it. Why they chose to leave the confined spaces and impending doom asthetic for a skateboarding themepark in the clouds is completely beyond me. The atmosphere was what made B1 and B2 so unforgettable for me.

    B1: Those quiet moments, listening to whale song, the roof cracked and leaking, gingerly picking through the trash for something to help me, when a horrible scream pierces the air…

    B2: A doomed, mangled creature fighting to bring some flicker of light to brainwashed child soldiers in a mad carnival. Defending the child while she executes her horrific programming from hordes of monsters…

    Yeah, those were amazing games, each.

  13. Thirith says:

    I didn’t like BI’s political narrative for the usual reasons, but I very much liked the sci-if weirdness and the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. Those bits worked brilliantly for me, making up for the clunky stupidity that was there elsewhere.

  14. Muzman says:

    I could write (and have written) acres about these games. Mainly that’s about the many many ways they aren’t all that good. But they are interesting, so I have to admit that is something. There aren’t too many games that had this much spent on them that give you that much to argue about.

    I would say that Minerva’s Den is the only one with decent combat. All the others are like wading upstream (with Infinite being slightly less so than the first two).
    For all their vaunted options you can mostly tell they couldn’t really accomodate all of them very well and tended to promote ways of playing them that they weren’t actually very good at.
    The designers at Minerva’s Den actually took stock of the system they were working with and noticed that anyone in their right mind uses everything in their power to avoid direct combat. This is because the character is only fairly spry by bronze statue standards and the controls are cumbersome in the extreme. So you’re going to want a ton of fun new bots and mines and weapons and plasmids to get that dirty-work done for you!

    Sometimes I think I’d like to go through the main games again, given they still attract so much fuss. But just thinking about the actual play is a turnoff. I’ll just watch an LP instead. Minerva’s Den is just a neat little add on without much to say as far as the main edgy textual themes goes. But it’s actually fun.

  15. LennyLeonardo says:

    Oh my actual god, I’d forgotten about Boggins!
    Flashbacks of embarrassing tube laughs, and general podcast goodness.
    Boggins! Thank you.

    Bla boobidy baya

  16. Geebs says:

    Bioshock 1 = original trilogy
    Bioshock 2 = expanded universe
    Bioshock 3 = Jar Jar Binks

  17. tslog says:

    BioShock 2 is my favourite for gameplay reasons. The combat variety of regular enemies, siege sections when protecting the little sisters, the big daddies bosses, and the second level boss battle in the big sisters, were all enjoyable to me.
    Sure the gunplay and feedback of weapons and its use is no way near as good as other better shooters, but your decision making and tactical choices when using plasmids, cameras, bots etc, and getting enemies divided attacking each other, it’s still fun to this day. The team also make use of multiplayer level design to include that design in some single player levels.

    The idealigical telling was pretty substandard in all the games, and like someone mentioned above in the comments, Bioshock series is far more impressive as a atmospheric evvironment and The resulting demented characters and enemies.

    • tslog says:

      I forgot to add that I was possibly the most excited I’ve ever been for a game, when I thought BioShock infinite would be a combination of the environmental quality of B 1 with the improve combat with B2.

      That didn’t work out did it. I really disliked infinite when I first played it, immediately played it again and disliked it even more. I’ve expunged it from my PC.

  18. Elaine says:

    Who is this “Alice” that only pops up at the end of this article to exclaim ‘bees’?

  19. Zekiel says:

    In spite of happily championing Bioshock 2, I’d say Bioshock is probably the best of the three, given that its so jolly original in its art design and setting, has an interesting plot and is full of interesting characters. B2 has all those things too (and it certainly has a more consistently-good plot) but at the end of the day it is a retread. Experiencing Rapture for the first time can’t really be bettered.

    That said, I do find it hard to forgive the last third of the game (i.e. most everything after Ryan). Its not just the final boss battle, its the inanity of turning into a Big Daddy in order to open a door *that the rescued Little Sisters who’ve just helped you could open*, its the artifically-tougher bad guys, and of course its the fact that the whole “follow orders from a different person” utterly undermines the clever twist.

