BioShock is ten years old! The first-person shooter set in the underwater city of Rapture was released on August 21, 2007 in North America (and on the 24th elsewhere), and I’ve been digging through RPS’s archives for the things we wrote about the game upon its release.Relevant: BioShock came out the day after RPS officially launched on August 20th, as John wrote about earlier today. That means the site was just a baby when BioShock came out, and Kieron interviewing Ken Levine on the making of the game was one of the site’s launch day features.
One of the advantages of having an aesthetic which is consistent and a great art team is that, once they know what they’re doing, they can create very beautiful things very quickly. All those questions you ask when you build an object into a world become a lot easier. When you’re struggling with your aesthetic, it slows everything down. A talented art team with a clear aesthetic will go really far, really fast. That’s not to underestimate the amount of work and talent. They’re incredibly productive and – for the industry – small. Bioshock was made by a team of between fifty and eighty people, compared to ones you see at other publishers of 150-200.
Meanwhile, a week later John had thoroughly enjoyed the game but argued that it wasn’t the 10/10 other sites were giving it. Among his reasons was:
The final boss fight, which Kieron mentioned a while back, was just awful. It’s not just out of place for the rest of the game. It’s a bloody terrible boss fight. It’s far easier to left-mouse your way through than any of the early Big Daddy fights, which is appalling. I loathe boss fights, and I’m only interested in them when they demand cunning over luck and reflexes. This asked for neither, letting me kill Fontaine with only a few crossbow bolts, no plasmids at all, and at its most ridiculous, allowing me to hack a security bot, presumably while Mr All Powerful stood still tapping his toes, politely waiting.
The archives also reminded me what a cloud BioShock released under, as Steam struggled to serve the game to the masses trying to download it and restrictive DRM stopped people installing it on more than two computers. Eesh. Also it reminded me that RPS used to post cosplay pictures pretty regularly, which I’m taking as license to start doing again.
For my part, I loved BioShock when I first played it and then, in the months that followed, my enthusiasm dimmed. Over time, it was the flaws mentioned in John’s feature that stuck out in my memory – including, primarily, the boss fight and the overall let-down of the final third. But I’ve gone back since and been swept away all over again. I can’t think of another game with a world so immediately intriguing and unusual. Fort Frolic is superb; the writing is frequently wonderful; Andrew Ryan’s voice acting is still maybe my favourite performance in any game; it is visually striking at almost every turn… And that twist! My heart was pounding in the build-up to it, as sound and level design and writing all combined to create a perfect dramatic moment.
And without BioShock? It seems unlikely we’d have Dishonored or Prey or any of the other immersive sims released in the past ten years.