1/02/2013

Catching up: BioShock

Since my previous employment was stealing at least 40 hours of my every week and I had very little time for pleasures, my knowledge of newest games was somewhat limited. I think it's safe to say I slept through almost entire console generation and if it was the year 2004, my game knowledge would be perfectly up to date.

Since it is not, I am now on a neverending quest to save my, err... I am just catching up, focusing on the titles that seemed to have the most interesting mechanics, the coolest features or just somehow added something new to the medium.


BioShock (1 & 2) was certainly one of titles like that - 96 metascore means a pretty much flawless game, placing it in metacritic's top 10 of all time. And 88 metascore for the sequel - many game developers would kill for a score like this. Seriously.  It so happened I started with BS2 and then moved on to the first one - if it was the other way round, I probably would never play the sequel. And while I am really amazed by the game, I am also amazed that I couldn't find some heated up discussions about this title's ginormous plot-related letdown.

What am I talking about? Well, the game's strongest core esthetics is immersion. It never takes the controls away from the player. Whatever cutscene is played before our eyes, we can still move the camera and have a perfectly viable explanation why we can't just jump into action - mostly because we just are in some other room at the moment and see everything through some window. And that's great, really. To deepen the feeling, 2K even went a step farther - whenever we meet an NPC, we can kill it or spare it and usually it is connected to some moral decision. Most of the time they simply deserve to die, but we can decide not to kill them. We are not mindless killers in there.

I got into this game so much that when I saw a lady bent over a pram, whispering gently to whatever was inside, I didn't shoot at her. I knew that she's most probably just a splicer wanting to kill me. I knew that the only way I can go is through her. Still, I didn't shoot until she turned around and attacked me. To my relief, I found out that the pram was just a place she put her gun. The game told me directly: "no, you didn't shoot a mother, there is no baby that is now an orphan. She attacked you. It was self-preservation. It was ok." - I was impressed with the gameplay's storytelling.

All through these games, every moral choice I had, I could deal with in a way that was acceptable to me. As I don't think I am special in any particular way when it comes to moral code, I believe it was pretty much designed to be acceptable for majority of players, and it did a great job. Until...

[SPOILER ALERT] 

Until my contact with Atlas was broken in BioShock and there was this artist dude telling me all sort of mad artist crap. I looked for him, I found him locked in a tiny room. I couldn't reach him, so I did as he asked. I watched a piano performance by some poor splicer. A splicer that was then murdered by the artist dude. And then... The artist dude told me to take a picture of the corpse. "I am not a necro-photographer" I thought at this time, I also was pissed that some poor guy just burned in front of me and this artist freak is expecting me to stay calm and take a picture. After a moral struggle I did take the picture as it seemed it was the only way to progress in the game. And then what? I discovered that the artist dude wants me to kill 3 other splicers for his corpse photo collection. Sweet! Yay! Why not? I'll tell you why not. I am not a mercenary. I survived a crash, I went to some lighthouse, I got to this whole Rapture thingie by accident, hours ago I was wet and wielding just a wrench and I ain't some fucked up killer for hire! Even if these guys are splicers with deformed faces and half-burned out minds, I am not going to kill them just because some "artist" wants to complete his "masterpiece". I tried to go back, kill the dumbass. I had rocket launcher, ignition plasmid, I even upgraded it, hoping it will increase the range. Nothing. This game directly forced me to become a killer and photographer of dead bodies.

There was a big moral dilemma based on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 forcing the player to be a terrorist and shoot civilians. There were thousands of voices, also inside the game industry, that were strongly against this kind of message. Thousands of people were lynching Infinity Ward for following a simple logic: when you are a dumb terrorist that will gladly blow himself up just because of the peer pressure, you probably would shoot civilians, yes. Making the player pull the trigger was a heavy move. But at least it wasn't drawing you into this world of terrorism through hours of gameplay. What 2K did in BioShock was in my opinion much, much worse. It made you one with the character and then expected you to willingly become the killer. And nobody seemed to have problems with that.

Obviously it is a matter of the media hype and the topic - it is sad, but true that gamers rushing through the games rarely think what they are actually doing. And it is sad, how easily you can make thousands scream just because "terrorism" is a key word for global rage. At the same time, something the world doesn't understand, an immersive experience of being pushed into becomming a psychopath's tool, raises no moral objections.

BioShock 2 - Great game. Great world. Intense immersive experience. Tearjerking plot. Worth every penny.
BioShock - Great world. Even stronger immersion from the start and an immersion-breaking wall that successfully kept me away from finishing the game.

Can't wait for BioShock Infinite. Hoping I will be able to reach the plot's conclusion.


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1 comment:

  1. Bioshock was one of the games, that I just couldn't get into. Great sense of immersion, but something didn't work for me gameplay-wise. I haven't played the second Bioshock, but the first one seemed a little too monotone for my taste. Maybe it changes further in the game, but the first impression was rather "meh...". Still, I'm also waiting for Bioshock: Infinite. Maybe it's because it's freakin' colorful, which is one of the things, that drew me towards Bulletstorm - one of the best FPS I've ever played.

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