    I still kind of defend BInfinite. I agree with pretty much all of the complaints levelled against it, and add that in my opinion it gets really boring in the middle section (once the revolution starts). But it still presents a really interesting location and I give it props for that. Sure, it’d be more fun to explore Columbia as a walking simulator than an artifical sequence of combat encounters (with a bizarrely mundane armoury) of weapons, but its still fun to explore what’s there, when you’re allowed to do so. And it still has some great characters – I loved Elizabeth and the Luteces, and Songbird’s design was fantastic.

    All that said… I feel like I’ve grown tired of the games. Having first played Bioshock in 2010, I’ve played a Bioshock game (or DLC) every year since and that means I’ve seen A LOT of Rapture. I’d probably play another Bioshock game in a different location but I really have had enough of the city under the sea for quite a while.

  20. Zekiel says:

    Brendan: “underwater Tower Defence with children” is an excellent description that I’ll try to remember. Nice one. 10 points.

    However minus 25 points for “Spec Ops: The Line, aka The Mediocre Shooter With One Great Bit”. Spec Ops: The Line is ‘The Mediocre Shooter With LOTS of Great Bits (And A Really Stupid Title)’. :-)

  21. brucethemoose says:

    Sice I live under a rock, I didn’t know people disliked Unfinite that much until now.

    Yes, the gameplay and enemies are bad… But it’s quite beautiful IMHO, and I liked Elizabeth and parts of the story too.

    I wouldn’t call it one of the best games I ever played, but it’s not something I regret playing, and I’m surprised that so many people do.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Insert obligatory “RPS comments need an edit button” post here.

    • Distec says:

      I replayed Infinite a few months ago on PC (first time on console) and I thought it was fine. You see the staging more clearly on a second go-round, and the plot arguably does strain under its own eight. But it was still a fun and gorgeous experience. Like somebody else above said, it’s probably not the “best”, but it might be my favorite.(?)

      Burial at Sea is even more uneven. I liked it in the beginning and was actually kind of angry after the end.

    • booflax says:

      You’re not living under a rock, you’re living in the real world.

      Infinite got a 94 on Metacritic, 8.5 user score which is incredible for metacritic user score. 4.5 average on Amazon which is amazing. AND an overwhelmingly positive rating on steam.

      Only these nerds circle jerking about how much more intelligent they are than the “average gamers” claim Infinite was despised.

      Most gamers adored them. Ironically Bioshock 2 is considered the worst by most and of course all these circle jerkers harp on and on about how it’s the only GOOD Bioshock in the bunch. It’s pathetic and to be honest it was VERY difficult to read this article due to the ridiculous amount of hipster behaviour.

      Consider this my last visit to this website, these journalists personify everything I hate about entitled nerd gamer attitude.

  22. SimonSays says:

    tl;dr – I like Bioshock, not as much as System Shock – but it is a great FPS with a strange inconsistent sci-fi universe and storyline.

    (sorry for the long rambling post in advance, I am not editing this as it was a long day at work)

    On the remasters – I just started playing BS the first, I do notice the technical remaster is well done, the textures and physics are more in line with Infinite. This is a good thing – I would have loved to see dual-wielding come over from BS2/BSI as well as I wish the hacking mechanic from BS2 was also transferred (seriously pipes?).

    Regarding the series as a whole – I want to give a little perspective first. I played the first System Shock in 1995 (when I was eight) and the second in 1999 (when I was 12) – I’ve replayed the many times since and am eager about the remake of the first game (after a very successful remaster) as well as System Shock 3.

    When Bioshock came out it was hailed as a spiritual successor to Shock 2 and I had been hyped for it for a long time. I had to play on an XBox at the time as my PC was not powerful enough – and it is one of the few times I have enjoyed sitting at the couch playing a game. Everything about it (except for pipes!) was awe-inspiring from the crazy (for the time) story and location to the mission based gameplay.


    It was not a successor to SS2 – it felt more in line with first System Shock and that was a little unforgivable for me. It wasn’t so much the lack of Skill Based RPG system – it was the lack of consequence in actual gameplay.

    The first time I played SS2 I built a character that was to weak for the body of the many and I didn’t stock enough along the way to get past it. It took me 3 builds to successfully beat it. Even if it wasn’t balanced right – I loved that. The Bioshock series offers no consequence for death and that is a failure across the series.

