Update #1: Reviews are trickling in for BioShock 2 and IGN’s in particular specifically address the much better story telling experience and a lot of my gripes mentioned below. Hurrah!
I recently got re-interested in the BioShock universe when I decided to read up a bit more about the world of Rapture and the characters in the game and what was actually going on — something I never got a great sense for while playing. You can read my thoughts in the article “BioShock Story – Taking a Second Look“.
You figure that by finding out the entire story, twists and turns and all, you would ruin a game. In this case it made me realize how rich the story was that the BioShock team had created — and I wanted to play it.
I pulled up my Steam account, bought BioShock 2 (which came with a free copy of BioShock 1) and sat down and played through it. I just finished the game about an hour ago and here are my thoughts.
My Thoughts (from my Brain)
The first time I played BioShock, it was on the Xbox 360 about a year after release. I got almost exactly 1/2 way through the game before putting it down and deciding that I was just bored… no other way to describe it.
The odd part?
- I loved the story setting – hidden underwater city? That’s Riyad-favorites-101 right there.
- Dystopian world that has fallen apart – awesome.
- 1950s setting, perverting our classic romanticization of the period with the twisted reality that the city became – again, awesome.
So what went wrong? Why was I so bored?
Well on the 2nd play-through I finally figured it out — I love the setting and the story of the game, but the combat has the following problems:
- POV is set “too close”, you feel too zoomed into the frame.
- Weapons don’t sound punchy, they sound more like you are beating mutton with a bat. There is no *pop* to them.
- The enemy NPCs are repetitive as all get-out. How many “Lead Butt Slicers” am I going to kill. Even main characters are just the same NPCs with slightly different colored clothing.
- No satisfying dismemberment.
- You don’t feel insanely powerful.
But I’ve played plenty of games that had shoddy combat, but awesome stories and completely overlooked the shortcomings because I was so enthralled.
Now here’s the catch…
In BioShock, there are no cutscenes, the combat never stops. You never get to know more about yourself in a cutscene, or the work in Rapture, or Andrew Ryan or whatever… the game never stops and holds your hand as it delves deeper into the lore. It just plays audio clippets at horriblely timed events that you can barely hear over the rattling of gun fire or incessant goddamn chatter of the NPCs.
In the last level of the game, there were half of the audio recordings I had to replay because as I would start to listen some slicer would walk in and start attacking me, and the sound mixing (I balanced audio to give FX/Music 70% and Voice 100%) still blows the voice out, so you can’t hear it.
Also when you are escorting the little sister… she needs to shut her GODDAMN YAPPER. If I never hear “Common Mr. B, Angels don’t wait for slow-pokes. Oh no Mr. B, the Angels are sleeping. Angels Angels Angels… teee-heee, Mr. Beeeeee, Angels slow-poke Angels AngelsGGGRRRRAAAAAHHHHH”.
Anyway, I can’t say I’m excited at all for BioShock 2 at this point. I’m certain it’s more constant battles and not paying enough attention to the amazing world they built for this game.
So What? I liked the Combat, STUPID!
Well that’s good I suppose, but imagine Mass Effect 2 if they had cut out all the dialog scenes, ALL OF THEM, and gotten rid of all the cinematics.
Was it still as fun? Still as engaging? No way.
That’s what BioShock is like, a really rich/incredible world and story to be told, and it’s all done with 8sec audio clips overlaided during gunplay.
I’m almost sad that BioShock 1 got such amazing ratings because it justified the formula they put together for this game. BioShock 2 is sure to follow in the same footsteps, and as a lover of stories, I feel like I’m going to miss out on getting to know Rapture a bit more closely.
It’s so frigging cool…
Update #2: IGN’s Video Review of BioShock 2, final score was 9.1/10http://oysterdl.ign.com/ve3d/videos/06/64/66427_BioShock2IGNVideoReview.flv