Thursday, January 31, 2008

Consider my Bio Shocked

This is an old post from my previous defunct blog. Back when Bioshock came out many moons ago I was as pumped as the next fan of System Shock 2. I played the demo and decided it had more than potential, although even at the time it felt a little linear, but the effects and story looked intriguing. What follows is my experience of Bioshock, a game I completed and promptly gave away....

My main gripe with Bioshock is that if feels dumb. The controls are all soft and simplified, the levels are simple with little deviation, the water effects were hardly used, the environmental interactions were severely limited and the the main character has no character.

Let me elaborate.

I played Bioshock on the PC, believing that the experience would be amplified by the increased functionality in graphical options as well as more precise control with a mouse and keyboard (vs. a console options and controller). Little did I expect that the game design was toward a console experience on the PC. Now I'm not a PC snob, I like my console games, but the platforms are different and have pros and cons. Bioshock practically forces you to use an Xbox 360 controller with your PC the minute you climb the steps to Rapture. I found myself raising the sensitivity of the mouse to its near maximum to get a 180deg turning circle without playing tennis with my mouse. That and some buttons can't be re-bound (I think a recent patch fixes this but it is too late to want to play it again) simply because it would mess up the in-game dialogue that works with set keys (or should I say buttons). If you play with a controller you need that reduced sensitivity for your tiny joystick and fewer buttons configurations for the limited input options. The question remains why punish PC users for a consoles limitations? The answer is either they made a deal to push the use of the Xbox controller for PC or they developed it on the Xbox and ported it to PC. Neither conclusion remedies the many hours I took wrestling with a limp mackerel.

I don't need to say much about the level design. Rail-roaded is the term I want to use. No exploration and no point returning to other parts of the 'persistent' city.

Lets talk about the environment and atmosphere. I played the demo. The effects were fantastic, water splashing everywhere, filling rooms, putting out fires, dripping and spraying from burst pipes. Suitably impressed I bought the game. Not once did I see another room fill with water or put out fires past the demo areas. In fact the further I went into the game the less environmental effects I saw. Then there was the whole fire/ice/electric business. A fairly sound in principle but once you've froze and smashed or shocked and smashed or burnt, chased, shocked and smashed, combat tends to get a bit samey. But lets put these elemental powers to work on the environment... Now you can melt ice, freeze mechanical stuff to hack longer or electrify water. Bored yet. You will be after the 150th time. There really was no subtly to the game. Sure you could combine your plasmid powers differently but what was the point? None I could gather, just so you could see a new effect. If you want a really interactive feeling environment just have a go of Half Life 2, at least the scenery is of some use to your combat strategy.

Lastly there was the character thing. The plot was ok, not brilliant, the secrets were hardly huge although would you kindly take note that it had one great plot point. My only problem was the character really had no motive or life of his own. I didn't care about his/my role in rapture at all. I wanted to find Ryan so he could explain himself, I wanted to catch up with Atlas at some point but I really felt no reason to do so from the characters perspective. The the whole sense of rail-roading I mentioned earlier just isn't explained well enough by who you are either (when you find out, and that is all the spoiler you get from me). If it was my job to explore, if I really was KGB or CIA then yes I could have felt some purpose but really I had no reason to be there, despite being told I did.

So there you go. I've gave my copy away in fair disgust really. I'm not interested in the new material unlocked by the patch and I'm definitely not interested by the 'promise' of an expansion to a city I never want to return to.

Go check out ZeroPunctuation's review I'm done here.

Safe Journey

Solar out

EDIT: Since I wrote this times have moved on, the DLC for Bioshock is out and Bioshock 2 on the way, which of course you'll know about. You may not have read however Pentadact's brilliant interpretation of how the game should be finished plot wise. Spoiler warning: Link

Grumblings continue...