Well I just finished BioShock last week (finally!) and figured I would add my thoughts to the mix of all those other people who finished it before me. First, let me say that this game was a lot of fun. I would recommend this game to anyone with an Xbox360. It’s not a sooper long game, but it did take me a number of sittings to finish.
The Art Direction
Let me start the good off by saying that, for me, the
number one offering that this game has is its gorgeous art direction. First, let’s boggle the mind and think that
the entire game (except for the first 2 min) is in a giant underwater
steam-punk city that is falling apart. We
can also point towards the art
deco and retro-futurism
that oozes from every pore of this world. Even if this city was above the water, it still would be an amazing place
One interesting note about making the entire game take place inside…there was no need for having to develop large outdoor settings with far vistas and foliage. The game did have a few spots where plants were very important to the level, but at no point where they in a large, expansive environment. I imagine, avoiding large vistas allowed the dev team to stay focused on the world on a more manageable scale and thus bringing a higher level of quality and detail to the environment.
On top of the world being wonderful, the enemies were as well. The horror level with the creepy masked artist who had you running around taking pictures of dead bodies…well that entire level was a creep fest. The big daddies and little sisters were a great idea. Little girls are always kinda scary when they seem to be unusually intelligent or quiet (remember Ringu). These children were no exception. To add to the scare factor, you almost always could hear the little sisters talking to their big daddy before you ever saw them. The dev team obviously planned this and made sure that the lines of dialogue that the sisters used was also on the side of creepy (or at least mysterious enough to hope she wasn’t talking about you).
I do very much wish swimming underwater was involved somewhere in the game, but I have to say that it probably was not because of the team’s desire to keep the art requirements small so they could again focus on their attention to artistic subtleties and details.
The Weapon/Plasmid Controls
I have not heard anyone talk about the controls anywhere, but I do say that they were quite nice in BioShock. Especially so were the weapon and plasmid controls. Left trigger fired the active plasmid. Left shoulder switched the active plasmid. Right trigger fired the active weapon. Right shoulder switched the active weapon. The one downside you might imagine is that having 8 weapons requires a lot of shoulder button pressing (especially annoying in a dangerous situation), but they added the ability to hold down the shoulder button to pause the game and allow for more methodical weapon switching.
I didn’t actually use the shoulder-hold mechanic all that often, but when I did it was really nice to have handy. The learning curve was very gentle as they introduced multiple weapons/plasmids rather slowly and I can’t remember a single time where I pulled out the wrong weapon and perished as a result.
The game was reasonable in length. It did take me quite a few sittings to complete, but I wasn’t really playing for all that long each time (maybe an hour or two each sitting). Although I don’t have a ton to say about this, I felt it worth mentioning because I hate games that are too damn long. “OMG that game took me like 100 hours to complete. It was epic!” I hate that crap…I want a condensed experience that is rich and detailed, not drawn out and watered down.
Ok guys, what the hell was up with this idea? So I die and then I respawn in this nifty glass closet with no real loss other than some time running back to where I died. Are you serious? So once you realize that there is no penalty to death, there really is no longer any fear of anything. Sure you worked really hard to make the big daddy seem like the impossible foe (which worked for a good deal of time), but once this whole death thing became a simple annoyance the game simply lost a lot of its ability to be a game that I was proud to have beaten. Essentially, there was no challenge. If it wasn’t for the story and the art direction, I would have surely put the game down.
Also, why am I the only person who can use these damn respawn things? Shouldn’t every single person who lived in Rapture be able to as well? I won’t go too far down this train of thought as I do genuinely like the game and know that if I start poking too many holes in the death system I will just make myself upset.
Ok, so as much as I do like the super power plasmid idea, some of the decisions made by the design team just don’t agree with me. For example, some plasmids are seemingly useless while others are way over powered. On top of that, some don’t act like you would expect.
Useless plasmids to me were the hacking one’s. Like I really plan on wasting a plasmid slot on an ability to get back health and eve every time I successfully hack. With the frequency of things to hack, it just seems useless to me. For overpowered, the chameleon plasmid was as useful to me as was the ability to move. Once I had it, I never swapped it out. So, digging a little deeper, the plasmids that are useful at higher frequency are the ones that feel overpowered.
