Amongst easily muffled outcries of being corporate sellouts, the awesome Humble Bundle guys have released the 2K bundle, rendering nil any excuse I had of putting off Bioshock for so long.
I've finally basked in the glory of Rapture's underwater dystipia and...I...don't like Bioshock.
I've searched online for others who might share my plight and found that, as is becoming a predictable trend in my life, I get boxed in with all sorts of idiots for my belief. I refuse idiocy by association so here I go trying to intellectually explain my point; I don't HATE Bioshock, I just don't like it.
Minimum requirementsI grew up playing PC games of all types and genres : shooters, RPGs, adventure games, Strategy of the turn-based and real-time ilk, I've played most games released since 198x.
During my vain search for others like me, I've often come across the "Ah, you hate Bioshock, go back to playing COD. Bioshock is for REAL gamers."
I hate Call of Duty. I find it boring and shockingly confining.
I love Halo and Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex and its reboot, Thief and NOT its shitty reboot, Dishonored, Doom, Hexen, Heretic...
I humbly posit that I am over-qualified for the real gamer status.
Forced BaptismI remember having played the Bioshock demo when it was released on the Xbox 360 a few years ago. Replaying the first few "levels" in 2014 reminded me of a very important issue which still prevents my immersion in Rapture : The first Plasmid injection.
During my quest for peers, I've come across an article describing the ...ahem...controversy of a forced baptism in Bioshock Infinite. I haven't played Infinite and thus had no idea about this baptism, naively thinking that someone else had identified my issue with the initial Plasmid injection.
Let's imagine that I am in a plane crash over the Atlantic. Let's pretend that I find an abandoned lighthouse which leads me into an underwater city I had never even suspected to exist. Let's push this delirium further and say that inhabitants of this secret society regularly use some sort of injection to give them super-powers.
A bit far-fetched but I have no problem with outlandish ideas...as long as it respects the Ghostbusters rule.
In the movie's DVD commentary, the late Harold Ramis explains a very important technique used to suspend the audience's disbelief. He states that as long as the main characters in a movie (or game) react in believable / plausible ways to everyday and supernatural/extraordinary events, the audience will buy it.
Jamming a needle into my wrist, hoping it will give me superpowers is not something I would ever consider, unless I was in grave danger. Really grave, unbelievably grave danger.
If injecting the plasmids would be introduced as a logical story-telling point, I wouldn't mind it too much but as it stands, you perform the injection because it's the only way to open a door.
It might seem like a minor complaint but this one moment completely breaks the narrative for me. I'm very aware that I am playing a video game at that point and will not bother investing my attention into this world because at any time, it might just decide what I would do.
Ever played Fallout : New Vegas? I love the immersion and world-building of the modern Fallout iterations but every time I get to Camp McCarran ( The NCR-occupied airport), the convoluted and forced narrative of its NPCs and their quests turn this role playing game into a checklist of things to do. All immersion is lost and I start skipping dialogue, fingers taking residence on the quick-save and quick-load buttons.
Whatever Andrew Ryan says, whatever Atlas mutters on the radio, I don't care. I just want to get through this and get it over with as fast as possible.
Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge. I won't pretend to give one shit until the end credits roll.
Mixed bag of Enemies
I love the idea of Splicers I like their getup, I like their madness and the fact that Irrational Games managed to make the most common enemy feel unique when framed in new situations is testament to their skill.
Big Daddy's iconic image will be drilled (ha!) into your mind as soon as you catch a glimpse of the hulking monstrosity and while I have nothing bad to say about its design, it just never managed to register as a "cool" enemy. Little Sisters suffer the same fate; instantly recognizable but ultimately forgettable.
The Flying turrets have a distinct feel which I really like even though I think that hacking being represented by a clone of Pipe Dream is stupid.
Bad Lip Reading
Narrative dissonance aside, my main issue with the game is its readability. I think that this was intended in Bioshock's design so I can't really fault it for this but I have a hard time discerning the enemies from the lush, incredibly rich scenery.
Rapture's environment and the atmosphere it evokes are pitch-perfect; I am a fan of Rapture when I think about it or fantasize about its mysteries. When I play the game, though, I have a hard time focusing on the enemies, losing themselves in a blurry darkness, occasionally lit by muzzle flashes.
As mentioned, I think that this combat confusion is intended and its annoyance will wane as I log more time with the game.
Whenever I start a new game, regardless of platform or genre, I choose the hardest difficulty available and expect to get my ass handed to me. That's how I learn best and I feel like in most cases this allows you to experience the game's situations with much more intensity.
Breezing through a game on easy feels like a rollercoaster and at that point, I might as well be watching a movie...or be playing Assassin's Creed.
Plowing through a game with clearly marked respawn stations puzzles me. I understand how this makes the game 'easier' or more forgiving but the fact that they are built into the game's lore just makes every encounter lack the tension which makes encounters shine. Oh I died? And I keep all my weapons? Cool. Death is meaningless.
I know you can turn the Vita-chambers off but they are part of Rapture, right? They are part of the story-world Irrational is trying to sell me. Why don't Splicers use them as well in that case?
I am now on my 6th or 7th playthrough of Dishonored. I can easily tear the game to pieces for its faults but its flaws are outweighed by the fun an immersion which I get from each playthrough.
It all comes down to this
I feel like Arkane Studios care about sensibilities which I care about.
I feel like Irrational games do not share my sensibilities.
I will still play Bioshock the whole way through. I will bite down hard and disregard my brain screaming "GO PLAY SOMETHING ELSE!" every few seconds. Why? Because from what I've read, Bioshock 2 sounds like it would be right up my alley, and I'd rather play the first one before jumping into the second one.
I sincerely wish for Bioshock to take a sudden turn and turn me into a raving fanboy.