    System Shock 1 and 2 operate in very much the same way as the Bioshock series regarding death – but they make you work for it.
    Unlike the Vita Chamber which is always on unless you turn it off – there was a legitimate reason to find the Restoration Bay/Bio-Reconstruction Machines in the SS series. Because if you didn’t – you died for real (well unless you saved before everything you did).

    I can’t tell you how much time and progress I lost because I died in those games after forgetting to save and not having found the restoration machine.

    In BS you face a big daddy and just die enough times until they are dead – it is a legitimate strategy that I eventually just accepted as normal game play.

    Now don’t get me wrong I still love the series – I just replayed Infinite+DLC in prep for the remasters. But I love it for it’s odd hole-filled science fiction multi-universal story line. The philosophical/political bend of it is interesting and part of why I enjoy it. But I love the weird sci-fi universe they’ve created. And honestly don’t care too much about the plot inconsistencies – and actually kind of embrace them. Then again some of my favourite movies are Southland Tales, Naked Lunch and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

    Being a long time FPS fan (well before I became an immersive sim or RPG fan) I love Bioshock the series for being a weird deviation in the genre. It is chiefly a FPS because – the choices throughout the whole series are very binary and the gameplay rarely switches from combat (except in Burial At Sea episode 2).

    Speaking of the second Infinite DLC – this is the best title for me from a gameplay perspective – the added stealth elements feel so at home in the universe that it makes me wish it was part of the series from the start.

    Finally regarding the storyline of the canon series (I’m still not sure if BS2 is considered canon after Infinite – I guess it works as an epilogue?) – I find that the series, especially Infinite feels almost improvised or written as it was being made. I found this exciting and interesting everytime I’ve played it. Sure there are inconsistencies and it doesn’t gel together succinctly into a neat beginning, middle, and end – but frantic pace and unique universe is among some of the best in the science fiction genre across any medium – or at least it is for me.

    I don’t really care what point Ken Levine was trying to make with them and am not going to read to deep into that side of things (as with all art/entertainment I ingest I have my own interpretation and that matters more to me that whatever the true meaning may or may not be). I am just glad he felt the need to make it – though for the next time I hope he realizes that the actual game-play challenge of his earlier work (SS2, Freedom Force) was part of the actual fun of those games.

    Again sorry for the long rambling post – if you made it to this point. Well… thanks. :)

  23. Sarfrin says:

    Electric spanners? Pah! Fireable bee swarms are unsurpassable as a weapon.

  24. Werthead says:

    “I always wanted it to be a horror game and felt like it was more of an FPS.”

    I think this is the key weakness of the series. The first two games feel like square horror games forced into a round FPS hole. The third feels like an open-world RPG (or one of those BioWare ones with a big middle open-world bit and a linear opneing and ending) crushed down into an FPS structure. All three are crying out to be something more than they were allowed to be.

    It’s also rather annoying, as since Infinite came out we’ve seen a big resurgence of the multiple-choice, multiple-route FPS through the new Deus Exes and Dishonored. I’m pretty sure that a BioShock 4, if it had happened (well, it still might) would have gone off in that direction as well rather than being another manshooter set in this week’s interesting polis of choice.

    • SimonSays says:

      Totally Werthead – to be honest I never even found Bioshock scary in the same way I found Shock2 scary (because it was so easy). All that said I think Burial At Sea ep. 2 points to the way the series would have evolved and where it should have been from the start – due to the new stealth mechanic and making death “permanent” to some extent.

      If the mechanics of Episode 2 had been in the series from the start they could have even kept the original Shock concept of the vita chambers in place. Where you stealth around looking for the activation terminal while avoiding situations that may leave you dead and then switch to a more action orientated approach once the risk factor is diminished.

      • Zekiel says:

        Yeah, this is the reason I am a bit conflicted about Burial at Sea part 2. Gameplay-wise it was WAY better than BInfinite. But the plot left such a bad taste in my mouth (for a whole bunch of reasons).