Another way to look at the usefulness is to look at the actual function. The cyclone trap, for example, helped me only once in the whole game. It wasn’t hard to use, but who the hell cares if you shoot someone 20 feet in the air if it doesn’t do all that much damage. I’m trying to kill my enemies, not play with them! The electricity plasmid bums me out a bit as well. At some later point in the game, enemies in water no longer get fried when I charge the water. I have to hit the water multiple times in order to fully electrocute them. The game wants me to get a higher level electricity plasmid, but visually these are the same enemies as earlier. Why doesn’t the plasmid work as well anymore? Argh!
I just didn’t buy the whole idea that there are NO other people here except for the man who built all of Rapture. Surely there are people around who have found a way to survive somehow. I mean, hell, there are these glass telephone booths where you get to respawn until the cows come home. Why doesn’t everyone else respawn too!
Ok, so I get the game mechanic of needing to respawn, so I will put logic aside for a moment and assume that the player can respawn where NPCs could not. Even with this logical way for NPCs to come back to life thrown in the gutter, I still can’t accept that not even a single other human has found a way to come back. So I actually had a dream the other night that there really was this underground world in Rapture where humans had found a way to survive…somehow. They had secret passages all over the place and behind these passages existed a whole unexpected world that had deeply planted roots in defending the space that they occupied. Anyway, I could have seen at least a few people around…kinda like in 28 Days Later
The Bait and Switch – Will you kindly… stick to one bad guy?
So those of you who have finished BioShock know that about 1/3 of the way through you finally get to meet (and kill) Andrew Ryan. Well, you don’t personally get to do the deed, but that’s not the part I am upset about. You see, the game spends 2/3 of the game building up this character, Andrew Ryan. Then, when I FINALLY get to him I lose control of my character and kill the bastard. Not to get too worked up, but ya kinda killed my buzz. You worked me up on this one fellow who practically kills himself (which is damn strange and not really explained) and now you want me to hunt after another guy who is supposedly more evil AND has all the signs changed in the blink of an eye to read his name instead of Ryan’s name. Gimme a break! Stick with one idea and see it through…that’s what I believe in.
The Final 1/3 of the Game – More Bait and Switch
Ok, so the final 1/3 of the game really drove me up the wall as far as story. I already explained how the switch happened and I didn’t agree with it. Well then the final section of the game feels like it’s just dragging out more gameplay for the sake of making the game longer. I said earlier that I think the length of the game is good, but a little shorter would have been ok as well.
The one situation that really got me to even add this category in the first place is the unfortunate way in which goals are passed out and players are strung along. For example, I need to find one vial of antidote to cure the mind control. I work to find the vial, drink it when I do and then get a goal update that it wasn’t enough and I need to find more. Oh shit on me…this bait and switch thing pisses me off! Let me know what the goal is up front for the love of all that is good design. It ends up feeling like I am getting the gamer runaround as opposed to actually making progress. “Go here, no there, now over there. Ok, cool. You found the sooper secret awesome device, but it’s broken and needs 200 parts scattered around the area you just went through so to make it more fun we are gonna repop all sorts of bad ass monsters. Have fun!”
The Super Villain Ending?!?
Ok, whoever approved that guy at the end is crazy. You craft a gorgeous and artistically consistent game for 95% of the way and then Fontaine turns into a fucking 12 foot tall comic book style human torch. I’m sorry, but I don’t even know what more to say other than this seemed like someone was too tired to think of something better OR some idea that came from someone the lead designer just couldn’t say no to.
What would have been wrong with a NORMAL sized human who could have used some steam punk contraptions to aid himself? Oh yeah, and if Fontaine was so god damned huge, why did he need the player to kill Ryan?
SO WHAT NEXT?
So BioShock has come and gone. Reviewed by many and loved by many as well. Yahtzee did a great review, but then again I like all of his reviews so far. For those of you who want to see the good ending, click here. For the bad one click here.
I have to say, overall I really enjoyed this game, but I can’t see myself playing it again. It felt like work after the switch and especially not challenging after realizing you can’t die…ever. I have a feeling this game is going to have a sequel or ten, so I expect that at the very least we will get to see more people in the next iteration of the game.
Case closed…now to finish Halo 3 and HL2:EP2.