Thursday, August 15, 2013

August of Games: Day 15 - Bioshock

The soundtrack is filled with '60s style classic music and creeping ambience. The haunting violin in this track is extremely iconic of the game in my memory.

Developer: Irrational Games (aka 2K Boston)
Genre (Setting): Science fiction, survival-horror
Genre (Gameplay): First-person shooter, survival-horror, RPG elements
What is this game: This is the game where you play as a dude who winds up in the dead city of Rapture, a pressurized environment on the sea floor established to create a place of scientific progress unfettered by moral and societal restrictions. You explore the city, now dead and infested with Splicers, people who became addicted to genetic modification until their minds were lost. You want home, but a larger plot unfolds.
Gameplay-wise it's a spiritual succesor to the System Shock series. In many ways, in my mind, it's a standard first-person shooter, but that's because the game basically became a part of the standard for modern FPS shooters. Character customization elements, numerous playstyles, a robust plasmid (read: magic, but sciencey) system, and a hacking minigame round out the features.
The setting itself is heavily influenced by Ayn Rand and Objectivism, especially Atlus Shrugged
What's great about it: Well, the big thing is that the game basically redefined what it means to promote atmosphere in games. Rapture is immersive in the extreme, and feels very believable. It's world is very carefully built and is highly detailed. The lighting goes a long way to establishing that feeling, and to create a tense, horrific atmosphere.
The story is great. I won't go further into spoiling anything, but it's surprising and fascinating. It also builds up a lot of lore, which is a thing I like, even if their means of delivering it (through audio logs laying around, just like Dead Space) is somewhat clumsy.
A lot gets made of the morality system in the game. It's good! It's creepy. I'm not good enough at video games to not harvest the Little Sisters though. I hated myself for it, but I need it to win.
In general, the gameplay feels smooth and fun. The compass is one of the most helpful in recent games, and play is balanced and exciting. The vita-chamber system is great, a good way to handle respawns, and very obviously led to the following year's Borderlands (also by a 2K Games person). I...don't know what else to say. It's just great.

How do I get it: It's still $20 on Steam, but it frequently goes on sale, often down to $5. It's also on Xbox 360 and PS3, but Steam is gonna be way easier than finding it on the used game market.

So let's talk about the sequels. The first game is easily the best, yes. Well, sort of. I have, uh, unpopular opinions about the sequels. To start: Bioshock 2 is a better game than the first. Now before you go crazy, I like the first more! But 2 takes all the gameplay aspects of the first and refines them in good ways. It suffers from some balance issues regarding using both guns and plasmids at the same time (Electro Bolt Level 3 trivializes the entire game from then on). Unfortunately, it completely fails to push the same quality of atmosphere or story, and without those the game just feels lesser. Bioshock Infinite is even worse to me; it holds none of the atmosphere, has all the gameplay traits of a survival-horror game but without any horror, the morality system is gone, and things just feel generic. Troy Baker is Booker DeWitt though, that's a good thing. I like Troy Baker.

End Recording,

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