Monday, 20 April 2009

bioshock, my problem


There’s so much shit going around, always, about this game.

I want to discuss, as briefly as possible, my big problem with the game. This whole thing came out of a massive debate with Ciaran, incidentally.

There was a lot of crap in the game I hated; the hacking, the camera research, but I can write that off as personal preference.

Basically the game is critiquing all first person shooters where you just run and kill everything you’re told to without thinking about why.

That’s fine and good and I guess someone needed to say it and they had to say it as a game. But I’ve been playing first person shooters since I was maybe ten years old (starting with Marathon on a mac).

I know how games are, I know that first person shooters are generally linear, dumb and you never think about the whys and wherefores.

The problem with a lot of those games, Halo 3 for instance, is that the world just doesn’t matter. It’s all combat, the background is unimportant.

And for a game that is critiquing that, Bioshock follows exactly the same track, and this is where we start to get to the root of the problem for me.

You get to the bit with Andrew Ryan and all that “would you kindly” and the game is basically saying “look, ha ha, you just kill without thinking! Whoops! Gotcha!” but it doesn’t make me feel like it matters a shit.

The environment is interesting and (sort of) unique but it just didn’t do enough to compel me, to make me feel like anything going on there mattered.

Take GTA4, for example. I ended up really liking Roman and Niko Bellic. I wanted things to end up well for them. Bioshock never made me care about anything that was happening.

The Little Sisters, for example. I never killed any of them, basically because I’m not an insane bully. Why just today I helped a woman carry a pram down the stairs at a train station. My point is I don’t generally want to kill little girls.

The reward for doing so just wasn’t enough to tempt me. It didn’t feel like ADAM and the Plasmids mattered, and that kind of sums up the game. If they’d worked it harder, made it more intense to the point I was considering killing a little sister it would have made the pay off, the would you kindly, feel like a genuine statement, something worthwhile.

As it is it’s just like every first person shooter it’s mocking, just self aware. It’s like a retard saying “I’m retarded.”

Kieron Gillen sort of sums this up for me in his defense of Bioshock []:

“...They can't help themselves, and your awareness of how they're trapped makes you falling into the role of protector make a lot of sense - you're fighting, on both levels, to end this videogame. Hell, you could expand that to the final uninspired boss sequence - this is what we're trying to get away from.”

Note the word uninspired. The game doesn't bring anything new to the table, it just says everything at the table is shit. I mean why even include something mediocre in a game when you could do better? The statement Bioshock is making could and should have already been made by the final fight in the game, and it should have been done a lot subtler – making you feel like you were in a world that mattered.

Bioshock is a game that should be regarded as bad because of how little it does with its world (a world which should be fucking great). The fact it is actually a stand out game leaves a lot to be desired about the industry.

I want to say the game is like a cynical statement putting all these run and gun first person shooters to rights. But the fact the game follows all the same conventions as those games, even after they twist them on their head, makes it feel like 2K have seen how base those games are and are just cashing in.

I hope Bioshock 2 tries harder.

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