  25. timzania says:

    Discussions about Infinite always make me feel a little crazy because I thought there was an obvious subtext: that the player (literally, not the player’s avatar) was the villain — that AAA games have all this violent, racist, sexist stuff because it’s what YOU want. I thought the game was jam-packed with tells about that intention, and that tropes like “press A to murder this person” were deployed with angry, bitter cynicism about the state of the industry.

    But then what I thought was the subtext became the criticism, and zero other people see it my way. I guess it’s too idiosyncratic to be reasonable, and you’re all more likely to be right, but still. The paper flames animated with fans!

    • Sic says:

      You’re not crazy.

      To be honest, I don’t think the RPS chums even try to engage with the subtext (or even text). It’s all a bunch of “we’re smarter than the developers/game”, without actually critiquing the games.

      If they could stop jerking each other off for a few minutes, maybe they could get in a word edge-ways about what, specifically, they think is problematic?

  26. jalf says:

    I sometimes feel like I must be the only one for whom the first game just didn’t work at all.

    Yes, the intro was cool, and yes, the setting sounded awesome on paper, but… once you got there, it felt like those shonky old-school haunted house rides, where you’re in a little cart thing wobbling along a rail and occasionally it’ll jerk to a stop so a ghost or something can pop out of the darkness and go WOOOOOOOoooOOOoooo and then you’re supposed to be surprised and go “AAAH” and then the cart wobbles along to the next bit. It never sold the idea of Rapture being a city. It never seemed like a place people had *ever* lived. It was a series of rooms clearly constructed with the sole purpose of being a backdrop for your running around and shooting. It felt like a theme park ride.

    And the story… I mean, can’t the entire series be summarized as “Ken Levine demonstrating that he once took a Philosophy 101 class by doing basically the same thing again and again”?

    It just didn’t seem as smart as everyone said it was. Maybe it just bounced off me because I was already pretty disillusioned from the rest of the game. Maybe if the environment and the gameplay had managed to draw me in more, I’d also have been more inclined to buy into the story.

    • poliovaccine says:

      You’re not the first, or the last. We just never founded a cult about it.

  27. Vesperan says:

    Of the three I preferred the Bioshock Infinite storyline around your characters love, redemption etc. Something in it clicked for me.

    But it was the completely wrong genre of game for that story. Slaughtering people in mass blood baths didn’t feel right alongside the story. So I played it through once, and then that was it.. it sits unplayed.

    Overall I see the games as slightly overrated. They’re OK shooters and have great backdrops.. but lack something.

  28. Christo4 says:

    One thing i HATED about infinite was the reused faces all the damn time. Like really, i think there were at MOST 20 faces. And there was this girl at the beginning, the one who gives you the ball, her face was used soooo damn much. You’d think for someone that important or in your face they’d at least try to give her a unique face after bragging that they’ve spent 250 mil $ on this game… Yeah it’s probably very silly but i just couldn’t get into the story sometimes when i seen the samefaceNR154 again.

    The environments were good but the story was just ok and gameplay was kinda meh. A lot of abilities felt like they were there just for the sake of being there cus BIOSHOCK.

    I don’t really remember much of Bioshock 1 or 2 to compare them… i guess i liked them both so i can’t say i liked one more than the other.

  29. Kinsky says:

    I’m really confused. When BioShock Infinite came out the hype was incredible. Just about every review was 9/10 or above, Adam Sessler posted that video gushing about how it was this generation’s Citizen Kane, everyone was raving about it on all corners of the internet. However, now that the refurb is out and everyone is looking back at the trilogy, people seem reluctant to talk about Infinite, like it’s the retarded runt of the bunch.

    I bought BioShock Infinite soon after launch as a result of its initial reception. I was repulsed by just about everything the game did within the first hour, for a lot of the reasons people are discussing now. The condescension about Important Social Problems, the uninspired and incongruous game play design, and above all, how teenage the game was about “depth” (Songbird’s tune is C-A-G-E… seriously). Whenever I tried to express that opinion, regardless of the forum, I was instantly and unanimously blasted out of the room. The hiveminding about this game was incredible. GameSpot posted a second opinion – which they took pains to clarify was a minority opinion – a 4/10 review which not only developed a comment section comprised of uncountable pages of people screaming at the reviewer, calling him angry epithets (“Tom McShit”) and accusing him and the site of intentionally pissing everyone off for page views, but also inspired similar threads on just about every other gaming site with a forum. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    And now we’re talking about how Infinite has glaring problems like everyone always knew they were there? Did I unknowingly step into an alternate universe where people didn’t wite ten page essays about how this game single-handedly changed the medium forever? Where absolute fucking lunacy like this stunning piece didn’t feature on the front page of just about every gaming site? Where was this criticism back then?

