Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Why Bioshock didn't need a sequel, Part 1 (by Ben Winterton)

Everyone who considers themselves a fan of any form or genre will always have favourites. Whether conscious of not, there will always be things one favours, and this is, of course, no different to games. Now, one of my absolute favourite games is “Bioshock” by 2K games. It was one of the first titles I properly played for the Xbox and still stands out against everything else of the present generation of games. I distinctly remember when I finished it for the first time putting the controller down and saying out loud “Wow. I hope they never make a sequel”. And we all lived happily ever after.

Whatever next? Playing as Nemesis in a Resident Evil game? Oh wait...

Until I went on Wikipedia, to discover they were planning not just one, but FIVE sequels. Now, I put off playing “Bioshock 2” for as long as possible, but knew sooner or later that I would have to deal with it, if only to make sure my negative opinions on it were right. They were.

Now, let me clarify. In terms of core gameplay, there is very little between them; if anything, “Bioshock 2” removes some of the minor annoyances, like the inefficiency of the research camera and not being able to use weapons and plasmids at the same time. What it does also do, however, is completely miss the point of the first game. First and foremost of the ways it does this is the choice of protagonist. In “Bioshock”, you play an unnamed, never seen, but ultimately ordinary man who survives a plane crash, swims to a mysterious island and descends into a dystopian nightmare, Rapture. Come to think of it, the production name of the character, Jack, suddenly becomes more obvious*. The genuinely terrifying opening sees you running from superpowered, psychotic mutants with nothing but a wrench and a pocket radio to aid you. Worst of all are the Big Daddies, mentally-conditioned humans welded into diving suits that mindlessly protect the lifeblood of Rapture, the little sisters.

This is where it's really at people, seriously.

Compare this to “Bioshock 2”, where you play as a Big Daddy. In one simple move, the game ceases to be a survival horror, as you are now the scariest thing in Rapture. Why would a few squishy humans be scary when you have a drill attached to your arm? Furthermore, you no longer have any investment in the character. When you play Jack in the first game, it could easily be you finding yourself in that environment, desperately trying to survive long enough to understand what has happened and why. With the Big Daddy, all you see is an emotionless box. Worst of all, the explanation of the plot (that you are trying to find your Little Sister) is actually explained as not being genuine emotion, but rather chemically engineered love.
In short, a slave obeys, but a man chooses...not to make a crappy, ill-thought-out sequel.

*unless you don’t watch Lost

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