I’m going to start this off on a positive note. Bioshock IS a good game. It’s very good. It looks fantastic, has a decent storyline, an imaginative environment and some excellent set pieces. It’s a damn good FPS.
That’s the problem though. It’s a good FPS… in a market crammed to the tits with good FPS games. I wanted something genuinely different from Bioshock – something revolutionary.
Let’s go back in time a bit…System Shock 2 was an awesome game. During a time full of repetitive shooters, SS2 was genuinely terrifying, unsettling and had oceans of depth. There was a complex attribute system, downright terrifying enemies (which were so damn scary, you didn’t need to fill levels with them – just a handful here and there was more than enough to frighten and challenge you).
If it weren’t for Bioshock’s lineage, I might be less critical. I might be able to forgive the fact that it’s just an FPS, dumbed down for the console market. I might be able to overlook how linear it is. I also might ignore how damn easy it is. The plasmid/tonic system sees you become gradually more powerful, while your enemies do not. So the first Big Daddy encounter is a real challenge, but as soon as you get some decent plasmids and some explosive shells, it becomes a cake walk.
I keep finding myself writing paragraphs and deleting them, because perhaps I’m just not being fair. Like I mentioned earlier, Bioshock is very, very good. I was never bored while playing, the background was interesting enough to keep me searching for hidden areas to get more information on the story of Rapture and its cataclysmic decent into chaos. A lot of enemy encounters left me shaken and short of breath afterwards – it can be seriously frantic at times. There were sights that took my breath away, events that stopped me dead in my tracks just to look at them.
All this has left me in a very tough spot. I want to rave about all the cool stuff you can do, but on the other hand, I want to scream the developers for cock-slapping the PC gaming market by releasing this game to us when it should have been so much more. Bioshock should have had all the things it had WITHOUT THE PLASMIDS. Hell, you can keep them in, just give some kind of attribute system. Give the game some real depth, rather than these interchangeable super powers. The fact that all of these plasmids are interchangeable means you never really have to make a choice in the game. There are no consequences to anything you choose to do (even the choice between liberating or slaughtering the now-famous ‘Little Sisters’ is utterly redundant, as you find out later in the game).
I’m sure that for the console market, Bioshock is revolutionary. Unfortunately, I remember a time when developers made the games they wanted to make, not games that would sell millions across multiple platforms. I can’t blame the devs – it’s the way the market has turned out. Sell out, dumb down and watch your game actually get bought by people, or make something truly unique and watch a trickle of enthusiastic sales and then fade away into obscurity and the dole queue . For further evidence, look at the sales figures for Defcon, Psychonauts, Darwinia and Beyond Good & Evil). I am aware of the facts, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it… and neither should you.