    • Zekiel says:

      Mmm, yeah. Thing is, I think people were too kind to BInfinte on release, and too harsh on it now. Its still a wonderous experience in terms of setting and some of the characters. But its one of those games which makes a fantastic first impression and loses a lot on replay – when you’re not being so wowed by the spectacle and trying to figure out the story, the problematic elements in the plot and the so-so gameplay become more obvious.

      • Kinsky says:

        People weren’t kind to Infinite, they were almost universally falling over each other in the scramble to get a taste of Levine’s hot dog.

        • Zekiel says:

          Well he neatly fits the auteur theory as applied to game design. Its a shame that his interesting narrative ideas were ill suited for the type of game that Bioshock Infinite was.

          Also I think it worth pointing out that the RPS piece you linked to in your post is an exploration of interesting ideas within the game. I think that’s a different thing from stepping back and critically examining the game (and spotting all the problems with it). Both are valid approaches.

          • Kinsky says:

            Gillen is a hack and that piece is seven pages of assuming Ken Levine is an unparalleled genius and drooling over his masterwork. He seriously argues that the game was intentionally designed as a linear, uninspired shooter because Ken Levine understands video games, but then actually it isn’t a linear, uninspired shooter because every player generates a unique combination of inputs during their playthrough. Just read this shit:

            Often times Bioshock’s studied videogame formalism, love of set-design and visual showpiece reminds me of how musicals operate, but with painful hyperviolence in place of vocal histrionics. Why has the set been cleared of extras? Why is there a big fight here? Because it’s a first-person shooter, silly.

            It’s fine with that.

            The first Bioshock was bitter at videogames, that angry j’accuse aimed at the whole mainstream, gamers and developers both (including Irrational). You spend your entire life doing these tasks just because someone in power tells you? What are you? What are we? A man chooses, a slave obeys.

            Infinite’s metacritical point is softer, both in terms of its overall importance in the game, and towards the medium (and specifically genre) it utilises. Throughout by its chosen action and made explicit in its last twenty minutes, it says it’s okay to be a classical videogame. Videogames are about their programmed boundaries placed by its designers and populated by our actions. And every single game, even the most linear, is different – is fundamentally and absolutely yours. Those choices, those tweaking of experience, that killing of an enemy, that head-flick of the camera or pause in step makes a whole different world, and it’s wonderful, boundless and infinite.

            Infinite is much more of a classical first person than either of the first two games. Alec was especially right to nod towards Doom’s arenas, its space and exploration… and Infinite feels comfortable with that. Its confidence in itself even shows in stepping away from once radical elements that are now closer to standard, like the heavy internal story choices and multiple endings. No, believes Infinite, the fact it has a single end doesn’t change the multiversity it contains.

            Nothing about this smug garbage is a valid approach.

    • poliovaccine says:

      You’re not in an alternate universe, dude. That is par for the course when it comes to our species. If you follow election cycles you see it enough that it ceases to faze you.

      “Mass hysteria” is a real thing, it just takes being uninvolved yourself to properly see it. People are more connected than they sometimes think.

    • Vesperan says:

      Kinsky –

      Thanks for referring to the 4/10 Gamespot review. I hadn’t seen it but it perfectly reflects my experience of the game.

      That said, given the way game review scores typically go I would expect a 4/10 to crash to desktop constantly and be bug filled. Sits outside the standard 6-9 scoring range!

      • Kinsky says:

        Unfortunately Tom McShea got booted off the site because the people who read GameSpot legitimately think that if a video game review disagrees with the mainstream it’s objectively wrong.

