Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BioShock



Since I didn't own an Xbox 360 in 2007, I remember hearing a lot of buzz about BioShock and wishing I could play it. On the other hand, it involved first person perspective shooting, so I told myself I probably wouldn't be able to play it anyway. I remember distinctly the moment my brother excitedly brought home Resident Evil, talking about how great it was. I tried to play, and when I went to move the character, I wasn't going anywhere.

"What is this?" I asked him.

"You use one stick to move and the other to change direction," he explained.

"What? Screw this!"

That's pretty much the moment video games left me behind. When it comes to modern games I generally play puzzle, jRPG, and rhythm games, because their control schemes aren't as challenging to me. I'm much more used to the SNES controller than the analog sticks and the multiple shoulder buttons of today's systems. Gaming addict that I am though, this doesn't stop me from now owning all three modern systems. I broke down and got the 360 because of the Kinect, or more specifically Dance Central. But I also couldn't resist downloading a very large number of demos that I found on Xbox Live. BioShock was among them. It was the perfect chance for me to see if I could handle the controls. More than anything though, it excited me.

BioShock sits somewhere between survival horror games and first person shooters. It absolutely oozes atmosphere. It is set in an alternate reality 1960 where a man by the name of Andrew Ryan has built an underwater society named Rapture. Meant to be a utopia and escape from the cold war turmoil facing the world on the surface, it is in fact a dystopia, where its citizens have devolved into crazed mutants hungry for a drug that gives them power. You can use a wide variety of weapons to defend yourself, similar to many first person shooters, but you also gain powers along the way, like the ability to shoot fire, electricity, or even bees at your foes. These various abilities also aid you in puzzle solving as you make your way around Rapture to put a stop to the dictator who has allowed its citizens to become these monsters.

The voice work in this game is incredible and helps to make every single one of the characters seem real, even the nameless enemies scattered throughout the game. All video games suffer from repetition, and while it was only a matter of time before I got tired of hearing the rantings of one particular foe, the fact that he (and all the others) have full scale rants and not just one or two lines repeated ad nauseum gives the game a mood the likes of which I've never really seen before. I spent most of the game on edge between these rants, the dark hallways, and the ghostly music that fills the halls. There's also tons of posters lining the walls and advertisements that occasionally come over the intercom systems that help to make Rapture feel real. I even screamed at one point when an enemy that I thought was frozen came to life right in front of me and started attacking me.

The music deserves a special mention because beyond the original score, there is also a lot of licensed music from the 30s, 40s, and 50s within the game. I absolutely loved hearing this music and was severely tempted to just sit where I was at certain points and listen. Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby and more are included - click the link to see the full list. Another fun highlight is the cassette tape messages you find scattered throughout the game, diary entries by various citizens that help flesh out the story for you.

The story has multiple twists and turns and forces you to make moral choices as well. I chose the good path on this play through because I'd heard that is what is considered the true ending that leads into BioShock 2. From what I've seen online, choosing the greedy route (it's not exactly bad, just not 100% altruistic) gives you a very different ending but otherwise leads to a pretty similar playing experience. I may eventually play it that way myself just to see if there's any difference - this game is enjoyable enough that I would be happy to play it a second time after a bit of a break.

As far as the controls, I chose the easy difficulty. It describes itself as "I'm new to shooters" and I think it is a fair choice for someone who fits that description. As I said earlier, the idea of just using two sticks to move confuses me, let alone having to aim with the right stick while pulling the right trigger button to fire, and if I have to switch weapons I have to hit the right shoulder button, and oh yeah I better heal with A before I'm dead... I still only died a few times throughout the length of the game. Of course, if I didn't have Jak sitting right next to me reminding me when to heal or switch weapons I might have died quite a few more. I think video games are best experienced with at least one other person there at all times anyway, assuming that person is helpful and interested in the story.

The end boss actually ended up being ridiculously easy for me. I don't know if it's because of the choices I made in the game or just the difficulty in general, but he was a cakewalk compared to some of the other parts of the level. The most difficult time I had was actually right before the boss, but I don't want to tell you what I had to do to avoid spoilers.

In my opinion, this game is a must play for just about anyone. It's a great example of how video games can be art and its story is top notch. If I can get through the control scheme, anyone can. I can't even play Katamari Damacy well and I made it through to the end, I bet you can too.

As you may have noticed in my sidebar, I've already started playing BioShock 2. So far the difficulty seems a little harder, but I'm determined to make it through. I also plan to purchase BioShock: Rapture to tide me over until Bioshock Infinite is released.

2 comments:

  1. See, this is why I continually worship the Thief series of games.

    BioShock was made by most of the people who made the preceeding game: System Shock II. And that would be the infamous group of developers and writers formally known as Looking Glass Studios. They are *famous* for their ability to create atmosphere, and I have yet to see a game that is more convincingly voice-acted than an LGS game.

    BioShock is a simpler, more "twitch" oriented game than its father, which focused more on puzzles and careful thought. Still, for what each one is, it is brilliant.

    But oh, have you hit a nerve with something.

    Controlling an FPS on a console = SUCK. Really. I just refuse to do it. Not when I CAN use a KB and mouse - with that control scheme, the game takes on a magical, "I'm in total control and don't even remember that I'm using an interface" quality if you adjust your sensitivity correctly. Analog sticks do not compare; it feels like controlling a human being using only the two levers afforded to bulldozers. I always feel clumsy and out-of-control with the dual-stick method, and I can't hit the broad side of a barn - whereas I can pick the gnat off an elephant's ass at 200 yards with a mouse+kb.

    If you can't play FPSs on a computer, then if you can, get a numpad+mouse combo for your console. They do make them. Make sure you get wireless, and make sure the mouse is laser-based (so you can use it on a beanbag or arm of a couch). Calibrate it well (so you can turn 360 degrees, at least, without having to pick the mouse up off of the surface), and I promise you, FPS games will suddenly take on a new life.

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  2. I don't think I've played an FPS via PC since maybe Doom 2. I don't recall being any better at using a keyboard and mouse than I am at using modern controllers. I do know that my recent attempts to play Dungeons & Dragons Online with a similar kind of control scheme were pretty laughable. Gaming is a rare thing that I suck at horribly yet still seem to enjoy doing anyway.

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