  30. TheApologist says:

    I enjoyed Infinite the most – I think it looked amazing, I enjoyed the tonal changes, and I am a sucker for twisty universe-y nonsense even which it’s flawed. That’s despite the fact that it absolutely is Problematic. It’s deeply cynical about politics, about power, and it is Racist with a big capital R. All of that really matters. But *all* the Bioshocks are Problematic.

    For example, I come from a family badly affected by mental ill-health. The first Bioshock struck me as a version of the awful ‘trapped with the crazies in the asylum’ trope. Also, it use violence towards children as an emotional hook. They’re as gross as each other.

  31. Cropduster says:

    Infinite was a real disappointment for me.

    I could theoretically handle the boring combat and claustrophobic level design if the story was up to snuff (it certainly does start strong in that respect).

    But the dimension hopping adventure that it hints at never quite materializes. The game teases you with the insane possibilities of dimension jumping, but aside from one 30 minute level, and the end cut-scene, it’s just jangling its keys at you.

    Sadly it makes Quantum Leap look like a Philip K Dick novel.

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    Leucine says:

    My feelings on Bioshock begin and end at: it wasn’t the promised “spiritual sequel to System Shock”. I was just too weighed down by the expectation that that was what we were getting that I couldn’t enjoy it at all when it didn’t live up to that expectation.

    Also I had to stop playing at some point because I encountered horrific performance and other issues and years later because of my above disappointment, haven’t been able to return.

    I wish I could say more or that I did glean some sort of enjoyment from it but… once I got past the sumptuous art deco design and the interesting setting of being in an underwater city, it still wasn’t System Shock. It was still, what felt to me like, a rather bland FPS that grudgingly threw in a few RPG-like bits. Maybe I’m being too unfair and I’ll hold up my hands if that indeed is the case but I can only wish I held the same positive views of the series that others here do.

  33. Herring says:

    I loved all of them. Bioshock 1 had the novelty of the setting and the best ‘bit’ but the latter two I found more emotionally affecting.

    I think as an old dad you could crudely sum up the reason as 1 is about a son while the other two are about fathers.

  34. Freud says:

    The first 10-15 minutes of the first Bioshock are brilliant. It holds so much promise.

    None of the games in the series has been able to replicate that, since when the actual gameplay starts we know what to expect. An average shooter and story segments told through auto logs.

    They’re not terrible games by any means. They just are 8/10 story driven shooters with some very clever touches (Little Sisters and Big Daddys are fantastic as creations).

  35. damnsalvation says:

    Brendan you’re totally wrong about the Irish in late 19th/early 20th century America. They were reviled, oppressed, and segregated. It wasn’t until they began to dominate the civil service (specifically the police and fire departments) that it started to change.
    While Infinite is set at the end of the “we hate the Irish” period, Colombia had cut itself off from broader American society decades earlier and was founded as a rejection of the post-civil war period (when things started getting better for the Irish, without whom Lincoln could not have won).
    As an American who grew up in New York with a bunch of Irish friends, I blame you guys. Unless I’m talking to my Irish friends, in which case I’m usually praising the English for bravely trying to civilize them. A little risky at times, because they’re usually drunk, often violent, and many of their families immigrated during and due to the Troubles. Come to think of it, my Scottish friends are also drunk and violent. Y’all need to cut back on the booze over there. Maybe try switching to American beer. It’s basically water, but it’s just strong enough stave off the DT’s and prevent the UK from collapsing in mass withdrawl.

  36. Marclev says:

    Hmm, I bought Bioshock 1 remastered, and found that despite (or maybe because of) the graphical remaster matching my memory of what the game looked like at the time so closely, after a few levels, it was very much “A game that I’d played before, and didn’t offer anything new” and refunded it.

    In all honesty, I’m not actually entirely convinced the graphical update amounts to that much, it really did look very much like I remembered it looking, nostalgia or not. Is this one of those console “HD versions” things, where on the PC it already was HD anyhow, and all they did was added some fancier lighting and shadows, or are my rose tinted glasses too rose tinted?

    Anyhow, maybe other people’s experiences are different or I’m missing the point, but it seemed to offer little reply value when you know how it unfolds and the twist.

    • Vermintide says:

      What, you think they’d have the nerve to sell it if all they did was improve the lighting?

      Don’t be silly. They also improved the HUD resolution.

  37. Aspirant_Fool says:

    Bioshock and its sequel are fine games, but I haven’t replayed them recently. I guess I should be doing that this weekend since the remasters are out… But, since I have played it recently, I’m comfortable describing Infinite as being about as endearing as that slime that collects at the bottom of the garbage bin when you forget to empty it before a vacation. It had one neat bit of world-building, which probably isn’t a spoiler since it’s revealed in the first half hour or so of the game, and that’s the fact that this society has had its development both accelerated and at least partially shaped by the pillaging of technology and culture from parallel worlds. This neat thing could support a story on its own, but instead it’s just a throwaway justification for the presence of Bioshock powers and a setup for the rejected M. Night Shyamalan screenplay that is the latter half of the game.

    I also made the mistake of playing through it on the highest difficulty, since I remembered the previous games being a little on the easy side. However, the only thing the game does to make itself harder is give the same enemies more health and higher damage, so it rendered all the powers useless and turned combat into a chore. If you’re going to pick up the collection to play for the first time, I think you should skip Infinite. If your conscience won’t allow you to buy it without playing, just get drunk and breeze through on easy.

  38. Jackablade says:

    Has anyone managed to put a finger on why Infinite’s combat is so unengaging? Not just the fatigue coming from the fact that there is far too much of it, but the moment to moment shooty and magicy and rail ridingness. It has enough ingredients that it should at least be amusing for a while, but I never felt satisfied by it and could never work out exactly why that was the case.

  39. Vermintide says:

    Listen, right.

    You dickheads wouldn’t stop harping on about how clever and transcendental Bioshock Infinite was for months. What, you don’t remember? Well, it was just before you started going off the rails about feminism, about that sort of time… Funnily enough you seemed to change your minds on that too.

    But I digress. All I’m saying is, don’t come round here now and pretend you were too cool to let Bioshock Infinite fool you all along. I’m on to you, you hacks.

    • monckey4 says:

      Did you read the article? One of the guys goes on about much he loved it first and as he read other critics and their issues with it, he started to realise.

  40. monckey4 says:

    BS2 actually was my first BioShock, and yeah, I thought iwas much better than the first one when I eventually played it. Thinking back, the first one definitely has more memorable moments, but as a whole I think 2 is the best. I do really like all of them, but 1 and Infinite are so full of themselves it actually makes it difficult to just simply enjoy them.

  41. A Wanderer says:

    The only thing I don’t understand about Bioshock : Why aren’t they stealth games ?
    The games are based on the environnment. On the city. It’s the real main character, I guess everyoen agrees on this. And the first minutes of Bisohock 1 and Infinite hold so much premise – you see the city for the first time, with both a feeling of “that’s beautiful” and “oh, there is something wrong down there” that makes you want to explore this world, to understand it…and what you’ve got right after ? “Take that gun and shoot the bastards.”
    I want to explore and use this environnment. I want to creep around the corners of Rapture or Columbia, learn about these places, find new ways to go around them. I don’t want to shoot people and occasionnaly rip their face off with abrappling hook. I don’t want it because it turns this formidable premise of a game into and admittedly well-done FPS, but an FPS where the city is nothing but a pretty scenery, not something that you can explore, but something that is just there, empty and lifeless.
    I’d gladly exchange Infinite for a entire game with Elizabeth in Rapture. Burial at sea 2 was, gameplay-wise, what the Bioshock games should have been all along.

  42. Llewyn says:

    I’ve just realised that I missed the opportunity, amidst all the Remastered coverage, to post this image of an early proposal for a remastered .

  43. bedsidetrash says:

    I completely agree that inifnite was, in most ways, the worst game, and I was also baffled by its reviews. The combat was terrible compared to Bioshock 1 & 2. The story, while interesting, was also convluted, preachy, and scattershot. That being said, the city, the bird, etc.. were beautiful and I appreciated the ambition.

    Saying Bioshock 2 was better than Bioshock seems almost nihilistic to me. Yeah, the combat was the best but the story was uninspired and aimless, while the atmosphere was recycled. I played the game twice and I still don’t remember anything about the story except there was a woman named Lamb and a half hearted critique of communism.